2017 Season in Review, and Lessons from the Salt

As it stands, the Sound saltwater fishing season ended ostensibly two months ago, and we have three months till the next one begins when migratory fish begin pushing into our rivers and estuaries.  I’d say it was a good season, the conditions were fairly typical given my 6 years of ‘hardcore’ fishing, but I picked up a few tricks I think helped improve my success rate.  On my boat we managed more of what I would call ‘quality’ bass than any other season, particularly more on topwater lures.  For once, I caught a good number of albies.  During the little bottom fishing I do, we usually did pretty well.  The only downside would be the fluke, which stunk for me this year.  All in all, not bad.  I managed a learn a few things too, which I thought I’d share.  Fishing, like anything, is a learning process.

Leader Strength Definitely Matters for Albies – My friends know I used to have a curse with these funny fish.  Well, the curse has been broken in large part by learning one lesson: Leader thickness matters, a lot.  Maybe not when it’s choppy and the water is churned up, but on those calm days it’s a difference maker.  By switching to 10 Lb Yo Zuri line, I was able to nab a bunch of these speedsters.  White albie snax and the usual assortments of metals are all you need.  Tying direct is best too.  You can tell a lot about a species by looking at them, and the size of the eyes on an tunoid species tells you all you need to know.

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Early Incoming is a Killer Tide: Over the course of my fishing career, my preference of tide has shifted.  Starting off as a shore guy, I was all about the higher tides, and preferred the outgoing.  Once I got my boat, I did find a few spots that produced on the incoming, generally mid tide and up.  Some of my best spots in fact.  At the end of the 2016 season I found more spots that were producing really consistently on the early incoming.  These spots have structure, and fast currents during this tide period, and this time only.  We’re talking an hour window of really productive fishing.  During this period, the moving water is ripping over the rocks and sandbars, with only a few feet or less for the  baitfish to escape vertically.  As the tide comes up, the current slows to a lazy pace, the baitfish have more room and the predators have less of an advantage.  This is synonymous to a river, with deep slow moving pools, and fast rapids in shallower areas.  The lower tide turns spots on, and I am officially a convert.

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Try Something New Every time You go Out: As mentioned before, this fishing game is a learning process.  We anglers can’t see what’s going on down there, so the only way to learn this game is trial, error, log, and repeat.  A fishing mentor of mine a while back taught me to take logs of all my fishing.  I try hard, and pictures really help.  Another mentor taught me to try something new each time you fish.  It’s really a fantastic idea.  Most of the times you’ll strike out, but if you can find a new spot once every 5 tries, or 10 tries, it’s a success, and you’ll build your repertoire of fishy areas to a point where you know where to be, all the time.

The Herring Run is Real, in Fairfield County: Herring will swim upriver in all the major rivers of Fairfield County to spawn in the spring, generally in April.  Big bass will follow.  ‘Nuff said here really.  I hadn’t witnessed it until this past year.  I had some success, and will look to hone by repertoire of early season fishy spots locally this season.  Realllllly slow retreives are needed, and I did best with swimmers.

Tight lines homies!  See more of you come the spring season.

Fall Run Epic-ness

Well ladies and gents, things have really started popping off the last week.  I managed some quality bass in my local haunts on topwater, got in on some epic albie feeds, and also did a bang up job on the ‘tog and Black Sea Bass.  It seems as though the fishing is really hinging on air temperatures.  Cold nights, good morning of fishing.  Moderate night, not so great fishing.  As much as I am loving this unseasonably sunmerlike fall weather, I’m really looking forward to more chilly nights.   We are starting to see some daily surface blitzes right in the river, around sunset and sunrise.  I believe all the forage that spends the summer in the rivers are moving out, which is also accelerated during colder temps.  I know the guys to the east in Connecticut are doing even better on the bass and blues, and I’m hoping they are releasing the fish pointing towards New York City.

On the albie front, it seems as though the windier days are making the hardtails more ballsy and aggressive.  Generally speaking, they are getting more picky as the season goes on, or so I’m told.  We should have maybe another week or two of these frustrating little football fish.
Tight lines!

Lights Out Fall Run Fishing

Well folks, the title pretty much sums it up.  From bass, to albies, to blackfish, everything has been excellent.  I attribute this to the cold front (nighttime temps early this week in 40s) and new moon approaching.  Tuesday morning in particular was just an epic bass morning in the frigid cold.  I do not think this is a coincidence, I think the temperature drop brought the water into optimal feeding zone for the bass.  They were always there, but this week they got downright aggressive on the topwater lures!  When it warmed up mid to later in the week, the jigs came out and got the job done.

On the albie front, there were some pretty epic feeds this week.  Acres of bass, blues and albies mixed in, feeding on a TON of small bay anchovies out in the sound.  I also think this was due to the cold front, and bait being flushed out into the open water when their internal clock told them it’s time to head south.  I have never experienced albie fishing like this, which doesn’t say much, because as my fishing friends know, I have a curse.

Blackfish were chewing pretty well in the shallow water under 20 ft on asian crabs.  Tons of missed fish as usual, and about a 20/80 keeper throwback ratio for me, which is pretty good.  I’ve heard a lot of not-so-good reports, mostly from guys using asian crabs.  I feel as though they like asian crabs early in season, and greens later in season.  But I may be crazy.

We have a new moon this weekend, and a beautiful forecast, life is good.  I feel like fishing is usually better a few days before and after the new or full moon, but then again, fish don’t have no rules, so get out there and “see who’s home”!

Tight lines

Temperature Jumps and Flashes of Activity

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It sure seems as though mother nature can’t make up her mind this fall.  We are experiencing some un-seasonably warm weather this year, it has felt more like muggy August weather then October a few times in the last week.  The water temperatures are fluctuating accordingly.  We have had numerous dips into the 65 degree range, and surface temperatures are in the 70s for the last few weeks.  Bass are responding better to ‘low and slow’ then to topwater the last week, for the most part.

The albie fishing was absolutely lights-out on Friday, there were reports of the fish breaking just about everywhere from Fairfield to Stamford.  There were some epic bass and blue blitzes as well, with fish in a feeding frenzy, eating snapper bluefish in the rips around the islands.  Just in time for the weekend warriors, things died down on Saturday.  In fact, Saturday morning was terribly slow all around, with the exception of the bottom fish.  I’ll chalk that up to the east wind.  In the afternoon, things turned around.  Despite some ‘sporty’, ‘nautical’ conditions, the albies showed up on the outgoing tide, and the bassing turned on too.  Sunday was also a nasty day weather-wise, though the water and air was still very warm.   The bass and some chopper blues were feeding, although certainly not aggressively.

The bottom line is, we need a consistent temperature drop to turn things on for the bass and blues.  You always have a shot at albies despite the warm weather, and likely will for a few more weeks.  Be prepared.  They can be anywhere from mid sound, to tight on the beaches.  Anglers have to be willing to really cover some ground (and burn some gas) to get them consistently.  The local albie sharpies are having no problem getting good numbers of fish on a daily basis…

Opening day of blackfish is off to an excellent start.  The tog don’t seem to mind the balmy weather.  I have reports of fish chewing well in 15 ft of water on asian crabs.

Tight lines..

James

 

 

 

Albie Mania and Sneaky-Good Bassing

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The past week brought some beautiful weather in southwestern CT, and the chill has returned after dark.  The week prior we saw about a 5 degree surface water temperature change, and I expect that to continue.  There have been some excellent albie bites once the sun is high in the sky, at all the usual spots from Middle Ground west to the Darien are producing at one time or another.   This usual chaos of weekend warrior fisherman chasing these finicky hardtails is definitely underway.

Taking a backseat in popularity this time of year is the striper and bluefishing, which has been quite good. Quality fish pushing the 20+ lb. mark are being taken in the islands and surrounding shoreline on plugs, flies, and bait for the chunk dunkers.   The water temps are almost ‘just right’, the bait is there, and fish are hungry.  There is a TON of forage both big and small which have yet to emerge from their hiding up the rivers, too.  Visit your local river or bay, marina or estuary, and I will venture to guess you’ll find adult and juvie “peanut” bunker finding shelter and circling around happily tailing on the surface, as well as the rain bait.  They will begin to flush out, and the bite in the mouth of the rivers and surrounding areas will turn on for sure.

The bad weather days and low light are getting it done, per usual.  Striped bass fishing is not for softies after all.  Windier days with murkier water require the bigger more commotion-causing poppers, and flashier, bigger swimmers and flies.  A tipped bucktail, or a jighead and soft plastic are always a good bet.  There are some real monsters after dark too.

This weekend we have low tides right around sunrise and sunset, which is certainly not optimal for bassing skinny water.  I might use the opportunity to sleep in somewhat, and fish the incoming.  Albies have been taking a while to ‘wake up’ too, so you shouldn’t miss much there.  Both days we have a prevailing South wind in the forecast, which should help push open-water bait towards and not away from our side of the pond, hopefully.  The tog season begins on Tuesday, and I can say I’m certainly looking forward to trying out some gnarly rock piles and wrecks I’ve been marking all summer.

Tight Lines-James

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Berts, Bass, Blues and Jamokes

IMG_4039Good reports coming in.  As we are getting hit with the outer ring of Hurricane Jose, the previous week leading up to the storm has had excellent fishing.  Albies are in, generally east of Fairfield, with a few sporadic reports of Alberts in the islands.   Adult Bunker are hanging far upriver from our local rivers, where they become brackish.  As temps continue to drop, we’ll see the annual feeding frenzy that occurs when these baitfish hit the open water.  Add to that we have juvenile “peanut” bunker in our estuaries, that are heading out/are already out in open water.  As always, the bigger bass will be on the bigger baits.  All signs are pointing to a good fall run.  Once the storm clears out, and the muddied water starts cleaning up, I’m hoping the storm will kick start migrations.  We will have sustained north/northeast winds for awhile pushing some c

With the good fishing, we also unfortunately see a lot of wahoos and jamokes out on the water.  So here’s my pitch for courtesy on the sound:

-Never run through, or within 20 yards of a surface blitz.  You WILL Spook the fish, and you WILL Piss off any other anglers fishing the biltz.  Lose Lose.

-DO keep your distance from the blitz.  The fish are actively feeding, they will be moving.  There’s a lot more you can’t see below the surface, you don’t need to be on top of them to catch fish.

Fall is in the Air

Things are happening!

Out of seemingly nowhere, I get back from vacation and it feels like October, yet it’s only Labor day weekend.  Nighttime temps are down to the low 50s!  Water temperatures dropped 5 degrees in two weeks, which is a lot.  My first fishing trip back yesterday yielded about 20 stripers in two spots, mostly on topwater.  Gone are the days of lazy stripers only eating jigs fished low and slow.  They are hungry and aggressive.  I’m talking bass and blues knocking pencil poppers into the air.  I love it!  They were eating just about every other cast, as I was casting lures into a local rock pile.

Albies have got to be here soon, any day now.  In fact I heard a rumor of a pod of albies this morning in middle passage…  The same report included a big fish that straightened out a hook, and nearly spooled a friend of mine.  Big blues are becoming really common outside the harbor according to some of my colleagues too.  They are moving from their mid sound summer haunts into the shallows.  I believe this is because of these peanut bunker I saw them throwing up yesterday.

Spring Run in Review 2017 & August Bassin

Spring Run Season in Review 2017

At the time, I’m about a month late In writing my season report.  I’ll start it off by saying it was one for the books.  As always, there were some real monsters caught in the western sound and islands this season from May to early July, but this year there seemed to be even more numbers of big fish.  A few notable catches include a 49 pounder caught by Colin Kelly live lining bunker schools in the western sound.  I don’t know many guys who fish as hard as he does, well deserved!

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Jason Coleman hauled in a 40 inch striper on a soft plastic in some very skinny water in the islands.  Very impressive!  Another likely even bigger fish straightened out a hook in this same spot the next day.  That one hurts…

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Your author even managed to join the 40 pound club with a striper caught chunking the June new moon.  I missed the mark by 2 pounds last year, and I was clearly thrilled to hit the benchmark this year.

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Season in Review
We had a lot of bunker schools this year.  Lot of bunker, lot of nice stripers.  One difference this year is that the schools of bunker with fish on them stayed out in the middle of the sound.  A lot times around the far ends of the Norwalk islands you find schools getting harassed early mornings.  While it happened sometimes this year, it wasn’t nearly as common.  I wasn’t able to make a pattern out of it.  We also had a colder than average spring, with more rain, which kept action going for awhile.  Some say rain pushes the bait out.  I noticed this year sometime after a heavy rain (which we had a lot of) the bunker were thick in the harbor, which sort of debunks that theory.

All of that isn’t to say that big fish weren’t caught in tight to the islands.  They were there, just not pushing bunker schools around.  While there were some rumors of sand eels, I can’t say I’ve been able to substantiate that rumor myself.

August Fishing

It’s no secret that August slows down for sure.  I have managed to have days with a ton of stripers though.  Small fish (16-24 inches) for the most part, on a mix of flies, topwater, and small bucktails or soft plastic jigs.  It’s a great time, and I see no reason to stop fishing in the dog days (or better yet, early mornings) of summer.  There are also some quality bass to be had if you put your time in.  We have a TON of small bait in the islands.  Add to that snapper blues and crab hatches, and you have a rounded diet for bass and blues to keep them here through the end.  Bottomfishing has also been pretty solid.  Fishing jigs, rock piles and channel edge will yield some nice fish for the table.

Late Summer Norwalk Islands Striped Bass Strategy

Daytime: I recommend cycling between two groups of lures.  The first is sub surface (as deep as you want depending on retrieve speed and weight).  This includes small swim shads, 1/2 oz bucktails with trailers, or other soft plastics with jigheads.  The second group is topwater.  I like smack-its, creek chub poppers, doc spooks, or gibbs polaris poppers.  The bass will take of these groups depending on their “mood.”

On the fly side, i like small folded foam poppers.  I also like mushmouth flies in blue and white, and the classic clousers and deceivers, all on intermediate line.

Nighttime: Nighttime I switch over to swimmers on the spinning rods.  Typically bomber Long As, SP Minnows, and a variety of smaller Rapala X raps and other swimmers.  Bring a dark and light color of each, and you’ll figure out what they want.  It’s integral you have both, some days they literally will not take a dark lure, but will hit white with reckless abandon.  SLOW DOWN the retrieve at night!

On the fly side, I use the same flies as daytime except skip the poppers.  Again, SLOW the retrieve once the sun goes down.

Tight lines mates.  For questions, reports or input, email james.hollyday@gmail.com .

 

Late May/Early June Islands Updates: Quality Fish there for the Taking

The fishing has been good to great if you know what you’re doing, which is to be expected this time of year.  I’m happy to say I’ve gotten a good amount of time on the water.  I have gotten in about 8 trips in the last two weeks after taking a long long weekend Memorial Day weekend.  There are a few key themes I have been noticing.

Lot of Rain? Fish the Incoming.

Memorial Day weekend we were coming off of a sh** ton of rain.  I opted to sleep in and fish the morning incoming tides, and it paid off.  Over two mornings we managed a bunch of nice fish on artificial lures.  Saturday we had one nice bass at 28 inches under midday sun, another nice one at 26, and plenty of schoolies to keep the lines tight.  We did catch some fish on outgoing too, just under keeper size.  Action was significantly slower though.   The Tuesday before Memorial Day I had another nice 28 inch bass on early incoming tides. That has been the tide that’s getting it done for me so far.  With all the rain forecasted this week, it will be very key going forward.

At night, I have been chunking and targeting big bass.  I have also had my best action on incoming tides then too.  The best results were Sunday and Monday night with nonstop action on bass from 30-36 inches on chunks in about 35 ft of water.  I mean nonstop, 10 fish in that range per night.

Unless you are Fishing Schools, Topwater Not Getting it Done

Despite my love for watching fish explode on topwater plugs, they have just not been getting it done.  I don’t know if it’s a colder than average spring (surface water temps fluctuating between high 50s low 60s) but the topwater plugs have not been producing for me as they have in past years.  The swimmers such as SP Minnows, Yo Zuri Crystal minnows and Bombers have been getting it done.  So are soft plastics such as 9 inch weighted Hogy’s, half ounce to ¾ bucktails with trailers, and shad styles as well.

Big Bait Moving in Thick with Big Fish On Them

This week is the first I’ve seen really big bunker schools tightly packed, looking nervous.  Off Greenwich Sunday I fished a school of bunker getting totally hammered by big blues to 16 lbs.  I mean really big blues.  What fun!  I fished big poppers, testing out a new one called the Shimano Orca.  When the blues were pushing schools around, the Orca almost always got a strike, every cast.  It puts up a huge splash, bigger than most lures I’ve seen.  When the fish weren’t as tightly packed, the Doc Spook was getting it done.  Nothing better than watching blues crazily chase (and often miss) topwater.  I also have reports of big schools off Norwalk Islands.  The Bass a Palooza contest winner was won by fishing bunker schools.  Many captains are targeting them this time of year.  In the weeks going forward, if it’s a calm day you can bet I will be searching behind the islands for schools of bunker.  If they look too happy, move onto the next school.

Bottomfishing Excellent

I haven’t been focusing on Bottomfish, I usually wait till bassing slows down.  However I have taken about 2 drifts In Middle Passage.  Of those 2, I managed a keeper fluke, 18 inch fluke, and keeper seabiscuit AKA sea bass, and no real Sea Robins to speak of.  I’ll take it!  I know I can’t sustain that kind of luck but damn if I won’t try.

 

Fish porn below..

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Feast or Famine Fishing: Best is Yet to Come

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As we approach the end of May, I have one word to describe the fishing: inconsistent.

Monday night (the 15th) a buddy of mine had a stellar night, with fish to 36 inches on topwater during last night in the islands.  I grinded it out Wednesday-Friday and had really slow results and lots of wind to contend with.  Finally on Sunday things turned on and I had some nice fish on topwater in the skinny water.  Nothing like big fish in the middle of the day.  I also caught some big bluefish this week, which seems early.  Surface water temps ranged from 56-60 degrees this weekend.   Another friend of mine had a productive evening fishing a marsh outflow with fish at sunset from 25-30 inches.  Shore based anglers still have a really good shot at big fish, and the best is yet to come.  Bunker are around in the harbors, although the numbers vary greatly depending on the day and time.  This is likely what’s contributing to the inconsistent fishing.  The fishing in the big rivers is pretty much shutting down for the season, and you will do better focusing your efforts out front on the sound.

Other reports show the fishing to the west (Greenwich and other points west) are yielding some really big fish.  A 48 pounder was reported this weekend!  Fishing in the middle of the sound by 11B or 28C will yield more consistent results this time of year, as they are prime migratory points for bass.  Local guides are doing well casting artificials in early morning around bunker schools out there.   The bunker is thick in Hempstead harbor, and lots of big girls are being taken there.  Those chunking deep water over the weekend did well, and there were lots of big bass being fileted at marinas on Sunday.

Just a quick pitch to all striper fisherman out there: only keep the bass you will eat, let the big ones go, and don’t put any in the freezer, that’s just a waste.  Practice CPR (catch, photo, release) on the biggest bass (38″+) which are likely breeders.  Bigger bass also have worse quality meat.  These fish are more valuable as a gamefish than they are on the table.  Plus I think you will find it really rewarding to revive a big striped bass and watch it swim away.  They’re beautiful creatures that grow slowly and travel distances.  Keep in mind that a 28 inch bass is on average 6 years old.  That’s a  long time to end up on your dinner plate for one meal (or in your freezer.)

While the fishing is good now, and you have a shot at a real monster, the best really is yet to come.  In a few weeks thing should really turn on both in the shallow rips of the islands as well as the deep water behind them, and we should get a level of consistency.  Tight lines all…