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.

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!

September Report & Tightlined Slam

Bass fishing has been very good locally: both jigging in deeper water and casting a variety of lures in shallow fast-current areas. The weather remains pretty warm, but we are starting to have nights intro the 50s, which is kicking up the aggressiveness of bass and blues in a major way. Bottomfishing is also still pretty killer, with more sea bass moving into shallow depths which make a great ‘take-home-for-dinner’ fish, without having to drop a pound of lead down which isn’t so fun. Last but definitely not least, falseAlbacore have arrived in the western sound! It’s a great time to get out on the water and enjoy crisp humidity-free days, and bent rods. There is a local fishing tournament this coming weekend, for more Information visit https://www.tightlinedslam.com/ . This tournament is catch and release, and proceeds benefit charities related to conservation. Even if you do not wish to enter, the after-party is a great time, with raffles, food and drink. Tight lines and happy Autumn.