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The 2016 fishing year was outstanding on Long Island Sound for fish and fishers alike. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
The winter offers some great shell fishing. Take, for example, this partial catch of delicious Guilford oysters. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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What made 2016 so special was that the waters of Long Island Sound were full of life. From the beginning of the year, when warmth permeated the Sound and nutrients from the tidal rivers swept down river, there were fish flourishing everywhere. Not only did the Atlantic menhaden remain throughout the winter, but they outlived several die-offs, multiplied, and grew. In fact, they grew so much that there was never a noticeable reduction of the fishery throughout the entire season.
Unfortunately, with such a mild winter, sports enthusiasts went into withdrawal and ice fishers especially felt the pinch. Lack of precipitation raised havoc with sweet water catches (the exception being largemouths) as levels suffered and the trout stocking program met challenges. Nevertheless, a cold Opening Day of trout season went off as scheduled and James Wills’s brookie won Captain Morgan’s annual Memorial Codi and Bubba Trout Contest.
The mild winter also negatively affected searun trout, keeping that action to a minimum, while springtime blackfish (tautog) season was also restrained. It wasn’t until halfway through April that the walls lit up and, eventually, the hot spots. Still, unlike the fall, when the action improved, catches were muted, even though some good double-digit whitechins were caught. However, winter flounder were a different story as their catches seemed up a bit, but still on the low side.
By now, holdover striped bass were chowing down on river herring and bunker that were in the rivers. Fishers were catching bass from schoolie size to 40-pounders. These linesiders were quite aggressive, taking top water plugs and swimmers, as well as bait. As we slipped into May, we saw a surprisingly nice run of weakfish, a mediocre run of hickory shad, and a better run of the American variety.
By far, the talk of the season had to be the unbelievable black sea bass action. From day one until when the season theoretically closed, these eye-catching, tasty bottom fish could not stop eating. Humpbacks to six pounds were caught, while an infinite number of others kept coming back for more. In many cases, it actually took longer to run and set up than to catch one’s limit.
Porgy (scup) also were stacked on the reefs with fish caught approaching four pounds. From mid-May on, flukers were on the hunt for doormats. The bottom held some good fish as many fishers who were drifting large squid found out. Doormats in excess of 12 pounds were landed, in addition to plenty of shorts.
As summer started closing in, more striped bass from the Chesapeake and Hudson infiltrated the Sound, joining our holdovers. Others continued their migration northward to Block Island and Montauk, where fishing was fantastic. Throughout the season, top water bass action was hot. Bluefish of all sizes made their showing and provided anglers with outstanding catches as action in the rivers and Sound carried on throughout the fall. Both albies and bonito had their brief moments in the limelight, while a variety of bottom fish, including sharks, sea robins, and skates were easily caught. All throughout the season, humpback whales and dolphins dined on bunker, although seals weren’t quite as fussy and even harassed anglers into giving up their catches.
The year wound down as the run of Atlantic herring began providing additional forage for our fishery and more enjoyment for fishers. Stay connected to find out what 2017 will bring. Best wishes for the new year and to all fishers everywhere!
On the Water
Step by step, we are feeling winter trying to tighten its grip. Air temperatures have fluctuated between below freezing to almost reaching the 60s. We’ve gotten more rain than snow and have seen bare ground more than winter white. The Sound has been hovering around the mid-40s, while inland tidal rivers have lingered in the low 40s. Throughout these shifts, Long Island Sound waters remained rather peaceful between bouts of angry seas and relative calm.
However, there actually has been some ice located in various pockets throughout the state, with some quite tentative at best and others safe enough to handle light loads. Ice anglers have been anxious to put their augers to work and those who have found safe ice did manage some early flags. Just remember that safe ice is a figment of the imagination, since it can reverse course without much warning. So, pay attention to suggested thickness recommendations, check with the locals, and be sure to punch a few test holes before venturing out with your safety ice picks on your person.
Fishers have had mixed tastes lately. The score is about even between those looking to ice fish the hard water and those wanting to cast into the soft. Perhaps it may have more to do with the holiday gifts received than the actual state of the liquid itself. From the new rods and reels to the gadgets that attach to them, anglers are anxious to try their new treasures. In this mixed weather pattern, all one needs to do is to travel a bit and either can be found. For those undecided, try winter clamming.
Several of the key tidal rivers are giving up striped bass to those fishers who already miss the fight. Pike have been on again, off again in the coves, while perch are showing a bit of an appetite. Anglers will have to work for the brown trout and the Atlantic salmon while waiting for signs of the sea runs, and that should make for a more energetic fishery than last year.
Note: Keep those fish pics of your catches coming to be shared with our domestic and international fishing friends.
For all things fishy including clam supplies, 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...
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