Fish Are Slowly Evolving
There are fewer fisheries biologists than there are fishers, so let us keep it simple. Fish are very similar to people in that if it is too hot, there will be no fish populations present. If there is no food, there will be no fish either. If life cannot be sustained, there will be no fish or people — at least in that location.
Although the earth’s surface is 71% water and 29% continents and island masses, there are only so many places both fish and people can migrate to before the balance of nature is compromised or impaired, to such a point that a catastrophic event occurs. When nearshore habitats undergo drastic changes that cannot sustain life, fish move to a more amiable location. Sometimes, that means cooler water that involves relocating more to the north. Other times, it might mean gravitating to deeper water. In either case, forage must be attainable or be able to be tracked.
In short, a better life is being sought. Way back in the beginning, at the start of evolutionary events, some fish (like the mudpuppy and lungfish) developed lung capability and were able to move about from the water to land. Snakeheads that can reach 20 pounds are another species capable of breathing air with their primitive lung (suprabranchial organ) while on land and survive for days out of water.
Is it time for people to regenerate gills like the fictional character Aquaman, who has them in some episodes? Is it time for fish to improve on their way of breathing air and regain the function of a primitive lung? That is a real stretch, but as Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” In the meantime, the success or failure of today’s fisheries is in the hands of our fisheries scientists and managers and those who harvest it.
Each of us has a reason (or reasons) to fish — recreation, sport, relaxation, food, or perhaps, it is not even the fish we are fishing for. Think about it! Regardless, we are seeing a gradual movement of southern fish moving to our northern waters. More recently, black sea bass have made an impact and set up a substantial fishery. Others are being identified in surveys, netted, caught by hook and line, or in the stomachs of larger fish. Some fish (like frost fish, cod, and tinker mackerel of earlier generations) have shifted north, and even lobsters, for the most part, have vacated the Sound of late.
Times are changing, and with them, Long Island Sound has become a benefactor of sorts. Marine recreational fishers are finding waters cleaner, more schools of baitfish available, and striped bass catches up, as well as shark and other bottom fishes. It is more important than ever to be good stewards of our fisheries and cognizant of our surroundings and what makes them work in unison with all entities involved.
On The Water
An unusual high-pressure system for September remained in control until it began to weaken. A slow-moving front then impacted the area through the weekend as an associated cold front passed. During that period, air temperatures broke into the 90s before moderating, causing unsettled weather to break open with rain and thunderstorms and dropping daytime air temperatures into high 60s to the low 70s. Long Island Sound tidal water temperatures jumped several degrees into the mid-to-high 70s, and greater in the lower tidal rivers at low tide. Seas generally remained around a foot, increasing to around 2-3 feet when the heat broke and winds kicked up.
The odd September heat slowed down some fish and fishers, however, there was sporadic early morning striped bass activity near shore, but as the days unfolded, fish escaped the warm water and headed to cooler, deeper water just as if it were a normal August. Chunks, live baits, bucktails, and diamond jigs around six ounces drew linesiders out of their lairs to the hook.
Schools of Atlantic menhaden remained scattered but attainable for the cast netters during pre-dawn hours and in select harbors and bays. Snaggers are having more of a cat-and-mouse game, with more success to those being prepared and at the right place at the right time. Generally, bluefish will not be far behind chasing tails as opportunistic stripers pick up the pieces floating down below. Diving birds gave explosive blitzes away, but often it has been more of a covert operation, recognizable only by an observant fisher. These double-digit hard and soft blitzes have been occurring both near and offshore. Keep those diamond and swimming jigs handy as well to use as those topwater plugs when out by Six Mile, Crane’s, Charles, Faulkner’s, and The Beacon. Weakfish polish off the bass, blue, and weakie threesome as they continue to be part of a day’s catch.
Albies are on our doorstep! It would not be a surprise if they bust through and enter the Sound by the time this is read, so get those epoxies ready.
Fluke or summer flounder catches remain status quo. Some drifts are producing shorts, while others come up with mini-doormats and better. Drifting large bait presentations (squid and strip baits) are more apt to generate meal and conversation-worthy fish. There has been little change in porgy and black sea bass catches. Very much attainable, these bottom fish are aggressively feeding and continue to spread throughout the Sound in mixed sizes. Both will hammer squid and clams, jigs, and scented strips, including seaworms and imitations. Light gear is okay, but deeper reefs and larger fish would require heavier setups to accommodate the extra weight to reach bottom.
Conversations among fishers and non-fishers alike eventually turn to recent shark activity occurring in the Sound. This is understandable since the speed by which social media travels and the number of people reached is super fast compared to days past. These encounters have to go down as friendly fire, considering these fish (brown or sandbar, sand tiger, dogfish, etc.) generally found in the Sound are fairly docile and only search for natural forage, mostly found on the sea bottom. Consequently, brushes with them are rare unless hooked or accidentally brushed up against. There is more than one reason many stripers and sharks have favored somewhat shallower water!
Do you want to test your skill and tackle? Cast out a good chunk of fish and let it settle to the bottom. A smaller piece of bait affixed to a hand line or trap and dropped along the wetlands can easily land in-season blue crabs. Scoop nets used by pilings and tidal river banks is another successful method of either putting a shell-cracking meal on the table, or crabmeat in a simmering sauce pot.
There was very little change in the freshwater scene. Lakes and ponds are continuing to surprise largemouth bass anglers with their recent catches. Smallie fishing has been good in both the lakes and rivers. Pickerel and panfish are taking live and artificial baits, while some pike are taking spinners, catfish and carp are into the commercial and home-made variety baits, and crappie are biting worms and jigs. Heat has relaxed some of the trout action, but early and late-day fishing has produced fish on natural, artificial baits and flies.
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.
Report Shark/Fish Interactions: Seeking images/videos of shark/fish encounters for research study while fishing in Long Island Sound. Specifically, include images of striped bass bitten and/or of sharks actually attacking a striped bass while being reeled in. Email to CaptainMorganUSA@hotmail.com and include name, home town, and any other pertinent data.
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.