This Fall Brings So Many Options for the Fisher
A beautiful fall day to the average person may not necessarily mean a good feeding day for fish, although it may be conceived as a great day on the water. Fall is the time when water temperatures transition from the warmth of summer to the cool of autumn. It is a point in time when various fish species feel the moment is right to start bulking up for their respective migrations, regardless of how short or long the journey may be.
This has been such a phenomenal fishing year throughout New England, including Long Island Sound, that fishers still have plenty of options. We experienced, perhaps, one of the warmest seasons in history that kicked off the season early and appears to be stretching it out longer. Air temperatures are about right, but the water temps appear to be warmer at the start than blackfish (tautog) relish.
Striped bass, on the other hand, are into their fall run, while bluefish, weakfish, albies, and even Spanish mackerel are giving fishers choices. There is good fishing from shore and vessels, both small and large. It is the water temperature and the availability of forage—in this case, flushing peanut bunker and spearing—that are keeping fish here. So, if it is blackfish that is turning you on and the pickings for starters are somewhat slim, find cooler water or shift gears to one of several other species of fish that are still flourishing.
In addition to striped bass and bluefish blitzes, albies have been challenging anglers who have been casting epoxies and flies. The timely and sudden surge of this fish has jumpstarted hard-tail chasers. Meanwhile, weakfish continue their stretch of runs in the Sound. A sudden drop in water temps, a late storm, or a flight of forage out of our waters can greatly alter the seascape. However, as it stands today, fishing and catching remain strong. As water temps fall further, the ‘tog bite will continue to improve as fishers seek out the optimum depth in which to fish their area. And if any of the above does not work for you (and how can it not?), then switch gears and hit the sweet water. Your rod will bend!
On the Water
A large upper level low continued to rotate across southeastern Canada before gradually weakening. High pressure moved in from the west, followed by a weak front. Another high pressure system took control before overtaken by low pressure and an associated frontal system that impacted area waters with rain, wind, and partial sun before moderating. Air temperatures lowered after midnight into the low 40s and then rose into the high 50s and low 60s during the day. Meanwhile, Long Island Sound water temps hovered around the low- to mid-60s and winds averaged 5 to 10 knots with 1- to 2-foot seas.
Considering the time of year, in comparison, the opening of fall ‘tog season was mild. There were some light rain and above-average wind considerations, but nothing that could not be handled. Blackfish seemed to be cautiously stewing as they checked out the food situation by breakwalls and near-shore reefs. Simultaneously, ‘toggers geared up for their first real catch of the fall season. Any catches made locally will not be headed for the record books, but rather the dinner table as overall sizes fell below that threshold. Although a few near-shore spots have given up some togs in the 8-to 10-pound range (including several from 4 to 6 pounds), lower water temps and less predation will help improve the bite. Green crabs on ‘tog jigs or rigs have been the popular way to fool a ‘tog.
The pathway to bluefish continues to be wide open. Bait schools of peanut bunker still permeate the area as double-digit blues to 42 inches seem to be making a never-ending meal of them. From topwater action to chunking, the schools are on the move. Mid-Sound, bays, beaches, harbors, and lower tidal rivers at one time or another have all been exposed to feeding frenzies that flared up then moved along. Fret not! There is enough chopper activity left in the season to test gear and muscles.
Striped bass have been more consistent in their appearance and feeding activity, with weather being the recent prime factor affecting their pattern. With that in mind, when baitfish move, so goes the following bass. Stripers to 42 inches are being caught in the lower tidal rivers, near shore, and out on the reefs. Outgoing tides flowing out from estuaries during extreme high tides have elevated bass feeding. Fishing the lower river or the side of the river nearest the direction of the outflow are the best options, which is where linesiders will gather to scoop up food flowing out. It is a good spot for a short bunker, shad, popper, small swimmer, bucktail, spoon, or fly. Captain Morgan’s just received another fresh load of live eels (bass candy) in keeping with the fall bite.
Albies are creating more buzz and opportunities for fishers to hook into a feeding school within Long Island Sound. Many of these chances are rather close to shore and the near-shore reefs. There have been schools out around Faulkner’s Island, working within shore-casting distance and both ends of the Sound that have produced 8- to 10-pounders. Lightning fast runs resulted after they have taken albie flies, epoxy jigs, and hard 3/4-1 ounce fast retrieving lures—even poppers. Weakfish are still very much active and are another squid candidate.
Scup and black sea bass fall slabs are being boated from reefs that, at times, are also occupied by blackfish. Outer Southwest, for example, can have scup on one side and ‘togs on the other. Getting down to the reef swept by faster current will need heavier weight, otherwise hookups will be greatly reduced. Squid and clams are the key baits to use. With water temperatures trending downward, it will only enhance the bite on some of those heartier bottom fish. If water temps hold, we still have a few more weeks of other bottom fish, including northern kingfish, toadfish, skate and, of course, our coastal sharks. Do not forget about blue crabs as they are still around paired up, hanging around pilings, banks, and channel edges. Sizes are mixed with more smaller ones in the mix.
The traditional trout stocking, around and including Columbus Day, took place as many of the popular rivers, lakes, and ponds received their fall fish. Inland waters like Hammonasset River, Lake Quonnipaug, Chatfield Hollow, The Farmington, Salmon, and about 60 others (including Trout Management Areas, Trout Management Lakes, Trophy Trout Areas, and Wild Trout Management Areas) were all stocked in time for the breaking weather. Word spread fast as trout were caught practically as soon as they hit the water. Meanwhile large and smallmouth bass, pickerel, channel catfish, and panfish have all been taking a variety of baits and artificials.
Fly Fishing Clinic: Now accepting reservations for October 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 in Madison. Face coverings are 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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