Weird Year, Good Things to Come

I like to tell is how it is on this blog.  With the nature of social media these days and the ‘sharing/liking/upvoting’ culture, good news tends to get shared/posted more often than bad.  And fisherman tend to share more pictures of fish than of sunsets for a reason.

That said, this has been a slow start to the season, at least for me and across the board with guys in my ‘fishing network’ locally.  The worst I’ve personally had in my last 7  years at least.  Inconsistent, and the usual quality stripers, I’m talking 30+ inches, have been really hard to come by.  The little guys are also in less numbers, and less spread out than usual.  My usual spots that are generally producing two weeks ago, are for the most part dead.  Some folks attribute water temperature, others point to the heavy rain this year.  My sister works at a farm, and she tells me this is the most rain we’ve had in 5 years, and also one of the warmest.  Generally colder temps bring drier air, which means less moisture in the soil and in the trees and plants.  This winter was warmer and wetter, meaning more freshwater in the soil, trees, and also the water bodies from ponds, lakes, tributaries, streams, larger rivers that flow to the sound, and of course the sound itself.  For a farm, this really hurts their crops by over-saturating them.  I think in the sound its hurt our fishing by infusing more brackish, stained, coffee-colored water.  Water clarity has been pretty poor in the early season spots, surprisingly clear in open water behind the islands.  And we are 2-4 degrees behind average temps for this time; not a huge margin, but not insignificant either.   To add to all that not-so-great news, there’s also a noticeable decrease in the amount of bunker/pogies/menhaden this year.

But I’m not here writing to tell you to hang up your rod and reel and take up golf.  It’s not all doom and gloom.  We have a unusual arrival this year, sand eels.  The last time I can remember seeing them in numbers was 2011.  This is triggering an open-water bite that feels like fall fishing.  Terns diving, small fish on the surface and some nicer ones lower in the water column.  And a good fluke bite!

The fishing in general, and weather, is looking up big time.  I’ve had my best outings over the last week.  Wind is laying down and sun is coming out.  They’ve had a good bite in North jersey/new York Bight, and guys are still catching big fish way upriver in the Hudson.  This means a lot of the fish have not left their spawning grounds or wintering grounds.  There have also been fish up to 40-50 pounds caught in the western sound, off Fairfield County.  Jamaica Bay has had a killer run of big bluefish.  So we’re probably just a few weeks behind schedule and dealing with murky water.  If I could offer any advice, it would be to find clean water, keep your eyes and ears open for visible signs like bait and birds, and don’t be afraid to fish unusual, lower tides when the water isn’t running as fast and is cleaner.  Get out there and find out for yourself.  And send me a report telling me how you’re doing at norwalkislandsfishing@gmail.com .  Tight lines Sheeple.

Our Striped Friends Have Arrived

Well the fish showed up! And damn it felt good to bend a rod after 4 months (minus some vacation rod bendage).  There are some really quality fish too for this time of year.  After work Monday afternoon I hurriedly threw a few plugs and plastics in a bag, and rushed to an early season spot I fish in the Norwalk river.  The spot felt a lot different then it did on Saturday when I last did some exploring.  Most notably was the amount of egrets stalking and gulls hovering above the marsh.  A few casts in and I see my plug being followed by a quality ‘keeper’ sized fish (although I don’t ‘keep’).  A few more casts and I land a smaller fish.  Then wham!  My plug gets hammered.  Set the hook, and he’s giving me a run for my money in the current.  The fish comes thrashing to the surface and i see it’s a nice one.  Then poof, he’s gone.  I inspect my lure and see the fish broke my rusted underweight hooks right off.  I’ve been spending too much time on my boat and haven’t gotten to the tackle maintenance yet.  When i threw those plugs in a bag I didn’t look, clearly.  I could not get them to eat my gray Fin S Fish on a jighead, all they wanted was this white Rapala.  The next morning I woke up at an ungodly hour looking for revenge.  Nope, it got cold again, and the wind was from the east which goes against the outgoing tide in this spot.  Not a bump.  We’ll see if i can get a photo shoot with the early season brute that made me look like a fool next time.

Almost Time

If the fishing calendar repeats itself (which it always does) we are about a week out from striped bass moving into our local waters. Year after year the fish show up in the middle of April like clockwork, plus or minus a few days depending on what kind of spring we have. Egrets and bald eagles (yes, we have bald eagles in Fairfield county) and osprey have arrived, the first sign that there is prey in the area. As for early season strategies, keep it simple with soft plastics on a half ounce jighead. If you’re a fly guy or gal, tie on a clouser. Focus your efforts in the rivers, any river will do. Structure to fish is bridge abutments, estuary mouths, and the end of rivers where they meet fresh water and (more likely) dams. Urban Areas at the end of these rivers that you think seem like a really odd place for stripers to be in, will hold fish. Why? Because it’s where river herring are going to spawn in areas of relative safety. However they’re not really safe because the bass will be on their tails. Experiment, make some casts and have fun. You don’t know until you go.