2021 End of Season Round up and thoughts about the season to come

The fall season ended pretty well. We had a ton of bunker stick around into October and beyond, which is pretty typical. What wasn’t so typical was that we had big blues on them, sometimes right in the harbors. It was a lot of fun. There were also nice bass on them at times*. Sometimes that window for bass was really small, where bunker were sticking around all day but they would only get attacked for a limited amount of time. These were patterns that held true for awhile…until they didn’t. That’s fishing, the only constant is change. Also worth noting was a pretty darn good jigging bite for blues on the reefs..

Even when bunker weren’t visibily getting eaten or seen at all, lots of nice bass were being caught on bait throughout the coastline. Word got out about this, and it turned into a bit of a slaghterhouse sh**show live bunker fishingsituation. Bummer. As for the bite on artificials, we had a week+ of some awesome night fishing during an unseasonable warm October week. Casting SP Minnows, Bombers and Danny Plugs into shallow, fast current areas was pretty killer. Dozens of fish to 30-40 inches with my pal Carl, and lost some much bigger. Never have I have experienced days when I did not have treble hooks onboard that were strong enought to hold true against these fish… See pic below.

As for the alberts, they were certainly around east of us in September, closer to new haven county. They did come in right around the same time as the blackfish opener (october 10th) and some folks got in on a good bite. It was a fleeting bite, as has been the trend the last few years. They actually did stick around for a few weeks too, but not a ton of sustained, long-lasting feeds.

Blackfishing was pretty typical. I Had one particuarly spectacular day on my vessel where my fiancee got a 9+lber! It pays to fish new areas, as always. Togging isn’t rocket science, find the rocky areas and you will find fish, but the devil’s in the details. Then again, there are some days that drive everyone nuts and fish won’t chew.

The course of fishing in the modern age

Every year I try and reflect on the last season(s), and think about what I want to change. It could be new tactics, expanding my range and trying new areas, or doing more of something I enjoyed in the past. All of these changes are part of the evolution as a fisherman. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and there are probably a lot of tactics that haven’t even been discovered yet, or are under-utilized as trends change or they fall out of favor in certain regions.

One trend I have experienced that’s unrelated to fishing tactics is the ‘fishing networking’. I have made more fishing friends on the water since I got my boat, when I knew only a few boats and no fisherman. This is partially a great thing, meeting more people who enjoy the same hobby as I do. Social media has also gotten even faster, and more frequent, with Instagram and ‘live stories’ coming to the forefront of our digital lives. The resulting effect is an influx of information: who’s catching what, and how, and maybe even where. And even on the slowest of days, someone is always catching. Since Covid, there are also a LOT more people fishing. I distinctly remember early spring of 2020 being amazed at how many boats were already out in April and early May, a time when the vast majority of boaters and fishermen aside from the ‘hardcore’, would not be out on the water. All this is to say, fishing seems to have become for some, a very interactive, intelligence sharing, ‘coordinated attack’ type of situations. The result is fisherman checking the latest live reports for updates and to possibly change the course of the ship. Quite frankly I don’t know how the fish populations will sustain these coordinated attacks, but that’s not for me to solve. As you may have caught wind of, there are many conservation policies being considerd by policymakers which I won’t cover. I myself will likely be checking out of the habit of posting my frequent updates on social media aside from a tight crew, and I’m actively trying to take the digital out of the fishing experience as a whole, although it’s not easy.

The season to come

Alright, onto the good stuff. It’s late March, and fish are around the corner. The earliest I’ve gotten them in smaller, ‘non-holdover’ rivers is last week of March (2020). Fishing has been good in the big rivers and the bite has gotten closer to the sound. Some herring have been reported moving into the rivers, although the osprey don’t seem to have arrived based on my observations. The month of January and February the water temperatures were on the lower end compared to monthly averages, and March has leveled out a bit as you all know it’s been very nice early spring weather. In my experience, our fishing locally benefits from a cold winter and early spring, and a quick warm-up in May. Time will tell how this year pans out. Be prepared as last year we had big bass action in late May mid sound, no need to even travel west…

I will post some more intel as good stuff starts to heppen. Until then I’ll be hunting ghosts and making a lot of fruitless casts with cold hands for awhile (based on the most recent forecasts).

Go get em!

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.

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.”

pete kriewald 45 lb record.jpg