A New Decade Begins
With new bluefish regulations on the horizon, 2020 will be a challenging year for the fish and fishers. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Darren Richardson of Sprague landed this nice 13.89-pound, 33-inch Atlantic salmon while fishing one of his favorite waters: the Shetucket River. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Fishers are attracted to many species indigenous to Long Island Sound and those appearing seasonally. Some, like black sea bass, are pursued for their food quality, while others, such as striped bass, are fished primarily for sport. One of the fish that is a favorite for the rod, reel, and palate is the infamous bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix).
When this popular gamefish is hooked, it sparks an adrenaline rush unlike any other. It’s sustained fight consisting of rod-bending jumps, dives, and runs puts a hurting on gear, while ratcheting up interest and competitions. Schools of Atlantic menhaden undergo a systematic, controlled attack as they are relentlessly foraged upon, leaving onlookers in awe of the spectacle. The amount of terminal tackle that is destroyed attests to the bluefish’s tenacity and brute strength as the action entices fishers to come back for more.
However, throughout the past few seasons, these bluefish events have diminished. Large-shouldered alligators are fewer and fewer in number and most schools found in the Sound consist of fish in the four- to six-pound range. At times, these schools have been fairly large, but sporadic. Most of them were much smaller and spread thin. This observation is not only obvious to experienced fishers, but is also the general consensus among recreational fishers, as well as those in the commercial sector.
For the past two years, Captain Morgan’s opted out of one of leading annual bluefish tournaments they we had participated in for more than two decades. Among others, the primary reason contributing to that decision was the unnecessary over-harvesting and wasting of a stock now assessed as over-fished. In an Oct. 11, 2019 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s press release recapping a meeting held in Durham, North Carolina, an announcement was made concerning both the recreational and commercial reduction in the harvest of bluefish.
The reductions for 2020-’21 are 18 percent for the Recreational Harvest Limit and 64 percent for the commercial harvest. In other words, after discards there would be a reduction to 9.48 million pounds from 11.62 million pounds recreationally and a reduction to 2.77 million pounds from 7.71 million pounds commercially. Additionally, recreational fishers can anticipate a three-fish bag limit, whereas the for-hire sector can anticipate a five-fish bag limit. For now, these actions only apply to state waters that are zero- to three miles water-ward.
From snapper blues to fully grown alligators, those of us who fish regularly are well aware of the apparent decline of bluefish in Long Island Sound. Although this fish is a socioeconomic driver when its numbers are up, we can also see the difference when they are down. If we appreciate them for their recreational value, we certainly can understand the importance of maintaining a healthy stock. Therefore, we need to do whatever is necessary to manage and protect this fishery by taking a proactive lead in its rebound beginning with this new decade.
On the Water
While many parts of the country got more than their share of winter that resulted in airport and highway closures, as well as icy conditions and piles of snow, we here in southern New England got by rather unscathed. Above-average daytime air temperatures hit the 50s, while Long Island Sound inshore water temps remained in the low 40s. There were a few bouts with excessive rain and gusty winds, but that paled in comparison to what it could have been. Thank you, El Niño, for taking a rest.
While traveling through the state on the way up north, I noticed that every pond or lake in sight had either open water that was skimmed or partially frozen. There were no flags seen or anyone attempting to ice fish. However, as we move further into January, that will change as the upper reaches of the state will finally see more ice and, if the ice fishing gods look favorably upon us, so will parts closer to the shoreline.
Recently, though, the open water has been seeing the action. Trout Management Areas and some of the bass lakes and ponds have responded as though it were late fall. There were pickerel, perch, catfish, and some northern pike caught—even a few white perch and crappie. While out on the waters stocked with broodstock Atlantic salmon, anglers were out and about looking to hook into one of those 20-pound breeders. Overall, artificial lures (single swing-hook spoons and inline spinners for the salmon) fished deep, flies (streamers and nymphs for the trout), and a modicum of bait will suffice for most fishing conditions. Still, check the regulations before heading out.
Many outdoor enthusiasts wait for the winter season, when snow and ice create a winter wonderland of sporting events and activities. Others head south, where an abundance of sportfish and diving excursions await them. Back up in the north, it is time for cod, haddock, pollack, and wolf fish to go with some striper fishing in the upper tidal rivers. When booking an offshore trip, it is always best to call ahead.
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 reel repairs, 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...