Fins Up This Thanksgiving for the Fish
There is a correlation between aging and being thankful. Younger kin have less to learn, experience less, and have fewer things in their impressionable minds that deserve thanks. As one grows, makes decisions, and ultimately digests life’s twists and turns, values and priorities mature and change. From a high chair and a few primitive toys, to a full-blown Thanksgiving Day table with all the fixings, there is a huge difference in one’s mind and body.
Over 402 years of tradition dictates gathering together to give thanks for the basic things needed to survive, including our freedoms. Throughout our history, fish have been a key factor to that end, and in many cases, revered, as well as being profoundly protected as a food source. From cod, that at one point literally drove the seafaring economy, to a list of over 450 regulated stocks (160 species), nearly 100 threatened or endangered species, and over 100 marine mammal species important to us socially and economically, we need to stop and give thanks for all the fish (past and present) that have been instrumental, in one way or another, to our survival.
Whether commercially or recreationally important, fish is one item that links us together world-wide. Whether a hand-drawn seine or complex gear-assisted processing ship, the goal is the same - to feed a population. In today’s world, where there is so much to be thankful for and so much needing change, we cannot lose sight of the importance of food and water. Fish are an integral part of that system, and something we should be thankful for and take less for granted. So, it’s fins up for this fisherman on Thanksgiving Day, which originated back in the year 1621, when cod and bass were among foods eaten.
On The Water
High pressure shifted offshore, opening the door for a weak cold front. High pressure returned for a few days, followed by a frontal system that affected most of the following days with gusty winds, chancy showers, and a mix of sun and clouds, accompanied by air temperatures that fluctuated from the high 20’s into the 60’s, and moderating into the high 40’s and low 50’s. A snapshot of fall, these shifts saw a shift in fish gravitating into deeper water, some of which headed into their winter grounds. Long Island Sound water temperatures dipped from mid-50 degrees to the low 50’s, while seas rocked back forth from under a foot to two feet.
Blackfish (tautog) reacted to the dropping water temperatures by moving into deeper water, requiring around 8-14 ounce sinkers - in some cases more. At the same time, an increased number of larger togs (8-11 pounds) have been boated using jigs, rigs, and crabs. Mixed with smaller fish from shorts to about 3-5 pounds (and fewer 6-7 pounders), blackfish have been spread out from the walls to numerous nearshore rock piles and offshore reefs. The days are numbered! We have until Tuesday, Nov. 28 to pull one last post-Thanksgiving Connecticut tog from the Sound as the season ends.
Striped bass are not quitting. Neither are the fishers looking to stretch out the season as long as possible - often trading in hauled vessels for shore casting. We have the run from the north that comes into the Sound, then those that detour into the Hudson and the stock that heads to the Chesapeake.
Meanwhile, our holdover fish stage before heading into CT rivers, where some travel upriver, while others play dodgeball with the weather and bait schools as they hang out within schooling range of the Shetucket River. As hungry as they are purported to be, the actions of plugs, swim baits, jigs and spoons have been garnering more attention than bait, unless out on the reefs where live eels, chunk baits, bucktails and trolling setups have been leaving their mark. Mixed sizes can be found, however, like sizes have been generally sticking together - although the big gals are usually loners. Try Six Mile, Southwest Reef, Faulkner’s, Chimney, The Beacon, and The Q.
Since the last major temperature drop, sightings of albies have been minimal, bluefish action has quieted down, and fewer weakfish have been caught trolling. Nevertheless, there are no lack of seals looking to capitalize on a free meal, as chunkers continue to soak their bait and indications of a hookup broadcast fresh fish. There is no telling if another high pressure and brief warm front will bring up a few more blues, or if that train has left the station in our stretch of water.
It is getting time to recall the term thermocline, as it relates to oceans, lakes, ponds and our fishing. In short, thermocline is the transitional layer between the warmer mixed water at the surface and the cooler deep water below. The temperature gradient is a steep one, which varies from season to season and is typically found in depths of 30 feet, but in skinnier water, it may be only 6-8 feet.
When days get shorter and water cools, the heavier, colder, dense water at the surface with a higher oxygen content sinks, forcing the the warmer, less dense water to the surface. We are not quite there yet, but when that occurs, successful anglers fish the warmer, more oxygenated water. Fishing too deep or too shallow is outside of the comfort zone for most fish, generally resulting in a fish-less day.
For now, the sudden drop in air temperature shocked the water and gave most fish temporary lockjaw - especially in northern waters. That scenario recovered and the trout, basses, panfish and other species continued to forage for food. Since trout are cold water fish, during the cold months, they move from the deep to the shallows, replacing small fish that inhabit that water during the warm season. So yes, continue to fish the sweet water, but keep the thermocline in mind.
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