When Was the Last Time You Explored an Estuary?
A June full moon always has a special place for fishers. Not only does it fall between Memorial Day, the unofficial kickoff to summer; and the Fourth of July weekend, when summer really takes hold; but it also occurs when so much fishing activity is coming together in Long Island Sound and its estuaries.
Being that June’s weather pattern is so predictably unpredictable, this is a key factor in upsetting plans, as this year has demonstrated. Yes, we have had the normal rain and thunderstorms and wide spreads of temperature changes. However, on the Sound, it is a stiff southern wind that alters most plans for vessels by exposing them to the elements as they’re heading out.
Nevertheless, between our holdover fish and migrating stocks, the Sound gets its annual fill of marine life of which our enthusiastic piscators are anxious to catch. Let us not forget that the term catch is not limited to just finfish, but also applies when acquiring shellfish including crabs and clams. Bearing that in mind, exploring many of the shoreline estuaries can be quite fulfilling and rewarding.
Whether aboard a small-powered or unpowered vessel or on foot, one can always manage to bring along a fishing rod and a little tackle, a clamming rake and measuring ring, a crab net with a weighted throw, and a bucket. Of course, a fishing license and clamming permit (where applicable) would be necessary, but not so for crabbing. Thus, your journey begins.
On the Sound, there are such a variety of fish to catch that very often it depends on whether it is recreation sought or food for the table or both. Fish remain in the Sound in all seasons unless affected by severe weather. That also holds true for the bays and estuaries. The trick is knowing the times of high and low tide on the day of your planned adventure.
No matter what marine species you wish to engage, the main key to success is knowing the tides of the waters of interest. Tidal flow has a lot to do with marine activity, such as when and where they will be feeding or be fed upon, spawn, and molt. In the bays, for example, be on the clam beds at low tide. Check out blue crabbing near the bottom of the ebb and beginning of the flood. For finfish, both ebb and flood tides can be productive, usually around a hour or so after or before, taking into consideration the time it takes the tide to reach up river. On the Sound, different fish prefer different tides, as well as current, bottom structure, and depths.
Exploring the estuaries with a fishing rod, clamming rake, and crab net can be lot of fun and a nice way to satisfy a worked-up appetite. With a few simple tools and a tide table gotten on line for your area, one can turn an otherwise mundane day into quite a memory in a place where the tide meets the stream. Try it sometime!
On the Water
A stretch of low pressure passed south of the waters as high pressure settled in and remained through mid-week. A cold front then faded as another frontal boundary hung around into Friday before high pressure built up for the Father’s Day weekend. Gusty winds kicked up, but subsided, becoming light to moderate. Generally, seas remained within a foot. While air temperatures bounced around from the mid-70s to the low-80s, Long Island Sound water temps held to the mid-60s into the coming week.
Black sea bass keep getting more and more attention as the bite gets stronger with each passing tide. With New York waters opening for the season on Thursday, June 23, fishers can hardly wait to jump the boundary into the other side and start working many of those popular bottoms. These fish are showing an insatiable appetite for squid, even though they will chow down on many other baits and marine fish. They are onto hi-lo rigs, along with diamond and butterfly jigs, including high-producing scented swim baits used as teasers and on jig heads.
Striped bass had a few weather breaks, but overall, catches of slot limit fish have been ongoing. The recent moon tide saw good catches on live eels, top waters, and jigs. Chunkers did well from shore and out on the reefs, while trollers working the lower water column opted for large swimmers. Fly rodders casting from shore or in the tidal rivers did well working deceiver and Clouser type flies when not hampered by stiff southern winds. Overall, catches and releases of cows should continue through June if the weather holds, although slot limit fish and short schoolies are expected to continue taking baits and artificials.
Minimat summer flounder (fluke), just less than double digits, are being caught as they make their way through the Sound. Shorts still outnumber keepers no matter how they are stretched, but good catches of seven- to nine pounds are being boated. Some are making their way into tidal rivers, while others are being hooked in about 40 feet. Squid, bucktails, hi-lo rigs and added teasers (some scented) are productive setups when drifting bottom structures. Keep a net handy and a lip gripper, unless you are really handy at tail grabbing with non-slip gloves.
There are no signs of Spanish mackerel as of this time, but the sea trout (weakfish) bite continues in stride. Check out Six Mile; south, east, and west of Faulkner’s; harbor channels, and key points by nearby shoals and bays. Bucktails tipped with squid, scented baits, and beaded rigs drifted or trolled near the bottom. Try your hand with a 9 wt fly rod near shore, but also somewhere near a tidal river. Winter flounder have been hit or miss as they quietly feed off the bottom on clams and worms.
Porgy (scup) fever is rapidly approaching as water temps are becoming more seasonal. Word is out that the reefs are holding some whoppers and porgy pounders are after them. We are beginning to see more mixed sizes, but the big ones are getting the most play. Inshore catches are picking up. The bottom matrix is developing as more sea robins, skate, and dogfish are filling in the gaps. Tidal river blue crab catches are varying with the water temps, salinity, and weather. Sizes of hard shells have been around five- to five ½ inches with a soft shell popping up from time to time. It probably makes sense to give the fishery a bit more time, but if you are anxious to net a few early ones, go for it.
Inland waters remain quite productive, especially largemouth and smallmouth bass. Actually, they have been quite aggressive. Check out the weed lines, drop-offs, and shallows, but take care around any beds. Pickerel are following suit, as are perch, catfish, and sunnies. Trout waters remain productive and are still producing quality fish, although it is the experience and skill that are now paying off whether spin or fly fishing. The real challenges will come when the temps really warm and water levels drop.
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 crabbing supplies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days at 21 Boston Post Road in 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.