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05/01/2023 03:05 PM

From Crappie and Trout To Striped Bass

Different day, different tide, different fish, same guy with a nice hefty schoolie striped bass caught/released in Guilford waters by Doug Barber of Branford. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Black crappie slabs have been quite active and are being caught while being suspended in local lake and pond waters. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
One of the first Osprey eggs laid this season as proud mama settles in for a period of diligently protecting and caring for it, while typically expecting another two. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Pairing up fishing rod and gear with the species of fish sought makes all the difference in the outcome for the fish and fisher. Too heavy a setup places undue pressure on the fish by forcing water through the gills faster than normal. Ultimately, that will most likely produce an unfavorable result through suffocation if a release is the intent. If the enjoyment of the interaction is what one strives for, then there will be little in the way of a memorable catch.

Likewise, if gear is too light, then the angler is faced with two possible unfavorable results. One, the angler will most likely be left with a spooled reel or separated line if the drag is locked down or two, the fish will be played for a much longer period of time, wearing it down and depleting its oxygen to the point of exhaustion with little chance of survival if the plan was a successful release.

Balancing gear with the fish pursued is paramount in order to experience an enjoyable catch. Whether fishing for black crappie, trout or striped bass, the same applies. Lakes and ponds are currently experiencing anglers fishing for suspended crappie. A four-pound test setup is ideal since the line is thin and less likely to startle fish, causing them to move on instead of taking a bite. Six-pound test is probably okay, but if they can see it, they probably will ignore your offering.

Trout have a narrow field of vision and can be quite selective, whether fishing with conventional setups or fly fishing gear. They can be picky when it comes to the type of food they will eat—live naturals, hard/soft lures, scented baits, flies, etc. In general, trout will not spend energy chasing down food when the majority of the time, they lay in wait near collection points. They, too, can be easily spooked so again, go with the lightest of setups possible to enable a successful catch and/or release.

Striped bass is one predatory fish that has learned to survive by honing its hunting skills. They are migratory fish, either from local holdover waters or migrating from historic waters like the Chesapeake and Hudson. From schoolie bass (14-24 inches) to cows over 40 pounds, the class of your gear is important. Since most fish have gills (some have lungs, gulp air or exchange gas through their skins and stomachs) upsetting the normal flow of water through their gills causes undue stress.

Striped bass are no exception. Since their growth span covers a wide range, from juveniles to fish exceeding the recorded world record catch at 81.88 pounds, it is vitally important to match gear (including in-line circle hooks when bait fishing) to the class of fish targeting in order to reduce the mortality rate. The daily creel slot limit for striped bass is one fish between 28-35 inches—therefore, because more stripers will most likely be released than kept per day, it’s important to make sure that those released will have the best chance at survival. Use appropriate gear, do not overwork a fish when hooked and release those caught as soon as possible, making sure they have enough kick while in the water before releasing them by their tail.

On The Water

High pressure built followed by a low-pressure system that moved through the waters before moving east. High pressure briefly returned, then a deep low pressure passed bringing unsettled weather. Air temperatures rebounded into the high 60’s/low 70’s accompanied by some rain, a brief thunderstorm, then mixed sun and clouds. Long Island Sound nearshore water temperatures remained in the low 50’s while seas remained from choppy to relatively calm despite some gusty winds.

Blackfish (tautog) season closed for the next two months until it reopens on July 1 for the summer with a two fish, 16-inch daily creel limit. Water temperatures and conditions were favorable during the last few days of the early season, limited only by wind (Small Craft/Gale Warnings) and some rain. The push was on to limit out on as many fish in the final days in spite of the weekend being unsettled. There were mixed results from tog pullers that were able to fish from land, nearshore rock piles and in vessels a bit farther out on the reefs. However, weather conditions were a hinderance!

As spring blackfish season came to a close, there was hardly any slack as fishers began concentrating more on striped bass. Tidal rivers have been showing increased signs of activity in conjunction with rising water temperatures and the influx of bait schools. We are seeing menhaden, shad, herring, etc., that are providing plenty of forage for these hungry holdovers and fish migrating up the coast. Not necessarily labeled brisk but if timed right, a fisher can be kept busy. Top water spooks, darters, swimmers and soft swim Shad’s have been working well, as are bucktail jigs and spoons. Look to bunker, herring and/or clams for natural bait choices and deceivers, clousers and half/halfs for a mini-fly collection.

Seagulls are picking at small winter flounder in the bays and lower tidal rivers. A little more time for the blackbacks to materialize—although, there should be more action on that front if fishers are out chumming and soaking worms, clams and mussels. While fishing in tight, look to capitalize on the run of hickories. There have been sizable bucks running deep and along the banks that have been taking 1/8-1/4-ounce darts and weighted sabiki rigs.

While meandering through the tidal rivers into brackish waters, be sure to check out the white perch bite that has been going on. And as an FYI, along with porgy, blue crab season opens on May 1. However, water temps need to come up before any real crabbing activity develops; but, in the meantime, there might be some shorts and barely keeper sized ones to be netted.

Inland waters are rapidly moving along. Vegetation is growing in the lakes and ponds while trout rivers and parks are seeing continued stocking. The first of the osprey eggs have shown up in the nests and feeding will soon intensify as they continue to hunt for fish.

In addition to rainbows, browns and tigers, there have been numbers of outstanding brook trout caught on inline spinners, live and scented baits. Lakes are seeing good large/smallmouth action as well as aggressive hard-hitting pickerel. Perch have been taking live worms, black crappie are biting hard on small jigs and worms, while sunfish are active almost everywhere—great for the kids. The catfish bite is improving, carp are picky, bullheads are feeding on the bottom and even some scattered river bowfin are being hooked.

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, 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

twitter @captmorgan_usa