The Year’s Best Clamming is Just Around the Corner
As water temperatures of the bays of Long Island Sound drop, shellfish beds cool down and begin to produce some of the best bivalves of the year. Colder water enhances the flavor and consistency of the meat. One finds that they are sweeter and overall just tastier to the palate. Folks are always surprised to discover that some of the best shellfishing can be had close to home, and they do not have to travel long distances if they live along the shoreline.
In fact, many travelers, when heading to places like Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, or the bay-like waters of Rhode Island find themselves obtaining a shellfish permit and digging for clams - not even giving a second thought to their home grounds. They pack their rakes, baskets, and measuring devices, or obtain one when securing their licenses. After all, clamming is one of the vacation things to do, right?
As the fall wanes and recreational marine fishing slowly sinks into slumber mode, what better way to pass the time until the tide comes in than to scratch the shellfish beds for clams? Assuredly, the beds will practically be devoid of vacationers, leaving one to join a handful of clammers scattered around the beds. There may even be a wayward striped bass to be caught that would supplement a seafood dinner very nicely.
To many, holiday time means seafood - fish, clams, squid, lobster, scungilli, crabs, etc., some of which can be freshly caught, while others may have been caught earlier and taken from the freezer. To be a successful clammer, in addition to a few tools of the trade (rake, basket, gauge, map, tide chart), one should be familiar with the area - specifically, when low tide occurs. Even better, head out at the time of the lowest of the low tides.
Coinciding with the upcoming 2023 holidays, the best tides would be the Thanksgiving weekend (Friday, Nov. 24 - Sunday Nov. 26), when the tides will be negative 0.5-0.7 in the afternoon. On Christmas weekend, they would be from Friday, Dec. 22 - Monday, Dec. 25, when the tides will be negative 0.2-0.5. In both cases, keep in mind that, providing the beds are open, shellfishing is only allowed between sunrise and sunset, so check the times on your tide chart. If you need it to clam, we have what you need!
Bonus: If you have not obtained a 2023 Guilford Shellfish License, when you purchase a 2024 license (available now at Captain Morgan’s) in 2023, it can be used for the remainder of 2023, as well as the entire year of 2024.
On The Water
Unseasonably mild November weather that maintained several days of high pressure finally moved offshore. A warm front lifted north of the area, followed by a more seasonable cold front. High pressure briefly returned, followed by a series of frontal systems that impacted the area with unsettled cloudy, gusty, and, at times, rainy weather. Daytime air temperatures of 50-60’s dropped into the 40’s, while nighttime temperatures straddled the 30-40’s. Long Island Sound water temperatures dipped from the high-to-mid 50’s, winds fluctuated from 10-15 knots, with gusts to 20 knots, and seas rose from under a foot to over two feet.
There are about a dozen days left until the last full day of Fall blackfish (tautog) arrivals on Nov. 28. By then, we will be fishing in deeper water for the best of the school, spicing up a hot thermos of coffee and, most likely, negotiating stiff mooring lines and frosty dock fingers. For now though, we have experienced dominant southerly winds that kicked up, exposing the shoreline to aggressive seas and enough salt spray to interfere with fishers’ ability to effectively soak a crab. If there are any of these decapods to be found, they probably will be in a holding pen leftover from a previous trip. All in all, it has been a fairly active tog season so far, with a mixed bag of shorts, medium, and double-digit size fish.
The past few weeks have seen outstanding striped bass activity - especially along the shoreline where the bottom meets patches of grass, sluiceways, bays, and many of the near-shore reefs and boulder fields. The blitzes have been awesome, and the schools of baitfish have provided the catalyst to make the water boil. As more linesiders mull around, staging before they hit holdover rivers, there will be similar activity but most likely becoming less intense. Whether fishing with hard or soft plastics, jigs, metals, live or frozen baits, there is time left on the calendar for eye-catching sunrise and sunset hook ups.
There may be impressive scattered chopper bluefish around, but their push south and southeast is happening, including weakfish. If fishers are going to hook up, it will most likely be by deep water jigging, trolling, or soaking bait. Any straggling blues that are left may be inclined to grab onto a topwater plug on one of the bluebird days, but other than that, hitting up some togs, scup, or black sea bass for the freezer is a better bet. One should find them on either side of deep water reefs and bottom structures.
Hickory shad can be located and caught in several of the lower tidal rivers using shad darts and/or willow leafs as they move in and out with the tide. Dressed, smoked and deboned, they can make a creative pâté or can be done up on a loaded, toasted bagel. Fishing from shore, with one rod rigged with chunk bait and the other set up for casting, can still pull out a variety of bottom fish still poking around, and can give a fisher a run for their effort.
Trout, large and smallmouth bass, northern pike, pickerel, crappie, yellow (some white) perch, other panfish, etc. are giving inland sweet water anglers plenty of opportunities to hook up. Management areas and wild native waters are being frequented, with good results. Many vacationers have thinned out, leaving choice spaces open for the serious angler to work plugs, jigs, spinnerbaits, worms and flies. Based on hints that Mother Nature is giving us, along with the effects of El Niño, there could be a mostly warm and rainy offseason along the shoreline, and a colder February with some surprises in the mix, meaning more open water to fish.
Report Shark/Fish Interactions: Seeking images/videos of shark vs. hooked fish encounters while fishing in Long Island Sound for research study. Specifically, include images of striped bass bitten and/or of shark actually attacking a striped bass while being reeled in. Email to CaptainMorganUSA@hotmail.com and include name, home town and any other pertinent data.
Fly Fishing Clinic: Now accepting reservations for the remainder of the year. An outstanding opportunity for the experienced or intermediate fly fisher! Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2024 with top flight, highly experienced instructors and guides. From trout, salmon, steelhead, and sea-run browns to striped bass, bonefish, permit, and tarpon, etc., techniques learned and honed will improve your fishing. Holiday gift certificates are also available.
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.
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