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Striped bass can withstand Connecticut winters and have recently been caught in the cold, flowing main tidal rivers. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
This rainbow trout is another river fish that will take a fly, spinner, or swimmer during the cold months. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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By some standards, it seems this year ‘tis the season to be anything but jolly and joyful. “Bah! Humbug!” I say to that. These holidays have been with us for centuries and this skipper is proud to share in them all. For those looking for a silent night, it’s OK, but don’t attempt to bring me along with you.
Just like fishing, holidays bring people together throughout the world. There’s no language barrier nor any other perceived obstructions to get in the way. Fishers can and always will communicate, even if all they have to make a point are their hands and expressions. There may be a few discussions about which species of fish makes a better trophy or which fishing grounds might be considered a utopia, but all in all, the recreational fishing community is pretty much unified. It’s a lesson for everyone.
We’ve been on a weather roller coaster ride, completely the opposite from last season. At least, we had our first real snowstorm, albeit a little early. This year, like the last, the Sound is quiet if one disregards climatic influence. We experienced turbulent water, stiff winds, and dense fog—the intermediate stage during the seasonal change. However, when one looks out across the water toward a horizon that’s sometimes indiscernible, there is a calming, peaceful presence felt.
From this sea comes nourishment and sustenance, some of which is provided by pleasure fishers with others from harvesters working their ground tackle and nets to provide food for the general population. To this hard-working and dying breed, my hat is tipped. So, this year, even if one casts their nets to the dark side, we at Captain Morgan’s would like to wish a very special Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all and to all a good night.
On the Water
Of late, Long Island Sound continues to see days of nil visibility, gale force winds, and cooling waters. The offshore surface temperature has hovered around the 45-degree mark, while inshore temps remained in the low 40s. Overall, the Sound has substantially quieted down and that holds true for most of the minor rivers and tributaries.
However, farther up the main rivers, striped bass have been showing some signs life where many of these fish will hold over for the winter months. They’ve been feeding there on the baitfish that haven’t vacated for warmer southern waters. In reality, if and when ice sets in, many of these same fish (mostly undersized) will be caught and should be carefully released so as not to inflict any damage.
There have been more Atlantic herring caught lately. The best opportunity for these has been casting offshore from western Sound harbors, although our hungry mid-Sound seals have been revealing a few other central and eastern Sound locations. These herring have developed into a late fall and winter nourishing staple for visiting and resident seals. As mentioned in an earlier column, one of the best methods of catching Atlantic herring is with a Sabiki rig, either weighted at the bottom of the rig with a small sinker or a flashy spoon of about the same weight and hook size. Adding the spoon, in most cases, will increase the number of hookups.
The winter-oriented temperatures in the sweet water environment may have slowed down the basses and many other fishes, but they’ve done wonders for the trout fishery. Several of the key stocked and managed rivers have seen some fairly good brown trout action both with flies and hard-bodied lures like swimmers and inline spinners. The same positive comments can be said for Atlantic salmon rivers like the Shetucket, where cold-water salmon in excess of eight pounds have being caught. When ice finally sets in, expect to see perch, bass, pickerel, pike, and even catfish flip flags start being pulled through the Swiss cheese.
Other action that fishers are taking advantage of is the open cod fishery. There have been good catches of market fish, in addition to haddock, pollock, cusk, and, surprisingly, halibut. Let’s not forget the deep water black sea bass that are taking the bait, as well. Captain Morgan’s is in the process of completely servicing fishers’ cod gear and so bring it by before hitting those cold days aboard your favorite vessel.
Our next column, out in January, will feature our annual Fishing Year In Review, however, the shop will be open between the week of Christmas and New Year’s for business and licenses, as usual. Happy New Year everyone and may your biggest fish of 2016 be your smallest in 2017!
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 crabbing supplies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days (including until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24!) 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...
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