A Fishing Season That Will be Remembered
David Weiss (left) of Philadelphia and Aengus Culhane (right) from Madison paired up with these 44-inch and 38-inch striped bass, respectively, while fishing Long Island Sound waters. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Tom Skoczylas (left) and son Jackson (right) of Guilford had a good day fishing the Sound for some delicious black sea bass. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
If there ever was a season that kept fishers on their toes, this is it. Overall, fishing has been quite good. There have been sizable fish caught and some unusual ones, too. There have also been good, yet inconsistent runs, as schools of bait moved from spot to spot. As expected, the striped bass and black sea bass are cooperating. Scup has been red hot and large sea robins outrageous, while summer flounder needs coaxing.
Weather and water temperatures have been key players and, although baitfish have had their moments, we can use more. Remember that early run of large squid that came through the Sound? The weakfish loved them! However, here are ushering in Shark Week and we’re still looking forward to warmer water temperatures.
Some are saying, “Where are the big blues?” as trollers have been bagging only a few harbors. Fishers parting the waters closer to shore are wondering what those comments are all about as they reel in harbor blues under flocks of diving gulls. It’s as if two people are watching the same movie with totally different takes.
Fishers are feeling the change, but can’t figure it out. Fish are acting differently with how and when they feed. It used to be that a hot spot was good for a day or two, but now, a few hours can make the difference. As the oceans evolve, so follows the fishery.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the love of fishing. Equipment is more sophisticated, methods are re-created with a different face, and videos attempt to make even the unlikely react like a pro. Somehow, the story always repeats itself, usually starting with, “Back in my day, you should have seen the fish!” Well, someday today’s youngsters will probably be spouting the same thing to a different audience. Still, fishing remains a mainstay and it’s up to us and future generations to keep it that way.
On the Water
Sweltering heat led up to the Fourth of July and only eased after rain and a cold front swept through. Inshore Long Island Sound water temperatures remained in the high 60s, but hazy and foggy conditions persisted, giving way to better afternoon visibility. Good fishing brought vessels to the reefs and land-based casters to the shoreline.
Nighttime offered more in terms of striped bass opportunities, although deep water trolling and jigging pulled bass from the cooler bottom water. Live eels and live-lining menhaden brought linesiders in the 30-pound range to the hook—some heavier, many lighter. Jerking chutes, drifting bucktails, and soaking chunks also yielded results at many of the popular spots. Schoolie bass continue to be caught in the lower tidal rivers, bays, and harbors on sea worms, jigs, swimmers, and soft plastics.
Black sea bass catches remain good on the wrecks, reefs, and rock piles. Three-pounders seem to be the norm. Simple hi-lo rigs or jigs tipped with squid or scented baits are easily producing daily limits of five. Depths of 40- to 90 feet seem to be the sweet spot. Fluke catches are up, especially along the immediate shoreline. Deeper water is turning over some larger fish, but be prepared to work for them. Adding tails to your jig increases chances for a doormat, as do scented baits.
Scup fever is getting more contagious by the day. We are still in the midst of a stretch of big fish from 16- to 17 inches, although smaller fish are getting into the mix. Check out your local reefs and rock piles. Not only will you find these aggressive porgies, but since blackfish (tautog) season opened on July 1 (two fish at 16 inches), a blackfish may be in the offing. Another favorite is summer flounder (fluke), which are showing up more as the season progresses. Short fish are definitely outnumbering keepers, unless you are fishing from one of the enhanced shore areas. Stick to the deep water with whole baits or long strips for any doormats that might be lurking around.
Atlantic menhaden schools remain hit or miss as they bounce from harbor to harbor, while hickory shad are a little more dependable in the lower tidal rivers. Harbor blues continue to dominate the wanting bluefish scene with larger ones lingering behind in their migration. This should change soon provided that more bunker schools are pushed into the Sound. Weakfish are still being picked up when trolling and drifting rigs near the bottom on flood tides, yet that bite has been slowing down.
Bottom fishing remains strong as Shark Week draws closer. The dogfish are biting hard and putting up a fuss. Expect a few other visitors if the food supply and water temperatures cooperate. Juicy chunk baits will also attract those oversized sea robins. Blue crabbing cranked up a bit since the tidal rivers warmed. More crabs topping five inches are showing up along the banks and on some pilings.
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 bait, 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...