Spring Run Recap And Summer Strategies

As usual this time of year, I’ve had a long lapse between posts due to the amount of fishing I’ve been doing.  It’s been a weird spring/early summer.  We started off with water temperatures a bit cooler than last year, then we had some extreme heat.  I’ve concluded The striper population in the Norwalk Islands this year has less fish, but generally larger fish.  The endless amount of schoolie bass we usually have to fish for just aren’t around this year, which is slightly concerning to me.  Perhaps they are just somewhere else because of lack of bait prevalence.  The funny thing is that this year there is an influx of what I think are really tiny sand eels.  The only fish on them are really tiny snapper blues, an early arrival this year, but that’s starting to change.  Those small bluefish I mentioned also grow and eat at an extremely rapid pace.  They make an excellent quarry of larger cannabalistic blues, as well as bass and even fluke, so that’s something to think about when selecting lures…

My season was characterized by a really good chunk bite in the shallow island spots I like to target.  Many trips I had multiple fish over the 30 pound mark.  I had a few good trips plugging after dark too, with plenty of action on keeper bass.  However, the topwater / plugging game for me before dusk was weak since May.  Friends of mine have done much better, particularly full time guide Mike Platt, who is solely an artificial and fly guy targeting Bass, blues and Albies.  Mike covers a lot of water and has had a stellar season.  He reports that the fish this year are in the same spots, but often different tides.  He says the bass were basking in the really skinny water after gorging on bunker.  Often times they react and hit the lure not for feeding purposes but almost out of anger or defensive purposes.

Slightly east of us in Fairfield some friends are also reporting a generally stellar season, and a good bounce back from last year which was off.  In that area The fish seem to be coming in waves, where for a few weeks they’re chewing good and then it gets real quiet for awhile. 

I hope that gives everyone a good idea of this season to date.  My fingers are crossed for a good late summer bite, and as I’m typing this I’m getting reports of blitzes in the islands on small bait.  Fingers crossed this keeps up, and we are setup for a good albie season.

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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kevo bass

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Feast or Famine Fishing: Best is Yet to Come

spring fish

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…

Ch-Ch-ch-Changes

As I stood on the banks of the Norwalk River three weeks ago, it was very clear the ecosystem was alive with life, and the major seasonal changes were underway. The water body that seemed lifeless a month ago was now flurrying with activity. At my feet, crabs darted in and out of their holes in the mud. Egrets were carefully stalking the mud flats, periodically shooting their beaks into the water picking up prey. Cormorants were also working the shoreline, diving down for small fish. In the water, I could see silversides schooled-up, moving around the inlet in a group. Off in the distance, adult menhaden (bunker) were flipping around on the surface, filter feeding as they do. Numerous osprey diving were out of the air for these oily fish, and I saw them retreat to their nests with the 12-inch fish in their talons. Oh, I also caught some striped bass too.

first of the season
First of the year, April 10th

Report

The spring season is well underway. We have striped bass ranging from not-much-larger than your lures, to fish in the mid 30-inch range. They can be found both in the harbor and islands, as well as far upriver in brackish water in the various rivers and estuaries we have. The fish upriver are strictly chasing the herring which are trickling in. The concentration of these fish should improve as the herring spawn occurs. While we have herring now, I have not seen or heard of full blown spawn conditions yet. The fish we have now are holdovers who live in the arae all year round. The migratory fish from the Hudson and Cheasapeake bay will arrive later in May. These are the really big fish we are all after.
I have had my best striper fishing so far in sandbars around the harbor, as well as way upriver. I have managed two fish at or over 30 inches, and many more small schoolies. This time of year I fish strictly artificials. My go-to lures include Slug-O’s, swimmers including jointed Rapalas, Yo-Zuri Crystal minnows, Bombers, and my favorite: topwater. The topwater bite is hit or miss. The fish are just starting to get aggressive enough to hit topwater lures as the water temperature increases. My favorite topwater lures are the Gibbs Polaris Poppers, Smack-It’s, and various type of spook-lures.

early spring spot
Foggy morning bass, April 28th

Things to Focus On
The fishing this time of year is also very inconsistent. This is due, in my eyes, to the fluctuation of bait, and water temperatures. As I motored around the harbor this weekend, temperatures ranged from 50-60 degrees, which is a big jump. 50 degrees is generally known as the minimum temperature for stripers to be actively feeding. Which points to the importance of water temperature this time of year. An outgoing tide, and mud flats/sandbars will hold much warmer temperatures. The inside of the islands will also be a lot warmer. If you are on a boat and have a fishfinder with temperature, take a look from time to time. Also, get out there when the weather Is nice and hot. While it is really key to get out early or late in the summer, you will be able to fish successfully in the middle of the day this time of year.

early spring selection
Artificial Selection for Smaller Bait Imitation

Now onto the bait side. A few weeks ago, the Norwalk River was packed with adult bunker from the east bank to the west bank, and now there are none to be found. There was some really good fishing then. The presence of this bait will really turn things on. If you find big bait in your vicinity, not even in your specific spot, there are good chances you could land some big fish, and I would make the extra effort to get out there. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go out if you don’t see bait. If fact, a really good fisherman I know once told me you should fish in the spots that aren’t loaded with bait. Reason being-fish are a lot more aggressive when they don’t have many options. When the water is teeming with bait, it’s going to be hard to entice a bite.
I hope everyone’s seasons are off to a great start. For any questions, or if you’d like to share a fishing report, email me at james.hollyday@gmail.com .

The End: Late Season Ramblings and Report

As surface water temperatures are now in the mid 40s to low 50s, and most of the big open-water fish have made their way south, I think I am calling it a season.  The boat is high and dry, and the gear is stowed away.  Truth be told there are more stripers out there in the western sound, the tog are still biting and the weather is fine; but with weddings coming up and other ‘real life stuff,’ I’m afraid I have to call it a season.  No regrets though, we went out with a bang this weekend and it was a hell of a season all in all.  Even with lots of ‘real life stuff’ getting in the way, I have to pat myself on the back and say I made it happen with limited opportunities.  I think the fishing was just so stupid good this year It was really happenstance.  Anyway, here’s a limited report:

11/5: Good action on stripers in the islands.  Got my personal best bass on the fly at a modest 28 inches on a white and blue mushmouth.  While drifting through the rip I thought I had a snag, then line started peeling.  The fish went full 360 across the rip and around my boat while I got my legs free from the line.  Got her into the boat for a quick pic, not before snapping my Temple Fork Outfitters 9 weight.  Oh well, great warranty.  And restored my fly rod confidence.  Big flies work and I need to throw them pretty much all the time.

11/6: Heavy wind in high teens.  Searched for bass in the morning and found topwater action early AM In a very shallow harbor.  Landed a few fish on topwater and made the stupid move to leave fish to find them.  Got slammed around in a tight chop and got nothing else.  Time to switch to tog.  First few spots in the nearly 20 mph wind I got slammed around a lot with no quality fish.  Nearly lost my anchor twice when the flukes went deep in some gnarly structure, but a little tricky boatmanship and some muscle got it free.  Moved to my most weather ‘protected’ tog spot tight to shore out of the wind, sort of.  Took awhile for them to show up, but they did.  Managed two nice keepers and a ton of shorts.  Fun way to pass the day.

11/25: First time out in 3 weeks.  Zipped around and checked things out in middle of outgoing.  No birds, got the skunk off with one schoolie in a rip outside of the Norwalk River.  Merely a scouting missing and one to run the boat.  Nice day on the water too.

11/26 Part I: Went out in the morning 8:30-11 with three dozen green crabs, tog on the mind with stripers on the back burner.  Made three drops, the first two (exploratory in new spots) yielded nada.  Third spot in 20 ft of water the fish started chewing hard.  It took probably 10 minutes for them to show up, but they showed up in force.  I got three keepers in about a half hour, more than enough to make some quality meals for my whole family, so I called it a day to go in and do end of season boat work.  Two at 17 inches, one big old whitechin at 21 inches.  Pretty typical blackfish day for me with mostly fish around the legal limit and always a few big ones to challenge my light tackle.  Still no 10 lb true togzillas for me.

Part II: Went out around 2 after lunch/boat work to switch the game up and hunt for my last stripes. Rumor has it there were some fish breaking off Southport, so I was eastbound and down.  Didn’t make it to Fairfield and there were birds going nuts and my fishfinder was lit up.  Upon closer inspection there were herring getting annihilated by stripers.  I’ve never fished a herring bite before.  They were Frantically speeding on the surface and it seemed like the bass were just playing with them.  I got in on the action and it was fish on every cast: poppers, flies, and soft plastics, in order of least success to most success.  All small fish.  So I got bent for awhile, then got bored and sought out some more big tog  (unsuccessfully) before heading back to safe harbor.  Good times.

 

 

 

 

Fall Run is ON!

Ladies and gentlemen the fall fishing is in full swing.  All reports are pointing to excellent fishing for blues, bass, and albies.  Perhaps the best I’ve experienced, and the best is yet to come if my logs are correct.  I have managed to get out myself a handful of times with excellent results over the last few weeks.  The new moon provided excellent action as it usually does.  I have heard tales of absolutely epic albie blitzes with the tunoids blizting over wide areas, although I have not witnessed this myself.  Keeper size bass are there and ripe for the taking, as are chopper blues to keep the drag screaaming.  The rivers are loaded with bunker like I haven’t seen before this time of year: both adult and juvenile bunker.  Blitzes can be witnessed way upriver on some afternoons and mornings, and it isn’t even necessary to go far from the dock.   I have yet to see that much bait move outside the river/harbor yet, the menhaden have generally been confined to the rivers/mouth of harbor.  When those fish make their way out on their great migration, all hell is going to break loose.  I just hope I’m there to capitalize.  My guess is the next new moon in October 28th is going to be the ticket.
Tight lines homies!

Transition Time & Season in Review

It’s been a while since I’ve reported here, and I’m overdue for a proper review of our 2016 Spring run.

We are in a transition period now, the waters are as hot as they will be all year (around 74-80 degrees depending on time of day), the bass seem to be in a holding pattern, bottomfish are deep and finicky, and blues are sporadic.  There are hints of fall becoming more evident with shorter days and cooler nights.  The fall migration of striped bass, bluefish, false albacore and bonito is looming.  The harbors and rivers are chock full of peanut bunker and spearing.  Eventually these fish will leave their safe haven of the hot rivers and seek the open water to make their way south, with the gamefish on the chase right behind them.  It’s an exciting time of year, it can be chaotic and frantic.  The fall run often brings high winds, choppy water, and fast moving bait schools getting annihilated by everyone in town.  Blues and schoolie bass or false albacore slashing through schools on the surface, and older wiser and lazier bass below them picking up scraps 10-20 feet down.  Even sea bass and the feared sea robin will join the party.  It’s run and gun fishing.

Anyway, onto the season in review.  I didn’t have hardly enough time to fish, but I managed a few (3) outings that made up for it.  A stark contrast from last year.  I did manage quality fish in limited time, including my personal best fish which I was amped about.  She weighted in at 37 pounds.  It was preceded by a fish tying my PB at 30lbs, and four others in the 36 inch range.  This was the same week as last year when I had my best fish of the season at 28 pounds, the new moon in the first week in July.

This spring could be characterized by sporadic runs of really good migratory fish.  It was almost as if you could tell the big schools were passing through at certain times and on the feast.  The islands held some really good fish at times, and other times it was famine.  As usual June provided the most consistent fishing.

Enjoy the fish porn…

monster

 

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