Fish Are Transitioning from Summer to Fall
Clinton resident Captain Todd Davenport (bottom right) of the Emily Rose and crew—John Stevens, Charlotte Davenport, Tyler Stevens, and Jake Stevens—-with their tournament-winning thresher shark weighing 436 pounds. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
After catching his first Long Island Sound shark, Brandon Locke of East Haven released this one while fishing from shore. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Elijah Reavely, 12, of Bath, Maine, hooked into this Chatfield Hollow yellow perch while fishing with his grandmother, Peggy Reavely of Madison. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
During the past few weeks, we’ve seen large schools of Atlantic menhaden strewn throughout the Sound. Sometimes, these masses of fish seemed to taunt fishers. Often, they’d just be finning and appear to be casually swimming around at their leisure.
It’s a scene that can boggle the mind, considering the lack of diving gulls. Bluefish chasers and striped bass aficionados are quite familiar with feeding frenzies when that much bunker is around. However, according to some, that is just not happening following some of the heat spells and dicey weather.
This season, there appears to be more predators swimming around the warm waters, investigating the subsurface menu. The shark population, along with rays, skate, and other bottom fish is up; seals, too. On the other hand, the bluefish population is down and, although striped bass are offering a rather intriguing season, their breeding numbers need help—something that they got in the form of a slot limit.
All of these pressures have made fishing more challenging, especially during the summer months, when catching species like stripers typically requires some finesse. In order for fishers to be successful, they need to be observant as to the optimum conditions and be prepared to move around and be mobile enough to try likely feeding locations at the best times. Staying put day in and day out is not the answer, even though you may connect sooner or later.
Just putting a hook in the water hoping something will come by and find it appealing is not fishing. To some folks, though, that’s relaxing and all that’s needed to enjoy the day. However, others want to catch fish and are willing to adjust presentations, while changing up from lures to baits and vice versa as conditions dictate. Whether using various artificials or baits, you’ll find one will invariably outperform the other, so be prepared to either adjust or stay true and suffer the result. Good luck.
On the Water
Post-Labor Day weather took on more of an early fall look as air temperatures took a dip into the 60s to 70s. The days were much more enjoyable as a cold front moved in, even though the humidity still hung around. Seas fought back to being relatively calm as most days saw less wind, while inshore water temps remained somewhere around the mid-70s.
What also changed was the sudden surge of Atlantic menhaden, baby bunker, and other baitfish noticeable in the Sound, as well as in the bays and harbors. Some schools are so thick that predators feeding from the bottom aren’t generating nervous water on top. The albie and bonito bite was concentrated in eastern waters, although there was more movement toward the center and western areas. Glass minnows, epoxies, and other swift-moving lures scored most hookups along the rips, but some blazing hookups occurred along the immediate shoreline.
There was more bluefish action with mostly smaller fish, where top-water poppers and shiny spoons were the ticket. However, trollers, and chunkers managed catches, too, while drifters and jiggers scored at popular spots like Six Mile, Long Sand Shoal, and the S’s. The snapper bite remains good, especially during the incoming tide with poppers, small shiny lures, and shiners continuing to be the hot items to cast.
Quite often, sea trout (weakfish) will run with the blues, and these soft-mouthed, trout-like fish will be picked up when trolling or drifting the lower part of the water column. Casting from shore, including fishing the flood tide out by Kimberly Reef and Faulkner’s Island, can produce some nice ones. Fishers have occasionally been surprised by fish exceeding 28 inches (twice the legal minimum length) when targeting striped bass using a bucktail.
With the gradual changing of the seasons, fishers are seeing an uptick in striped bass activity. Schoolies have been taking topwater plugs and small jigs, along with T/W’s when drifted or cast by dropoffs or subsurface structure. There is more action in the tidal rivers and outflows, and that comes as no surprise considering the amount of baitfish around lately. However, the timing of the tides and baitfish concentrations have been playing a big role in success and, even then, results can frustrating due to leftover summer conditions.
The porgy (scup) and black sea bass bites continue to draw porgy pounders and knothead hunters. Scup are hump- and rack-pile oriented, as are the sea bass. However, more of the sea bass are spread out with small fish being caught inshore and larger ones offshore. Squid remains the number one overall bait, although sea worms top the list for scup. In both cases, small jigs have caught some respectable fish. Flukers remained split. Some are commenting favorably on their season, while others are disappointed. Those following the fishery closely and its associated bait are catching keeper fish in both coastal and offshore waters.
Our waters continue to draw in various sharks, and fishers chunking for stripers at the crack of dawn or after sunset will most likely see hookups. We may have the larger seasonal visitors, but most of the species (large or small) are fairly docile and pose little threat to fishers unless startled and, even then, will generally attempt to swim away. Look for more sea robins, northern kingfish, skate, and rays on the bottom with excellent blue crabbing in the estuaries.
Speaking of sharks—and not necessarily the docile kind—kudos to Clinton resident Captain Todd Davenport of his home-built 33-foot Emily Rose for heading up the effort in capturing first place in the thresher category at this year’s 50th Montauk Marine Basin Shark Tournament. An avid International Game Fish Association tournament-goer, Davenport and his crew, including his daughter Charlotte Davenport, who was the first-place lady angler at the 2012 Tri-State Canyon Shootout, along with John Stevens and sons Tyler and Jake (a category winner) of Killingworth, all put forth an exceptional effort to capture the win and provide a lot of good food for the table.
On the inland, largemouth bass, perch, pickerel, and northern pike have been active in lakes and ponds. Catfish and sunfish are feeding, including bullheads. Conditions for river trout fishing have improved, but still challenging. Look for good fall fishing ahead.
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 fly fishing, 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...