Will This Be the Year for Your Best Hookup?
If you enjoy mixing it up with crowds gathering at fall festivals and county fairs, then you are in for a treat. Likewise, if you like filling up on those maple and pumpkin spice flavors while taking in everything agricultural, then it is definitely your time of year. September is when temperatures slide as they switch to a slow downward spiral—a signal for birds to begin flocking together.
The air is unlike any other as we are on the horizon of another season. Breathe in and there will be a sweet mix of straw, cotton candy, and the fresh smell of farmed products. There will also be crafts abound, homemade pies, hot pretzels, and a never-ending menu of sweet tooth and calorie builders, sometimes accompanied by a well-deserved blue ribbon. That revered swatch of blue also finds its way to prized calf, sheep, and pig livestock. There are also all of those wild pumpkins!
Although tractor, horse, and oxen pulls are a draw—sometimes too muddy—this old salt would rather trade in a day of rubbing elbows and trodding through fields for a day on the water with fishing rod in hand. Not having much in the way of a sweet tooth, the lure of Long Island Sound (aka, The Devil’s Belt) and what it holds on any given tide satisfies both curiosity and challenge. And if more is needed, then steaming offshore or a trip to the islands will fill the gap.
Another year and one more fall run along the Atlantic coast is about to break wide open. Bass, blues, bonito, albies, grand slams, some personal bests and, perhaps, a few record breakers will be recorded. From surfcasters to tuna towers, recreational fishers will be working the suds, reefs and rips. With better than two more months of fishing the briny (pending storms), there is plenty of time to hook into a dream before the season winds up.
On the Water
A frontal system approached, then moved across the area as high pressure built in behind the departing cold front. That front centered around the Great Lakes as the high started to weaken. Hurricane Lee picked up speed and leaned more toward northern New England as it moved up the Atlantic coast. Being quite wide and winds being a concern, the shoreline kept a wary eye as it then slowed down. Although high water and rip tides had been expected, high pressure had kept Lee more to the east and offshore, avoiding any expectation of landfall here. Air temperatures ranged from the high 50s to the low 60s into the low-to-high 70s, flirting with the 80s. Long Island Sound water temperatures hovered around 75 degrees before dropping to 71 degrees, winds gusted to 35 knots, and waves and swells were up to 2-to-4 feet with minimal surge due to northerly winds. New moon tides were higher than normal with above average tidal currents. Lowland flooding certainly was a concern, but otherwise remained unscathed.
Although some boaters lost vessels or had them damaged during the last storm by throwing caution to wind, there were more precautions taken this time around. For the fishers who wait for this time of year—considering it to provide the best fishing—they were hard pressed to call it a season so early on a chancy storm prediction. Add that fishing activity has not only not let up, but also picked up steam as the fall run begins to take shape. Whether it is increased shark predation on striped bass that has caused the bass to move in closer to shore to avoid attacks from below, or available forage, recently there have been good land-based catches, as well as those caught from small vessels. Stripers are taking live and fresh frozen baits, swim shads, bucktails, and diamond jigs, and have also been hooked in or near tidal rivers, from shore, by reefs and shoals.
Bluefish are getting into their fall mode, blitzing on bait schools with greater frequency. Whether it is menhaden, silversides, shad, anchovies, or squid, these blues are finding these balls of food and dispatching them in typical bluefish fashion—tails first. When happening upon a blitz, choppers will smack and slash a topwater plug, or engulf a flashy spoon that is well placed. A blitz could occur in knee high water, along a trough by a beach, along a rip line or in the middle of the Sound, but usually not far from some bottom structure. Sharp hooks and wire leaders are in order and, if fish are to be released, pinch the barbs or go barbless. Check out the Race and Six Mile to give your diamond jigs a workout, as well as Charles, Faulkner’s, The S’s, The Beacon, and Townsend Ledge. Fish closer to bottom for fall weakfish that will take bucktails, squid, bait strips, and tubes. Albies and bonito are taking their sweet time making any kind of appearance in the Sound. Water temps are about where they should be, as are bait schools. The after-effects of Lee may have an impact on their southerly movement, but that might be fluffing it off. Nevertheless, fishers are gearing up for their arrival, understanding that Lee’s effect on boat travel has been a concern.
Porgy fishing continues to be hot as jumbos jump on squid and worms, but be prepared for a mixed catch of sizes unless fishing the deeper reefs. Bait, hooks, and sinkers will score catches on almost any bottom structure throughout the Sound. A slightly larger hook will weed out many of the smaller ones; even a better choice of depths and reefs can accomplish the same. As the water temps lower, humpback black sea bass will gradually head out, until they eventually get beyond 100-foot depths and seek the deep waters of the mid-Atlantic. In the meantime, (storms aside) there is plenty of fishing left, whether using squid, clams, or jigs. Lately, we have been seeing and hearing more about small and short fluke than we have come in contact with summer flounder over seven pounds, unless caught out of the Sound. It is certainly not for lack of trying, since flukers have been out drifting the bottom looking to hook up.
There has been no let up on coastal sharks, turning a catch and release instance into a disappointment where striped bass are concerned. In this case, half a loaf is not better than no loaf at all, and not good for managing the stock. It appears that this has become a conditioned response and regular occurrence—one that, unfortunately, sees no end point. According to Matt Gates, the fisheries biologist for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, “it’s illegal to possess a striped bass on the waters or shores of CT that has had the tail or head removed.” Currently, it is uncertain how many other shark species will get the message and join in on that food supply. Noticeably, shark catches are up! Additionally, skate, sea robins, northern kingfish, pufferfish, and toadfish are up as well. Furthermore, hard and soft shell blue crabs are maintaining better than their normal summer cycle pace, producing numbers of quality catches. With the gradual cool down, crabbers should see overall catches improve even more.
No doubt, Atlantic coastal waters (including Long Island Sound) are warming. As a result, we are experiencing more surprise visitors to our waters with greater frequency. Recently, a six-foot tarpon was caught from the shore of Nantucket, manatees have been sighted again, bottlenose dolphins here, humpback whales reappeared along with sea turtles, sharks have been more active, triggerfish have become regulars, and both northern and southern pufferfish have surfaced. Add this to a most unusual and productive fishing season, and 2023 will be long remembered.
Worms, top water plugs, and soft plastics continue to outsmart largemouth bass in many lakes and ponds, while other species, from panfish to pickerel (including smallmouth, crappie) and other bottom feeders, have been quite active. Natural, hard and soft baits, other artificials, and flies are being used to catch trout—both native and stocked.
Fly fishing clinic: Now accepting reservations for September for both experienced or intermediate fly fishers. Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2023 with a 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, the 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.