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07/17/2023 12:06 PM

Unsettled Weather Can Lead to Surprising Results

Chris Reinecke (TL) joined by his young fishing family Quinn (7) (R) and Dylan (9) (BL) of Branford and Bayville, NY had a great day catching and releasing their Long Island Sound striped bass. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Connecticut River floods as fast moving water disrupts fishing plans while separated docked and moored vessels (top) free-float along with debris (bottom) that ultimately reached Madison. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
No matter how much food was available prior to the rough stretch (in this case schools of menhaden), kids will be kids and juvenile shoreline ospreys are no different. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

What an odd season fishers are trying to outguess! One minute, many key tidal rivers are loaded with bait, and the next, we have late-season high water levels and fast flows causing flooding, hazardous debris, and damage. Even docks with moored vessels are breaking away and floating downriver, bringing an early end to an otherwise promising season.

First, we were confronted with drought conditions, and now we have a keen eye on raging waters and nearshore lowland flooding. It makes one wonder if all the moisture being absorbed into the air will eventually return in the form of concerning storms. At the start, we were optimistic for an extended season of warm weather, but now, thoughts are beginning to cloud as predictions of an active storm season waffle. Odds are that it will be somewhat normal since 12 to 17 named storms are predicted, of which 5 to 9 will become hurricanes.

So as a marine water fisher, how does one anticipate and prepare for fishing around these conditions? It’s all common sense! Keep an eye on the barometer and fish before the drop. Coordinate the drift and/or trolling with the most beneficial wind and current conditions for the fish sought. Keep roughly two to three knots over ground for striped bass — crank it up a bit for bluefish. Eyeball the wind direction and the direction of ebb/flood tide — including current speed. Keep a real nautical chart handy and tune in to NOAA urgent marine and navigational weather broadcasts on Channel 22A (157.1 MHZ) that might be suggested on Channel 16 by the USCG.

Fish have a tendency to feed before impending negative weather conditions. Trolling or drifting key reefs, shoals, and rips should be considered. Umbrella rigs, diamond jigs, jerking bucktails, and deep swimming plugs, along with live or chunk baits, are generally good producers in these conditions. Some of the best fish caught are in unsettled waters. It is sometimes rocky for the fishers, but down below, the fish are taking advantage of the buffet that is being upended for a rather easy meal. Fish hard and be safe when in PFD waters.

On The Water

A wave of low pressure slowly moved through the region, bringing threats of tornadoes, heavy rain, and lowland flash flooding before moving northeast. A weak high pressure then built from the south and west, with the center of high pressure moving across mid-week and then offshore, giving way to a new frontal system and wave of low pressure. Air temperatures rose to the high 80s before moderating to the low 80s with a mix of sun, clouds, and thunderstorms. Long Island Sound water temps fluctuated around the mid-70s with gusty 5- to 10-knot southerly winds and seas mostly around 1 to 2 feet.

Tidal rivers like the Connecticut River were peaking due to recent heavy rain that caused high spring-like water levels and fast flows originating from the north. That resulted in discolored and debris-filled water that drove, in part, predator and bait fish into clearer, uncompromised water of the Sound. Prior to the heat and unseasonable water conditions, striped bass fed incessantly on topwater lures and menhaden. Once levels and flows moderated, some of that action continued, but most of the heavier over-the-slot fish took up feeding on the reefs and shoals where live eels, bunker, chunk baits, diamond jigs, spoons, and bucktails took over.

Bluefish are maintaining their run where double-digit choppers are being caught throughout the Sound. Scattered schools of Atlantic menhaden can be found all through the Sound, where cast nets have come in handy. Chunks, live bait, jigs, and spoons are producing quality fish along with the periodic burst of topwater action. Smaller harbor blues are being hooked closer to shore, providing flurries of activity and thrills for light gear fishers. In addition, weakfish surged after the rains, where numbers of small fish were caught from shore on bait and rigs as well as onboard a vessel while deep drifting or trolling.

Bottom fishing thrives! The reefs, shoals, humps, and other similar structures are holding fish. Scup fever is on as these saltwater scrappers are aggressively competing for food. Their fast reaction to a baited hook is unparalleled, while many other bottom dwellers in these waters might be a little more cautious. Seaworms, squid, clams, etc., are the key bait choices fished in conjunction with single hooks or rigs. Black sea bass are another species that have been an easy target. However, locating and catching quality fish may be a little tricky. Connecticut regulations call for five fish daily at 16” from July 8 through Dec. 31. However, New York calls for three fish daily at 16.5” from June 23 through Aug. 31. Therefore, recreational fishers should keep a close eye on their location and possession.

Fluke are getting more and more attention as the ratio of shorts to keepers is again tightening. It’s still a challenge finding the sweet spot, which includes depth and tide; the doormats have been found in and around depths of 50+ feet and like large baits and slow drifts. Spinner, hi-lo, glow, and Gulp rigs have been popular choices. Between these summer flounder being able to hold bottom and going berserk near the surface, fishers have more than a handful to deal with — especially without an ample net.

Dogfish sizes to four feet are surprising fishers as they snatch chunk baits, run and twist. In addition, are sand tigers and sandbar sharks. Joining them nearshore are the regular skate, sea robins, northern kingfish, and oyster crackers. Taking a tour up into the estuaries will net, scoop or trap good-sized blue crabs that can be found along the banks, pilings, and creeks.

We are seeing varying degrees of water levels, flows, and vegetation in the inland lakes and ponds where, despite those challenges, fishing remains good. Basses, crappie, pickerel, perch, catfish, sunfish, etc., all are responding well to natural and artificial baits. For the most part, fishing the cool, deeper, and protected sections of those waters at daybreak, near sunset or evening, will generally result in the best results.

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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