Are “Lost” Southern Species a New Angling Opportunity?

The past few years have seen quite a few surprise visitors to the waters of the Northeast. While opinions differ on whether these catches were anomalies or signs of a changing climate and ocean, I wouldn’t mind if some of these lost southern species became more frequent visitors to our local waters.

Red Drum

New Jersey has seen a sizeable increase in the number of red drum caught the past two falls, with some anglers catching multiple fish in an outing while targeting stripers from the beach. While most of the redfish turning up in New Jersey were what southern anglers would consider “puppy drum,” a few much larger specimens pushed even farther north. In 2011, a 48-pounder ate a bunker chunk in Rhode Island, and in 2012 a 35-pounder smacked a diamond jig fished off Chatham, MA.

Red Drum Rhode Island
Rhode Island Red Drum caught in 2011.
This 35-pound red drum must have had an identity crisis when it mixed in with the stripers gorging on sand eels off Chatham back in July.
Cape Cod Red Drum taken on a diamond jig in Summer 2012
red drum stripers cape may
A mixed bag of red drum and stripers caught in the Cape May surf in Fall 2013


Fishermen have been spotting these big brown fish circling buoys off New Jersey for the past few years, with one occasionally flanking a school of bunker. Recently, anglers have tangled with them a bit farther north with a pier fishermen on Long Island catching one in 2011 and one being caught on Cape Cod in 2013.

This 31lb Cobia was caught in the Woods Hole area last week.
31-pound cobia caught on Cape Cod in July 2013.
This 25-pound cobia was weighed in at Grumpy's Tackle in Seaside Park by Jeff Bajek back in June.
A 25-pound cobia caught off Seaside Park, NJ in June 2012.
Glen Hoyer with a surprise catch following last weekend's storm. That's right - it's a New York cobia caught on the Magnolia Pier in Long Beach.
A pier-caught cobia from Magnolia Pier on Long Island.


I’ve heard rumors that at the height of summer, boats leaving from Cape May can reach deepwater wrecks that reliably hold these hard-fighting fish. Whether this is a fish story or a well-kept secret, I’m not sure, but I do know that one fishermen caught an amberjack while jigging for bluefish off Long Island in the fall of 2013.

An Amberjack caught off Shinnecock Inlet in Fall 2013.
An Amberjack caught off Shinnecock Inlet in Fall 2013.

Jack Crevalle

Seeing juvenile jack crevalle mixed in with snapper blues at the end of summer is nothing new, but I’d never heard of one larger than about 6 inches until OTW’s own Andy Nabreski tangled with a 2-pounder off a south-facing Cape Cod beach in 2012. In 2013, there were more bigger jacks reported on Cape Cod.

A surf-caught Cape Cod jack crevalle from October 2013.
A surf-caught Cape Cod jack crevalle from October 2013.


Though I haven’t seen any proof of a tarpon caught in the Northeast in recent years, New Jersey does have a (retired) tarpon category among the saltwater state records listing a 53-pounder taken off Sea Bright in 1983.


No catch in the past decade was more surprising than the sailfish that made a wrong left turn somewhere along the way and ended up in the Cape Cod Canal. A sailfish would be a relatively unusual catch even in the Northeast Canyons, but catching one from shore in the canal is something I would have never believed was possible.

In case you missed it, Justin Sprague caught this sailfish on Tuesday night while fishing in the Canal.
Justin Sprague caught this sailfish while fishing in the Cape Cod Canal in August.

Who knows what southern species will show up next. Bonefish? Barracuda? Grouper? What southern species would you most like to catch in our local waters?

8 on “Are “Lost” Southern Species a New Angling Opportunity?

  1. BIG-RY

    I too believe that we’re gonna here more and more southern fish being caught in our waters. The fish I would pick to catch for its looks is a rooster fish, and a fish to seriously bend the rod I would pick a grouper.

  2. Nick menga

    A small black grouper was taken in niantic bay this past summer. I think it was published in the shoreline times or a similar publication.

  3. Brian Pollock

    My father told me there were a lot of channel bass (red drum) caught in Wildwood in the 30’s and before. The increase is probably due to increases in the population allowing fish to expand their range into areas they previously populated. Regulations work, I guess. Couple that with a warming climate and the fish are back.

  4. pete sundin

    I remember a cobia being caught in RI back in the 60’s–Sakonnet Point, I think. I think it was 39 pounds. I moved away in 1971, but I do remember catching juvenile jacks, barracuda, and even saw a couple of Spanish mackerel that another guy caught out in the bay. Usually in September, when the water’s the warmest.

  5. Ian

    There were a few full sized grouper cought in southern RI this year.

  6. Bill vivona

    I saw a newspaper article some time ago…. a tarpon @ 100 pounds caught no landed in Raritan Bay, circa 1950.

  7. Gregorywallen

    I saw a 52lb. Tarpon caught off Allens Harbor in Harwich port circa 85-90 Any record of that! Was in Cape Cod Times.

  8. Angelo

    So these fish were so rare that these asshats had to keep and kill them so the redfish population wouldn’t grow here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *