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12/07/2022 09:11 AM

Shellfishers Prepare for the Holidays

An extremely popular outdoor activity in its own right, shell fishing exploded during the past two years when being outdoors, gathering fresh clams and exercising those lazy muscles became desirable — especially during yearend holiday tides. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Blue crabbing season was quite productive for the scoop netter, trapper or hand-liner providing more than enough crabmeat for the holiday table. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Although there is fish activity below the surface and this season wanes, more commonly the shores of sleepy Long Island Sound are being explored by curious beachcombers, like this East Haven trio. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Populating Long Island Sound, each and every season, are fishers baiting their hooks or casting a favorite, consistently producing lure. Recreational fishing aside, there has been a spike in shellfishing and blue crabbing ever since the recent era of complex airborne viruses. Needless to say, there are many reasons for this — including substituting the indoors for fresh, outdoor air.

Undoubtedly though, acquiring delicious, straight-from-the-sea bivalves and the exercise associated with raking those clams has to be considered. With the holidays rapidly approaching and so much to do in the interim, gathering an assortment of shellfish for the holiday table is something most shell fishers have planned on doing. Unfortunately, timing and weather conditions can necessitate a workaround, but nevertheless, many eyes will be on Christmas week through New Year’s (Dec. 20 through Jan. 2) when low tides will be best.

A choice will be made to whether hit the shellfish beds to cull for oysters, scratch for steamers or rake for chowders and cherry stones. Perhaps, all three! In any case, there will be plenty of raking and shucking going on before any of these mouth-watering delectables hit the palate. Whether served fresh on the half-shell and iced or recently shucked and frozen, you can be sure that your serving of shellfish will be a hit!

As blue crab season extended only until Nov. 30, choices are more limited unless store bought or shipped. However, since 2022 was another good crabbing year, freezing freshly picked crab meat or frozen after cooked will certainly extend tabletop options. The estuaries all along the immediate shoreline produced some fine Jimmies and Sallies, as well as runs of soft shells.

Weather dealt a few bad hands that caused some tidal rivers to take a breath until conditions (including hot spells) returned to normal. However, the regular blue crabbers were on point taking advantage of the changes and crabbed accordingly. As a result, their catches were fairly consistent and, as in most every past holiday season, there was crab meat in various forms able to be served and enjoyed — including crab cakes and mini crab rolls.

If one needs to add to their clamming and/or blue crabbing gear, Captain Morgan’s has whatever is needed to top off a successful day of shell fishing. From shucking knives to rakes (and everything in between) as well as crab traps, scoop nets, hand lines, etc., your options are almost endless. So, to surprise your special shell fisher with a holiday gift that keeps on giving, swing by the shop where those items and gift certificates are readily available.

On the Water

As November neared a close, sun brightened the sky, gale watch and small craft advisories were issued and winds gusted to 40 knots as a cold front remained just east. High pressure built before shifting offshore as a strong frontal system impacted the area with rain before another high pressure formation developed. Early morning air temperatures dipped into the high 20’s to the mid-30’s, as days saw temps into the low 40’s. Choppy seas moderated while Long Island Sound nearshore water temps dropped into the mid-40’s.

All that signals that the Sound is settling into a seasonal shift but not closing the door for any fisher looking to wet a line. There are striped bass shifting from the cooling Sound’s waters to the holdover tidal rivers — although on nicer days, slot limit fish and smaller may be found taking advantage of any remaining schools of menhaden and biting down on small topwaters and sinking flies cast around the islands.

Harbor seals are becoming more noticeable on their rocks waiting for tides to rise so they can commence hunting. Soon it will be time for them to religiously slip off their perches to feed on herring and any other finfish that might be in the vicinity. This will take them to their hunting grounds around Faulkner’s Island, Meig’s Point, The Thimbles and many of the rocky structures throughout eastern and western sectors of the Sound.

A quick scan of the Sound’s waters will reveal a quiet seascape relegated primarily to tug boats and freighters transiting harbors handling commercial traffic. Most vessels have been hauled and winterized, leaving the trailer army to splash at will. Recreationally, the Sound is certainly quieting down, with a few notable fishing exceptions. Provided there are any sea worthy vessels in a position to navigate the recent tricky weather patterns and fish the deeper reefs, scup and black sea bass are two good options to attempt. We have the rigs and squid!

Keep in mind that opening day for trout fishing has been eliminated. Normally closed trout waters are now open year-round unless otherwise stated. So, check out those waters for catch and release and other restrictions that might apply. It is a good time of year to hookup up with both native and stocked salmonids, including broodstock Atlantic salmon. Lakes and ponds have been quite calm and quite fishable all along the shoreline. Catches of largemouth bass, smallies, pickerel, crappie, yellow perch and other panfish are being made. Consider river fishing for northern pike and channel catfish in addition to those popular lakes and ponds.

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 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, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

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