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Chris Nielsen of Wallingford landed this fine 5.38-pound, 23-inch Long Island Sound humpback black sea bass on a recent trip. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Wallingford’s Brian Ortel holds a striped cusk-eel—unusual to Long Island Sound—that was in the mouth of a black sea bass when caught by Chris Nielsen. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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One thing I noticed on the way out of the harbor is how few vessels are trolling the waters in the midst of a developing fishing season. Early morning fog, often dense, has greeted most as they attempted to point their bows in the direction of the target marked on the GPS. Not withstanding engine noise, hardly a sound could be heard, aside from a few gulls and the slapping of seawater on the hull.
True, some still consider the water temperatures on the cool side, but if you listen to the fish (as opposed to the weather), the truth comes out. Perhaps the migration may have stalled a bit as a result of these forecasts, however, wetting a line in the Sound has been productive for quite some time. Ask any striped bass fisher and you will quickly get confirmation.
Cruising along the shoreline will reveal several points of interest. Feeding egrets are plucking silversides from the tidal rivers. There is more bird activity out by the reefs, while ospreys are working feverishly inshore. Seals are coming up with more fish on a flooding tide. Greater numbers of fishing rods can be seen along the beaches and jetties than in previous weeks. And, without a doubt, Atlantic menhaden, key catalysts driving the food chain, are more available to fish and fishers.
A conscientious fisher observing fishing vessels can generally tell what the target species are. By knowing where the reefs and shoals are located and how one is fishing them, a good guess-timate can be made. A troll can indicate striped bass and bluefish. A drift might suggest fluke, bass, or bluefish. Anchored might mean black sea bass or scup and so forth. It all depends on the tide, season, and time of day. A quick glance at the gear is also a indicator. These are obviously loose indicators and can vary with locations. The bottom line is that at any given time, there can be a variety of fish available to catch in the Sound.
The longer that marine water temperatures remain on the cooler side, spring fishing will be prolonged until fish settle into their summer mode. Keeping a close eye on the surface, as well as the bottom temps, can lead fishers to more productive grounds and give them an edge. Monitoring the currents will certainly help, especially when fishing for energy-conscious stripers. Recent changes in the management regulations might be a burden on some, but they will force anglers to re-think their trips and put a wider variety of fish on the table.
On the Water
Air temperatures have had a hard time keeping in line with the season. Long Island Sound inshore water temps have been struggling to climb into the 60s and are instead clinging to the mid- to high 50s. That will change as winds begin to favor the southwest, bringing with them a warmer influence. As spring attempts to break through to summer, dense fog has been prevalent during early morning hours, hindering some vessels, but not necessarily affecting the bite.
Striped bass continue on their march into the Sound, mixing with schools of Connecticut linesiders that are already feeding aggressively. Fish from the 40-inch- to the 40-pound-plus class are being caught both in and offshore on a host of baits and artificial lures. Fishers working both the rivers and reefs are definitely being kept busy when timing the tides and currents to their fishing. Schoolie catches remain hot on light gear, whether casting plugs, soft plastics, jigs, or flies.
Harbor blues are here in more numbers and are not being shy about it. They are mixing in with the bass throughout the Sound, but are not creating frenzies leading to lost gear—at least not yet. Heavier mono leader is recommended to complement your light gear setup, though. Spoons, top waters, and moderate-sinking lures (jigs included) are among the top producers, along with select baits fished the entire water column.
Black sea bass catches on the Connecticut side started mounting up as the season got underway. The normal early season New York hot spots are unfortunately off limits, but experienced humpback hunters found the sweet spots in local waters with catches up to and more than five pounds. Once on them, limiting out was not an issue. Like last season, expect to thread through a bunch of younger fish. Check out the local wrecks and bottom structure, keeping in mind that sea bass are movers and can be caught not only when anchored on reefs, but also when drifting.
Scup are stacked up in the easternmost part of the Sound and are making their way in and closer to our shore. Some of these porgies are up to 19 inches and are on squid, as are the fluke. A few smaller summer flounder are slipping in, although anything of any size is generally hugging the waters outside the Sound or in around 90 feet of water. However, a couple of 10-pound doormats that slipped into Long Island Sound were caught in 70 feet. Fishing will continue to improve, provided the wind cooperates. Shore casters should be prepared to hook up with some hefty sea robins.
There is still plenty of river trout fishing at hand, as well as lake bass and pickerel action. Locally, the pickerel are charging baits and have heft, while several largemouths caught have been in the five-pound-plus range. Smallie catches are up. Carp, channel cats, perch, energetic crappie, and sunnies are filling the gaps with fairly decent catches, giving pause to re-think which waters to fish. Try fishing with live shiners, worms, or specie-related artificials.
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 reel 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...
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