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08/07/2023 12:22 PM

Fish Do Feed Aggressively in Agitated Water

Jack Vossler of Colorado, while visiting dad, Christopher of Guilford, had a great day fishing the waters of Long Island Sound for black sea bass, dogfish and striped bass. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Susan Buckler of Killingworth, while fishing with husband Jay, landed this nice 7-pound, 23.5” fluke while dancing with squid on a bucktail. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Jack Coyne (12) of Guilford had this one local pond dialed in for hungry largemouth bass and aggressive pickerel. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Here we are, waiting for the Dog Days of summer to kick in and ready to adjust our fishing accordingly. Yet some of those hot periods already appeared in July, which begs the question, what will August bring, considering days are getting shorter by about one minute per day and mornings have seen the mercury dip to 55 degrees? The average historical August water temperature in Long Island Sound is 73 degrees, falling to 64 degrees in autumn. However, some of our lower tidal rivers have reached 80 degrees in July, and parts of the Sound hit 77 degrees.

Since fish gravitate to favorable climatic factors affecting reproduction and growth, including forage and habitat conditions, water temperature is definitely a driving force. Recently, a majority of the large scattered schools of baitfish have been relegated to offshore areas, and that is where most of the blitzing action has been occurring. Since water temperatures have come down a few degrees (at least temporarily), that should reflect an uptick in shore catches — unless another heat spell or two develops.

Where turbulence occurs (noticeably near rips or where moving bodies of water meet, creating an upwelling), schools of baitfish are churned and agitated in the process. In essence, fishes’ sensors pick up vibrations and scents, sounding the dinner bell, thereby alerting predators like striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, etc. When that occurs, it does not take long before a feeding frenzy develops, attracting fishers from every direction.

Breaking out diamond jigs large enough to get through the schools of bait and down to the fish one is pursuing is a surefire way to get into the action. Working flutter spoons or bucktails that would imitate those baitfish by either appearance or movement is another way to outsmart a fish. However, with a feeding frenzy going on, finesse is a card not necessary to play.

A classic example of this kind of fishing is found in the vicinity of The Race, where a maximum flooding tide could be 3.63 knots, and a maximum ebbing tide could be -4.11 knots. During those times, water, fish, and fishers come together in a fury of activity — especially in the fall when fish need fuel to sustain their migration. Unless a surface blitz is occurring, as seen at places like Montauk, getting through the water column is paramount to maximize hookups. Strong terminal tackle, sharp hooks, and appropriate lures, along with rods and reels that will withstand some punishment is essential. The Race is no place for weak stomachs, flimsy gear, and a lack of good navigating/boating skills, but it is a goldmine, holding a plethora of fish at the right time and tide.

On The Water

High pressure built in and became centered over the area before shifting offshore. A warm front pushed through, followed by a cold front that brought unsettled weather and passing thunderstorms. Those conditions were followed by another high-pressure system, as humidity remained low while daytime air temperatures began in the mid to high 60s and rose into the low 80s. Long Island Sound water temperatures remained in the mid to high 70s, and 5 to 10 knot northerly winds shifted southerly, generally holding seas to heights of 1 to 2 feet.

All in all, August mornings started on the cool side, far from the dog days of a humid summer. It did start off under the Full Sturgeon Moon and what is dubbed National Fishing Month. Full moons ramp up fishers’ desires to hit the water for striped bass since there is a combination of forage being washed downriver from the wetlands and activity near and offshore.

Slower tidal flows and currents were the best areas to target — especially near lower parts of the water column. Eels, menhaden, chunk baits, flutter spoons, and bucktails generated the most hits, while diamond jigs were working best offshore. Gator bluefish continue to slice through schools of scattered menhaden, but some of those schools seemed acre-wide. Water erupted from more noticeable blitzes than in the past few weeks. Out at The Race, bait continues to be stacked as graphic displays differentiate colors, marking those schools (bluefish below and stripers underneath) as well as marking bottom structure. Fishing has been no less than phenomenal, even though weakfish catches were weaker this past week!

On the other hand, fluke catches were up. Shorts continued to out-pace keepers, although those with the touch managed to hook up with 7 to 9 pound mini-doormats. Bottom structure offering protective cover, clear and slow-moving water accompanying your drift are key. Squid, spearing, Gulp, bucktails, and a variety of rigs keep on producing. Those that are feeding are hitting and holding on! The porgy bite has not let up, as 2+ pound slabs are being caught. Action has been good both from shore and boat, using simple rigs and baits, including sea worms, squid, clams, and scented bait strips. Now that black sea bass is established in the area, fishers are used to fishing offshore for the knotheads and avoiding the shallows that generally held smaller fish earlier in the season. Hit the 40-60+ foot range containing bottom structure using squid, rigs, and jigs. Locally, blackfish (tautog) are being caught around bottom structure but are not heavily targeted.

Smooth dogfish, along with other sharks (sandbar, sand tiger, etc.) found in the Sound, are being caught when chunking and chumming, primarily in the evening. Daytime fishers searching for other species are hooking into large dogfish while chunking on the bottom, so do not be surprised if that pull is not the bass you were targeting. Skate, sea robins, northern kingfish, pufferfish, etc., are a few other bottom dwellers most likely to be encountered. Blue crabbing should definitely be on the agenda when cruising the estuaries.

It is August, and one just cannot say enough about lake and pond fishing. Cooler, less humid weather has prevailed lately instead of the dog days of summer, which has made a difference in the bite. Largemouth bass, pickerel, and panfish are acting more aggressively during the day, while the bite even gets better during early morning and late evening. Trout still remain variable, depending on water conditions and angler’s skill level.

Fly Fishing Clinic: Now accepting reservations for August. 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, accompanied by an accomplished guide, instructor, and local striped bass enthusiast and specialist. 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.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

twitter: @captmorgan_usa