A hurricane has just swept through your usual surf fishing spots, and while nature is busy finding balance again, you are sitting around wondering if it is worth heading out for a bit of surf fishing or not.
It seems only natural that fish will be active in the shallow waters just after a storm due to the fresh influx of fresh fish food. Does this mean that a hurricane provides reasonable hunting grounds for the avid surf fisher too?
Having wondered this myself, I did a bit of my research, and this is what I found…What is it like surf fishing after a hurricane?
If the water is cloudy and choppy after a hurricane, surf fishing attempts will be bad. If the storm has created flooded spots that provide new habitats for fish and a fresh supply of food, the fishing can be good!
Hurricanes bring about reduced dissolved oxygen levels in the water, salinity changes, and rough surf. That means that a lot of dead fish are found often after the storm.
I have found that the aftermath may or may not be great for surf fishing – it all depends on the conditions. In some instances, the water conditions are not conducive to a good catch, and then it is best to pack it in and go home.
Sometimes, the fish are enjoying a good feeding frenzy on all the fresh food that is being churned up for them, and then it is gratifying fishing in the aftermath of a hurricane.
I wanted to find out how and why storms affect surf fishing, the fish themselves and of course, the ocean – so I did a bit of research. Read on to learn more below.
How Does a Hurricane Affect Surf Fishing?
The idea of fishing after a hurricane has a certain amount of charming appeal to it. The earth and sea have been ravaged, and while it is in the process of repair, the sea is still about to offer you a rewarding catch.
It is almost poetic. Poetry aside, what exactly happens when a hurricane strikes, and how does it affect your surf fishing opportunities, efforts, and outcomes?
Below are just some ways in which a hurricane affects surf fishing:
Fluctuations in atmospheric pressure can send fish into deeper water, making surf fishing efforts futile.
Overcast weather that follows a hurricane lets through less UV light which encourages fish to come out in search of food. That can make surf fishing very rewarding. If the water is too murky, this probably will not happen.
Heavy rain that may come with a hurricane can be a double-edged sword. It could bring in enough fresh water to get fish exploring new areas, or it could reach flood stage and completely deter fish from making it to your regular surf fishing spots.
Hurricanes can bring heavier currents and rough water with them which bigger fish such as Striped bass are designed for. It might bring bigger fish to the shallower waters to hunt.
The water can be churned up quite a lot during a hurricane, which can lead to a lot of bait fish coming to the shallow surf areas.
That can make surf fishing more difficult as there is a lot to attract the fish already (bright lures or lures that move differently can help with this).
If there is a residual wind to deal with after the hurricane, surf casting could be tricky.
How Does a Hurricane Affect the Fish?
Whether or not fish are affected by a hurricane depends on where the fish are at the time of the hurricane.
Fish quite far out at sea are generally a little deeper than coastal surf fish and are not too affected by a hurricane.
Fish in the surf or near to shore have a completely different experience.
The hurricane can chop the water up which means that some fish will die and others, in an attempt to get to safety fish will swim a bit deeper below the surface where they can’t get caught up in the washing-machine effect.
Here is how a hurricane generally affects fish:
Fish that usually live out at open sea can be inadvertently attracted to the coastal shores as hurricane winds send seawater toward the shore.
Some fish may become homeless and even starve as a hurricane destroys their natural “homes” (seagrass and coral) and covers them in thick silt and debris.
Some fish feed on coral, which is made impossible after some hurricanes. A coral reef covered in thick sand cannot receive the sunlight it needs to thrive, and thus the fish food supply dwindles.
Deeper living fish can develop sores and lesions as well as experience stress. That is because of the heavy rain that accompanies a hurricane can bring a lot of fresh water to the coast.
As this water has a lower density to the salty seawater, it will float on the surface and deters oxygen dissolving and make its way down to the deeper living fish.
Where Do Fish Go During a Hurricane?
You might wonder where the fish go during a hurricane. You are not going to find them near the shore unless they have got caught a bit late.
Most fish will venture deeper below the surface — some venture towards protective rocks, cavities in coral reefs, and hidey-holes of sorts.
When a hurricane strikes, the bigger and faster swimming fish are the first and most-likely to escape. This is because they can swim deeper quickly, but also because they can sense small pressure changes in the water far better than smaller fish species.
Fish that tend to be territorial or slow swimmers do not do so well when caught up in a hurricane. That is because they tend to stand their ground, but this result in being pushed about by rough surf and of course, the change in water salinity as both the deep and shallow water mixes up.
Do Fish Bite Better After a Hurricane?
Of course, your primary focus will be on what your surf fishing experience will be like in the wake of a hurricane. If you want to know if fish bite better after a storm, the honest answer is: maybe.
In some instances, if the storm has not caused too much destruction and the water is clear enough for fish to hunt and the light dim sufficient to lure them out, you could have an excellent catch.
If the fish are overly stressed and dealing with destroyed homes, flooding, and lack of oxygen, you might have a hard time catching anything at all.
How Does a Hurricane Affect the Ocean?
A hurricane can have both good and adverse impacts on the ocean. Below are a few ways in which a hurricane affects the sea:
The destruction can make fish harvesting difficult, which in turn allows highly-fished areas to enjoy some reprieve. It can lead to sea life becoming more prolific.
Flooding and extra water in certain areas create new habitats for fish. These habitats are unknown to anglers and predators, which leads to some fish communities experiencing growth.
A hurricane’s winds and floods can result in pollutants deep below the surface, as well as surface pollution and contaminants, being released into previously healthy environments.
Therefore, hurricanes can pollute the ocean.
What is the Impact of a Hurricane Below the Ocean?
We know what happens above the surface. Waves crash, the water churns, winds blow, and there seems to be a certain amount of anger in the air, but what happens below the surface?
When a hurricane swirls through an ocean area, the ocean gets thoroughly mixed up. Deeper ocean water typically becomes warmer and less salty than it was before while the upper surface becomes colder and saltier.
From what we know about the ocean, it is reasonable to think that while all the trauma is happening above the surface, everything is peaceful and calm below.
That is not true when a hurricane is in action. Below the surface, the currents are wreaking havoc, and the water can be quite violent.
These can last for over a week after the hurricane has passed – long after the upper ocean levels appear “back to normal.” Destructive currents can whirl around below the surface as much as 300 feet deep, and this means destruction for coral reefs and sea life communities.
In some instances, these currents have even destroyed oil pipelines and lead to significant pollution. This means that it is also not extremely safe for fish that head for deeper waters when faced with a hurricane.
Is Surf Fishing Safe After a Hurricane?
Safety should always remain a top priority when surf fishing after a hurricane. The weather can be temperamental, and if it looks threatening, you should probably pack it in and head to safety.
Some reasons surf fishing may be unsafe after a hurricane:
Strong winds (80 miles per hour and more is not unexpected) can lead to casting injuries. Violent waves (if you are standing in the surf) can cause you to fall over and be dragged out.
If you are wading in the surf, you can be caught in the powerful currents that often follow a hurricane. As mentioned before, these underwater currents can last for many days after a storm.
Abysmal visibility in the water could make it dangerous to wade too far – predators or obstacles could present the potential for injuries.
Flooding can push you off walkways and piers and leave you stranded or injured.
If you do go out surf fishing after a hurricane, try buddy-up so that if anything happens, you have a helping hand. Also, read the surf conditions – do not take unnecessary risks.
What is surf fishing like after a hurricane? There’s no clear cut answer to this one. Surf fishing can be gratifying after a hurricane, depending on the surf conditions and the severity of the hurricane’s destruction – but it isn’t always satisfying.
In some instances, the surf fishing action is not present, primarily if the hurricane has caused salinity changes, oxygen problems for fish, or killed a large amount of fish.