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Can Manchester resident Jeff Tyrol’s 12.47-pound, 25.5-inch blackfish be topped during this year’s Veterans Memorial Blackfish Tournament? The 31st annual tournament runs from Saturday, Oct. 12 to Saturday, Oct. 19. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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The bottom fishery of Long Island Sound has really taken off during the past few years. Fishers totally enjoy the pleasure of searching out, catching, and eating the many varieties, let alone the act of outsmarting them. Some are quite aggressive, like our summer flounder (fluke). Others, like the striped sea robin, casually lie in wait, even though they’ve been known to occasionally come to the surface for a bite.
These fish do not require the hours of dawn, dusk, or midnight to be caught, nor do they prompt the character of a sleuth to outsmart them. A mid-daylight trip is just fine since most are structure- and tide-oriented. As a matter of fact, you can casually drift or, more often than not, drop a hook on a reef or rock pile and drown some bait. For added insurance, the water can be sweetened by lowering a chum pot to attract the wary.
Porgy pounders gladly endorse scup fever throughout the season, gathering by rock piles and humps to hook into these scrappers. From 9- to 17 inches, catching anywhere near a limit of 30 can easily provide a family with a good meal. Fluke are somewhat more aggressive, but also a nice daytime fish that responds well during a easy drift when fishing any number of different and enticing rigs.
However, the one fish that has recently driven the bottom fishery is black sea bass. The influx of them into the Sound to seek out cooler waters of the north during the last few years has been quite evident. They have nestled in and, each season, we are experiencing more spawning and seeing tiny juveniles up to and including five-pounders. Their appetite is ravenous and their feeding has few boundaries—something that warrants attention.
Of course, let us not forget about our common sharks, the northern kingfish (which has been more prevalent lately), and the forever-referenced oyster toadfish. Above all, a true favorite throughout the years has been the always popular blackfish (tautog). They are cunning, cautious, and constantly vigilant. If there is a way of breaking loose from a hook, they will find it, even if it means taking hook, line, and sinker into the rocks and stretching their pectorals to wedge them in tight.
These ‘togs fight like a bulldog. They are unparalleled bait stealers and the inattentive ‘tog puller would never even know it. The long-awaited fall season opens on Thursday, Oct. 10 and, in celebration of this fish, the 31st annual Veterans Memorial Blackfish Tournament will begin on Saturday Oct. 12 and run through Saturday, Oct. 19. It’s a great event culminating with a fun-filled banquet at Guilford’s VFW, complete with prizes and an outstanding food spread. Tickets are $40 (includes a cool T-shirt) and are available at the shop and VFW. For details, call 203-245-8665.
On the Water
As Hurricane Jerry taunted the waters off New England and sister storms Karen and Lorenzo kept forecasters on their toes, waves battered the Sound and kept fishers on edge. During this unsettled weather pattern, inshore water temps remained around 68- to 69 degrees as free-swimming bait played into the fall scenario. The days are getting shorter and the shadows longer, but fishing remained good as September wound down.
The black sea bass bite refuses to let up as fish in the three-pound class are being caught in 40- to 60-foot depths, while large humpbacks still prefer the deeper 100- to 120-foot structure. Even in depths less than 40 feet, keeper fish can be found, but will be outnumbered by numerous throwbacks. Slab porgies are mixed in with the larger sea bass; try larger hooks, larger cuts, of bait and heavier weights. There are plenty of scup in the pond, so take advantage of any breaks in the weather, along with sea conditions that allow for safe motoring to the offshore bumps.
Wait no longer for the striped bass bite! Fish are fattening up on live eels, menhaden, and hickory shad. The surf is producing some stocky fish, as are the bays and harbor channels. Dawn and dusk are producing quality fish using top waters and subsurface lures. There are plenty of schoolies around in the lower tidal rivers mixed in with harbor blues, although there have been a few gators caught on lures and chunks. Offshore action has produced a mixed bag when trolling ‘brellas, diamond jigging, or drifting buck tails. The absence of normal bird activity is noticeable. All this while the snapper blues are getting bigger.
Most albie catches are made at the eastern end of the Sound, yet some are managing to move westward to Hatchett, Crane, Hammonasset, and Faulkner waters. Bonito seem to be spread out more, but are not easy to spot. Continue to keep an eye out for Spanish mackerel and weakfish. There is also good action occurring with northern kingfish, common sharks, and sea robins on the bottom. Blue crabbing is not slowing down, so if you haven’t gotten your fill yet, there are plenty left to catch before the season closes on Saturday, Nov. 30. Fluke season is now closed.
Fall trout stocking took a breather after the Hammonasset got its initial load. Low water and warm weather caused the easing. Meanwhile, pickerel, catfish, carp, and sunnies have been reasonably active. Bass fishing has been variable with a few local farm ponds seeing light- to moderate largemouth activity. Dawn and dusk have been good times to take advantage of the increased walleye activity, and northern pike catches have improved at some of the key rivers, coves, and inland lakes and ponds.
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 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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