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.

2017 Season in Review, and Lessons from the Salt

As it stands, the Sound saltwater fishing season ended ostensibly two months ago, and we have three months till the next one begins when migratory fish begin pushing into our rivers and estuaries.  I’d say it was a good season, the conditions were fairly typical given my 6 years of ‘hardcore’ fishing, but I picked up a few tricks I think helped improve my success rate.  On my boat we managed more of what I would call ‘quality’ bass than any other season, particularly more on topwater lures.  For once, I caught a good number of albies.  During the little bottom fishing I do, we usually did pretty well.  The only downside would be the fluke, which stunk for me this year.  All in all, not bad.  I managed a learn a few things too, which I thought I’d share.  Fishing, like anything, is a learning process.

Leader Strength Definitely Matters for Albies – My friends know I used to have a curse with these funny fish.  Well, the curse has been broken in large part by learning one lesson: Leader thickness matters, a lot.  Maybe not when it’s choppy and the water is churned up, but on those calm days it’s a difference maker.  By switching to 10 Lb Yo Zuri line, I was able to nab a bunch of these speedsters.  White albie snax and the usual assortments of metals are all you need.  Tying direct is best too.  You can tell a lot about a species by looking at them, and the size of the eyes on an tunoid species tells you all you need to know.

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Early Incoming is a Killer Tide: Over the course of my fishing career, my preference of tide has shifted.  Starting off as a shore guy, I was all about the higher tides, and preferred the outgoing.  Once I got my boat, I did find a few spots that produced on the incoming, generally mid tide and up.  Some of my best spots in fact.  At the end of the 2016 season I found more spots that were producing really consistently on the early incoming.  These spots have structure, and fast currents during this tide period, and this time only.  We’re talking an hour window of really productive fishing.  During this period, the moving water is ripping over the rocks and sandbars, with only a few feet or less for the  baitfish to escape vertically.  As the tide comes up, the current slows to a lazy pace, the baitfish have more room and the predators have less of an advantage.  This is synonymous to a river, with deep slow moving pools, and fast rapids in shallower areas.  The lower tide turns spots on, and I am officially a convert.

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Try Something New Every time You go Out: As mentioned before, this fishing game is a learning process.  We anglers can’t see what’s going on down there, so the only way to learn this game is trial, error, log, and repeat.  A fishing mentor of mine a while back taught me to take logs of all my fishing.  I try hard, and pictures really help.  Another mentor taught me to try something new each time you fish.  It’s really a fantastic idea.  Most of the times you’ll strike out, but if you can find a new spot once every 5 tries, or 10 tries, it’s a success, and you’ll build your repertoire of fishy areas to a point where you know where to be, all the time.

The Herring Run is Real, in Fairfield County: Herring will swim upriver in all the major rivers of Fairfield County to spawn in the spring, generally in April.  Big bass will follow.  ‘Nuff said here really.  I hadn’t witnessed it until this past year.  I had some success, and will look to hone by repertoire of early season fishy spots locally this season.  Realllllly slow retreives are needed, and I did best with swimmers.

Tight lines homies!  See more of you come the spring season.

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.