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02/06/2023 09:55 AM

A Connecticut Lake for All Seasons

Whether lightly clothed or bundled up, Gardner Lake has fish that attract anglers throughout the year. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
This Connecticut all-seasons natural gem, Gardner Lake, appeals to anglers due to its diversified fishery, established habitat, and attraction to both traditional and ice fishers. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Provided no sudden deep temperature drop occurs, the trout bite continues in many stocked and sustainable waters. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Popular groundhog prognosticators like Punxsutawney Phil saw their shadows, but will there be six more weeks of winter? Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

So you want to go fishing, but which body of water may be one of your best bets? We have seen soft water briefly turn hard and vice-versa, creating disappointment upon arrival. High water and fast flows may also have put the brakes on, although a few anglers were undaunted by that turn of events.

As if that was not enough, an angler may discover that it was a pair of leaky waders that did him/her in. So… is that what’s bothering you?

If so, it is time to pack up your light spinning outfit or fly rod, along with your best selection of lures and/or flies (or even your ice gear, if that be the case), and head to a body of water that can scratch your winter itch.

That body of water is a natural 529-acre lake with an average depth of 14 feet and was stocked at the end of January. Its deepest point is 39 feet near the only island on the lake which, coincidentally, is also Connecticut’s smallest state park, at only 0.88 acres.

This body of water is Gardner Lake, and the island is Minnie Island State Park. Located between the borders of Salem, Bozrah, and Montville, it has an earthen dam that raises the water level four feet to maintain its current levels. There is a boat launch on the south shore, ample parking, and a controlled 6 mph boat speed from sunset to 8 a.m. To get there, take Route 354 and Route 82 in Salem, head north on Route 354 for 0.1 miles, and turn right into the boat launch area.

Expect to find moderate vegetation in the warmer months on the northern and southern areas of the lake, with the rest of the lake being otherwise sparse. The bottom is sand, gravel, rubble, and boulders, with scattered mud — a good habitat with a diversified bottom to support a variety of fish species.

An angler will find large and smallmouth bass, trout, pickerel, walleye, catfish, black crappie, yellow perch, bullheads, sunfish, shiners, killifish, suckers, etc.

When Gardner Lake is free of ice, early mornings and evenings are excellent times to be fishing. Trolling is productive for trout while casting near shoreline cover will keep one busy during low light conditions — overcast and cloudy conditions, as well. A sunny midday can put one in panfish heaven — especially when using small topwaters or jigs. During ice trips, try the contour line dropoffs by Minnie Island during low light conditions for some outstanding walleye.

According to Punxsutawney Phil, during the 137th Groundhog Day celebration, the famed groundhog saw his shadow, prognosticating six more weeks of winter. Staten Island’s Chuck did not see his shadow, forecasting an early spring. Connecticut’s Chuckles saw his shadow, also divining six more weeks of winter. No matter how one cuts it, astronomical spring begins on March 20, which is just around six more weeks of winter. Besides, Phil has been only correct 40 percent of the time. The way this flippant, unseasonably mild winter has been, this old salt prognosticator says the feel of spring will come early.

On The Water

A northern stationary front pushed southward, replaced by a cold front that passed through the area. That sank southward, as high pressure built from the west before sliding offshore. An arctic cold front blasted the region, with air temperatures tumbling by 35 degrees before the weekend, only to begin rebounding once again into the 40’s.

Meanwhile, Long Island Sound water temps dipped into the high 30’s before gaining back a few degrees to the low 40’s. Winds gusted 30 knots as seas rose from 2-4 feet, and days were basically clear with good visibility.

Forewarned of a dipping jet stream and an associated Arctic cold blast, dropping air temperatures by over 45 degrees with an associated brittle wind chill factor, making it even more numbing, anglers took advantage of earlier warmer weather conditions.

Inland water flows remained rapid and levels higher than normal created challenging river trout fishing in many locations. However, with trout ready to leave the hatcheries and recent stockings providing catching and/or releasing opportunities, as the case may be, anglers were benefiting from earlier mild breaks in the weather.

In the short term, some northern Connecticut lakes/ponds may see safe ice as a result of the drop in temps. No doubt, during this transition period from January to February, we have seen mild weather turn frigid then back again, and have seen a few ice flags and jigging sticks put into action, as well as anglers fishing rivers that flowed. Granted, some flowed too fast and high, while others were easier on the fish and anglers.

Within a one-week period, trout were caught in both soft and hard water — a most unusual season. The swings back and forth from spring-like weather to winter have also affected Atlantic salmon fishing. Fast flows have made more of an impact than the actual change in temperatures, but as soon as they moderate, hookups will increase.

The sudden drop in temperatures also affected the bite in the lakes and ponds, as the thermocline effect became more apparent, suddenly shocking those species into a period of lockjaw. However, for many of those areas north of the shoreline, a window (no matter how short or long) for ice fishers opened.

During this past week leading up to the weekend, more fireplaces were put in action, and fewer beachcombers were seen braving the high tide line. Low tides did bring out the clammers when the wind eased, but the seals took to the cover of deep water or the lee in order to avoid high winds and rough seas.

Fly Fishing: Outstanding Opportunity for the experienced or beginner! Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2023 with World Fisher, certified Master Fly Fishing Casting Instructor and Fishing Lodge Director. From trout, salmon, steelhead, and sea-run browns to striped bass, bonefish, permit, and tarpon, etc., techniques learned and honed will improve your fishing.

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, ice fishing, 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 and Authorized Penn Premium Dealer, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

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