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Lunker City Fishing Specialties

It’s been a while…

I think I missed blogging 3 striper trips over the past week. A couple with Steve and one with Alex.

Didn’t blog ’em because they were all too many schoolies, and no keepers kind of days.  Seems like it was only about 2 weeks ago, we were still waiting anxiously for the first schoolies to make their way up river past the I95 bridge. And for the past 8 or 10 days, hundred fish per man days have been the norm. But the last actual keepers I saw in my boat were back on the 17th, when Jimfish and I hit them.

So it’s not even December, and I’m hoping for a big rain to muddy the river up and get the big girls chewing during the daytime. They are in the river, but doing most of their feeding at night. At my age, night fishing — especially wintertime night fishing — is long behind me. A little muddy water in the river would go a long way to getting the fat girls going during the daytime.

This cell phone screen shots from the Dragonfly on my front deck via Raymarine’s WiFish app shows what it’s been like out there.

The fish are so thick in many places that the depth sounder can’t see through them to bottom. In the next image, fish were stacked from bottom all the way up to within 12 feet of the surface, so thick that the depth sounder sometimes interprets the top of the school as the bottom of the river.


Interesting day on the Housy

Jimfish and I took a ride down the Housatonic this morning, to see what we could find. Due to the current condition of the Derby ramp, I didn’t want to launch until the tide was somewhere in the general vicinity of the end of the pavement, so we didn’t actually get on the water until around 8.



At first, it seemed like all we could find was ghosts. Mark some fish, turn around and run back along the same path and…


Make a few casts anyway.

Just to be sure, you know?

More bupkis.

Or is that an oxymoron?

Eventually, we got down to where Steve and I caught a few the other day, and sure enough, I managed a few schoolies. Next area was better, and we both caught some.

Had a couple interesting observations about the day’s fishing.

  • The best thing about going out on cold and windy days this time of the year, is that you have the river pretty much to yourself. We saw two other fishermen today.
  • The combination of wind, tide and the temperature differential between the fresh water of the river (49~50) and the salt water of the Sound (53~54) created something I’ve never really seen before. Usually, there is an area where the waters seem to mix and you find water temps between the two extremes.
    Not this morning. Near the end of the incoming tide, we were in 53+ degree “LIS water” which had been pushed quite a way into the river by the tide. As the tide turned, we noticed a scum and foam line that stretched pretty much across the river, well upstream from us. We watched that line come down river for a half hour or so, until it reached us. There was a definite difference in the water color on each side of the foam line, and as it passed us (we were on spot lock, naturally) the water temp dropped from 53.8 to 51.2 in the time it took that foam line to move a couple boat lengths. A few minutes later, it was 50.0 degrees.
  • Jim caught a fish with the worst sea louse infestation on its fins I’ve ever seen anywhere, much less in the river. We see quite a few with the red wounds where they’ve been chewed, but not a couple dozen of the nasty crustaceans attached to the tail and fins.

The bite wasn’t on fire, but it wasn’t bad, and we quit fishing at 1:45 with a nice, palindromic, repdigit total of 111 fish between us. I had a pair of keepers to Jim’s one, but mine were only 28 and 29 inches, and Jim’s was a solid 37 that probably outweighed my two put together. So yeah, he won the big fish battle today.


We found some fish that had actually swum the gauntlet of the oyster army and the dredging boats and made it into the Housy!

Before today, it had seemed like the only way we could catch fish when we hit the Housatonic this fall involved running out of the the river into the Sound, or at least getting far enough south to put a little distance between us and the commotion of the dragging and the dredging. The big rains of a couple weeks back that muddied the river and blew all the hickory shad, bunker and peanut bunker out of the river didn’t help matters, either.

But today, we finally found some.

Some stripers in the river.

It’s not like they are there in winter numbers yet, but but there are enough fish in the river now that on days when they are in a chewing state of mind, if you know enough places to try, you should be able to have some fun. We’re not looking at the massive schools of fish we’re used to seeing by this time, but small to medium sized pods of fish, so it might require some moving around to contact enough biters.

Steve and I caught a pretty decent bunch today, but had to wear out 5 or 6 spots to do it. And of course, most of the fish are on the small side. But not all of them. We caught a fair number of quality schoolies, a handful of keepers in training, and 4 actual keepers. Steve had me on numbers and had three of our four keepers as well. Here’s a couple pics of Steve with 29 and 31 inchers.



Schoolie-fest on the sound

Steve Durkee and I launched his boat at the Baldwin Bridge ramp on the Connecticut River at first light this morning, and left the dirty, 42 degree river immediately, looking for clearer and/or warmer conditions out in the sound. We found cleaner and marginally warmer water pretty quickly, and started catching fish as soon as we did.

We caught them through most of the outgoing tide, from water as shallow as a couple feet out to water as deep as 12 to 15 feet. We caught a lot of fish, but never found one even close to keeper size.

Still, fast action is fun, especially when so many of the fish are willing to hit on top. And the action was definitely fast. Anytime one or the other of us wasn’t hooked up, amounted to a lull in the action.

I would hazard a guess that 95% of the nearly 200 schoolies we caught came either on top, or within a foot or so of the surface, regardless of the depth of the water. Steve caught almost all of his on an unweighted soft plastic. I caught maybe 40 that way, but got a lot more on a Sexy Shiner Fin-S Fish rigged on a 1/4 oz jighead, swimming it just under the surface.

The drizzle started a little after 11, and by 11:45 the drizzle had turned to rain and we were on the trailer. No keepers, so no fish porn, unfortunately.

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.