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Greg Wells (top) and Larry Papuga (bottom), both of Madison, shared a memorable fall day of blackfish (tautog) fishing, especially after Wells landed his record-best two fish. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
This unpredictable fall weather is keeping fishers on their toes as conditions sometimes change by the hour. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Fishing the cool fall waters of a local river, Bill Platt of Madison hooks into this nice trout on a fly before releasing it. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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The November weather has been predictably unpredictable. The only type of pattern that our weather is taking is an erratic one. Normally, we hop on the weather coaster in the fall and take that up-and-down ride to gradually diminishing peaks of warmth and then drop into colder valleys. Lately, though, we are not only experiencing day-to-day changes, but sudden hour-to-hour shifts in air temperatures.
To have Long Island Sound’s inshore water temperatures drop five degrees in just a few days and hardly gain anything back, even on sunny days, is a bit unusual. Can you imagine how this affects the fishery? At an early age, most children learn not to make sudden changes in water temperature when adding water to the goldfish bowl.
Fortunately, the Sound has varying depths that range from sea level to 320 feet at The Race with the average depth being 63 feet. This range in depth provides for a water column with differing temperatures, thus allowing for fish to adjust by moving to a more tolerable environment. This is the reason why blackfish (tautog), for example, move deeper as temperatures drop. Even with that range, the high end is still too cold to sustain migratory fish such as bluefish and false albacore. As a result, they depart for warmer waters that support their necessities.
There is always a flipside. Here is where fishing the sweet water comes to the rescue. Trout and Atlantic salmon waters are now in play and, soon after the last bit of the rivers and streams yield, the lakes and ponds will turn, somewhere there will be safe ice formed, and then the flags will begin to flip.
So, here we are, moving into another holiday season as diehard fishers grasp on to the last days of recreational fishing in the Sound. Except in this season, weather is chipping away at those days. Even with a few ideal ones left, some fishers will have a little more room in the freezer than they would like. Nevertheless, as warm water fishing gear is stowed, they will inevitably be replaced by clamming gear, skis, snowmobiles, round-trip tickets to a far-off island, or ice fishing gear if and when the hard water develops. Hopefully, you top off your season with a good memory to log.
On the Water
Under the Full Beaver Moon, there were record-breaking frigid temperatures resulting from the recent Arctic blast that came down from Canada. The average inshore Long Island Sound water temperatures dropped five degrees in less than a week as more gale winds pounded the Sound and small craft warnings kept fishers at bay for most of the seven days. Still, not all boaters met up with their winter dressing.
However, there was a noticeable transition as many moored vessels were hauled, leaving the trailer army to fish the shoreline. Those larger boats left the elements to chance, found a window in which to head out, and steamed toward deeper waters to target ‘togs. It is the time of year when these ‘togs gradually hit their deeper haunts and eventually settle into the semi-hibernation state for the winter. ’Toggers looking to hook into some tabletop prizes generally found them in 40- to 50-inch depths, eager to pick apart greenies. Still, there were more two- to three-pounders around than the serious ‘tog puller would like, even though these keeper plus-size fish make excellent table fare.
The latest blast of weather did put a damper on striped bass activity that only lasted until the pattern was interrupted. Hickory shad continued their late fall mission in the lower tidal rivers and the bass were right there with them. By now, most of the big gals pushed through the Sound, leaving the class of schoolies and some larger holdovers preparing to stage on the way to their holdover locations. We still have a few more temperature drops until, ultimately, the Sound quiets down, only to start up again in the spring. Until then, expect a few more warm days in which to fire up your two-stroke and cast some bait, lures, or flies.
Deep inshore reefs and mid-Sound wrecks are still giving up large porgy (scup) and black sea bass as they continue to head out. The way the tides and currents were affected from the recent full moon and weather, heavier weights were needed in order to take your clams and squid down deep enough to hit the hot spots. Keep in mind that the black sea bass, scup, and winter flounder (fluke) seasons close at the end of the year. So, for you small boat fishers, you might try for a few of those right-handed flatties, as well as some white perch.
Atlantic salmon catches are beginning to add up as the near 1,000 fish will have been stocked by late November. These include the normal two- to six-pounders and an additional 200 in the six- to 20-pound class. Remember, the catch and release season in the Shetucket and Naugy rivers now runs through Sunday, Dec. 15, after which the limit is one fish daily through March 31, 2020. River trout fishing in the Trout Management Areas has been productive, whereas lake and pond fishing has greatly varied in light of the recent cold spells. That might change as temps moderate, especially with bottom fishing.
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 the latest gear, 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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