Bluefish, Bluefish, and More Bluefish
Repetitive as it sounds, striped bass have been the talk all over southern New England this season. Big or small, they bit on live forage, fresh frozen pieces, or great or not-so-good imitations, and were found in skinny or deep moving water. For the fishers, less active shark activity in the Sound was a rude awakening as they were frequently featured and observed on social media, as well as being discussed on the docks with photos showing stripers’ ill fate.
In general, our overall fishery in the Sound has rebounded. Those fishers putting time in on the water have seen that firsthand. All through the water column, catches have been up from both our regular species, as well as some unusual visitors scouting us out. Of course, opinions differ from those who made thoughtful trips as opposed to those who put together a last-minute, carefree run and gun.
It makes little difference whether Pomatomus saltatrix (the only surviving species of the family) shows up in numbers, impressive sizes, or makes a weak showing—fishers take notice and word spreads quickly. When there are bluefish around, there are schools of Atlantic menhaden (aka bunker) in a schooling panic. That school will be chased throughout the Sound, encircled by and in between reefs, in close proximity to rip lines and corralled in tidal rivers.
There is no mistake what is transpiring below the water’s surface as bunker are being attacked from below and, in a panic, are forced to a boiling, bird-flocking surface. From a fisher’s standpoint, at that moment the top third of the water column is fair game. It is time to use reinforced leader material, sharp hooks (barbed or pinched back), and to bring out a topwater casting plug. Some may float, while others may sink and then brought back to the surface and popped. Other options may include flashy spoons, swimming and diamond jigs, or chunk baits while drifting in deeper water.
When confronted with this kind of captivating non-stop action, it is a good idea to have more than one rod within reach, rigged and ready to go. Chances are there will be terminal gear bitten off and, with the spray of water, flying fish scales and flopping of very unhappy bluefish. This is no time to fiddle around with re-rigging. Unless locked into a dead-end inescapable situation, these bluefish blitzes unfold very quickly in real time. This is the time of the year when fishing for blues, especially gator choppers, is exhilarating and can often take place in the roughest of seas and rainiest of days and can turn out to be one of the best trips. So, get pumped, stay ready, and good fishing!
On the Water
A cold front moved into lower Hudson Valley and coastal New Jersey, becoming stationary as low pressure passed to the south and east. Air temperatures in our region ranged from the high 50s to the low 70s before high pressure built in for several days, giving us ideal weather conditions before shifting offshore. Low pressure then approached from the south, bringing unsettled weather and a dip in air temperatures before moderating and continuing a similar pattern. Long Island Sound water temps remained in the low 70s as they gradually continue trending downward. Winds became generally mild as seas subsided from 2 to 4 feet to around a foot or less when not impacted by near thunderstorms.
One of the best days of the season for a bluefish bite occurred this past week on the glummest, rain-soaked days, when schools of menhaden suddenly came together causing a non-stop topwater blitz. It just felt right and was most evident in lower tidal rivers during the early morning on a typical workday. Perhaps, the best part was the lack of fishers witnessing and partaking in the phenomenon, leaving the action to just a handful. Weakfish are in the mix as they make their run, while conventional and fly fishers are making trips farther east and north to intercept albies and bonito that are still pointing snouts toward our waters. Not much in the way of local catches yet.
Once again, striped bass laid back down to pick up pieces of menhaden that bluefish let drift to the bottom. Whether it was in the harbors where they fed or stealthily slipped into the shallows of tidal rivers, linesiders picked those off-weather days to do their feeding. Some were juveniles, well below the slot limit that fed on peanut bunker, while others surpassing the upper slot limit fed on an assortment of live baits and artificials. Spots like mid-Sound reefs to the shallows have been seeing good activity. Jerking wire, drifting baits, dropping diamond jigs, and trolling lures have been producing. The fall equinox has passed and fishers of the salt now turn attention of the annual fall run already gearing up.
Fluke catches are all over the board, mostly on the lower three quarters of it. So far, a handful of flukers have had their best season, while others needed a more generous tape measure. Once the weather simmered down, depths this past week have varied from harbor channels to 60 to 90 feet, with squid and teasers being the rigging of choice. Spinners, hi-lo’s, and sliding snelled hooks to accommodate whole squids or long strip baits did well, as did deep drifted bucktails.
Scup continues to capture shore fishers’ attention as a mixed bag of porgies are being caught—or eaten by bluefish. The bite easily extends to the near shore reefs and humps as anchored vessels have been catching these scrappers on sea worms, clams, and squid, similar to what shore-goers are using effectively. It is in the mid-to-deep waters that humpback black sea bass are stacked and devouring anything they can reach. Even though water temps are dropping, it will be a while before tasty beauties will move out to the deep. Same holds true for blue crabs, but for now, enjoy the catching and picking.
Northern kingfish, sea robins, toadfish, pufferfish, and some windowpane skate are taking bottom baits like sea worms, clams, and squid. These species might be comparatively small, but do not underestimate the food value of some. As water temperatures rise and select fish species gradually move northward, the Sound is a likely place for their stopover—maybe even stick around for awhile. Continuing with bottom fish, shark activity will only subside when temperatures and/or food becomes hard to tolerate. For now, chunk baits or other forage of opportunity will produce hookups with fairly aggressive and heart-stopping battles. Targeting the night bite can be surprising and explosive. Wire leader and strong hooks required!
Large and smallmouth bass, as well as other inland lake and pond species, are really taking it up notch. Personal bests keep on mounting, regardless of age. Baits vary with location and timing, but range from natural to artificial. Trout water conditions are improving, and both rivers and other stocked and natural waters are into a fall bite. Take advantage of the fair weather days without ruling out impending weather fronts that indicate a barometric drop.
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. Or, contact Captain Morgan for a fly fishing trip of a lifetime to a remote national or international fishing destination.
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. Masks are now optional but recommended inside. 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.
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