Thursday, September 23, 2021


Why Are Less-Likely Species Appearing in Long Island Sound?


Seven-year-old William Elliot, visiting from New York, catches his first fish—a nice Madison porgy.

Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Seven-year-old William Elliot, visiting from New York, catches his first fish—a nice Madison porgy. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan)


Tom Feiner’s (upper left) 19.5-inch smallie wins the 31st Bass Angling Marathon; Bruce Andes (right) and this eye-catching slab rainbow; Hunter Martins (lower left) with this nice, locally caught largemouth.

Photo illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan

Tom Feiner’s (upper left) 19.5-inch smallie wins the 31st Bass Angling Marathon; Bruce Andes (right) and this eye-catching slab rainbow; Hunter Martins (lower left) with this nice, locally caught largemouth. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan)

What makes any species on Earth seek greener horizons? A disaster. Lack of food or water. An unsuitable change in habitat. With people, it’s sometimes the drive to merely explore. With wildlife, though, it usually boils down to survival.

Every day, there is a change occurring somewhere on this planet. It might be imperceptible to the naked eye or it might be as obvious as an earthquake or a volcano. When a change does takes place, there isn’t just one occurrence, but rather, an accompanying domino effect. The effects might be felt instantly or they may take centuries to get noticed.

We’ve seen Long Island Sound and its tributaries fall from a rich, prolific waterway to the compromised body of water left in the wake of the early industrial era. From that, we’ve learned a valuable lesson and today we see the results of a Herculean restoration effort. Many of our fisheries that had been reduced by cataclysmic proportions have rebounded or are in the process of rebounding. Some, like our river herring, are still struggling.

Very often, some sort of over-fishing is the culprit. In some cases, a die-off can be attributed to reducing a stock. For the most part, what we are seeing along the Atlantic coast and in the Sound is a change in water temperature. As a result, the Sound is attracting more food, such as schools of menhaden, squid, butterfish, spearing, and shrimp. That increase in forage, coupled with higher water temperatures, brings in more southern and mid-Atlantic species of fish, as well as northern migrants that now take a detour into the Big Pond as they perhaps once did in the past.

On the Water

Back into the 90s, temperatures and humidity soared as though we were already into August. Long Island Sound central water temperatures averaged around 73 degrees, while the cooler waters of The Race were closer to 69 degrees. That said, the bait was stacked while spearing, small squid, and butterfish rolled in like food on a cart, creating furious competition among predator fish.

A definite increase in the striped bass bite was evident, but was primarily confined to shallower depths of 15 to 20 feet. Nighttime fishing was decent on the inshore reefs and along the rips, but not consistent. During the transition of the full moon phase, live eels were the bait of choice, while live-lining bunker did pay off in a few scattered harbors. Look for linesiders in deeper cooler water as water temperatures rise and in the lower tidal rivers after sundown as they fill with bait.

In between weather fronts, there were times when the wind kicked up waves more than four feet made drifting or holding bottom challenging. However, certain fish like bluefish can easily thrive in those conditions and, when schools of bait are thick, fishing can be great. Recently, that was the case when catching was nonstop and fishing conditions were challenging. Blues erupted and birds that surrounded vessels plucked pieces of baitfish when these choppers moved through The Race and into the Sound. Follow the tide, eyeball a rip, search for the gulls, and you, too, might encounter one of these nonstop feeding frenzies.

Quality fluke are showing up more often now, but so are the shorts. The bottom is seeing more summer flounder as they move on the shoals and into the harbors and tidal rivers. Keep your baited rigs low, slow and deliberate, often dead-sticking when the current hampers the drift. Long Sand Shoal, Six Mile, and Faulkner’s are a few of the places they’re being caught. You might even hook into a weakfish from down below.

Scup-bangers are in their glory. The inshore reefs are full and the shoreline humps are producing fish from somewhat picayune to slabs more than 17 inches. Sandworms and squid are the prime producers of limits. Even through the heat, blackfish (tautog) are hanging out in the rock piles and are biting, but less. Most fishers are taking advantage of the shore bite, however, those in vessels are focusing on them mostly as a bycatch until the fall because of the two-fish limit. Sea bass are on the move as most sizable catches are in depths in excess of 100 feet, although some spots closer to shore where currents are having a cooling effect on the water are producing some good fish. As a rule, though, expect to catch more fish in the two- to three-pound range now.

Numbers of local sharks being caught on chunks are up and putting on good fights. Sea robins are more than plentiful—and also tasty—while skates are hitting bottom baits. Hickory shad catches are up this past week, white perch eased, but blue crabbing is hot with jimmies catches of more than eight inches.

Large and smallmouth bass fishing is good, walleye OK, channel cats are biting, and panfish are over the top. Trout fishing lakes are generally better than the water-starved rivers and streams where browns are the target.


Keep your distance and a watchful eye for our visiting humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. Note the location and report any in distress to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.

Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.

For all things fishy including rod repairs, 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...

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

twitter @captmorgan_usa

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