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08/21/2023 12:45 PM

Sharks Feeding on Hooked Long Island Sound Stripers

Long Island Sound Striped bass fishers, like John Cyrus of Preston, are reeling in what used to be slot limit fish or better, only to be surprised by a shark’s leftovers. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Mike Piergallini of Middle Haddam and his fine catch of 7+ pound fluke as he is obviously photobombed by Kevin from PA. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Nathan Demers (12) of Danbury hooked up with a spread of Hammonasset bottom fish, including porgy, sea robin and dogfish, to compliment a good day of fishing. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Two of Long Island Sound’s, shall we say, warm water resident sharks are generally docile, avoid people and are not dangerous. However, startle them or tempt them with a worthwhile meal, like a freshly hooked striped bass, and their body signals may go into high gear, communicating either danger or food. Do not forget that a few small Great Whites have been pinged just south of Faulkner’s Island, and another much larger one has been documented in western Sound, as well as momentary blue shark visitors.

Of late, that seems to be happening with more regularity, as there are more forages available and fisher interactions with stripers in the Sound. As such, there is an increase of striped bass caught, and many being released back into the water due to the tighter slot limit of 28–31 inches. Remember, striped bass scour the bottom for food, as well as the rest of the water column. Sharks generally start their attack from the bottom, so both share the same hunting grounds.

Most Sounders are abreast of the seal population as well. They, too, have been known to be overly aggressive when a fisher comes between them and a hooked fish. Some folks have the scars to prove it, or at least a story to tell of a seal that either grabbed hook, line and bait, or stole the whole fish. Yet with our seal population, sharks have not been drawn to them, so far—mostly because of water conditions (pH, temperature, etc.) being generally unfavorable during the early cooler season. No matter what shows up, there should be no surprise when the dinner bell sounds for a free meal! For now, we are in the monitoring stage and recommend exercising caution with a watchful eye when fishing or engaging in any other water-related activity.

On The Water

Low pressure slowly moved through the region, passing to the east after a rainy and cloudy period. High pressure briefly returned, followed by a cold front, before opening the door to another high pressure system of sun and less humidity. During the same period, offshore waters saw gusty 25 knot winds with 3–5 foot (at times 4–6) seas. In Long Island Sound, water temperatures averaged around 74 degrees, seeing seas generally between 1–2 feet accompanied by light to mild gusty winds.

Rain may have muddied the waters on one hand, but on the another, periods of clearing and cooling water temperatures brought striped bass to grassy edges of the lower wetlands. A mixture of silversides and crabs got their attention in the shallows, often exposing their dorsal fins during low light conditions. Stealth casting and an unobtrusive presence got rewarded with some fish in excess of 40” in length. It was a good time for a crab or worm fly imitation, small live eel, soft stick bait or plug. Choice baits out on the Sound’s reefs have been mackerel chunks, Atlantic menhaden where schools have gathered, drifting/casting bucktails, jigging diamond jigs and dropping flutter spoons. There have been instances of over-the-slot striped bass being bitten in half at the pectoral fin, so look twice before lipping the fish and releasing it—especially when chumming.

Bluefish remain a popular target for fishers looking for a sustained fight. Whether chunking, jigging, trolling or plugging, hooking up with a chopper with its unrelenting assault on whatever attracts it is absolutely comment worthy. These aggressors are being located by observing diving bird activity, near scattered schools of bunker and throughout the water column but mostly above stripers, picking up pieces of uneaten bunker fluttering down. Bluefish continue to wreak havoc at The Race, with many mixed sized ones feeding along the reefs and rip lines throughout the Sound. Snapper blue activity has picked up considerably, making many of the popular fishing spots a gathering point. Snapper poppers, spoons and shiners remain good catching methods. Drifting squid and bucktails have been quite productive, catching weakfish when working the lower water column associated with mid-Sound reefs and other bottom structure. Take a look at Six Mile and Kimberly to Goose, for example. Fishing without a net will usually disappoint when bringing these sea trout to the surface.

Locally, fishers are stretching fluke to meet the increased minimum length of 18.5,” where those fishing the enhanced areas are more apt to hook into a summer 17” minimum length flounder. However, move offshore with better water conditions, rigging bigger baits and fishing deeper, the results are definitely improved. More mini-doormat fluke are being hooked, but shorts do remain an issue—however, limits of four are attainable with effort. Black sea bass are numerous! Drift or anchor up in 40–60 feet, squid up on a rig or jig and drop to the bottom with enough weight. Sea bass are pretty much spread throughout the Sound—deeper, bigger, closer to shore smaller. The blackfish/tautog bite is fairly good, and it looks like it will continue through August 31, the last day of their summer season.

Porgy slabs do not seem to want to quit! This family-oriented fish is found at-will during periods of high tide cycles on just about every reef, hump or rock pile, and will easily take seaworms, clams, squid and scented strip baits. Dogfish catches mount—particularly the evening bite when chum is added to a generous chunk of bait. Skate, sea robins, northern kingfish and other bottom fish fill the gap, including a few more species of shark. Blue crabbers working the estuaries with scoop nets, hand lines and traps are reaping good catches of jimmies and their share of soft shells.

Take a trip to the inshore lakes or ponds and largemouth bass, smallies, pickerel, perch and other panfish will be the catch of the day. Conditions have been favorable during the cool down, and both natural and artificial baits have been equally good producers. Trout rivers varied with water conditions but fly fishers and spin fishers have been connecting. The brookie bite has been good, followed by browns and bows and few tigers.

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 and tarpon, etc., techniques learned and honed will improve your fishing.

New Cod Regs: Recreational cod regulations are possession-based when landed in Connecticut, regardless of where caught. Open season: May 1–May 31 and September 1–April 30 (closed June 1–August 31). 5 fish limit with 23” minimum size. Same as in federal waters as per NMFS.

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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