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In 2019, fishing came with many surprises, challenges, and personal bests. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
A raging upper Hammonasset River following heavy rainfall dissuades any attempts at catching and releasing trout. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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The throes of winter were felt in early January, when we finally had enough moderate ice develop for some ice fishing. Conditions along the shoreline varied, causing serious hard-water hole punchers to head north, while energetic clammers hit the beds. In the meantime, a few Atlantic salmon were caught in the Shetucket and Naugatuck rivers, and searun trout had their moments before winter flounder season kicked in—no biggie here, either.
While we did have quick periods of snow and ice, overall, it was the rain that was most remembered. When Groundhog Day hit, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, signaling an early spring—and then the rains came.
By March, trout catch and release was in full swing, and the lakes and ponds started producing fish, especially the management ones. April came and Opening Day of trout season was greeted by high and fast water that took a while to moderate. Fishing was relatively good in the stocked waters throughout the season, but anglers still had to contend with the weather. The American shad run came late, as did the hickories and white perch. Large mouth bass fishing was good, along with smallies, pickerel, catfish, carp, perch, and most of the regular species found inland.
By now, striped bass started moving down the rivers, although the holdover population in the key tidal ones provided action earlier on. Top waters and soft swim baits were the key producers of schoolie size bass. Water temperatures were slowly rising and the action was brisk. The early spring blackfish (tautog) season lagged as temps kept fish deep. However, as they rose and April started winding down, the walls and inshore reef started to come alive as fish moved in from deeper water. Blue crabs were another that had a late start. When that fishery finally developed, point-to-point hard shell sizes got up to the 7-plus-inch range for those crabbers who were on top of things.
Although the weather kept fishers off-guard, May brought in more optimism. Summer flounder (fluke) season opened and there were mixed results throughout, even though some nice doormats were landed, along with plenty of shorts. Porgy (scup) season also opened and, as usual, catches were excellent and plenty of slabs measuring 17 inches and better were caught. Once again, weakfish had a good run both in the spring and right on through the fall.
Once again, the black sea bass fishery was the talk of the shoreline. Catches of four- to five-pound humpbacks were weighed and measured and, depending on the water temperature, sizes varied with the larger fish seeking out the deep reefs and humps. For the most part, the smaller fish congregated inshore.
Throughout the season, Atlantic menhaden were spotty overall. As time passed, large schools could be found (including the peanuts), but prior to that, most of the schools were small. Not surprisingly, most of bluefish caught this season were once again small (four- to six pounds) with the exception of the far ends of the Sound. Snapper blues also ran late, offering good inshore fishing. However, there were striped bass in excess of 40 inches caught near shore, as well as untold numbers of schoolie bass caught and released throughout the shoreline. They hit sandworms when shortages were not a factor, along with other baits and a variety of artificials including flies.
With the 2020 season upon us, look for a key change in regulations that, in all probability, will favor a slot limit and a period of time to adjust to the use of circle hooks for bait fishing.
It took a while for the Atlantic bonito and false albacore (albie) runs to finally materialize. When they eventually kicked in, the action was mostly relegated to the eastern part of the Sound, although there were periods of activity in the west and mid-Sound sections. Showing up after an absence, Spanish mackerel were caught this season, and chub mackerel, too.
One particular thing that garnered a lot of attention was the increased numbers of shark catches during the summer. Sand tiger and sandbar (brown) sharks, both federally protected, were regularly caught near shore, along with numbers of large sand sharks (dogfish). Remember Cabot, the tagged 10-foot great white who paid us visit earlier in the season? Most likely, it was because the Sound is now a cleaner habitat for forage, the water temperature is more appealing, and, perhaps, is inviting enough to be investigated. That being said, even with the existing seal population here, this shouldn’t be a concern at this point in time.
On the Water
Hopefully, everyone greeted the New Year in grand style and your expectations for 2020 will be realized. For starters, Long Island Sound water temperatures remain in the low 40s despite the inconsistent weather. Winter Storm Finley dumped a mixed menu on southern New England just after those heavy rains turned the upper Hammonasset River into whitewater rapids.
The milder stretch of weather that followed opened up opportunities for the trout and salmon anglers, cod fishers, and people who were anxious to hit the shellfish beds. Ice fishers, at least in southern Connecticut, continue their wary approach to safe ice, even though there really is no such a thing. So, for now, stroll the beaches, inshore trails, and enjoy winter as it settles in, while taking advantage of any fishing opportunity that comes along to test out your new gear.
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 clam 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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