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

dark and stormy

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Spring Fishing 101 in Western Sound

As we are merely two and a half months from the stripers’ arrival, I’ve written a primer for early spring fishing for those new to the game, or even those who aren’t.

Typically stripers filter into the rivers and flats of the western sound in mid April. Striped bass are generally categorized into “holdovers,” or fish that spend all year in the same location, and migratory fish, which spend the winter in deep canyons off Virginia, spawn in the Hudson or Chesapeake Bay, then ‘run the coast’ from the spring to the fall. In April you have the holdovers starting to become more active, feed and stray from their winter holes. Migrators are making their way up the coast and eating heavily. Temperature fluctuate greatly in the spring in New England, and the fish react accordingly. For me it is feast or famine, but it’s a very exciting time, particularly when the getting is good.

In the early season you have to focus on a few things.
1. Bait presence. No surprise here. All year round, fish follow the bait. The spring is unique in that stripers will go FAR upriver in chase of herring. Herring have made a remarkable comeback in our waters since the peak of 20th century pollution, and they go upriver to brackish water to spawn. Bass will follow. You will be really surprised how far up they will go where the rivers in the western sound are in dense urban areas, and are narrow and brackish. Aside from herring you have Bunker moving in, grass shrimp, spearing and other small baits.

2. Warmth: The fish will follow warm water. Late afternoons will produce some good schoolies. Outgoing tides are preferred because it will flush warm water from the river, bays and flats. Night time is always the right time for bigger fish though.

3. Spring structure: As mentioned, fish are farther upriver then they will be most of the year. They will also be on flats. I actually do most of my spring fishing from shore. I like to focus on outflows, or areas where marshes or bays drain out, usually in a narrow cut. I also fish bridges, rips and drop offs in the river. The early spring is, by far, the best time for land-based fisherman, 100%. The sad thing is most newbies miss out and don’t start until the summer in July, when the shore fishing is almost dead. The migratory fish will be out in the islands just starting to filter in. Areas from shore to focus on include the Norwalk River, Saugatuck, Mill Pond, Housatonic, Southport Harbor, Holly Pond outflow, Five Mile River, and the Mianus River, and not to mention the various Norwalk Islands as well.

4. Lure Selection: This is really dependent on bait that is around. In the bays and rivers, I am throwing predominantly soft plastics, small swimmers, half ounce bucktails, and just about any flies. When you are in the elusive school of herring or bunker with fish feeding, #1 you are in for some good fishing, enjoy it. #2, time to step up the presentation. Big swimmers and soft plastics. 9-12 inch hogies or slug-o’s. Danny plugs and big swimmers. Big hungry fish, very exciting stuff.

Get the tackle ready, spring will come sooner than you think. Tight lines!

About

You might ask, what’s so special about the Norwalk Islands?  The fishing surely doesn’t compare to Montauk, Block Island, Eastern Connecticut/Rhode Island or even the Cape, so what’s the deal?

The answer is that Norwalk Islands are an almost one-of-a kind area in its varied topography that results in a phenomenal, yet difficult, fishing structure.  This is an area that boasts almost every type of structure present in the northeast.  Ice-age glaciers 18,000 year ago formed deep canyons rising from 100 feet to 20 feet, countless sandbars and shallow rips, boulder fields, and varied bottom composition from gravel to mud surrounding the 13 islands.  That doesn’t count the man-made structure from mooring fields, wrecks, docks, oyster beds, navigational rock piles, and deep dredged channels.  The amazing thing is, It would take a lifetime to learn all the spots in this confined area.  I have caught fish in no less than three spots on every island large or small, and that’s scraping the tip of the iceberg.  Every year I find more and more structure that holds fish at a particular time, right under my nose.  The protection of the islands also allows one to fish in weather conditions that would typically keep a small boater tied up in safe harbor.

The Norwalk Islands are a hidden gem, rich in history, and a beautiful area to spend time.  Despite Fairfield County being the most densely populated region in CT, the fishing pressure is actually relatively low.  Every year there are 40 pound bass caught in the deep water rips surrounding the islands on bait.  20 and 30 pound bass are not uncommon in the shallow areas of the islands for those who know the secrets, of which there are many, and put in the time.  Double digit fluke and blackfish are also caught, and don’t forget the gator bluefish.  See the image below as evidence of the fish that the islands hold.  This is one of the most notable catches of the Norwalk Islands’ history, a 45 pound striped bass on the fly taken by Pete Kriewald in the 70s in skinny water that was at the time a world record on 20 pound tippet.  This is from Lou Tabory’s book “Inshore Fly Fishing: A Pioneering Guide to Fly Fishing Along Cold Water.”

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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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Spring Has Sprung

best fish of season 2
Best of season so far, just under keepah size

Ok folks, it’s been awhile since I checked in but the spring run is on.  Truth be told it has been a tough season for me so far.  The weather seems to be god awful on weekends with either high winds or torrential downpour, and beautiful on weekdays when I’m kooked up in my office.

First fish came for me on April 16th, and It’s been on and off since then.  Good night April 21st although I had to work for it.  Good night April 28th east in Fairfield with best quality fish so far blitzing on small bait in an outflow. This past Thursday AM had some nice fish on topwater in the mouth of the norwalk river.  All reports have been from shore so far except for this Thursday.

I have friends doing ok a bit west of here with bigger fish in greenwich and stamford.  One well  known report of a 42 lber in stamford.  The usual wire trollers in greenwich are catching fish in 20s.  Not my cup of tea personally.  Some reports of good fish upriver in the norwalk and saugatuck a few weeks ago.  I haven’t personally seen any herring or adult bunker, in fact all I’ve seen is spearing 4-5 inches.  I may have missed the herring run upriver.  In JBay in Brooklyn the fishing seems to be excellent.  Guys on Housy are doing ok, not killing it recently it seems.  It sure seems to me as though we had sort of a ‘false start’ in that the water temps are here (mid 50s), but the big bait is not.  The rain has slowed things down a bit.

This weekend I will be going full bore.  Late night tides and approaching full moon SHOULD in theory turn things on.  I’ll be likely doing plugging and fly casting during day hours and chunking at night with some plugging mixed in.  I will be focusing on the mouth of rivers/creeks, and possibly out in the islands.  Hoping to find the bait and let that dictate my efforts.

 

Good luck out there.

 

 

 

T Minus 2 Months ‘Till Striper Time

Well Folks, based on my logs from previous years, I think we are 2 months or less away from stripers in our local waters around the islands.  Last year with the brutal winter my first fish came on April 25th; I think we’ll be closer to the middle/early part of the month this year.

With the warm weather in the 50s (and rain) on Monday, it certainly reminded me of early springtime.  Early spring to me means shore fishing back bays, creeks, tidal inlets and the rivers for newly arrived migratory stripers.  Warm afternoons and outgoing tides get the bass out of their winter hibernation-like habits, and into feed mode.  That combined with the little critters (grass shrimp, crabs, sandworms, silversides) and larger critters (herring) coming out of hiding in the aforementioned areas leads to some killer fishing.  Fishing around the first full or new moon in April or May after dark always leads to my first sizeable fish of the year.    Time to re-spool, stock up on your flies, plugs and plastics, and get ready for action folks.

More to come.

JSPRING FISH PIC