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Lunker City Fishing Specialties

The Sound was kind to us today

When Steve Durkee and I launched his boat on the lower Connecticut River this morning, we had no expectations of catching anything in the cold, muddy river. We stopped for a quick check on a couple spots that we marked what may or may not have been bait, but we were hell bent on getting out into the sound, where we expected to find warmer, cleaner water, that we hoped would hold some active stripers, so we didn’t waste more than a few minutes in the river.

The water was only a couple degrees warmer than the 51 of the river, and not a whole lot clearer, when we saw our first real sign of life. We didn’t put the electric down, but we each made a few casts, just to be sure. On my first exploratory cast there, I hooked a schoolie.

But our next half dozen casts each had the feel of dragging the jig & plastic through a mass of bunker. After snagging a couple, we moved on, looking for another 5 or 6 degrees of water temperature and a couple feet of clarity. And hopefully some birds. It’s always good to see gulls feeding on bait.

It was the birds that drew us to our next spot, but they weren’t actually feeding. Just milling around, really. Plenty of splashing going on in front of them, but for the most part, it looked like full size bunker, which don’t really interest the seagulls all that much. But every now and then, we’d see a sizable swirl or a pod of peanut bunker spraying out of the water amidst the ripples and breaks of the adult menhaden.

Plus, the water was 4 or 5 degrees warmer and a lot clearer than what we’d so recently left.

We wandered along the rather lengthy stretch of beach that seemed to be holding the birds, moving shallower, then deeper, in and out from the bank, catching one here and one or two there, until we felt like we had found the key feature, a slightly shallower bar where the incoming tide formed a decent shear line, and where the action seemed most consistent.

I’m not sure we moved more than 30 yards over the next few hours. Thank you Minnkota for i-Pilot and Spot Lock! We would just stay locked on a spot until we wore the bite out, then move 20 or 25 feet farther out or down current and lock it up again.  Next pause in the action, we’d move in another direction, but again, not very far.

Probably 30 of our first 40 fish came on unweighted soft plastics fished on top. But eventually, the sun, the tide and the wind speed all got higher and the combination seemed to make the topwater bites a lot harder to come by. We could still get bit on top, but it was a lot less predictable than it had been earlier in the tide, so the jig & plastic option became our primary tool.

We ended up with a couple legals (29 and 31), a half-dozen keepers in training (between 26 or so and just under 28) and maybe a dozen-and-a-half of your standard issue, sub-20-inch schoolies. The rest of the 99 fish we caught this morning were what we call “quality schoolies” in the 20 to 25 inch range. Big enough to enjoy the hell out of on light gear, but not big enough to make you curse if you lose one half way in.

Disclaimer: In truth, I usually utter an expletive laced epitaph or two when I lose a fish regardless of its size. I hate losing fish almost as much as I love feeling or seeing a bite and setting the hook. Yes, even if they’re on the petite end of the scale.

I had kind of figured on stopping to finish my sandwich when we hit 100, but one fish away from that mark, Steve decided to move into the ripping in-bound tide and stiff Northeast wind, and needed the gas motor.

Which wouldn’t turn over.

Not even a little.


He tried swapping batteries, checking connections, even made an attempt at pull starting it. Nothing. All the while, we’re being blown out into the sound by the 15mph-plus ENE wind. Then, while Steve was on the hold with Sea-Tow, I hit the key and the engine spun over like like a champ. Didn’t start, but it cranked just like normal. A few minutes later, it started and ran just fine. Cancel that Sea-Tow, we’re headed in.

And that’s how we ended up with 99 instead of a nice, even C-note.


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