Pandemic Fishing Season in the Rearview

Well, I am way way behind updating this here blog. Ive cobbled together my thoughts and some images. Expect to hear more from me in coming months as I have the “itch” like a lot of you out there. 2020 was a weird year for sure. I’ll sum up my fishing observations in 13 bullets.

1. Bass arrived early. I caught my first local bass on March 31st, a record for me. (This excludes the holdover rivers where bass can be caught all year long.). It was about 12 days earlier than the typical mid April date, it may not seem like a big deal but in the natural world, it is. Chalk that up to a mild winter in 2020.

2. Early spring bassing in the islands stunk. No two ways about it. Not many big fish and less fish in general. This was the 2nd year in a row of poor bassing during May-June period in the islands. Don’t get me wrong: we caught many schoolies per usual, but not the many ‘bigguns’ in the mix.

3. I did pretty darn well on Spring togging, my only year attempting this. Deep water and slower tides.

4. The local chunk bite stunk. Sure, the party boats fishing twice daily at 11b and other popular spots killed plenty of fish for their passengers and they’d say it was a great year. But- generally speaking, me and guys I talk to who fish hard, did not do well. Not in shallow or deep. Caught some big fish and lost a few heartbreakers (one in part particular that I saw and was easily high 30’s), but not up to par.

5. That said, we had a few epic days over a week or two long period chasing bunker schools and casting plugs+ live lining. Really limited time period (had to be there kinda thing).

6. We had a good Influx of ‘exotic’ species this spring . Namely shad and mackerel. At times these exotics supplanted our usual resident bass. There was also a lot of small bait, and I believe sand eels (2nd year in a row). Sure would’ve loved to see more stripers and blues on the small bait – although we had a few good Spring blitzes . The exotics came in May and early June when water was cool.

7. On the positive, we had really nice late season island bassing-late June through August even. This was odd given it was a mild winter, early spring, and water temps had been warm for a while. I recall a day in early August catching solid fish into slot size, in the midday sun on a beautiful day in the islands. This is really unusual for August in the western sound, especially in the heat of the high sun. Then we had a few good days with slot fish in late June early July. It really took awhile to get going and seemed like quality fish moved in and moved out quick.

8. Again, common trend the last two years-tons of mid sized blues from late august into September. Kind of fun to put kids and newbies on these fish, pull some drag and put em on the grill or smoker if you wish. Massive blitzes. Wish they got a little bigger. They went out deeper into October and 28c was the place to be, most fish on jigs then and even nice sea bass mixed in.

9. Absence of the big mid sound tailing bluefish events we have on slick days in august and July. Maybe I just missed it.

10. Absence of albies locally, sad to say. There was one single day, October 23rd, when they came west of middle ground, and came to our side of the sound. It was absolutely insane that afternoon right in our harbor, but it was one single day. And I talk to a lot of guys who spend a lot of time on the water. Other than that you had to run easy of middle ground or across to PJ area.

11. Huge pods of dolphins on the north shore. Nuff said. Spotted a whale in 2019, also a sunfish/Mola mola, then tons of dolphins one day in 2020.

12. Couple good days of bassing in October, pretty random, ‘had to be there’. This is in addition to tons of schoolie days with no big ones. Gotta put your time in around here if you want to get them on artificials.

13. Solid togging season to cap it off. I’ve said it before but limits need to be changed or these fish are going to be threatened a few years. 2 fish per man in the fall would be a good start.

Autumn ‘20 Report

I am longggg overdue for a report here. Instead of recapping all spring/summer let’s get right into the fall report. Water temps are low to mid 60s. Pretty typical, Although it certainly feels a good bit warmer than usual and like a mild fall.

There have been a few random “rogue” pods of false albacore in our waters (CT side and LI side), but by and large they have been missing this fall, which is sad. In Rhode Island: they had an epic run of them in early October which I was lucky enough to get in on. Still keeping fingers crossed that they will push into the Fairfield County waters but generally they’ve been in Middle ground area and Port Jeff. The bigger issue is getting out when it isn’t blowing hard… not easy for my fellow office monkeys glued to computers during weekdays.

As for tautog, it business as usual. Doing well in 15ish foot depths now. The “move” in my opinion is to fish new areas that aren’t crowded and get creative. Any old rock pile will do.

Bass fishing has been so so. I know of one guy who has been doing damage on quality fish in the islands the past week, and I’ve found plenty of fish myself, but size is lacking sadly. This is unusual for me as usually even late summer and early fall you can find a few good bites with quality fish.

There has also been a good jig bite mid sound on the reefs and behind the islands. Find the birds, mark the fish on your finder, and start jigging: then repeat. Generally blues 5ish pounds and some striped bass and sea bass mixed in. There were some reports of really epic bass bites on fish to 40 pounds (yes 40) on jigs at certain times since late summer out there. Certainly an old school technique coming back in popularity.

Here’s to hoping we get calm weather, a shot at some fatty albertos, and some sizeable bass mixed in with their dinky cousins. Tight lines.

American Chaos, Fish Don’t Seem to Mind

2020 continues to be a bit of a sh**show in the world and our country. So much polarization, violence, hate, it’s truly a sad time. Fishing is a nice reprise from it all and an escape. To go outside and watch the sunset, watch the tides roll in and out, and watch fish feed, is a reminder of the beauty of our natural world unaffected by politics, crime, and human rights issues, and I find it extremely meditative.

Anyway, enough of that sappy stuff, onto the fishing. There are some better fish being taken in shallow in the islands the last 3 weeks. But you really, really have to work for them. I won’t lie. It’s been a grind out there. Plenty of fish but they’re spread out, and not as many big ones as I’d like. This year has been a good reminder of how Mobile striped bass are, one day they’re there, one day they’re not. One day they’re in Darien, then they’re in Westport, and some days they’re mid sound. They follow the bait and the bait has been somewhat unpredictable. Fishing some primo tides around new/full moons and sunset/sunrise will certainly amp your chances, and the bad weather days (fog, wind) have been good to me too.

This year has been full of ‘exotics’, and no I don’t mean exotic dancers or the Tiger King, I mean rarer species in the sound. Namely Shad, Atlantic mackerel, and weakfish. There have been blitzes (birds diving, surface commotion) that have confused a few anglers when the fish refused to take standard bass or bluefish offerings. Instead these were Shad and/or Macks, who will only eat the really small stuff (tiny jigs, soft plastics, sabikis). Weakfish have been caught by a few anglers targeting bass.

Lastly, and perhaps what everyone is waiting for, is what’s the story for big bass fishing. Who’s getting trophy fish, where, how. I will say this: generally chunking has not been great, yet. A few good reports started to trickle in so that may change. Live bait fishing has produced good ones. Either moving from school of bunker to school and dropping live ones to test the waters at each, or, 3 waying live ones on structure. This is a mid sound game. The fish should get more aggressive by the day. It seems it’s better fishing earlier in the day on bait now, and towards the end of June this will move to sunset.

Those who follow my blog know, June into early July is the time nail a big fish. Get out there people. Full moon on Saturday, big tides and current, big bass. Full moon is usually better to me during daylight hours not the morning, but we shall see. Tight lines