New York Captures Top Two Spots in Bluefish Tourney, Connecticut Best Overall
A family fishing trip turned into a $25,000 bonanza after Scott Boehm (left) of Long Island, accompanied by his two sons, Anthony Lopes and Sam Siegel, reeled in the unofficial winner of the 2020 WICC Bluefish Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Captain Ron )
Jonn Donadio of Guilford hooked into this fine 24-inch, 5-pound weakfish while fishing with Captain Tony. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Carter Leete and his dad Steve typically fish Long Island Sound waters for a variety of fish, catching anything from clear nose skate to black sea bass. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
As the weekend approached, there was some question as to whether or not fishing, including the 2020 WICC Bluefish Tournament, would be on the agenda. This big question came after the sudden explosion of thunderstorms and heavy rain mixed with the warm and humid air to spawn tornadoes and microbursts throughout the state.
A typical 12-minute drive from the shop to Branford took more than 2 ½ hours as every road heading south turned into a logjam. The North Branford section of Route 80, where a microburst swept through, was strewn with downed trees, power lines, and debris, all while first responders navigated through practically impassable traffic snarls.
Certainly, thoughts of the weekend’s scheduled fishing events came to mind. What will this do to the bunker schools? Will the bluefish turn tail as they chase the menhaden or keep them penned up? Will fishers come out in search of a winning chopper or at least one that scored high on the leaderboard?
After all of the COVID-19 and weather concerns, it turned out that the WICC Bluefish Tournament went off as scheduled at 6:01 a.m. on Aug. 29. Contestants rallied throughout the Sound in search of a potentially winning fish, despite the lumpy seas. Day one saw the first blue weighed in New London at 14.99 pounds at 8:47 a.m. Five hours in, there still was only one fish on the board. Shortly thereafter, the second fish, a 13.162-pounder, was weighed in Milford.
It rained on and off for most of the fishing day, accompanied by one- to three-foot seas. Scales were kind of on the light side. Approaching 2 p.m. (seven hours in), only five fish were on the board. Then, five more made it, including a new leader weighed at 15.99 pounds in Northport, New York. At day’s end, there were 20 leaderboard fish posted. The heaviest remained at 15.99 pounds with the lightest at 10.7 pounds. The total for day one was Connecticut 16, New York 4.
Day two saw a sunny and breezy Sunday with wind gusts to 25 knots and seas around two to three feet. This created little change in the leaderboard by 9 a.m., although New York gained a bit more ground. Now in 20th place, the final spot on the board was a fish that weighed 11.82 pounds. The next change came at 12:47 p.m., when a 15.7-pounder from New York slipped into second, knocking everyone down one and pushing a 12.24-pounder into 20th. As the tide ebbed and the time wound down to 3:20 p.m., there were only a few more changes to the standings, leaving the top spot unchanged since Saturday at 1:55 p.m.
Noticeably, bluefish weights were much lighter than in years past, and the numbers weighed were fewer with some shops having none, perhaps lending some credence to the status of the fishery as a whole. Of the top 20 spots, three were held by 15-pounders, four by 14-pounders and 13 by 13-pounders.
At the conclusion of the tournament, the unofficial results for the top three winners were as follows: Scott Boehm of New York took first place with a fish of 15.99 pounds to win $25,000, Zachary Auer of New York took second and won $7,500 with his 15.7-pounder, and Amy Brett of Niantic finished third with a 15.34-pounder, winning $2,500.
The overall score for the tournament was Connecticut 14, New York 6. For a complete listing of results, visit bluefishtournament.com.
Kudos to WICC and tournament director Jill Dotlo for their efforts in bringing about change for the better to this long-standing tournament. Better for the fish, better for the fishers, and better for the tackle shops that make this event a success. It has been a pleasure working with her.
On the Water
A touch of fall hit prior to the weekend before returning to more normal weather. Even still, air temperatures were moderate, winds palatable, and inshore Long Island Sound water temps remained in the mid-70s until some violent tornadoes and microbursts touched down. Afterwards, seas calmed and fishers came out—some for a break and fun and others to participate in seasonal bluefish contests.
Up to this point, most bluefish caught were rather short (less than 10 pounds) of a contender. A few braggers were caught, but mostly outside of the Sound. Recently, more Atlantic menhaden piled into the Big Pond and stacked up in several of the key lower tidal rivers. This heightened some of the bluefish activity, but still, those caught were from snapper to mostly harbor size, along with a few surprises. Top water action increased, as did chunking and trolling, but the recent storm really churned things up for a few tides.
There were more schoolie striped bass caught with a few in the slot range and a few more in the upper release class. Plugging and live eels generated hits during the dawn and dusk windows well into the night. Chunks produced some fish offshore, as did jerking wire and working bucktails. The occasional sea trout (weakfish) was picked up along the reefs, as well as tighter inshore spots. While fishing for bass and blues, a keen-eyed fisher could have spotted porpoising Spanish mackerel and, perhaps, wound up grilling a good meal.
We are seeing more summer flounder (fluke) caught on rigs baited with squid, spearing, and teasers. Several of these fish have been caught in offshore deepwater with whole or strip baits, although there have been some nice fish in the 20-to 24-inch range up to five pounds in weight. Black sea bass catches remain about the same with keeper fish caught in around 60 to 70 feet. There are plenty of small fish and shorts frequenting shallower depths, but overall, fish were scattered.
If bottom fish are the target, then the porgy (scup) bite remains good. Some decent ‘togs were caught before the closure while hunkering in and by nearby rock jetties, while northern kingfish catches continue along the shoreline in bays, channels, and harbors. Sea robins catches are good, skates and rays are taking baits and lures, and sizable sand sharks are snatching chunk baits both inshore and offshore. Blue crabbing in the estuaries is hot, even though those heavy downpours did cause them to take a quick breather.
The recent rain event did help the rivers improve water levels and flows. Trout fishing is improving as the days shorten. Lake and pond bass catches continue to be very good, especially around dawn and dusk. Catches of northern pike and catfish are up, pickerel remain aggressive, and perch and sunnies are taking worms.
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 reel repairs, 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...