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It was a good fall tautog season, as demonstrated by Darren Richardson of Baltic with this 24-inch ‘tog caught while fishing Long Island Sound. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Anthony LaPorta, 7, of Madison landed this whopper of a rainbow trout caught from a recently stocked local pond. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Another day of personal bests consisting of northern pike (top) and largemouth bass (bottom) for Noah Owsiany as he fished the waters of upstate New York. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
From eagles to gulls, Atlantic menhaden continue to provide forage to many of the Sound’s marine life including striped bass—even this late in the season. Photo (Illustration by Captain Morgan. Photos courtesy of M. McNiff )
If you’ve noticed that fall attire is still the popular option during a time of year when we would typically haul away and winterize, you are not alone. In fact, mostly everyone without a vessel small enough to fit on a rooftop or a small trailer has been wrestling with this dilemma.
We’re accustomed to deadlines for dockside power shutting off and vessels being hauled. We even bear the burden of addressing household chores before the cold sets in. Nevertheless, exercising on the side of caution is a compelling argument.
Most of us have worked through the bitter cold and with frozen dock lines readying our vessels when the weather suddenly turned. “Never again,” many have said. “Not worth it,” others added. But this year caught fishers off-guard. Overall, fishing has been an exercise in adjusting.
There were and currently are land-based adjustments to our daily routine that are necessary. Likewise, there were adjustments made as to how we fish with others on or near the water. Soon, in 2021 there will be adjustments we’ll need to make on what hooks and when to use them for striped bass fishing. Right now, though, we need to adjust to warming water temperatures that appear to have an effect on perhaps an elongated fishing season in the future and how it will affect regulated species.
Now, that brings us back to our dilemma. Reflecting on our mild weather conditions, we recently heard several statements like, “I’ve already winterized my small boat only to put it back in the water again.” Take blackfish (tautog) as a classic example. After a bit of a cold spell, the weather turned pleasant in time to breath life into the remaining days of ‘tog fishing. Do you call it quits and yield to past seasonal experiences? Or do you go for the gusto, squeezing every ounce left of the fishing season?
You might be interested to know that the jury was out and returned with a verdict. The weather was nice, bait was in demand, and ‘tog pullers had extended their time on the water with fish to show for it. Better yet, double-layered clothing and hot thermos were not required.
On the Water
We slipped into a warming trend as Thanksgiving Day approached, but unfortunately, the big day was a wet one. Air temperatures through the weekend and into the beginning of the week were unseasonably warm with air temps settling into the low 50s before dropping into the 40s as a cold front played out. Seas in the beginning were gusty with winds hitting 25 knots, keeping most fishers at bay. After that, all bets were off for the last few days of the ‘tog season as water temps rose back into the low 50s.
With seas running less than a foot, ‘tog-pullers were anxious to hit the rock piles again. Wearing off some of the turkey and fixings was not a primary motivator, yet it came with the package. Tautog generally moved into deeper water from 40- to 60 feet, although some remained near shore and took advantage of all the food still available. Unfortunately, those fish close by remained small, while the white chins required a trip farther out.
With air and water temperatures being unseasonably warm, ‘tog season could have easily stretched out if it were not for the last day of the season being Nov. 28. Plus one for the ‘togs and minus one for the ‘toggers!
The scramble was on for crabs since they remain the top bait choice and the one catching most of the ‘togs. It was game on for most experienced fishers using jigs, rigs, and pincher baits with enough weight to get them down. Remember, if you cannot feel the bite, then it will be just luck.
Striped bass are showing that it’s never over until it’s over. Although 53- to 54 degrees is at the lower end of their optimum water temperature range, bass are eagerly chowing down. With an abundance of Atlantic menhaden still around, it’s no wonder that plenty of linesiders continue to feed in the Sound and its tributaries.
Most of these bass are currently at the lower slot limit, meaning that they are considered throwbacks. There are still a few slot limit holdover keepers to be caught, but most sizable ones have joined the schools heading south—with the exception of some 35-pounders feeding in the main tidal rivers.
Sport fishing for schoolies with light gear has been quite the surprise for this late in the season, especially since we are in December and water temps should average from the mid- to high-40s. Casting small soft plastics, light plugs, small spoons, or jigs around slack into some moving water has been the ticket. Dunking a few chunks or working a diamond jig offshore can also produce, but it has been mainly plugs, soft swimmers, and bait that scored in those key tidal rivers.
With this mild weather, trout and Atlantic salmon fishing has been productive and will continue to be so. Rain has helped with water levels and flows and these two species have been quite cooperative. Cooler temperatures will only improve conditions. Trout have been on power baits, worms, hard lures, and flies. Try nymphs and streamers. Keep in mind, that only a single swing hook is allowed and no additional weight to the line can be added. Largemouth bass and smallies are still doable, whereas pickerel are variable, perch and catfish are good, and white perch are possible.
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 rods, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days 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...