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07/02/2023 10:15 AM

Stars and Stripes Continue After the 4th

Ray Collins fished for a career best 40-pound class Cape Cod striped bass while surfcasting the suds under a moon and starlit night. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Bobby Cifarelli of Branford had a highly productive morning, fishing for bluefish topping the day’s catch with this 15.52-pound gator along with several well over-the-slot released striped bass. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Young Paul Song (11) of Madison caught and released this healthy schoolie striped bass while fishing the Clinton shoreline. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Too big to keep but big enough to fill a life-long dream seems to be an appropriate expression of the day. If you are an avid striped bass fisher and have pursued a similar goal, finally reaching that pinnacle, then the long sigh of achievement is recognizable. Plugging the suds, drifting a live eel over a likely reef or, for that matter, fishing a key tidal river for migrating linesiders, have at one time or another been a route to that goal.

Fishing for those awe-inspiring striped bass usually entails embracing low light conditions — most often under the cover of darkness. Headlamps are handy but only when it comes time to re-rig or pay attention to a bird’s nest left by some sort of mishandling before, during or after a serious run and thrown hook. Other than that, it is one’s ear that hones in on a slurp or pop of a feeding bass or the sight of a fin and swirl picked up by the moon’s reflection.

It was the Fourth of July weekend, the 247th year of first declaring our Independence from Great Britain. It is also the Full Thunder Moon weekend where celebrations and firework displays conveyed our commitment to country, flag and freedom. Not only did the Stars and Stripes fly above the water but the stripes extended below the surface.

All one had to do was to get those stripes to rise above the waterline in order to see them glisten under the brightness of the moon — and that was the goal. Occasionally a solo striper could be heard slurping silversides or smacking a bunker with its tail. But hooking into a night-feeding cow and bringing her in for the release is always the challenge — a life-long dream of many.

This was the night — a night where the moon was bright and the stars lined up. Plugging the surf, staying alert and keeping the use of a headlamp down to a bare minimum was a no-brainer. Casting and working the plug began to take its toll, partly because of casting and working rod and reel and partly due to the smaller bass caught and released.

Soon tide time would run out but the hope was before that happened, the small fish would move out and a bigger gal would linger around for an easy bite. Not certain if it was the plan that worked or luck played its hand — or a little of both. But sure enough, a dorsal fin appeared then a swirl and then the roll. Hook up! No time to think! It was playtime! Well actually, it became quite serious once the run was felt. It was the type of run where one looks for the fish while keeping a close eye on the spool and dwindling line. Finally, she was turned, brought through the suds then released for a feeling of exhilaration.

On The Water

A slow moving frontal system impacted the area before a weak front overtook it. Unsettled weather waffled, creating an on again, off again pattern that included southerly winds, chancy rain and thunderstorms. Another weak high system followed with breaking sun and once again, humidity and high temperatures into the 80’s felt more like summer. Meanwhile, intermittent rain and thunder storms continued to dot the state Long Island Sound water temperatures logged in the high 60’s approaching 70 degrees, gusty winds, and moderate seas persisted.

Increased water temperatures continued to move fish around. Warming tidal rivers drove striped bass into the Sound where conditions were more optimal. Nevertheless, cooler parts of the day did see more localized tidal river activity — especially during early and late day tides. Bait schools were key to fish locations and periodically, there was mid-day schoolie action. Eastern and western Long Island Sound reef activity, where cooler rip and deeper water prevailed, the bass bite was good. The new slot limit did curb the take but overall there were quality fish caught and released. Live eels, drifting chunks, working bucktails and diamond jigs paid off while seaworms, squid and clams hooked smaller fish near shore.

Bluefish are chopping away at schools of Atlantic menhaden, chasing them from one end of the Sound to the other. Most of the action still remains below the surface as trollers, drifters and those fishers working off an anchor are hooking into double-digit fish. Telltale bird action is sporadic which means frenzies are happenstance. Shore casters are connecting with mostly chunk baits and spoons with periodic mini-blitzes opening the opportunity for some top water plug hookups. Weakfish have been in the mix and interested in trolling tubes, bucktails with squid, and 5-6” soft plastics fished as teasers or main baits rigged on jig heads.

Fishing weakies can not only hook a bass or blue when fishing the lower water column but also often a nice fluke. Mixed weather conditions have created wind and waves that have churned nearshore waters muddy, pushing fluke farther out. Depths of 50-90 feet have been producing some mini-doormats and better but shorts still dominate. Bucktail jigs, squid, spearing, Gulp teasers, fillet strips and bellies are connecting. Soon snappers will be on their diet. For now, try a peanut bunker.

Scup fever is rapidly approaching as more hubcapper scup are being caught. They are hard to miss when fishing a reef, hump or rock pile. Even some of the shoreline points where porgies were rarely found are seeing some unexpected activity. Sea worms, squid and clams are the baits to focus on when baiting hooks and rigs — a tasty and great fish to catch for the entire family! For now (and until July 7), Connecticut has taken black sea bass out of the equation so if that is what your agenda calls for, it will have to be in New York waters.

Other bottom fishes typical for this time of year are keeping fishers guessing. If your bait is near or on the bottom, you can be assured that eventually it will be found. Depending how it is rigged and when and where one is fishing will often determine what will be caught. Dogfish, skate, sharks, sea robins, kingfish, toadfish, pufferfish, eels, etc., are all looking for food — just be sure enough weight is used to keep the food on the bottom.

Fly Fishing Clinic: Now accepting reservations for July. An outstanding opportunity for the experienced or intermediate fly fisher! Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2023 with World Fisher, certified Master Fly Fishing Casting Instructor and Fishing Lodge Director along with striped bass enthusiast and specialist. 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

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