Stretching Out the Season
Frank Foley and skipper of Icarus II out of Clinton nail some late-season bass on eels—one of the best baits for late fall fishing. (Photo courtesy of B.Andes )
As the fishing season wanes and shore conditions stay favorable, hooking up with one last striper is a bonus. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
As Long Island Sound’s fishing season winds down, turn to shell fishing for an excellent tasty outdoor activity. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Snow has been sweeping across the country, including a bomb cyclone with plummeting atmospheric pressure. Even though us southern New Englanders have been battling some angry seas, water temperatures have been on the mild side. Lately, striped bass fishers have been finding those in-between days productive, primarily with holdover-size fish. Feeding has been spread out along the shoreline, providing end-of-the-season boaters with plenty of material for holiday conversations.
If it were not for time restrictions (probably the key to most season-ending trips), you would actually find out just how long these seasons are stretching out. Unfortunately, most of the larger vessels have been hauled in for the season, even though the Sound is still active. Additionally, several of the inshore reefs are attracting the remaining small boaters, who are catching and releasing multiple successful hookups. As expected, key tidal rivers continue to experience striper action as these fish stage along them. It’s interesting to note that some also return to the Sound for a snack before heading back up.
It is this time of year when there can be lonely days casting in knee deep water that is actually warmer than the air. One moment the sun is attempting to shine, while being tucked in behind a series of clouds. In the next, it dips below the horizon, showing off subdued colors as the air suddenly chills and light diminishes. It even seems colder when the only warmth generated is from repeated casts that are retrieved unanswered.
Even when vessels are stowed, there are always a few die-hards who need one more cast and one more catch, before they are convinced that the season has come to an end—at least for them. Whether it is the solitude, the challenge, or that yearning to log another memory until next season, this is something only a fisher can understand. As most step aside from New England’s salt life until the spring, our seasonal fishery continues on its appointed task. It temporarily moves on in an attempt to repeat the cycle—just like many of us do.
On the Water
Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures remained in the high 40s, bouncing back and forth from 47 to 50 degrees, before air temps settled into more of a seasonal range. Things then cooled down a bit, bringing on rain and stiff winds that precipitated into gale force warnings. Thanksgiving week kicked off with a few 50-degree days, although those were short-lived as more wind, rain, and light snow fell onto parts of Connecticut.
Blackfish (tautog) season closed out with some really good catches that were made in 50 feet of water and deeper. If the season stretched out past Nov. 29, good fishing for white chins would no doubt have continued, even though many hookups would have resulted in smaller fish. Still open, though, is the season for black sea bass and porgy (scup), both of which are now deep water catches. With the number of recreational vessels stowed for the winter, that option remains limited to the headboat fishery that also includes fishing for cod, haddock, and pollack as the season moves on.
For those fishers who still have boat access to the Sound, striped bass in and around the 26- to 28-inch range are being caught. As long as the water temps remain in the mid-to-upper 40s and the seas are tolerable, expect to catch these linesiders either on bait or artificials. They are not concerned about the holiday season, the limited number of days to take advantage of it, or the celebrations that occur. All they are reacting to is water temperature and forage. Don’t be surprised if the bite rolls into December before those left feeding in the Sound head up the rivers.
Trout are still making conversation as the fall bite continues in the Trout Management Areas and trout parks. Fly fishers are scoring with streamers and nymphs, while conventionalists are doing well with small- to mid-size swimmers, inline spinners, and some select baits. The pools are where concentrated efforts are best rewarded. Action in the Shetucket and Naugy rivers has been moderate with intermediate catches being made using single swing hook spoons and similar artificials including flies. As of Dec. 16, one salmon may be kept daily through March 31, 2020. Consider bottom fishing in some of the lakes and ponds for the heartier fish such as perch, catfish, and crappie for a holiday treat.
Something New for 2020
Per Connecticut Public Act 19-190, Connecticut residents will be hit with a $5 fee automatically included upon registering and renewing their vessels. Non-residents will be charged $20 if they plan on operating their vessels on Connecticut inland waters. The funds will be deposited in the Connecticut Lakes, Rivers, and Ponds Preservation account established within the general fund to combat aquatic invasive species in the state. This takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020 and the fine for non-compliance is $85.
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 licenses, 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...