Hard to believe that we have reached winter's halfway mark. At this point in time, one cannot say that the usual cabin fever has tightened its grip. The weather has been so relatively mild that most folks were able to bounce around at will and avoid that claustrophobic feeling of being confined. Snowfall, for the most part, has been limited or at least confined to the most northern reaches of the state.
The normal playoff games have gotten a lot of attention, as well as fishing-related events. Without the constant heavy snowstorms of last season, there seems to be more free time for anglers to catch up on items on their lists. Many are tying rigs, getting their gear serviced, scanning the fishing channels, and checking out the new stuff. Anglers can't have enough stuff, you know. That used to be mostly a guy's thing, but not anymore. Today, both guys and gals are equally guilty.
There seemed one point in mid-January when ideal weather elements all came together. It was cold, but not breezy enough to trip flags. Ice buildup supported hard water fishing, as well as makeshift hockey rinks. It was like a starting pistol going off, signaling the beginning of a race.
Folks converged at their favorite watering hole (now frozen over) and began drilling holes and catching fish. Noticeably and, under the watchful eye of a mentor, "young-uns" began learning what ice fishing was all about. Could that be the start of a tradition? Who knows, but it was fun!
More than anything else, ice fishing is more of a social event. Hard to get psyched going alone, but with a little prodding, a rather dull day can turn into a fun-for-all. The gear is simple enough, warm clothing is already hanging in the closet and, surely, someone in the group will have a hand auger. And last, but not least, is the fish fry! So, pick out a few ice lures, grab some shiners, gather your stuff, including some safety items (ice awls, rope, foot spikes, etc.), do a little prodding if necessary, and then head out for a few hours of wintertime enjoyment.
On the Water and Ice
A steady run of cold weather did much to add inches of ice to lakes and ponds throughout the state. While the Sound has maintained water temperatures around the 35-degree mark and some tidal rivers have iced up, inland air temps have dipped into single digits. The only caveat for ice anglers was the wind and some icy rain. So far, the winter has been comparatively mild with several opportunities for snowstorms veering off and opting for the passing lane.
Currently, ice has built up to six inches and more in many areas, allowing for increased safe activities. However, always check before venturing out. There are more catches of trout, panfish, large perch, bass, pickerel, and pike caught on tipups and jigging sticks. The hot spots have been on the shallow side of mid-deep water. Since several lakes have been stocked with record-breaking broodstock brown trout, anglers hopes of achieving a record catch have soared.
The standing state record for a brown trout is 18 pounds and five ounces and was caught back in 2011. Hooking into one of those is one thing. Bringing it through an undersized hole is something totally different. If you are not punching a minimum of eight inches, forget about it. That is, everything except the story.
Remembering that water temperature, barometric pressure, and food supply have a great influence on the bite will make for a more productive outing. Insulating your live shiners from sudden temperature changes will keep them lively longer. Use of an insulated cooler or a bait bucket inside a styrofoam container will accomplish that. Fishing depths with cover and good oxygen levels further enhance the number of flags.
As far as tidal river action, there continues to be intermittent striped bass activity in open water while, further north, a few stripers have been caught through the ice. Other than that, white perch has gotten some attention and an eager eye has been open for any sign of sea runs.
Note: Email us pics of your coolest 2014 and 2015 catches to share with our interested USA and International fishing followers.
For all things fishy, including licenses, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline's full-service fishing outfitter, where we don't make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...