A Most Unusual Sleigh Ride
Since we have gotten a lot of response to sharks in the Sound, including questions and comments, there have been some very interesting and up close and personal ones — none of which entailed any more risk than catching and releasing a bluefish. There is actually less of a risk, considering I’ve encountered more people who have been bitten by an aggressive bluefish and never encountered anyone who has ever been bitten by a shark in Long Island Sound. And that covers a lot of years of fishing!
True, water temperatures are trending warmer, and there is more forage in the Sound, as well as a good population of seals. But for now, conditions are such that do not live up to a serious adult shark habitat. In springtime, the water is too cold, and the salinity is off, so it would not invite anything more than a scouting visitor. Mid to late summer, when conditions temporarily improve, we may have a few more visitors checking out the waters but without much fanfare — other than a sighting or a ping.
What we normally have in Long Island Sound are our local, fairly docile varieties, which include smooth and spiny dogfish, sand tiger (the one with a mouthful of jagged teeth), brown or sandbar sharks, and, of course, several skate species. All of which mind their own business, prowling the bottom for natural food.
This leads us to Eddie Carroll of Madison, who has a profound interest in preserving Long Island Sound and fishes from his 12-foot Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP), fully loaded with all the fishing essentials to catch fish. It was during the WICC Bluefish Tournament that he stopped in to load up for the day’s fishing. Looking for that big blue and determined to out-fish his previous day, he rigged 3/4 of a big porgy he had caught earlier.
While being anchored and fishing relatively near shore, he soaked his bait. Soon after that, he was into a fight like none before. Just imagine hooking into an 8-foot brown shark while maneuvering a SUP and being dragged (anchor and all for the first 30 minutes) for over a good hour to nearly mid-Sound! Eddie finally cut the line when the shark was inches from the board for a safe release. What a memorable sleigh ride and a great job by a good fisher!
Sharks are powerful creatures looking only to survive. Those traditionally found in the Sound during late spring to late summer avoid people, feed, and give birth to pups before venturing off to warmer waters. Occasionally, there are a few travelers that might pop in and out from time to time (like a blue, bull, or great white) just to check out the waters but do not hang around. As usual, as you enjoy our waters, always be aware of your surroundings and good fishing!
On The Water
High pressure slid offshore while a stationary front slowly shifted north as a warm front, and Tropical Cyclone Franklin remained well offshore and to the east. A cold front then followed as high pressure built and remained in control. During this unsettled period, calm seas built to 3 feet, and winds gusted 25 knots before subsiding. Long Island Sound water temperatures remained in the low 70s, while pre-dawn air temps ranged from the high 50-60s, and daytime ranged from the mid-70s to the low 80s. Time will tell just how much of an effect Tropical Storm Idalia will have on our waters and fishery as remnants move up the coast.
Emphasis on catching tournament bluefish may have simmered down, but nonetheless, recreational fishers are still targeting them. Catches remain good, but mostly in the lower double digits and below. As anyone knows, once the last fish is weighed in before the deadline, one can almost count on catching the big one a week later. Well, a week later is here, and already, rods have bent south as gator blues show up, almost implying to wait until next year. Jigs, chunk/strip baits, spoons, and topwater plugs are tallying up catches. Eastern and western Sound have fish with central Sound filling in — but do not discount The Race and channels between those island points. It may have a few more vessels than you would like, but the catch is worth the effort.
Striped bass are feeling the coming of fall and have not put on the brakes but rather stepped on the gas. Getting through the blues may have put a damper on a few spots; however, near-shore reefs and a few of the bays have produced over-the-slot linesiders using peanut bunker, eels, casting tubes, and plugs. Save the chunks for dunking with a long cast or a short run to a reef. Running a three-way has produced fish when working a rip line or walking up/down structure, as well as diamond jigging or, in deeper water, try fluttering a spoon. Take a break and drift a bucktail/squid strip combination for a weakie over some distinct, but not obtrusive, bottom structure.
Fluke are actively pursued as some of the shorts are reaching keeper size, and forage continues to be consumed. Some of these summer flounder are being hooked in the harbor channels, but most of the better fish are deeper and are picked up in 40-90 feet while drifting whole squid or large strip baits and teasers over the bottom structure they blend into. Fall blackfish (tautog) season reopens on Oct. 10, but there is plenty of scup and black sea bass activity to pick up any slack due to their void.
Fishing for these saltwater panfish, porgies bring smiles at the water and dinner table. It takes very little effort to catch these popular recreational bottom fish that will bite on seaworms, squid, clams, and scented strip baits. One may choose a nearby offshore reef or elect to fish from wharf or jetty, but as long as there is some sort of bottom structure for them to gather around high tide, action, and scup fever should follow — then dinner proceeds. If sea bass is your goal, then weeding through near-shore shorts will be the only obstacle since adult-size ones are generally in deeper water (over 40’) accompanied by some sort of bottom structure. Their eating habits are diverse, and they are known to take anything from a bare jig to squid-baited rigs.
Catches of sharks (dogfish, browns, sand tigers) are up for anglers intentionally chunking and chumming for them, bluefish, and stripers. They are generally only interested in natural/normal forage that will benefit their metabolism — not humans. However, always be mindful of not imitating such food or startling them. Chunk baits intended for other species, such as sea robins and skate, will also get attention, but like most small bottom dwellers, prefer sized-down portions. There are also northern kingfish, toadfish, and other oddball fish, like gray triggerfish, that are taking worms, clams, and smaller pieces of bait.
Lakes and ponds are where most of the inland action is occurring. Trout rivers’ conditions continue to vary but for the experienced, activity is better than average both for the fly and spin anglers. On the other hand, bass, pickerel, crappie, catfish, and panfish are quite aggressive. Natural baits and artificials, according to conditions, will bring on hookups. So, get out and fish those waters as well.
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, 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.
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