Young Spotfin butterflyfish in Shinnecock Bay
With summer well underway in New York, you would expect marine fish diversity to be nearing its peak for the year. Normally, by early August, signs of the tropical influence of the Gulf Stream are abundant in the south shore bays of Long Island, however dives and seine net hauls currently look a lot like what we normally see in late June.
On yesterday’s dive at the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, tropical species were practically non-existent. Near the end of the dive, in about one meter of water, I spotted my first butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellatus) of the season. There are scattered reports of other sightings and catches around the island, including an African pompano, a short bigeye, a glasseye snapper, and some goatfish, but by all accounts, this is an unusually inactive summer for tropicals so far. Perhaps it is a result of an unusually cold spring and a long period of strong northwest wind in the early summer when we usually depend on southerly winds to push Gulf Stream water closer to shore. Whatever the reason, there is still time for the situation to improve. Normally the peak of tropical fish diversity and abundance occurs right around Labor Day weekend.