Are Striped Bass Putting a Hurting on Your Casting Arm?
Getting tired of catching striped bass? That is what a fisherman recently lamented who has been fishing the tidal rivers and estuaries. Mostly casting topwater and sub-surface artificials, he has been fishing in three New England states (CT, RI, MA) and has found the activity very similar in all three.
One would think that with the emergency slot limit reduction of 28-31”, implemented by the Striped Bass Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission at their May meeting, striped bass activity would be just the opposite. It is not!
It was the sudden increase in the estimated harvest of 1.87 million fish in 2021 to 3.48 million in 2022 in order to, in part, protect the 2015 year class that prompted the action. Although a good majority of stripers caught and released have been over or under the slot, putting those released in potential jeopardy from mishandling, there appears to have been a disproportionate number harvested.
As it is playing out, we are not only seeing high numbers of short stripers caught and released but also a high number of fish over 40 inches also caught and released. This is putting more pressure on those fish hooked while, at the same time, affording fishers outstanding fishing opportunities. There is little doubt that all those released will survive. So, the question of how many will make it to another tide is unanswered.
Nevertheless, the 2023 striped bass (Morone saxatilis) season is developing into an active one both for shore casters and those fishing from vessels. In either case, quickly releasing striped bass after the fight is paramount. First off, regardless of the class of gear used, try not to work the fish to exhaustion. Secondly, prepare for the release (including a photo op) ahead of time. It is always best to keep the fish in the water or, at the very least, hold it in a horizontal position and return it to water as soon as possible, holding it by its tail and providing a gentle side-to-side sway until it kicks and swims away. Thirdly, if unfortunately gut-hooked, cut the line and attempt a successful release.
Striped bass are providing some of the best fishing in many seasons. Recreational fishing for them is popular and a rewarding experience — let alone excellent table fare. Enjoy the challenge of the hunt and the ensuing experience once hooked up.
On The Water
Smokey, hazy, and partly foggy air finally receded, leaving high pressure in control before a backdoor cold front replaced it as it passed through the area. Another high pressure system dropped from the north, replacing gusty winds and moderate seas. During that period, air temperatures fluctuated from the high 70s, low 80s down to the 60s and 70s before becoming more seasonal. Meanwhile, Long Island Sound water temperatures ranged from 59 to 61 degrees as seas jostled around from 1 to 3 feet as the Full Strawberry Moon rose.
Smokey air may have affected outdoor types, but certainly not the fish, as they continued to feed under early morning haze and changing tides. Striped bass, in particular, feed in conditions that favor hinder-free ideal ambush conditions such as low light, sub-surface structure, rips where forage can be churned up into a confused state, and the like.
With more linesiders congregating in the lower tidal rivers, moving into the Sound from the Hudson River and the DelMarVa region, along with menhaden, herring, squid, silversides, etc., the lack of adequate forage has not been an issue. However, competition for food has been keen, and as a result, many fishers are experiencing indiscriminate action using a series of varied artificials from topwater plugs, swimmers, and jigs to live eels, seaworms, and frozen baits, which have been effective at one tide or another. The nod still goes to skinny water hookups, followed by nearshore shoals and reefs.
It looks as though bluefish are into another active season. To date, fish into double-digits are showing up and being caught. Much of the action has been confined to key lower tidal rivers, The Race, and offshore reefs. Sizes are becoming mixed (much the same as last season) where nearshore channels, harbors, and bays are providing good fishing for 10-12 pound class outfits rigged with 1/2-7/8 ounce spoons, swimming jigs, and plugs. Weakfish continue their spring run, and catches of varying sizes are being made. Both baits and artificials are connecting when fished low in the water column. Try The Race to Six Mile Reef to and including the West Haven sandbar as well as several tidal river harbors and bays.
Soaking baits to entice the bottom fishery positioning on the reefs, humps, shoals, and in-throughs is where a fisher ought to be drifting, jigging, or setting up. Porgy and black sea bass are stacking up and primarily biting on squid. Dogfish and sea robins are taking chunks. Winter flounder are liking clams. Fluke are following squid and dropped with quality spearing and an assortment of fluke rigs, including ones accepting scented baits and teasers. Almost in all cases, a seaworm or occasionally a lure fished appropriately will garner a hookset.
A rise in water temperatures, along with an incoming tide, prompted a recent run of 6.5 inches and above jimmies as estuaries fired up. Trapping and hand-lining were brisk during the hour or so of peak activity. Scooping was effective as well, but trapping and hand-lining won out. Inclement weather aside, blue crabbers could be in for a run.
The field is thinning out with active trout fishers, although catching quality fish is ongoing, including native brookies. A variety of artificials, scented/natural baits, and flies are being fished successfully. Dropping from a small vessel or casting from shore in many of the inland lakes and ponds will yield large and smallmouth bass (topwaters, cranks, jigs, spinnerbaits, soft plastics), pickerel, perch, black crappie, catfish and sunnies. Live baits have been good, and, in many cases, weedless lures (frogs) are advisable.
Interesting Note: No doubt that much of the seasonal fishery is here on time — even a bit earlier. Temperature fluctuations, though, seemed to have a delayed effect on Osprey egg laying and incubation. After monitoring several nests, there have only been one or two eggs observed, and no eaglets sighted when comparing Memorial Day photos of 2022 and 2023. However, hunting fish and nest tinkering have been going on as usual as paired Ospreys follow their typical routine.
Fly fishing: an 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, 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.