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Article Published June 29, 2022

Striped Bass, Menhaden, and Economics

The current season has been a boon for fishers who are catching and releasing striped bass way over the slot limit. As we know, if one were to keep a striper, it would have to measure between 28- to 35 inches. If the fish is above or below that slot, it would have to be released unharmed. While it is not uncommon to hook into a quality bass like these in skinny water this time of year, the numbers being caught this season are above the norm.

Water temperatures in Long Island Sound and its estuaries have started to warm later than normal, and cooling winds are also contributing to the delay. Nevertheless, sunny days did eventually warm nearshore waters, and that may have contributed, in part, to an increase in these sized bass favoring the shallows. More likely than not, it is the increase in the food supply, in addition to the warming water, that brought more Atlantic menhaden in closer, thereby resulting in more bass.

Whether it is the bunker, hickory shad, or live eels, striped bass are feeding. They are also moving with the tides and food source and will bite for a short stretch before moving to another forage spot. The bite could go on for a few tides or last about a week before it shuts down. Most of these fish are in the 42- to 44-inch range—large enough to tow you and your ‘yak around.

When fishing the shallows, staying quiet and patient are key factors. Lately, topwaters have been effective, along with soft plastics and bucktails with trailers fished in low light conditions or fog. There will be times when the bottom of a flipping tide will produce other instances when mid to either side of high would be preferable. Judge accordingly.

These Connecticut June stripers are not an unusual phenomenon, but for recent times, it is an experience for the younger generation of fishers to remember. As long as there are high fuel prices, there will be fewer boats netting and more Atlantic menhaden making it to our waters. It is simple economics. For now, there is plenty of forage in the Sound and, consequently, more predatory fish like striped bass to take advantage of today’s economic turmoil.

On the Water

A mid-week warm front approached the area, then stalled, before passing and yielding to a weak cold front that moved in prior to the weekend. A weak high-pressure system built for the start of the weekend and gave way to another cold front that hit for the second half and into the beginning of the week. Summer-like temperatures edged up as July approached and Long Island Sound water temps held in the mid- to high 60s, while seas remained relatively calm, interrupted by occasional gusty winds.

Summer is officially here and fishing the Sound, along with its tidal rivers, is living up to expectations. Weather conditions aside, having enough available time seems to be the only factor influencing how often anglers are on the water. Since many folks got off to a late start, most are either finding a way or adjusting schedules to wet a line. The results are usually rewarding and typically lead to another trip.

Fishing for striped bass has been addictive, especially when catches have been anywhere from shallow inshore waters to depths of around 40 feet or more. Linesiders above the slot have often reached 44 inches, live-lining baits such as eels and menhaden. Many fish have been within 28- to 35 inches, while numbers of schoolies have been caught and released from the jetties, beaches, bays, and tidal rivers. Drifting and trolling have been paying off, along with the popular T/W method.

Breaking into the doormat class of summer flounder (fluke) has been a challenge for Connecticut flukers in amongst the numbers of shorts and a few prize minimats that fell for squid combos. Ten pounders and above are out there, most of which are in farther eastern waters. However, no doubt that a few have made the turn and, with the amount of baitfish available along with the protected waters of Long Island Sound, the habitat is primed. Overall, the action has picked up, but there is room for improvement. Go deep when fishing large baits and teasers for increased chances at a doormat. Squid and spearing are a good combo. Low, slow, and steady.

Bluefish and sea trout (weakfish) continue to bite as fishers troll and drift the rips. Do not rule out casting nearshore on a flood tide. Try some squid and silversides. Flashy spoons and jigs for the blues are always good options, while keeping a topwater popper handy is a no-brainer. Since the Sound is experiencing schools of menhaden, catches of choppers are occurring close to shore as some of those bunker schools are entering rivers.

Black sea bass are currently one of the stronger fisheries that are swimming our waters. Fishers have the opportunity to see the full range of their growth cycle as they fish the shallows right through to deep water. Their appetite is huge and their diet is varied, meaning that they will take various baits and artificial lures. Many of the mid-Sound reefs, as well as select bottom structures, have been holding three- to five-pounders (some better) and, with the New York side now open, there are more opportunities available to fish.

To quell ongoing concerns, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will not close the recreational porgy (scup) fishery in federal waters as initially proposed. True scup fever in the Sound is not here yet, but temperatures are rising. Jumbos being caught are the cause of high interest in scup and, recently, smaller sizes above the 10-inch minimum length are showing up. Jetties, wharves, humps, and reefs are showing increased activity, while other bottom fish like striped sea robins, skate, dogfish, and toadfish are easily caught with chunk baits and seaworms. Fish the inshore waters and channels for tasty northern kingfish and the lower tidal rivers and estuaries for blue crabs.

Many anglers are working the inland waters quite heavily. Trout action still remains good since summer temperatures have not really kicked in yet and water levels and flows are manageable. Lake and pond fishing is producing good bass action, aggressive pickerel hits, and a spectrum of panfish action including crappie. Live baits, scented ones, and artificials are catching fish.

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 clam supplies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days at 21 Boston Post Road in Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

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