Left the house early this morning, not really sure whether I was headed to the Housy or the Connecticut. In my heart, I knew the Housy was probably done for the season. But I also knew that I’d have to devote one more trip there to absolutely prove it to myself. Not this morning though. My Monday trip to the Housy was lousy and I didn’t fish at all yesterday. It had been 2 days without a serious hook set.
So I headed for the lower Connecticut River. About 90 minutes to 2 hours of incoming left when I got there. First pass on what’s normally my best stretch, I got three hits and caught two fish. Unfortunately, none of those hits was from a striper. Instead, I caught two of those yellow-eyed-devils and got bit off once.
Yellow Eyed Devil, aka bluefish. They’re fun when they get big, but not when they are under 5# and you’re fishing for stripers.
I’ll spare you the boring details, but suffice it to say that other than a school of baitfish I spooked with the trolling motor, those three toothy things were the only signs of life I saw in the lower CTR this morning. Fished through the rest of the incoming and the first hour or so of the outgoing. Decided to stop beating that particular dead horse with my stick, and put the boat on the trailer by 10:30.
Of course I have to drive right by that other dead horse on the way home. Slid the boat off the trailer and into the Housy at 11:20. Hit the spots I hoped they might be, and scanned the rest with the electronics. If there’s a striper left in the Housy, I don’t know were he might be. Even rode all the way to the mouth of the river and fished the break walls.
Truth is, I kind of knew the striper run there was toast after blowing the few hits I had Monday morning and never raising another fish. Needed to take one more shot though. I did. Toast. Burnt toast. With no butter to make it go down easy. I’ll see the Housy again in October.
I expect the CTR to provide some good surface action over the next 3 weeks. There’s still a load of fish up river there, and they should begin filtering out as the herring spawn dies off. If history holds true, they’ll accumulate near the mouth and stay as long as there’s plenty of food before heading out to Long Island Sound and beyond. At least that’s the theory the gameplan for the next few weeks is based on. As always, everything is subject to change depending on the whims of the fish.
But this image (shot right at my best spot from yesterday) pretty much sums up the striper bite in the Housy this morning.
Fishing was that bad. Three hits and two hookups, along with three or four follows and shows, all in the first hour of daylight. Then my brother had one follow on a fly just before I dropped him back off at 9:30. On my way back up river to the ramp I stopped at the last spot I caught a couple yesterday, and finally had a couple more follows and caught a little 18″ schoolie to save myself from the complete skunking.
After yesterday’s less than stellar results at the CTR, Alex & I made plans to fish the Housatonic this morning. I had been concerned this past week that the herring spawn was petering out, and the stripers were on the way out of the river. As it turned out, nothing could be farther from the truth. The herring are still going full-bore, and the stripers are chewing. Evidently, the lack of action last week was a rather lengthy result of the bad cold front that passed through last Sunday and Monday.
Since Alex had to cut the day very short, we started early and took separate boats. Really glad we started early, because the fishing slowed way down after about 6:30 in the morning. Alex left by 7:15, but I stuck it out until past 11, and ended the morning with 15, if you count the two 24″ shorts. Didn’t catch a fish out of more than 3 or 4 feet of water until after 10AM.
Had 2 highlights this morning. First, when the action was fast and furious during the morning’s heaviest rain, I picked up the rod with the “small baseball bat” sized surface plug and caught two fish on that. Later, after the action had slowed a good bit, I grabbed my medium-light spinning rod, which was set up with 10# Fireline, a 14# fluoro leader, and a 4/0 hook (inspired by the 5″ Fin-S fish bite I’d found the day before at the Connecticut River). Put a 6″ Ice Shad Slug-Go on it, and caught a couple on that — included my best of the day, at 34″.
Also had a first for me. Broke off a big striper in a tree, like I was largemouth fishing. It’s not like I hooked the fish in heavy cover, but there were a number of logs and laydowns on the shallow flat I was fishing. I hooked a big fish on the 7.5″ Slug-Go, and on its 2nd drive, it went around the other side of one of those laydowns, then turned and headed down river. I tried to get the boat positioned to get the line off the tree it was wrapped around, but the fish just took off too fast, and broke me off on the tree. C’est la vie.
It rained pretty hard for a while early, right when the best bite was taking place, so I didn’t get pics of most of the fish, but here’s what I do have.
First fish of the morning. Albino Shad, 9″ Slug-Go. Before the rain started the first time.
6th fish, but the first one after the first rain “shower”. This one hit a great big, topwater plug.
Seemed like it was going to clear up. Yeah, right.
Back to the rain showers. Ice Shad 9″ Slug-Go.
After a “slow period” — which actually amounted to about 15 minutes without a hit — I decided to try a smaller bait on the medium action fresh water spinning rod I just won from Millennium Custom Rods. Got this one on a 6″ ice shad Slug-Go.
After the next round of showers, I moved to the other end of the stretch of shallow flats I was fishing and got a couple more on the 7.5″ ice shad Slug-Go.
Fishing got slow after that, but when I tried my up river option, on the way back to the ramp, I picked up a couple more on the 9 inch ice shad Slug-Go. They were the first fish I got out of more than 4 feet of water all morning.
Every lure rigged up here caught at least two fish this morning, and I didn’t use anything else. From the top: 9″ Albino Shad Slug-Go; 7.5″ Ice Shad Slug-Go; 9″ Ice Shad Slug-Go; 6″ Ice Shad Slug-Go; 7″ Super Knucklehead popper. Think I like that Ice Shad Slug-Go for stripers?
Alex & I decided to take a day off from the Housy, and see if the stripers in the lower Connecticut River were “ready” yet. There are plenty of fish there — but there’s way too many schoolies mixed in for my taste. And blues. There’s bluefish mixed in, too. Managed not to lose a lure to any of them, so I guess that’s a good thing. But as far as fishing there for stripers, I’ll give it another week or two before I try it again.
First pass on my favorite stretch, we pretty much blanked. Went to a real popular area nearby and Alex got a bluefish. We did get some follows and rolls from stripers a little further on, but no serious takers. Tried another area I really like for one or two half-hearted rolls.
Back to our starting area, and I notice that while we’re getting the occasional looker, nothing’s actually biting our lures (9 inch Slug-Gos). But we’re seeing some feeding activity. Watching it as closely as I can, I realize that the fish are eating much smaller bait. Using my lightest casting rod, I rig up a 5″ Fin-S fish, and immediately hook up with a decent (but non-keeper) fish. A shade over twenty-six. Next cast, and I’m hooked to a freight train. Twice around the boat and a couple long runs later, and the hook just pulls out. SIGH.
After that, Alex switched to a smaller bait as well, and we pretty much caught fish as long as we could stay in contact with the school of baitfish. Unfortunately, they were all either small schoolies or bluefish. Off the water by noon.
I don’t fish tourneys any more, but I made an exception to honor the lat “Wild Bill” Hozapfel and support breast cancer research. Fished with Wild Bill’s brother Fred and enjoyed the day immensely — except for the actual fishing, which kind of sucked. We finished in 14th place with a little over 10 pounds for our five fish limit. Spent too much time doing what worked on Monday, when I practiced. Should have gone largemouth fishing earlier.
It looks like the great spring striper fishing we’ve enjoyed in the Housy is just about ready to come to an end. It’s still worth the trip for me, but then again, it’s a real short trip. The herring spawn appears to be all done, and there definitely aren’t as many big fish in the river as there were a week ago.
Steve & I went out yesterday, and Steve managed two fish in the boat, neither one of which was a keeper, while I hooked, fought for more than ten minutes, and ultimately lost when the hook pulled out, a very large fish. I never got an eyeball on it after the initial surface strike, but Steve, who has a whole lot more striped bass experience than I do, said it looked every bit of 30#. SIGH.
Other than that, we had a maybe 8 or 9 half-hearted rolls and turnaways. Admittedly, we went out a little later than we should have, and we misjudged the tide, so we really only had about an hour on the “right” part of the tide, and that’s pretty much when all our action, such as it was, happened.
Today was a different story. I got out at the crack of dawn and got the full tide window that I’ve been working. And I managed a 100% hookup and land rate on the 5 opportunities I had. Five fish showed themselves on my lure, and every one of them hit it cleanly on top and ended up posing for a picture.
Five fish isn’t a bad catch, but it’s deceiving because of the hookup rate. Only five fish showing themselves is pretty indicative of few of them around. It’s much more typical to hook 6 or 7 out of 10 or 15 rolls and blow-ups, plus another half dozen follows and turn aways. In other words, when they are there and chewin’, you see some kind of evidence of 4 or 5 times as many fish interested in your lure as I encountered today.
Other than the first fish, which was a hair over 36 inches and weighed 19#, the most interesting catch to me was the last fish of the morning. It had been a half-hour or so since I’d seen any activity, when I saw a herring jump out of the water, followed by a huge swirl and the herring skittering across the surface as fast as it could move. It was pretty obvious that a striper had just chased a herring to the surface, but missed it. Like many of them miss my Slug-Go most days.
All this happened not 40 feet off the side of the boat, so I very quickly reeled in the cast I was working and fired one off just beyond where the fish had rolled a few seconds earlier. Worked it about a third of the way back to the boat, and the striper exploded on it. I love it when a plan comes together!
Anyway, the action ended at 8 o’clock. I fished until a little after nine, but really shouldn’t have bothered. I knew my tidal timing window had closed.
Here’s some fish porn.
Best fish of the day, at a shade over 36 inches and 19# on the Rapala scale.
A 32 incher came about 10 minutes later, from the same general area.
The action seemed to die where I started, so I moved downstream to the other end of the series of shoreline shelves and quickly got another.
This one came from the same general area, but from deeper water, when I turned and cast toward the channel instead of the edge of the shelf.
My last fish was only a 30 incher, but I thought it was cool because I saw what appeared to be a fish missing a herring that skittered away on the surface, and cast just past the boil left by the hungry fish, and quickly hooked up. Glad he missed the real food and not the plastic!
With some unknown, but definitely limited amount of time left to enjoy this action, I would be out on the Housy again tomorrow, but I’m committed to the “Fish for the Cure Wild Bill Memorial Tournament” on Candlewood, and won’t be able to make it to the Housy. I’ll hit it again over the weekend, or on Monday. If there’s still enough fish to make it worthwhile, great. Otherwise, my striper efforts will move to the Connecticut River next week.
Jimfish joined me today for a day on Candlewood. Now that we’re both retired, we can fish there on weekdays. C’wood used to be my home lake, but working full time, and running a smaller boat has stood between me and fishing it regularly for the past 12 or 15 years. In fact, the weekend boat and tourney traffic has kept both of us away when we could only fish weekends for the most part.
Anyway, even though I don’t fish tourney any more as a rule, I’m fishing one this Friday. My late friend “Wild Bill” Holzapfel used to run the “Fish for the Cure” tournament to raise money for cancer research every May. Bill passed away last year, and now the tournament, still for the benefit of Cancer Research, is known as Wild Bill’s Fish for the Cure Memorial. Between the charity and honoring Bill, there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity.
But not having fished C’wood in the spring more than 3 or 4 times in the past several years, I needed to put some time in checking things out. Thus, today’s trip.
So Jim & I put in 8 hours on smallmouth heaven today. We put 16 bass in the boat between us. Ten of them were largemouth. Now we did spend some time fishing traditional largemouth spots. But we didn’t catch any there. All the largemouth we boated today came from what would be considered smallmouth water. It’ll take a few more trips for me to say whether things there are actually changing, or if today was just a freak occurrence.
Still adjusting to this retirement deal. Thought I’d take today off from fishing, or maybe take a quick trip to Hatch for a few hours. Did some things around the house this morning, and finally got tired of looking at perfect cloud cover and mild temps. Just knew something had to be chewing, somewhere.
Boat sitting there hooked up to the truck, the batteries charged, three casting rods strapped down to the front desk. Realized the sweet spot in the tide was coming up in 90 minutes or so. A few minutes for lunch, 10 minutes to uncover the boat and get my gear in order, 15 minutes trailering and another 10 minutes or so heading down river to the fish. This would be doable. I told my wife I’d be back in a few hours and headed for the river. I just can’t help myself. These fish are just too much fun when they are attacking Slug-Gos on top.
Tide was still coming in when I got there. Caught a fish on my 2nd cast anyway. Then it was pretty much as expected. Just a couple rolls and turnaways and one little 20 inch schoolie until the 2nd hour of the outgoing tide, when the action started again, right on cue. During the next hour — the sweet spot in the tide — I caught 4 more keepers and dropped one at the boat.
Today was a little unusual in that I only had one fish even look at the 7.5 inch bait. Everything was on the 9 incher, and two of my best keepers came on the limetreuse lure. I usually throw the hi-viz limetreuse bait as an alternative, and some days it will outfish the more traditional, baitfishy looking colors. But most days, ice shad rules.
By 4pm, I was back on the trailer and headed for home, my need to set the hook satisfied for today.
First fish hit the 9 inch Ice Shad Slug-Go on my 2nd cast. I consider that a bonus fish, since it came from outside of the activity window.
34 incher on the 9 inch limetreuse. This high-viz color might just be my second best spring striper option.
2nd fish on limetreuse came only a few cast later. 32 inches.
Back on ice shad for this 31 incher.
Last fish of the day was a keepers, but barely so, at just over 28 inches.
I was joined today by an old friend. I’ve known Rick for about 40 years to the best of my recollection, and somehow, we’ve managed to not fish together for a long, long time. He frequents the Housy as well, and we decided to head out for 1pm to see about this timing bite I’ve got going.
The weathermen promised mostly cloudy this afternoon. They lied. There were some clouds around, but the ‘mostly’ part of the equation didn’t move in until about 7pm.
We ran right to the spot, even though the tide was still actually coming in. On my first cast, I hooked and broke off a big fish.
Rather than re-tie, I grabbed a different rod — my heaviest stick, spooled with 50# braid and a 30# leader — and a few casts later hooked another serious fish; And lost it on the first run. That’s when I discovered that I must have loosened the drag on that reel yesterday and never retightened it. Tightened the drag and continued fishing, but after that, it was rolls and turnaways.
Took advantage of the lull in the action to retie my lighter rod. Felt the leader and couldn’t notice any nicks or abrasion, but I did recall that when I replace that leader the other day, rather than go into the house and get the fluoro I usually use, I found an old spool of 17# mono in the boat and used that. Still, it felt fine, and I tied another 8/0 Slug-Go hook onto that leader. No more than 5 casts into fishing with the new hook, and I snapped off another fish on the hook set. Call me dumbass.
Now I sat down and rigged a new leader, like I should have after the first break-off. Go ahead, call me dumbass again.
By now, the tide had turned, but the bite had all but disappeared. IT was really too early in the outgoing for the pattern I’m looking for to develop, but this was a total absence of action. I believe that was due in no small part to some of my new “friends” who felt a need to fish on top of me. I wouldn’t post pictures and videos in the blog if I was serious about keeping my spots all to myself. But a couple of the new, never-seen-in-this-area-before boats really seemed to want to horn in tight. I might not have minded all that much, but when you’ve got an electric motor on the bow, why on earth would you keep running the gas motor right where the fish are supposed to be, in 2 to 6 feet of water? Do you really think all that racket doesn’t disturb the fish in that skinny water? I really don’t think it was a complete coincidence that it wasn’t until you pulled off the flat and started to drive away that anyone caught a keeper there this afternoon, or that within 45 minutes or so after you left, there were a half dozen keeper stripers boated out of that skinny water.
So after the break-offs and pull offs, we settled in and put 4 keepers and a couple shorts in the boat. All on ice shad Slug-Gos. Unfortunately, Rick lost a casting rod overboard after landing his last fish.
At 32-1/2″, the first fish to actually make it into the boat turned out to be our biggest of the day, as well.
Not sure if it was just the right time in the tide, or the guys running their 90 horse over the fish in 2 to 6 feet of water finally leaving had something to do with it, but the fish definitely turned on about 3pm.
Rick joined the keeper party with this 30 incher.
Note the casting rod precariously balanced in bottom left corner of the photo. After Rick let the fish go, that rod was nowhere to be found.
My brother Larry and his flyrod joined me again today, to tackle that timing bite I’ve been working on. Might have been able to start a little earlier, as the fish were there and just starting to get active when we arrived, less than an hour into the outgoing tide.
I immediately hooked up, and eventually broke off what seemed a pretty big fish. After having a break-off send my catch into a tailspin yesterday, I was more than a little concerned that the poor execution to start would have a similar effect on my success today. Not to worry. Two casts later, I had fish #1 on the line, and managed to overcome the lost fish jinx.
Fish numbers 2 and 3 followed in short order, but then the thunderstorms we were hearing to our south started to get a little too close for comfort, so we high-tailed it back to the ramp. Once there, looking over our shoulder seemed to indicate that the storms were passing quickly. We waited it out for s while, and when there was nothing left but rain with no thunder and lightning anywhere on the horizon, we shot down river again.
All told, we were off the fish for nearly an hour. Didn’t matter, because they were chewing even better when we got back to them. We ended up with 10 fish — all legal keepers (not that we keep any) — and who knows how many lost fish and missed fish. It was a great time, and the highlight of our day was when we hooked up nearly identical fish at the same time — Larry with his fly rod, and me with the Slug-Go. Talk about a Chinese Fire Drill, trying our best not to knock each other out of the boat while keeping the fish from wrapping each other up!
For me, it was really an Ice Shad Slug-Go day. Every fish I caught except one came on either a 7.5″ or 9″ Ice Shad Slug-Go. The other one? It ate a 7″ Fin-S Fish in Ice Shad.
I did fish a huge popping plug for a while, and had a handful of fish show interest in it, including one massive explosion that somehow managed to avoid a pair of treble hooks, but it felt like I was throwing and fishing with a small baseball bat, so I took it off and put on a 9″ Ice Shad Slug-Go.
Here’s some fish porn…
I was really relieved to get this one after breaking off my first fish of the day.
2nd fish to actually make it to te boat today.
I need to learn some new poses. If the fish wasn’t so much fatter, I’d almost think this was the same photo as the last one! Thunderstorm was moving closer as I let this one go, and we booked for safety a few minutes later.
Caught this one while it was raining following our self imposed exile to the ramp during a thunderstorm.
Another one that hit during the rainstorm.
At 33-1/2 inches, this was my biggest fish of the day despite having a short snout.
Double header for the Zaleski brothers.
This is the one fish I caught that DIDN’T hit an Ice Shad Slug-Go. This one ate an Ice Shad 7 inch Fin-S Fish!
Final fish of the day hit the 9 incher. Ice Shad, of course.
We actually fished until 4:15 or so, but could have stopped 45 minutes earlier. We had a few swirls and follows, along with one heart stopping explosion 8 feet from the rod tip during that last 45 minutes, but never actually hooked another fish. Despite the misses, the drop-off in fish activity after about 3:30 was palpable.
Drove into very dark skies as we ran back to the ramp, and loaded the boat in a light drizzle, then drove most of the way home in another downpour.
Aiming for a narrow window for fish activity that seems to depend on the outgoing tide. I thought had it down on Tuesday, but it didn’t start when expected (based on Monday’s timing), and I gave up on it and went elsewhere. By the time I got back, it was in full swing, and I only caught the tail end of it. Wednesday, shooting for arrival 20 minutes earlier than the point in the tide that I estimate it had started the day before, the fish were there and chewing when I arrived. How long had they been feeding before I arrived? How much of the action did I miss?
So I’ve got it down now. Definitely. All I have to do is get there at daybreak and stay until dark. And don’t give up or lose focus. Simple, right? Only way I know for sure that I’ll be there when the action happens.
One more lesson from Wednesday. When you and feeding fish happily coexist in the same time and space, pay attention to detail, and execute. I did great for the first 7 or 8 fish. Then it kind of fell apart. Of my first 7 fish, 4 of them came from very shallow water. I could feel the fish banging into the sand and gravel bottom during the fight. I knew the abrasion had to be taking its toll on the leader. Did I think about that after landing the fish and before making the next cast? Heck no.
That eventually resulted in a break off. And once I broke that fish off, nothing seemed to go right for me. After that, it was a series of missed fish, lost fish and half-hearted rolls instead of solid hookups. Failure to execute cost me big time.
I can’t say for sure that if I’d taken the time to check the line that I knew had to be abraded and retied instead of hurrying to get off the next cast, that all the mishaps and miscues that followed the initial break off wouldn’t have taken place. But I can’t help but feel that the last half hour or so of fish activity would have been more productive if I had.
Anyway, with the rain, I had a lot of trouble getting decent pictures, but here’s what I got.
Third cast after I got there.
A few minutes later, a 34 incher. This was when the shutter delay for self shots stopped working.
The next fish took the Slug-Go DEEP.
Sorry for the fuzzies.
Limetreuse 9″ — another 33.
A 31 at the height of the rainstorm.
And, after the rain let off, the fish remained active.
After yesterday’s great fishing, I felt like I could find similar results a the same time in the tide today. Since my brother has an issue getting out early, I thought that with a noon high tide today would be the perfect time to have him join me on the river.
We got out a bit after 10AM, and I managed to get a pretty good fish (31-1/2″) pretty quickly, a couple thousand feet or so down river from where we expected to hammer them once the tide started to roll out. Just as the tide was turning, I got a 33 inch fish from the southern reaches of the stretch I was expecting big things from, and a few minutes later, got short there as well. Meanwhile, my brother, flailing away with his fly rod got a couple rolls and follows, but no serious lookers. Still, it was more activity in the area I was expecting it to really turn on shortly.
OK, this was going to work!
But there were two things bothering me.
The tide had turned, but the current was barely moving out.
Yesterday’s osprey was around, but he was hunting all over rather than returning to one little pile of herring over and over. And he appeared to be having a much tougher go of it.
We worked the prime water for nearly two hours into the outgoing tide, with nothing more to show for it. Finally, I decided to work our way down river and fish through the entire stretch of water that these fish seem to relate to. About 2/3 of the way through it, I noted that the current had finally started to roll.
Did I turn around and motor quickly back to what I perceived as the prime spot? No. That would have made sense. And by this time, I’d kind of lost confidence in my ability to replicate yesterday’s pattern. So I not only fished all the way down, I dilly-dallied around once I got there, stowing stuff for the ride back up river, etc.
Finally, I motored up the river, and decided I had to at least stop for a cast or two at the prime spot. Didn’t even drop the electric in the water. Just hummed out a cast with an Alewife 7.5″ Slug-Go, and immediately got a good roll from a big fish. Next cast, same thing. Now I stopped to put the electric in the water an get myself back in fishing mode. Meanwhile, my brother hooks and breaks off a fish on the fly rod. I quickly catch a 28 incher, then hook and lose a fish that just has its way with me before heading down river pulling drag until the hook pulled free.
There’s no telling how long the fish have been here chewing. I’m betting since right about the time I had noted that the tide finally started to roll, 45 minutes to an hour earlier. Oh, look at that — the osprey is back feeding where he was yesterday! There’s another 29 inch fish on the Slug-Go. Finally, my brother hooks up on the fly rod, using a great big blue back herring imitation.
Do I stay locked on the spot and keep working, trying to hook as many as possible before the window closes, or devote 5 or 10 minutes to shooting some video footage of my brother battling the fish on the fly rod. I go with the latter, and by the time Larry lands the fish and we shoot a couple pictures, we are a couple thousand feet down river again.
When I get us back into position, we give it another 15 minutes, but it’s obvious the feeding fish are gone. What a dolt! Why did I lose faith in the feeding frenzy I knew was going to happen, and leave the spot? And why didn’t I get back there quickly when the current really started to move? And why did I waste so much of our very narrow window of opportunity filming my brother and his fish, instead of locking in and taking advantage of the feeding frenzy?
Can’t answer any of those questions, really. The mistakes I made stand out big time in hindsight. I guess 5 keepers and a short in the boat in the fairly short time we were out there isn’t horrible. But we were close — very close — to having a mental scrapbook kind of day, if I had just not lost faith that it was going to happen.
First fish of the day, in the first 20 minutes or so we’re out there.
Larry got a 33 incher on a herring pattern fly he tied.
The action we hoped for finally started — when we weren’t there to take advantage. We ended up with only about 15 minutes on the actively feedind fish. This 29 incher was one of three I hooked and 2 I boated in that short time.
This 32.5 incher came right as the tide started to go out.