Bluefish: A Fighter and a Food for Thought
Matt Williams, fishing for fluke out of Madison, hooked into this 9.4-pounder backed up with one at 8.8 pounds, making for a good day on the water. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
World fisher Derek Ulbrich fought this unusual cownose ray off the immediate Guilford shoreline—the first he has seen during his many years of fishing the Sound. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Isabelle Rubano and Kayla McInnis, both of North Haven, spent the tide catching black sea bass aboard a vessel piloted by Bryan Bottone. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
This is the time of year when bluefish contests surface. Potmatomus saltatrix are known for their voracious appetites, topwater blitzes, and for being destroyers of terminal tackle. Their food value is up for debate, but they usually get high marks when smoked. Unfrozen small blues also make for a good meal when freshly dressed.
Pound for pound, these fish are considered one of the best to be hooked and fought on a rod and reel. The adrenaline rush that one gets when attempting to bring one in is indisputable. Whenever word gets out that they are around, fishers flock to them. It’s not catching the biggest bluefish that is the goal. It’s catching one bigger than anyone else in the competition.
Last season, the daily limit creel for bluefish, including the crowd-pleasing snappers, was 10. This year, the daily limit is three! That ought to tell a story by itself. During the past several seasons, there has been a noticeable decline in their numbers and sizes. Schools were scattered and sometimes large, but were most often intermittent and small.
Many Connecticut and New York charter captains, as well as private fishers, felt the pinch and missed those times when topwater blitzes occurred almost daily. However, the search for Atlantic menhaden pursued by those marauding choppers continues. Of course, a big blue sporting wide shoulders is still sought and can occasionally be caught. However, will it be big enough to win, place, or qualify for a consolation prize?
The time has come for wire leader and hooks. With a reduced number of bluefish in the fishery, if you keep what you catch, consider cooking it up for a meal, giving the fillets to a neighbor, or donating it to a food bank. Cooked or smoked properly, you would be surprised at the tasty outcome. Good luck and great fishing.
On the Water
New moon conditions brought in above-average tidal swings, along with southerly winds and warmer weather. Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures zig-zagged between 72 to 78 degrees during the week as seas responded to periods of light to gusty winds under an partial umbrella of early morning fog. Only a few much-needed rainy periods hit the shoreline, some of which came at night, but didn’t seem to affect the fishing.
We saw an uptick in the black sea bass bite at depths of 60 to 70 feet, where humpbacks in the three- to four-pound range were caught. Squid and hi-lo rigs are scoring fish, although jigs are also producing fish. Oddly enough, some were even feeding on top, and that’s an unusual occurrence for fish that normally hug the reefs.
Snapper blues continue to bring out families as those families safely gather along the beaches, bays, and harbors to cast their rigs, lures, and shiners. With a daily limit of three for all bluefish, most fishers are just out there for the fun of it as a break from the norm, as opposed to keeping fish for a meal. That may change when fish are bigger later on in the season. Mid-flood to high tide has seen the best action.
The other family favorite is catching porgies (scup). A fun fish to hook and a tasty one for the table, these saltwater panfish are a favorite on light gear. With a daily limit of 30 at nine inches (eight inches for enhanced areas), these scrappers are being brought home for a meal or a family breaded fish fry. Scup fever has caught on since most reefs and bottom structure found in the Sound are holding these fish.
If it’s bluefish that have your interest, scattered schools of harbors are sometimes chasing menhaden and sometimes not. Topwater action is sporadic, but there are some larger ones taking chunks off the bottom or striking spoons and umbrella rigs while trolling. Jigging can produce a hit, but that approach has been very intermittent of late.
Although some fishers are finding the summer flounder (fluke) bite lacking, others are having a good season. Catches range from inshore shallow waters to 70-foot depths. Practically all catches included squid, squid and spearing, or another type of teaser rigged with the usual drift rigs or bucktails. Most caught were less than 10 pounds, but enough for a good meal. Shorts still outnumber keepers and the reefs, shoals, and avenues leading to tidal rivers have been productive.
Shark catches are up, as are sea robins, skate, northern kingfish, and even the unusual, fast-growing cownose ray, which can reach about 35 inches and can weigh up to 26 pounds. We are always keeping an eye open for oddball species that normally are not caught in the Sound and this is one of them. Blue crabbing in estuaries continues to be very good.
Recent rainfall has helped the river levels and flows, but we still need more. Trout catches remain challenging, but that is normal for August. Lakes and ponds have definitely picked up the slack as daytime species like sunfish, perch, and pickerel have been easily caught. Meanwhile, the early morning and late-night bite has been good for the basses.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy, including clam supplies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...