Prime Time Fishing Has Arrived
James Alvarado, 10, of Madison caught his first flounder in the midst of tangled lines and a dismayed group of fishless adults. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Fishing for striped bass with live eels, Rufus Moffett of Branford hooked and released this sizable and protected sandbar shark in relatively shallow, inshore waters. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
While visiting relatives in Guilford, Noah Owsiany of Fayetteville, New York not only caught some fish, but also a great sunrise. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Finally, an ebbing tide with a following west wind made for a pleasant trip for any vessel heading east. In fact, after the almost steady hard seas from recent Atlantic storms, milder waters and following winds were a welcomed change of pace. Sometimes, though, a fisher would rather have it a bit on the sloppy side since bait fish do get disoriented and predators seem to take advantage of the easier pickings.
Nevertheless, it’s the time of year when fish, especially striped bass and bluefish, begin to break out of their summer mode and start turning into feeding machines. Occasionally, interruptions like a bluefish blitz or some other eye-catcher, such as bonitos popping up or reef-slashing albies tearing into rainbait, will distract one’s concentration. However, the way this year been shaping up, those type of distractions have been irregular.
The water was still warm enough to keep things in tow, but was dropping to a point that triggers feeding instincts. And that applies to all species, not just our revered linesiders and their reputation for energized fall runs. Although larger fish are judged to be in the 40-pound range by today’s standards, a 50-pounder will turn heads since stripers above that mark are not seen as much as in years past.
Even so, the passion with which these fish are still being pursued has not diminished. More are taking to catching and releasing smaller fish than spending the time hunting out the big cows, even though they do make for good conversation when one’s caught. For the past few trips, the goal was set on seeking out a real rod-bender without steaming long distances.
As it turned out, some of these 40-inchers were found in local waters and liked live eels at depths of 10 feet and less. Hooking up with comparatively light gear and reels with decent line capacity (braid or mono) was enough to handle the stripers caught and released. Occasionally, though, something other than a striper will catch interest in an eel. Like a shark, for instance. This is the time of year to expect the unexpected. Therefore, it pays to be alert and on your toes, because surprises always happen when you least expect them.
On the Water
The winds and rough seas from recent offshore storms subsided and were pushed aside by higher pressure. After dipping a degree or two, inshore water temps settled to around 65 degrees as waves moderated and air temperatures climbed back into the mid- to high-70s due to a warm front. This unseasonably early cold fall weather bowed to a stretch of warmth that had a positive effect on the fishery.
Overall, the Long Island Sound fishery didn’t react favorably to the winds and seas. Neither did most fishers. However, that scenario proved to be temporary as much of the fishery slowly returned back to normal, instead of hightailing out. Unlike the summer folks who have thinned out, fishers continue to work the surf, but have more elbow room to do so now. Clearly, the migration had its beginnings, but whether it continues or takes a rest will be totally dependent upon weather conditions and temperatures.
Striped bass activity has improved. Atlantic menhaden schools have not dispersed, despite the cold spell. Many of those tidal rivers and bays still show signs of bunker circling around almost without a care in the world as fishers watch and try to figure it out. The astute ones are finesse fishing by lightening up on their gear and working smaller baits: the typical protein-like imitations or big chunks. Of course, live eels could easily fall into that category and have been effective recently, even out on the calmer reefs. Hickories are in. Try using one!
Bluefish activity remains intermittent with four- to six-pounders mostly caught. Those hitting the reefs are able to hook into ones topping 10 pounds, but that’s not the norm. Trolling, diamond jigging, and chunking are scoring fish, yet the fishers that enjoy grilling smaller fish are smiling. Snapper blues are getting larger and are biting harder on artificials and bait. Sea trout (weakfish) can still be found in the mix with some being caught by shore casters and others picking them up along the offshore reefs. During a decent weakfish season, the fall usually pays off with some good catches. Drifting small baits is the ticket here.
Look for porgy (scup) action to continue throughout the Sound. The reefs and humps are back to normal as these scrappers usher in fall. Sea worms and squid remain prime baits. Water temperatures have cooled to a point where Spanish mackerel will be heading out. Their low range is between 63 to 67 degrees, and optimal is 68 to 80 degrees. If you are seeking black sea bass for the freezer, go for it. A little searching may be necessary, but stay out of the shallows in favor of deep wrecks and reefs.
The rest of the bottom fishery (sharks, sea robins, northern kingfish, skate) is still hanging tight, even though water temps are dropping and causing some schools to thin out. Blue crabbing is still solid in most estuaries and worth the trip.
As far as inland goes, the basses are hitting on topwaters, cranks, and soft plastics. Try out your favorite jigs and spinner baits for a change-up. Most other species seem to be in a fall-type of mode and that is a good thing for the angler. There is better trout fishing ahead now that temps are on the seasonal downward trend. What we need is rain so that the more than 72,500 trout (including tigers to 16 inches) and salmon that are already tentatively scheduled for the initial fall stocking will go ahead unimpeded.
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 flies, 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...