Spring ’Tog Season Closes on May 1
Hailing from Guilford, Allyn Temple hooks into this nice spring season blackfish (tautog) before releasing it back into Long Island Sound. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan)
Up from Louisville, Kentucky on a work assignment, Quentin Neal found time to relax while catching and releasing striped bass from the waters of the Madison shoreline. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan)
Slow-growing blackfish (tautog) can live to be up to 35- to 40 years old. They do not get that way by being careless or rambunctious or, for that matter, casual in their approach and feeding habits. Under observation, they can be seen carefully examining their food, surroundings, and other foraging species including hook-and-liners and spear fishers tucked behind a rock.
Their coyness is only matched by their ability to quickly snag a mouthful of food from the hook of an inattentive fisher and eject pieces of crab shell before noticed. Observing them through a dive mask, a normal approach to food—be it a crab, clam, mussel, or sea worm—may appear cautiously slow, often with the head cocked to give their greenish eye a better focal point.
This large-lipped, strong-toothed wrasse makes quick work of prey and, when not in a feeding mode, this bulldog can be found in a hole, resting motionless on its side. Whereas color may be quite an attractant to some species like porgy (scup), ’togs generally appear to be oblivious to it, even though they will draw them in for a closer look at times.
At that point, fingertips need to be ready, the ’tog rod positioned, and concentration uninterrupted. The slightest twitch or nibble needs to be addressed. When that moment occurs, set, crank and, whatever the response, do not lower your rod tip. If you do, then back into their hole they will go. With the ’tog spring season winding down, but water temperatures on the rise, there should be a few good stories left to share. As usual, the one variable is weather and, if it’s windy, then we may have to wait until the season reopens to continue that quest. If not, grab a shot for the album.
On the Water
The shoreline had its springtime moments as another arctic cold front swept down, bringing with it a bout of rain, wind, and temperatures that dipped to around the freezing mark. A few parts of the state even experienced a brush of snow, while two low-grade but still damaging wind tornadoes touched down in the state. Fishing on Long Island Sound hiccuped during these fluctuations in weather as small craft and gale force mariner warnings were issued, cautioning against turbulent seas, high winds, and early morning dense fog.
Although the battle of the seasons raged on, both inshore and mid-Sound water temperatures managed to rise, creating a fairly decent last blast of the spring tautog season. Temps in close averaged about 49- to 50 degrees, while the central Sound averaged near 46 degrees. Due to the warm season, it appeared that the bite would turn on early and continue, but as is typically the case with April weather, it flip-flopped, and so there were periods of challenging fishing conditions. When the weather broke, most fishing netted small ’togs, but of course, there were the curve breakers that tugged the line and fought like typical white chins.
Like passing the baton during a relay race, leave it to striped bass to pick up the slack as ’togs prepared to take their seasonal break. Momentum is building as more slot limit linesiders are coming into the picture. Beaches, bays, and tidal rivers have been seeing good activity as water temps rise and more bait piles into the Sound. Most fish recently caught have been obviously feeding as their plump stomachs and their added weight can be felt on the line. From menhaden to squid to herring, those migrating fish have been into schools of forage, while our holdovers are chowing down on waves of moving finfish. Seaworms are like candy, but other baits and artificials (including flies) are also doing the trick. For now, a light- to medium setup ought to do just fine. Remember to use inline circle hooks when using bait and to release any incidental stripers if caught on any other type of gear as when fishing for winter flounder.
Trout fishing remains the inland attraction. Stocking is holding up and the results have been obvious as catches of rainbows, brookies, browns, and tigers continue to be the talk. With varying weather conditions, successful techniques using natural baits, colorful scented ones, hard lures, and flies all had their moments. Water flows and levels have fluctuated, causing techniques to vary, so read the water and weather before making your selection. In addition to river trout, lakes and ponds have also been seeing variable conditions with the pre-spawn largemouth and smallmouth bite. A bit more active have been the perch, crappie, pickerel, some northerns, and catfish. With an eye on the key tidal rivers, monitor the carp bite, as well as the American shad run.
The first of a series of saltwater fly fishing clinics is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 8 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at one of our local and productive Long Island Sound flats. A food break is included in the $225 package. For more details or to register, contact Captain Morgan at 203-245-8665.
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.