Bluefish Take Over Center Stage
True, it has been sharks biting striped bass in half that has captured the imagination of fishers in recent weeks. However, the bluefish bite has been intensifying, and considering the great number of recreational marine fishers that consider them, pound for pound, to be one of the top fighters that swim in our oceans, it is no wonder attention has temporarily shifted. Their relentless fight that draws crowds and undoubtedly gets the adrenaline flowing whenever these choppers invade an area is the prime motivating factor.
Let the word out that blues are blitzing, and it will not take long before a crowd gathers along the beach or boats encircle an ongoing blitz complete with diving gulls and the smell of cucumbers permeating the air. Cast after cast, these vessels follow the frenzy, glaring at the novice who runs smack in the middle of the action, dispersing the feeding school that only regroups farther up tide or worse, completely disappears.
Mention bluefish and the conversation abruptly changes. Each year, recreational fishers account for the majority of the total bluefish catch. If fishers would take care of their catch more carefully (such as bleed, dress and immediately ice them) then recipes followed would be much more palate-friendly. Freezing an oily fish is generally a no-no, but smoking bluefish is tasty and will refrigerate for more than a few days.
These fish are overfished, which means the stock is no longer able to produce at a maximum sustainable yield. Even though overfishing may not be occurring, a stock experiences overfishing when catching too many fish at once that interferes with the breeding population, causing it to become too depleted to recover. According to NOAA Fisheries 2021 stock assessment, bluefish are overfished but not subject to overfishing.
Bluefish Contest Update: Top End of Tournament unofficial results for the 2023 WICC Bluefish Tournament are as follows, providing there will not be another key disqualification: First Place ($25,000) 20.18Lbs, Ben Sheen, NY; Second Place ($7,500) 15.18Lbs, Timmy Vallee (CT); Third Place ($2,500) 15.12Lbs, Kyle Krause (NY); Twentieth Place: ($100) 13.69Lbs, Michael Welsh (NY); Under 18 ($1,000) 14.20Lbs, Bo Brown (CT). CT rebounded from an early 11/9 deficit to a 13/7 finish. Challenges included weather/sea conditions and scattered bait schools. The current score is CT (13)/NY (7).
On The Water
High pressure continued to build from the west, pushing cooler morning temperatures through before moving offshore. A frontal system then impacted the area, bringing a weak cold front and unsettled weather. It passed and was replaced by a building Canadian high-pressure system and smoother weather, accompanied by sun to partly sunny skies and morning temperatures in the high 60s to low daytime temperatures in the high 70s. Meanwhile, Long Island Sound water temperatures averaged around 74 degrees, visibility was mixed but overall fairly good, and seas were generally rolly to calm with winds on the light to moderate side.
It has been a good stretch of fishing weather now that we are getting a touch of early morning fall. Striped bass are moving around more, along with scattered schools of Atlantic menhaden and shad that are being pursued by bluefish. Activity is being experienced in the shallows of near-shore waters as well as the offshore reefs. They are picking up the pieces of bunker as they fall below or can be found having their very own dining spot, but usually not for very long. Depending on location and water conditions, diamond jigging, bucktails, swim baits, chunks, and live baits continue to produce good hookups.
Bluefish and snapper blues are in their time. Concentrations of adult fish have been in both the most eastern and western parts of the Sound, with large concentrations being encountered at The Race. Center Sound has been seeing a mix of sizes; however, the 13- to 15-pounders have generally been located at the far ends of the big pond — although some have slipped in along with fresh schools of baitfish. Jig the entire water column or chunk the bottom to maximize results. There have been intermittent topwater blitzes where changing over to plugs and spoons have produced exciting topwater action. Fishing for snappers along the beaches, harbors, bays, and channels during incoming and top of the tides has been good. The probability of running into some weakfish is good when drifting or trolling farther out or casting near shore with squid or worms.
Doormat fluke are eluding most fishers in the Sound, where lately, 7- to 9-pound summer flounder are considered good catches, and those have been requiring effort. Head over to Fishers Island and that has been a different story. Technique is still the same — slow drift the bottom with squid and teasers. If anything equal to or larger than 18.5” is satisfactory, then a fluke trip in the Sound should pay off, but be prepared for your share of shorts in the process.
The porgy bite remains good and is now producing a mixed bag of sizes since the spawn. Fishing has been brisk both on and offshore, where limits can be caught if needed for the annual porgy feast. Although the black sea bass bite is putting fish in the cooler, few boats seem to be taking advantage of it. Popular spots are seeing traffic, but the fishing pressure has eased, which makes it a good time to be on the reefs bouncing jigs or fishing with rigs and squid. Since summer blackfish (tautog) season winds down on Aug. 31 and does not reopen until October 10, bottom fishers will most likely concentrate on the array of other bottom fish. The fall season opener will be looked at with anticipation.
With the increasing number of striped bass being bitten in half by sharks feeding in the Sound, many fishers have shifted their attention to fishing for them. Note that many of these sharks are protected under the Endangered Species Act since they are vital to the natural balance of marine ecosystems and should be released unharmed, other than smooth dogfish, which have no minimum length or daily creel limit. Shark fishers are being successful at night and also during the day when chunking the bottom. Additionally, skate, sea robins, northern kingfish, toadfish, and some pufferfish are being caught.
Enough cannot be said about inland lake and pond fishing. They have been red hot and great places to introduce young family members to recreational fishing. Largemouth bass (frogs, topwaters, crank baits, jelly worms), smallies, pickerel, perch, crappie, bluegills, catfish, etc., are all being caught. Current conditions have been optimal despite some areas of dense salad choking the edges. Trout catches have notched up in the rivers with the temperature drop and have been more active for fly fishers, hard lure, and natural bait anglers.
Fly Fishing Clinic: Now accepting reservations for September. 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, 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.