In Spite of it All, Connecticut Fishing Has a Lot to Offer
Between Scotland dam to the north and the Norwich Occum dam down river to the south, there is excellent broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing in the Shetucket River with catches potentially exceeding 20 pounds. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Key West fishing aboard the Eva Marie was spot-on for Connecticut fishers Gino Milano of Hamden, Gene Calistro of Guilford, and Lou Crisci, Larry Sgrignari, and Bill Cote of East Haven. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
One magnificent thing about historic Connecticut is the variety of adventures that can be experienced throughout this relatively small state. The Connecticut River means “long tidal river” in Algonquian. This is a major river that has always been linked to this state’s prosperity. Another important tidal river, the Thames, flows 15 miles from Norwich to New London and Groton, ultimately blending with Long Island Sound.
Many fishers consider the Thames a jewel because, when it branches off to form the Shetucket River, our ever-popular anadromous fish follow it—and so do our adventurous anglers. Normally, we will see striped bass and bluefish, along with a variety of other different species of fish exploring this waterway. However, at this time of year, fishers are focused on one specific fish. Sure, there are winter trout and a few others to be had, but it’s the broodstock Atlantic salmon that really strikes a chord.
It doesn’t matter whether or not these fish are stocked or are returning to spawn. The fact is that all anglers are fixed on engaging this adversary in a one-to-one confrontation that usually results in a down-river chase with fisher after fish. The space in which anglers engage ranges from the north at the Scotland dam southward to the Occum dam in Norwich.
Fishways help propel the salmon’s journey northward to spawn, but as the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) injects sizable broodstock into the river during this period, the angler’s emphasis is now on catching. For years, the opinion was that stocked salmon had no taste and would be best to release. This, of course, is what should have been done prior to Dec. 15. However, word got out that the one fish that could be retained after that date actually tastes rather good or is at least palatable.
So let’s get down to what energizes most fishers: the fight. Whether you are forming a plan to hook one of these stocked salmon with a fly or lure, the task at hand is developing a strategy. Do I use a fly or lure and fish deep or resort to the top of the water column? Most female spawners are located closer to the bottom near their nests, while many males will most likely be hooked closer to the top and even launch a surprise jump. It’s up to you to determine how the water flow and depth will impact your fishing and which selection from your lures and flies will be up to the task.
Lately, the rivers have been higher than normal and running faster. That means that whatever your tactic, it should include terminal tackle that will drop and be retrieved in a normal fashion. Since your line cannot be weighted, it is important that your lure or fly be heavy enough to be worked within the water column of choice and that there is enough line or backing to withstand lengthy runs and long casts. This is a fishery worth the time and effort it takes to nail down the basics and build from there.
On the Water
As Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures remain in the low 40s, inland air temps have resulted in much of the state experiencing open water. This unseasonable weather has been permeating the area with swings of cold, wet, icy, and windy conditions to mild temps that range from the high 50s to low 60s. For January, that is way out of the norm—record breaking, in fact—but offers unusual opportunities to experience the outdoors.
The recent Full Wolf Moon presented exceptional negative tides for the clammers, some of which coincided with rather pleasant weather. Throughout the weekend, beachcombers and hikers could be seen walking their dogs or picking through the high water line for washed up trinkets from the sea. For fishers, it was all about casting to open water that generally would have been locked up in ice and strewn with tip-ups.
Although many rivers and streams were still high and running fast from recent rainfall, fishing them has improved. There was little in the way of topwater action while, on the other hand, fishing deeper sometimes brought smashing strikes, delicate takes, barely a tap or two, or just exercise. Whatever the less-than-satisfactory result is, a change in presentation is a good idea, especially fishing deeper and slower.
Trout have been hungry for bait, hard lures, and flies, while lake and pond species were mostly moved by live bait and artificials that were either cast or trolled. Stick with bait and small jigs for the perch, bait for the catfish, and either of them for some chunky pickerel. Fishing for Atlantic salmon in the Shetucket and Naugatuck rivers has been resulting in good catches, although carefully picking your time, spot, lure, or fly is more likely the key to success than hammering away at one spot or lure continuously. Always be alert to existing conditions and signs of interest while tweaking your creative instincts.
Due to the overfished and overfishing condition of the striped bass stock, DEEP is suspending the Bonus Striped Bass Voucher Program indefinitely. Low participation in the program also contributed to this decision. The continuation of the program will be revisited once the stock is considered rebuilt.
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 rod 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...