Best on the Shoreline!
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New regulations when bait fishing for striped bass in 2021 will require using inline circle hooks. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
These are a few styles of inline circle hooks that will be required starting when bait fishing for striped bass in 2021. Note that the bend and point are not offset. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Colder water has sparked an uptick in the Atlantic salmon action in stocked rivers like the Shetucket and Naugatuck. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Faulkner’s Island Lighthouse, located three miles off the Guilford coast, stands guard as gusty Winter Storm Gail gradually heads north. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
For those who have fought long and hard for the protection and survival of striped bass (Marone saxatilis), the new year will finally see a two-pronged approach to that end. This species of an anadromous fish has had a long battle with man that has seen the fishery thrive, hit bottom, and rebound—only to have its stock waver once again.
Between natural causes, over-harvesting, and habitat degradation, it seems as though linesiders have been in a constant fight for survival. Through the efforts of fishers, resource managers, and a slew of other influences, headway is being made in the form of improvements and advancements in regulations in order to tip the scales further in favor of this popular sportfish.
First, we saw the implementation of a 28- to 35-inch slot limit, from which we won’t see any real benefit until future stock assessments are conducted and analyzed. However, most agree that it was a necessary step in order to let the young of the class survive and the larger mature females capable of producing eggs be allowed to do so.
A mature female that has made many trips up and down the Atlantic coast on her migrations has endured many a stressful trip. Rocky, as we have grown to know her over the years, has consistently beaten the odds. Her scars can attest to that. They are constant reminders of confrontations with gill nets, fishermen’s hooks, unruly predators, and detours made due to hazards and compromised spawning grounds.
Rocky has always been a symbol of determination to propagate her species and a never-ending drive to survive. Although her journeys have been riddled with conflict, some actually turning out to be heartwarming and even humorous, in the end she managed to log another season, resting until another of her repeat performances.
The second approach in an attempt to boost the striped bass biomass comes in the form of a circle hook. Not just an ordinary one, but the inline model. Circle hooks are not new and have been used by commercial fishermen for decades, typically on their offshore long lines. They have been proven to lip-hook fish in the corner of the mouth more often than not, thereby reducing mortality. When swallowed, they will slide back up to the mouth as the fish turns, piercing the corner of the jaw. There is no hook setting when using circle hooks. Letting the line tighten naturally is the best approach before fighting the fish. The use of circle hooks when striped bass fishing only applies to bait fishing and not when using artificial lures.
There are two important points to remember. First, there has been a high mortality rate in caught and released striped bass, so returning them to the water unharmed and as quickly as possible is critical to their survival. Second, after a prolonged fight, face the fish into the current while holding the tail and bracing the stomach with the other hand. Then, gently move the fish in a figure-eight motion until you feel the tail kick, followed by carefully releasing the tail. The use of inline circle hooks goes into effect in 2021 for striped bass fishing when using bait.
On the Water
This La Niña period has been raising a little havoc with the Northeast. Battle lines have been drawn between a low-dipping jet stream, offshore turbulence, and almost perfect storm formations, giving us a taste of an old fashion Nor’easter, this time with mounds of snow from Winter Storm Gail. Air temperatures took nighttime dives into the teens, setting up for colder days, only to rebound back into partly sunny 40s—a veritable heat wave. Winds howled and seas became angry, almost apologetic in the aftermath, when air temps and weather conditions finally moderated. Welcome winter!
With nearshore Long Island Sound holding closer to the low- to mid-40s, activity in the Sound trickled down. The key holdover rivers are still seeing striped bass action, but variable. This activity is expected to remain that way for most of the winter months, where linesiders will turn on when their digestive system signals to do so as conditions turn favorable. If Atlantic herring make a respectable showing, then expect the stripers to respond accordingly. Keep those swim shads and small jigs handy. And do not be surprised by feeding seals joining in or at least scoping you out from a distance.
Recently, it has been the stocked trout waters and Atlantic salmon rivers that have remained most active. Holiday anglers will attest to that. Concentrating on those waters most populated by stocking crews during the past few months has readily paid off. Water temperatures, flows, and levels have been good for both the fly fishers and the conventional gear anglers. During late fall and early winter, these fish will eat, but they generally won’t chase down a fly or lure haphazardly, so keep your offering simple and play it with an air of finesse.
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.