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.

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!

colinfish

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…

jasonfish

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.

40fish

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 .

 

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 .

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

 

katfishmonster2

 

 

 

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