Rites of Spring

One of the the coolest things about the striped bass is the variety of their territory, starting with the backwaters: small creeks, brackish rivers, ponds, marshes and estuaries. On the other end of the spectrum, the stripers are more known for their habitat in rough surf and open ocean up and down the eastern seaboard. But the beginning of the season is all about the former. Bass thrive in headwaters, shallow mud flats, marshes, rivers and creeks in the early spring. Their movements are governed by the tidal movement, like a dance to the rhythm of the tides. Following the rising tide tides, bass move into waters inaccessible at low water in search of forage, relying on their inherent senses of tide cycles. Before the tides begin to recede, bass move out into safer, deeper waters where they won’t be stranded. Along the way, they wait for the prey to also follow the tides and get sucked out into the deeper water, ambushing easy meals in choke points and ‘fish highways’.

As such, the angler’s journey hunting the striper starts in these habitats. These locations are often most easily fished on foot, from shore. A lot of these areas are inaccessible by boat, or an outboard engine would surely spook any fish from the area. Stealth is the name of the game in more ways than one-both in making your presence unknown to the fish, and also potentially to cranky coastal homeowners in areas where public shore access is all but gone. The cover of darkness almost always produces a better bite-stripers and their prey would not venture into these waters during daytime out of fear of humans and attack from above from winged predators: Osprey, eagles and cormorants don’t hunt at night.

The menu for striped bass this time of year is expansive and bass aren’t picky, anything and everything will do. The choicest item on the menu is likely the alewife or blueback herring. Crabs, grass shrimp, sandwoms and silversides make a suitable appetizer. This is prime light tackle fishing: flies, small soft plastics, and swimmers of all varieties will produce. The smaller the bait the fish are keyed in on, the pickier the bass are. The hunt begins in urban/suburban areas. I’m amazed at the waters in which these fish cruise this time of year, often right under your nose.

This season has been no different. It’s been the best early spring I’ve observed since 2018. Perhaps the dry weather had something to do with it- the month of April recorded only 2.75 inches of rain, compared to an average of over 4 inches in the Nutmeg state. Temperate was a bit more typical, about .7 degrees below average. Perhaps the precipitation has caused a good bite, maybe a bit of luck, or maybe there are more or larger fish in our area this year due to the biomass stocks.

In either case, enjoy the fishing. But also the sights, smells, and wildlife that spring brings. It’s certainly not a competition, nor a race.

Quarantine Angling Report #2

Quarantine goes on, the first round of the pandemic is supposedly waning slightly, and fish are still chewin’. Weird times is all I can say. As I said in my last post, we are lucky this hobby of ours can be done safely while distancing, just make sure to use common sense.

Onto the fishing. We had a burst of really good fishing (big fish for this early too). Bass are still around but the big ones have eluded me for a few weeks. The weather has cooled down. This was the first morning on my boat ever that I was breaking a thin layer of ice pulling out of my slip. Per usual stripers are in the rivers, marshes etc. Find fast current and/or some kind of structure in these environments, and work the water column. Three essentials you need are an unweighted soft plastic (slug O, albie snax, hogy), a weighted soft plastic on a jighead (1/8-3/4 oz depending on depth), and a swimmer (bomber, mag darter, crystal minnow etc). On Fly rod, a clouser or streamer on intermediate or sinking line. Pics below.

For those of you who do some bottomfishing, I put one day of blackfishing in. I fished a handful of spots from 40-70 feet, the deeper water (60-70) is where I found fish, and even then they were a little reluctant. I managed one quality fish. Those who I talk to have said the same, shallow water has not been producing. The mouth of the housatonic river and new haven have been producing in shallow though, due to warmer water temps outside the river.

Thank you to frontline workers and particularly healthcare workers. If any of my readers are in that category or know an angler who is, please reach out to me directly.

Spring Run Wind Down, Dog Daze of Summer Begin

Well the water is warming up finally, although it’s still a good bit behind average (hovering about 64 compared to July avg. of 69).  The amount of bunker around is starting to get to a normal level for this time of year: They’re plentiful behind the islands.  We have had some good bites on these bunker schools the last few weeks.  All the way out in the middle of the sound, usually around sunset, or an hour beforehand.  The bite on artificials in the islands has been spotty for me, but there’s been a few good days, and some nice keeper size bass inside have been taken.  When it’s on, it has generally been a visual sight fishing bite for me.  And the sand eel thing has wound down unfortunately.  Guys west of us in Greenwich to Pelham and the New York Bight are still catching quality fish, and so are we in the eastern part of the county.  I’m hopeful for this summer, I think we may have a mid to late summer strong bite with lower water temps and (finally) good big bait presence.  When It gets really hot the bunker will start to move into the islands and eventually the rivers I believe, after their spawning rituals.  This is going to get the bass really fired up, and give them an opportunity to ambush in the local rips.  Get out there and see for yourself.  Let me know how you’re doing, and tight lines !