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11/23/2022 12:40 PM

Thanksgiving—401 Years in the Making

Thumbs up for accomplished young fisher Nicholas Dietz, 11, of Madison, as he hooked into this robust 21-inch blackfish, then at sunset, caught and released this nice 36-inch striped bass while fishing with dad, Robert. Photo illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan
Doubleheader day on Southwest Reef: Two sisters, two porgies, and two black sea bass! Emmalyn (top), 10, with her pair of porgies and Savannah (bottom), 7, with a pair of her black sea bass caught on board with their dad, Greg Wells of Madison. Photo illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan

It is said that Massasoit Sachem (1581-1661) was the leader of the Wampanoag confederacy who formed an alliance with the colonists at Plymouth in order to defend against attacks by the Narragansetts. Through his assistance, the Plymouth colony avoided starvation in the early years and Massasoit’s people were strengthened after they were weakened and vulnerable following a series of epidemics. Their alliance went through various loyalty trials and tribulations that ultimately reinforced their bond, which led to alleviating tensions and maintaining a peaceful association between the two peoples.

Some say the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag when they shared an autumn harvest. Others refer to 1637, since the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Governor, John Winthrop, declared a day to commemorate a battle with the Pequot people in what is now Mystic, Connecticut. Yet still others (including the Wampanoags), unfortunately view the fourth Thursday in November as a day of mourning due to long drawn-out atrocities committed and aggressive land-grabbing.

Well, there is a tremendous difference between the simple Thanksgiving of 1621 and its original meaning then and today’s celebrated holiday. From a three-day feast and the five deer brought by the Wampanoag along with other associated foods fished for or gathered by a designated hunting party, T-Day has morphed into a mega-marketing event that is far more ornate, more food than room on the table and football games heard televised in the background, mostly watched by those who ate too much. And if one were to listen to conversations, they have little to do with the holiday itself and more to do with the passing of time.

Nevertheless, it is a tradition-honored day that does bring family and friends together, echoing sentiments of thankfulness for what we have, prayers for those who have not as well as those who left us and of course, optimism for the future. From Captain Morgan and crew, have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and remember, leftovers are for quitters!

On the Water

The unseasonable, humid 73-degree tropical-type weather experienced just a few short days ago evaporated. A cold front moved east across our waters where the frontal boundary stalled offshore and opened the door to a weak wave of low pressure that passed to the southeast. High pressure then built followed by a low pressure system that moved through mid-week. Long Island Sound nearshore water temperatures remained in the 58–60-degree range, two foot seas jockeyed amid gusty winds and visibility varied from hazy and some fog to clear, some clouds and sunny. Expect an average fall Thanksgiving Day with temps in the mid-to-high 40s—maybe some showers.

Finding a window this past week, not hindered by gusty winds, small craft advisories and rain, took some creative planning as well as good timing. Fish of all species did move around, often swapping the shallows for the depths or moving into protected bays or tidal rivers. We saw that with striped bass, bluefish, blackfish (tautog), porgy and black sea bass. To an extent, the same held true for dogfish and some of the other bottom feeders.

There was a noticeable difference in the fall weather pattern that made an aggressive move to cold, frosty and windy, causing water temps to respond accordingly by dropping. Yet that only meant bringing unseasonably warm conditions to somewhat near average which, on the whole, was not enough to disperse schools of forage (menhaden, shad, anchovy-type baits and silversides—even squid) forcing migratory fish to follow.

Striped bass maintained pressure on schools of peanut bunker and other smaller bait types that have been confined to shallow water as they also aggressively inhaled live eels, hickories, plugs and jigs. The tide line was often the place to be to intercept striped bass blitzes that have been continuing up and down the shoreline, especially where forage can be corralled in an adjacent bay. Not only were migratory stocks participating in the feed but our local holdovers were also involved and have not even begun to stage before heading upriver. Keep those casting setups handy rigged with small-to-medium size lures for the schoolies and slot limit fish and a larger one for when the 40-plus-inch linesiders show up.

If you think your favorite blackfish (tautog) holes are fished out, in all probability they are not. As water temps change, so will their location. They may move only a few feet or several. Recently, they have been found by reefs and rock piles anywhere from 40 to 60 feet deep and are still all over crabs. Sometimes it might be small oyster or clam beds that may be picked clean that forces a move. Other times, it is a temperature variance. Rather than up and moving, if applicable, try letting out more anchor line if rock jetties or breakwalls are not an issue. Togs are still definitely in play and weather permitting, will be so until the last day of the season on Monday, Nov. 28.

Normally as water temps fall, our bottom fishery, including scup, heads out or to deeper water. This season, black sea bass have not yet taken the seasonal plunge into those depths, but rather recently have favored 60–70-foot structures. That is where some of those plump 3-plus pounders have been caught—something that would add a little flavor to the Thanksgiving Day table.

There are a few holdouts looking for the last of the albies, some weakies, northern kingfish and blue crabs whose season runs through Wednesday, Nov. 30. But all in all, the aforementioned key marine species have now been fished for—unless sweet water trout, salmon, bass, and panfish have gotten your attention in which case lakes, ponds, rivers and other fishable waters remain active and productive.

Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and I=international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.

For all things fishy including the latest gear, flies/fly fishing, rods/reels, clam/crabbing supplies, fishing trips, licenses/permits and much more, 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, we make the fisherman better.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

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