How is Fishing the Sound Shaping Up for 2020?
Bill Cummings (top) of Westbrook and brothers Steve Martins (left) and Hunter Martins (right) of Guilford look forward to another good year of black sea bass fishing. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Jason Walker (left) of Madison and Chris Nielsen (right) of Wallingford have gotten into some really good scup fishing in the past and are hopeful for a repeat this season. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
From all indications, 2020 will be another strong year for the black sea bass fishery and a reasonably good year for the porgy (scup) fishery. Although black sea bass can technically absorb an increase in the recreational harvest due to revised estimates in the recreational harvest limit (RHL), it probably will not materialize at this point. Therefore, fishers can still anticipate easily catching their limits when fishing Long Island Sound using either bait or jigs.
After accounting for expected discards, a closer look at scup indicates an RHL of 6.51 million pounds or a reduction of 12 percent for 2020. This is based on the spawning stock biomass estimate fluctuating from a very high recruitment in 2015 to a below-average recruitment from 2016 to 2018. Consequently, do not be surprised if there is a corresponding change in the regulations for 2020, even though the stock biomass is not overfished nor being overfished.
For fluke, on the other hand, it looks as though things will remain status quo. This rests on both the initial available harvest before deductions for past overages and from a realistic catching point of view. Data updates indicated that the stock increased from 2017 to 2018 and that recruitment (number of surviving fish entering the fishery) in 2018 was above average.
During the past few years, there was a noticeable increase in shark catches while fishing the Sound, including some protected species as well as varying sizes of dogfish. Inshore waters, a breeding ground for their pups, particularly saw that increase. The warmer water temperatures combined with the influx of forage contributed to their increased presence. Look for this to continue in 2020 along with additional catches of southern Atlantic fish that make their way up in the Gulf Stream.
Putting the recent restrictions placed on striped bass and bluefish aside, two more species are on the watch list. Winter flounder is still being rebuilt, but catches are improving. Blackfish (tautog) certainly need help in Long Island Sound as predation is up and greater numbers of smaller fish (three to four pounds) are caught in comparison to larger ones. However, weakfish looks to have another promising year and is another fish that peaks the interest of inshore and offshore fishers alike, especially during their spring and fall runs.
Certainly, 2020 will present challenges. Fishers will have to fish out of the box, so to speak, and be more thoughtful as to how, when, and where to fish. Weather bordered strange last year and, looking at the patterns so far this season, do not be surprised if we have a hotter than normal summer with less rain this year. All in all, there will be plenty of sport fishing and enough productive reef fishing to provide food for the table.
On the Water
As we are about to close out the month of February in this leap year, we came off another week that took cold Arctic lows up to unseasonably warm 50-degree temperatures. This repeated routine of cold, wet, or mixed precipitation—and finally a much warmer weekend—has been fraught with uncanny predictability. Inshore Long Island Sound water temps bounced between 38 to 40 degrees, while sea action ran the gambit of calm to small craft warnings with winds topping 25 knots and waves cresting from three to five feet at times.
However, there were schools of Atlantic herring that could be spotted swimming anywhere from mid-Sound to near shore. These often fell to the mouths of harbor and gray seals as well as schoolie-size bass that jaunted out from nearby tidal rivers. Now that their comeback is becoming more obvious, more bald eagles can be seeing scouting the rivers for fish (recently stocked or otherwise) and feeding in the Sound.
As you can presume, the stocking trucks have not only created an early food source, but also alerted anglers to the many trout that have been introduced into the trout management waters. Because of the leap year, we can fish through Saturday, Feb. 29, giving us an extra day before the winter season closes, leaving the catch and release rivers and Trout Management Lakes open.
All the while, rainbows, browns, and brookies have been being caught both on flies and conventional gear. Nymphs and streamers have been good choices for the fly rodders, while baits and lures worked for those using spinning tactics. Lakes and ponds have seen catches of pickerel, bass, perch, catfish, crappie, pike, and trout on calmer days, and have even had visits from small boaters and takers tackling the early fishery.
Paying particular attention to the state’s key lower tidal rivers will open the door to possible catches of sea run trout. They will take traditional lures, flies, and bait on their way upriver. For best results, fish the mid- to lower part of the water column, keeping in time with any current flow. For those Atlantic salmon buffs, fishing these stocked rivers continues to produce quality catches, and fishing in the deeper stretches will generally be more advantageous. A Connecticut trout and salmon stamp is required.
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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...