TOP 12 MUST-HAVE LURES
MAHI MADNESS NORTH WOODS
TROUT & SALMON
TROPHY STRIPERS TIPS FOR SUCCESS
SUMMER STRATEGIES FOR
Some discounts, coverages, payment plans and features are not available in all states or all GEICO companies. Boat and PWC coverages are underwritten by GEICO Marine Insurance Company. GEICO is a registered service mark of Government Employees Insurance Company, Washington, D.C. 20076; a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary. GEICO Gecko image © 1999-2017. © 2017 GEICO
SAVE TODAY. VACATION TOMORROW. See how much you could save on boat insurance.
for your boat
geico.com | 1-800-865-4846 | Local Office
Visit Your New England Pursuit Factory Authorize Dealer Today
All Seasons Marine allseasonsmarineworks.com Atlantic Outboard Inc. atlanticoutboard.com Bosun’s Marine bosuns.com Striper Marina stripermarina.com Yarmouth Boat Yard yarmouthboatyard.com
• •• •• • • •
230 OUTRAGE Winner of a 2017 NMMA Innovation Award
THE NEW OUTRAGE LINEUP
CORE CONFIDENCE With a Boston Whaler Outrage, you get more than a fishing boat; you get a rugged fishing machine loaded with cutting-edge, purpose-driven features. And thanks to Whaler’s variable-deadrise deep-V hull design and Unibond™ construction, you get remarkable performance and a soft, safe, dry ride.
YOUR NEW ENGLAND BOSTON WHALER DEALERS bostonwhalernewengland.com BOWDEN MARINE SERVICES Bar Harbor, ME SHEP BROWN’S BOAT BASIN Meredith, NH NANTUCKET MARINE Nantucket, MA SABA MARINE, LLC Colchester, VT
NAUSET MARINE Marion, MA Pocasset, MA Orleans, MA YORK HARBOR MARINE SERVICE York, ME MARINEMAX Brookfield, CT New Milford, CT Norwalk, CT Westbrook, CT
MARINEMAX RUSSO Boston, MA Danvers, MA Hingham, MA Newport, RI Wakefield, RI Warwick, RI PORT HARBOR MARINE South Portland, ME Kittery, ME Raymond, ME Rockport, ME Holden, ME
INTRODUCING THE FORMULA 430 ASC, the finest interpretation of smart space allocation with dayboat versatility, overnight capabilities and a generous shot of offshore adventure aft. The side console helm features Raymarine twin eS128 GPS with upgrade to twin or triple gS165’s, plus a more powerful transducer option for those serious fishing ventures. Digital switching with a helm-mounted, dedicated Raymarine gS95 display and wireless iPad™ control puts total command at your fingertips. Smartly integrated action stations are at the ready, with a bait prep/tackle storage to starboard and livewell/dive tank module aft. The prep station features a fresh water sink, large, removable cutting board, retractable raw water hose and flip-open workstation with tray recess aft. Below, twin doors with dedicated keepers for tools and lines reveal a forward locker with 5-gallon bucket storage and a bank of tackle drawers. The pressurized 55-gallon livewell can also accommodate four dive tanks, while the portside fishbox with available refrigerator/freezer coils preserves your catch. An aft-facing double-wide seat flips down at the transom for your choice of adventure. 14 rod holders at the livewell, intake vents and swim platform sport station are standard while electric outriggers are available for the hardtop.
More than just a retreat from the elements, the 430 cabin provides a completely residential experience through the smart utilization of space only Formula’s unique Crossover layout affords. A fully appointed lower kitchen, dining lounge/ berth, enclosed head and stateroom sleeping aft bring the entire cabin experience to the 430 ASC.
Go offshore in the only vessel that so smartly balances the best of all worlds – the 430 All Sport Crossover! 2200 West Monroe St. • PO Box 1003 Decatur, IN 46733 • 260-724-9111 For more information, please visit: www.formulaboats.com/430asc
O R M U L A B O A T S .COM
F E AT U R E S
42 DEADLY DOZEN
These 12 time-proven lures deserve a place in every coastal angler’s tackle box.
52 FINE KETTLES OF FISH
Often overlooked by anglers seeking saltwater sport, Cape Cod’s freshwater ponds offer tremendous action with largemouth bass.
31 D E PA R T M E N T S
FROM THE EDITOR All about the fishing bug.
Check out some of the latest and greatest fishing tackle for New England waters.
58 THE AMAZING RACE
Expert anglers reveal their top strategies for catching striped bass and bluefish in one of the most productive—and challenging—hot spots in the Northeast.
68 ROCK ON!
How to fish the shallow boulders and ledges of Buzzards Bay for light-tackle striper action.
76 CALL OF THE CANYONS
A trip to the edge of the continental shelf can produce the catch of a lifetime—but that’s only part of the adventure.
84 LIGHT IT UP AT CANDLEWOOD
Connecticut’s largest and busiest lake hosts some of the best freshwater bass fishing in the Northeast. CONTINUED
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 19
TABLE OF CONTENTS
F E AT U R E S
92 BLUE PLATE SPECIAL
This simple, delicious recipe might just change your mind about the culinary value of the humble bluefish.
94 MAD ABOUT HADDOCK
The spring haddock bite on Stellwagen Bank is a great way to kick off the fishing season—and put some fillets in the freezer.
102 MAHI MANIA
Your guide to finding and catching these colorful, hard-charging, high-flying summer visitors.
110 CATCH A BATCH OF SEA BISCUITS Four charter captains share their advice for scoring more and bigger black sea bass from Cape Cod to New York.
118 TOP 10 FOR A TROPHY
Remembering these simple tips can help you score big stripers all season.
124 FLAT OUT FANTASTIC
For a truly eye-opening fishing experience with striped bass and bluefish, plan a trip to Cape Cod’s Brewster Flats.
132 SOME LIKE IT HOT
Try these warm-water tactics and you can enjoy action with a variety of game fish in Narragansett Bay through the steamy summer months.
136 NORWALK ROCKS
A season-long smorgasbord of game and food fish awaits the angler in and around the beautiful Norwalk Islands.
146 CONSIDERING THE SOURCE
The headwaters of the Connecticut cast a spell over anglers seeking world-class action with trout and salmon in a spectacular North Woods setting.
20 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017 2016
A few months ago, I received an email from my mother containing an unexpected photo. It showed a tow-headed lad of five, proudly hoisting a stringer of yellow perch. But this was no ordinary stringer of perch. It was the very first fish I had ever caught, and the seed of what eventually grew into a lifelong love of fishing.
FROM THE EDITOR
Despite the fact that my father had supplied the rod and reel (a Sears Ted Williams outfit, if I’m not mistaken), ours was not a fishing family. Yet that seminal trip to Maine’s Rangeley Lake triggered what can only be described as a latent desire to catch fish. A genetic switch flipped when my bobber dipped below the surface and I was suddenly connected to a mysterious and unseen creature. From that point on, my primary focus on every family vacation was fishing. Oddly, my younger brother, who also caught his first perch on that Rangeley trip, was not similarly affected by the experience, and today he could care less about fishing. This is not unusual. Over the years, I have met other passionate anglers who tell a similar tale of siblings who shrug their shoulders at the thought of piscatorial pursuit.
EDITORIAL & CONTENT DIRECTOR
Janice Randall Rohlf EDITOR
Tom Richardson: New England Boating, New England Fishing LMS EDITORS
Maria Allen: South Shore Living, Plymouth Magazine Rachel Arroyo: Home Remodeling Kelly Chase: Southern New England Living, Falmouth Magazine, Hingham Magazine Rob Duca: New England Golf & Leisure Lisa Leigh Connors: Cape Cod Magazine, Chatham Magazine Colby Radomski: Southern New England Weddings Janice Randall Rohlf: Southern New England Home ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Let’s face it: In the case of fishing, you either have what I call “the bug” or you don’t. We all have friends or relatives who like to fish, but don’t need to fish. These folks do not have the bug. They are not the type who will rise at 2:00 a.m. and drive 50 miles to catch the predawn striper bite on a remote beach or relentlessly cast dry flies in a tropical downpour. I was fortunate. I caught the bug at an early age. There are people who spend many years in ignorance before someone puts a rod in their hands and suddenly—an epiphany! The fishing gene is activated. “Why was I not told of this earlier?” they cry. “Where have you been all my life?”
Kelly Chase ............................................ CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Eric Brust-Akdemir ART DIRECTOR/CAPE COD MAGAZINE
Alexandra Bondarek ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTORS
Wendy Kipfmiller-O’Brien Jennifer Kothalanka PRODUCTION MANAGER
This magazine is dedicated to the fishing-afflicted, particularly those of us lucky enough to live in New England—a region blessed with a remarkable variety of game fish and places to fish. Inside, you’ll find articles highlighting everything from sweetwater bass and trout to bluewater mahi and marlin. You’ll discover the challenge of stalking stripers on the Cape Cod flats and learn how to beat the summer doldrums on Narragansett Bay. You’ll explore the fishing options in the fabulous Norwalk Islands and travel to the North Woods of New Hampshire. Other items of interest include a roundup of new fishing gear and a killer recipe for grilled bluefish, as well as a look at some time-proven lures for fishing the salt.
The perch that launched a passion.
You see, we tried to include something for everyone, because sometimes the bug only applies to certain species or places. And if we missed the mark, send us an email and we’ll try to honor your request in the next issue. You may also find what you need on our website, newenglandfishing.com, which is loaded with fishing-related news, gear, videos, how-to articles and past episodes of New England Fishing TV, which airs on NESN. As you can see, we’re all about the bug.
Rachel Clayton DESIGNER
Kendra Sousa Kamie Richard ............................................ TV/VIDEO SENIOR WRITER/PRODUCER/HOST
Parker Kelley TV/VIDEO SENIOR EDITOR/VIDEOGRAPHER
Jimmy Baggott VIDEOGRAPHER/EDITOR
Barry Kneller ............................................ CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Tom Schlichter, Larry Backman, Tom Migdalski, Chris Nashville CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Dave Skok, Barry & Cathy Beck, Matt Rissell, Mike Laptew, Eric Kulin, Tom Migdalski, Tom Schlichter Published by
Lighthouse Media Solutions www.lhmediasolutions.com Single copy price $7.95/$8.95 Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher disclaims all responsibility for omissions, errors, and unsolicited materials. Printed in the USA.
Tom Richardson Editor & Host
24 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Russell A. Piersons firstname.lastname@example.org ............................................
CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER (DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT)
David F. Jensen email@example.com PRESIDENT (VIDEO-TV)
Gene Allen firstname.lastname@example.org VICE PRESIDENT SALES & MARKETING
Steve Wyman email@example.com VICE PRESIDENT GLOBAL ACCTS/CLIENT BRANDING
Mike Alleva firstname.lastname@example.org VICE PRESIDENT ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
Mark Skala email@example.com ............................................
Anne Bousquet firstname.lastname@example.org Jane Cournan email@example.com David Honeywell firstname.lastname@example.org Erin Soderstrom email@example.com Janice Rogers firstname.lastname@example.org Suzanne Ryan email@example.com ............................................ DIRECTOR ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
Oceanna O’Donnell ACCOUNT MANAGERS
Catheren Andrade Sharon Bartholomew Ailish Belair Michelle Overby SALES AD COORDINATOR (PUBLISHING, TV, WEB)
Hillary Portell firstname.lastname@example.org ............................................
SENIOR WEB DEVELOPER
David Fontes email@example.com ............................................ SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER
DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER
Connie Walsh firstname.lastname@example.org ASSISTANT CONTROLLER
Angela McPherson email@example.com ASSISTANT TO CEO & OFFICE MANAGER
Laura Scheuer firstname.lastname@example.org
Mondays at 6:30 p.m. on NESN
Sundays at 11:30 a.m. on CBS Boston Cape Cod Office: 508.534.9291 396 Main Street, Suite 15 Hyannis, MA 02601 Boston Office: 508.534.9291 7 Tide Street, Boston, MA 02210 Rhode Island Office: 401.396.9888 P.O. Box 568, Portsmouth, RI 02871
ON THE COVER:
Mahi Mahi Photo by Matt Rissell
26 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
© 2017 Garmin Ltd. or its subsidiaries
THIS SEEMS TO BE THE PLACE WHERE ALL THE FISH HANG OUT. I THINK I’LL DROP IN.
BLUECHART® G2 + LAKEVUU¨ HD CHIRP SONAR + CLEARVUU¨ + SIDEVU¨
THE LATEST AND GREATEST FISHING TACKLE AND GEAR FOR NEW ENGLAND WATERS.
1. GOLDEN OLDIE Seasoned anglers will no doubt recall this famous freshwater lure, which has found its way into countless tackle boxes over the decades. Now the Al’s Goldfish brand has been revived, and the company has introduced new versions aimed at marine applications. The Al’s Goldfish Saltwater Series features the familiar spoon body that delivers a wobbling, flashing action, as well as a hard-enamel and nickel finish that stands up to rocks and toothy fish. Length is 2 ¾”, weight is 1 ¼ oz. Hooks are VMC singles and trebles adorned with white feathers and red “teasers.” Colors include neonblue, bunker, black pearl and chartreuse pearl.
2. MIRROR MOVES Costa’s new polarized Sunrise Silver Mirror lens is designed for sight-casting and fishing in lowlight situations. Allowing 30% light transmission versus the typical 10% to12%, the lens features Costa’s proprietary 580 technology, offering 100% protection from harmful UV light. Available in scratch-resistant polycarbonate.
$189 (386) 274-4000 COSTADELMAR.COM
3. MIGHTY MOTORS
Minn Kota’s redesigned Terrova and Riptide Terrova electric-steer trolling motors now offer increased functionality and performance. New features include an easy-stow mechanism on the Terrova, reinvented Spot-Lock GPS “anchor” with activation via the foot pedal, redesigned stow/deploy lever for easier hand or foot use, a quieter steering motor and Bluetooth wireless communication. The Bluetooth feature enables compatibility with the new i-Pilot and i-Pilot Link systems featuring redesigned remotes and reinvented Spot-Lock, the most accurate electronic GPS anchor ever invented. The Terrova and Riptide Terrova are available in 12-, 24-, and 36-volt models, with 55-, 80-, and 112-pound thrust, and 45”, 48”, 54”, 60”, and 72” shafts.
TERROVA: $950 - $2,350 RIPTIDE TERROVA: $1,350 - $2,200 (800) 227-6433; MINNKOTAMOTORS.COM
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 31
NEW GEAR 4. ACTION PACKED Daddy Mac’s new Wahoonbox Series ViperSnipers were developed with the help of mate Marty “Wahoonbox” Hiatt of Runoff Sportfishing in Morehead City. The patentprotected swimbaits can be used as dredge baits, teasers or hook baits (with planer rods) for a variety of offshore game fish. Weighing 5.1 oz. and measuring 9” long, the ViperSnipers feature double reenforced Kevlar joints, through-head leader rigging hole, internal rattle and a single hook hanger. Effective trolling speeds range from 2 to 10 knots.
5. TRANX A LOT
6. FLEET OF FOOT Old Town’s new Predator PDL is a pedal-drive kayak offering outstanding hands-free fishing capability and maneuverability. Three years in development, the pedal-drive system offers forward and reverse operation and a tight turn radius, while its 10.3:1 gear ratio lets you reach speeds of up to 5 1/2 mph. The removable drive module also makes the 13’ Predator PDL easy to transport, operate and stow. A proprietary weedless prop design creates the perfect combination of efficiency, speed and torque, and the simple rudder-control lever on the hull side lets you make quick, precise turns. A unique pivot system lets you raise or lower the drive in seconds for beaching the kayak or avoiding underwater obstacles.
Shimano’s 300 and 400 Tranx reels are both offered in four models. The righthand retrieve 300 and 400 and the lefthand retrieve 301 and 401 all feature powerful 5.8:1 gear ratios, while the righthand retrieve 300HG and 400HG and the lefthand retrieve 301HG and 401HG feature fast 7.6:1 gear ratios. All Tranx reels feature Shimano’s HAGANE body, which reduces frame distortion under severe load, as well as X-Ship bearingsupported pinion gears and High Efficiency Gearing. The last two technologies work together to provide cranking power and a smooth, effortless retrieve. X-Ship also provides resistance-free free-spool by eliminating friction between the pinion gear and spool shaft, enabling longer casts. To increase durability, the Tranx reels feature CoreProtect technology, which provides water resistance without adding weight. The Tranx 300 will hold up to 190 yards of 50-pound braid, while the 400 will hold 170 yards of 65-pound braid.
$280-$300 (877) 577-0600 FISH.SHIMANO.COM
The kayak itself is made of tough, rotomolded polyethylene and offers 16” of draft (drive down) for navigating skinny waters. Key features include a padded, adjustable, removable seat; convenient mounting plates, and a large bow storage compartment with watertight cover.
$2,800 (800) 343-1555 OLDTOWNCANOE.COM
32 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
7. FULL NELSON The snap-button Nelson fishing shirt from outdoor apparel company FlyLow is made from a blend of nylon and Spandex that offers sweat-wicking breathability, mobility and light weight. It’s also quick-drying and has a UPF rating of 50+. Available in various shades of plaid.
34 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
8. VERSATILE PERFORMER The 7’ Hanta Hybrid 70S rod is rapidly becoming a favorite among striper anglers in New England, thanks to a versatile action that makes it ideal for both casting and jigging. The unique combination of carbon materials used in the 70S results in a light but very powerful rod. It’s built with a proprietary blend of different weights of Toray carbon from Japan and finished with X Wrap technology. Top-quality guides and reel seats round out the features. Available in a medium action, the rod is rated for 10- to 40-pound line.
9. HIGH POWER
Small, light, strong and powerful, Maxel Hybrid star-drag reels are ideal for jigging, casting, bait fishing and light trolling duties. The new Hybrid 25 features a 30% wider spool for more line capacity, while its slightly wider frame improves casting control. Both the Hybrid 20 and 25 models boast a smooth, reliable carbon drag system that delivers up to 28 pounds of stopping power. Gears are heat-treated, high-precision stainless steel, while seven shielded, stainless steel ball bearings assure smooth performance.
The fast 5:1 gear ratio allows for high-speed retrieves—ideal for retrieving plugs and jigging. Other key features include instant anti-reverse, machined-aluminum frame and cold-forged aluminum spool. The Hybrid 20 will hold 330 yards of 40-pound braid, while the new Hybrid 25 will hold 400 yards of 30-pound braid. Available in left- and right-hand retrieve.
MAXEL HYBRID 20: $280 MAXEL HYBRID 25: $320 MAXELFISHING.COM
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 35
10. 11. SPIN MACHINE
10. TALKING POINTS Garmin’s VHF 110 and VHF 210 AIS are powerful marine radios featuring an updated industrial design and sleek aesthetics. They also compliment the latest GPSMAP chart plotters and multifunction displays, and offer full integration with Garmin systems via NMEA 2000.
The Penn Torque II is designed for heavy-duty fishing from either boat or shore. All eight models in the series feature Penn’s IPX6 Sealed System, which keeps water out of the gearbox and Dura Drag system. Other features include a full metal body, sideplate and rotor, as well as CNC gear technology, a 9+1 stainless steel bearing system, and an instant anti-reverse bearing with silent backup ratchet.
The VHF 110 offers 25 watts of transmit power and Class D Digital Selective Calling compatibility via NMEA 2000. Easy to operate, the VHF 110 features three soft keys that let you intuitively select information, thereby eliminating screen clutter. The 110 also features NOAA weather alerts and Position Tracking, letting you keep tabs on up to three other boats. The VHF 210 AIS combines the same features as the 110 with built-in AIS. With 25 watts of transmit power, the 210 AIS also comes standard with a two-way hailer that can be connected to a horn or external speaker on the deck or tower. Like the 110, the 210 AIS provides standard DSC functionality, including distress calling and direct calling with user-programmed Maritime Mobile Service Identity.
VHF 110: $280 VHF 210 AIS: $600 GARMIN.COM
12. GET A GRIP
DEEP Ocean Apparel’s performance fishing and leadering glove is comfortable, rugged and compatible with all touch screens. Other key features include dexterous fingers that let you fully close and open your hand, a Spandex top that stretches for a snug fit, a Velcro wrist strap and a non-slip palm for a secure grip.
$35 (401) 753 7792 SHOPDEEP.COM 36 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 37
13. CATCH THE WAVE Tsunami Shield spinning reels feature up to 13 internal seals in key locations to protect critical components from saltwater intrusion. Fish-stopping resistance is provided by the CF3 carbon-fiber drag system, while five sealed, stainless-steel bearings offer smooth, reliable operation. The reels also feature a hybrid anodized, machined-aluminum body that offers precision and durability. The heavy-duty, rotor-brake-controlled bail system and machined-aluminum spool provide excellent control of both mono and braided lines.
3000/4000: $100 5000/6000: $110 BIMINIBAYOUTFITTERS.COM
14. POWER TRIP
Yamaha’s next-generation F90 four-stroke outboard is lighter, quieter and quicker than its predecessor, and leads its class in torque and acceleration. The new F90 employs a single overhead camshaft to drive four valves per cylinder, thereby saving weight while increasing volumetric efficiency and creating more power. Weighing in at 353 pounds, the F90 is 13 pounds lighter than its predecessor and displaces 1.8 liters versus 1.6 liters. The F90 is compatible with Yamaha’s Variable Trolling RPM switch for slow trolling, and can be rigged for use with Yamaha’s multifunction tiller handle. Charging has also been increased, with the F90 offering 35 amps of power over the previous 25 amps.
$10,405 (20” SHAFT) (770) 420-5829 YAMAHAOUTBOARDS.COM
38 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
© 2017 Garmin Ltd. or its subsidiaries
DOME OR ARRAY AUTO DETECTS & HIGHLIGHTS MOVING TARGETS
SUN QUIT BEFORE WE DID. MOON TOOK THE NIGHT OFF, TOO. BUT I STILL SEE WHAT’S OUT THERE.
GMR FANTOM™ RADARS
Find Your Nearest Yamaha New England Dealer Here — We’ve Got You Covered NEW HAMPSHIRE INDEPENDENT MARINE Moultonboro independentmarine.com (603) 476-5580 ROCKINGHAM BOAT REPAIR AND SALES Hampstead rockinghamboat.com (603) 329-5625 CONNECTICUT ALL SEASONS MARINE WORKS Westport allseasonsmarineworks.com (203) 838-9038 BOATS INCORPORATED Niantic boatsinc.com (860) 739-6251 ISLAND COVE MARINA, LLC Old Saybrook islandcovemarina.net 860-388-0029 J. CATALANO & SONS INC. Greenwich catalanoandsons.com (203) 531-9207 PINE ISLAND MARINE Groton pineislandmarina.com (860) 445-9729 TWIN HULL BOATS, LLC Bridgeport twinhullboats.com (203) 330-8964 RHODE ISLAND BREWER ST. BOAT WORKS Newport bsbw.com (401) 847-0321
OCEAN HOUSE MARINA Charlestown oceanhousemarina.com (401) 364-6040 SILVER SPRING MARINE Wakefield silverspringmarine.com (401)-783-0783 MASSACHUSETTS 3A MARINE Hingham 3amarine.com 781-749-3250 A & J BOAT CORPORATION Marion ajboatcorp.com (508) 748-2800 ALLEN HARBOR MARINE SERVICE Harwich Port allenharbor.com 508-430-6008 ATLANTIC BOATS INC. E. Wareham atlanticboats.net (508) 295-8005 BAERT MARINE Middleton baertmarine.com (800) 522-7712 BASS RIVER MARINA West Dennis bassrivermarina.com (508) 394-8341 BOSUN’S MARINE Mashpee Peabody bosuns.com (800) 522-7712
BURR BROTHERS BOATS, INC. Marion burrbros.com (508) 748-0541 CAPE ANN MARINE SALES & SERVICE Gloucester capeannmarine.com (978) 283-0806 CATAUMET BOATS INC. Cataumet cataumetboats.com (508) 563-7102 MACDOUGALLS’ CAPE COD MARINE SERVICE Falmouth macdougalls.com (508) 548-3146 MILLWAY MARINA Barnstable millwaymarina.com (508) 362-4904 NAUSET MARINE Orleans nausetmarine.com (508) 255-0777 OYSTER HARBORS MARINE Osterville oysterharborsmarine.com (508) 428-2017 OUTERMOST HARBOR MARINE Chatham outermostharbor.com (508) 945-2030 RIVERFRONT MARINE SPORTS, INC Salisbury riverfrontmarine.com (978) 462-7755
SCITUATE BOAT WORKS Scituate scituateboatworks.com (781) 545-0487 TERN HARBOR MARINA Weymouth ternharbormarina.com (781) 337-1964 MAINE BOWDEN MARINE SERVICE Bar Harbor bowdenmarine.com (207) 288-5247 HAMLIN’S MARINE Waterville hamlinsmarine.com (207) 872-5660 HODGDON YACHT SERVICES Southport hodgdonyachtservices.com (207) 633-2970 MOOSABEC MARINE Jonesport (207) 497-2196 NAVTRONICS York navtronics.com (207) 363-1150 YARMOUTH BOAT YARD/MOOSE LANDING MARINA Naples mooselandingmarina.com (207) 693-6264
Make sure you have these proven coastal fish-catchers in your tackle bag! BY TOM RICHARDSON
PHOTOS SHARON BARTHOLOMEW f you were limited to 12 saltwater lures,
which ones would you choose? Over the
years, the following selection has remained
consistently effective for taking New Englandâ€™s
major inshore game fish, from stripers to albies.
They imitate a wide range of forage species and allow you to cover the entire water column. In
short, you canâ€™t go wrong with this winning team!
SLUG-GO In the crowded world of soft-plastic lures, the Lunker City Slug-Go remains a top contender. This versatile fish-fooler will take almost any species of Northeast game fish, including tuna, stripers, sea bass and scup. The Slug-Go comes in a variety of sizes, and will match virtually any type of baitfish, including large herring, mackerel and sand eels. Pearl, bubble gum, olive and blue/white are tops for daytime fishing, while black is the go-to choice at night. The lure is effective when rigged on a leadhead jig to get it deep or increase casting distance. Hopping it over the bottom in a rip is a good way to score with fluke and stripers, or you can cast and retrieve a lightly weighted “Slug” around rock piles, pilings and other structure. Another favorite way to fish them is “Texas-style” on a worm hook. This weedless method is great for tempting stripers, bonito and false albacore, and is ideal when floating weeds pose a problem. When targeting stripers, use a six- to nine-inch Slug-Go, twitched slowly on or just below the surface with long pauses. For albies, go with a four-inch model in pearl, olive or bubble gum, and retrieve it slowly through the school of breaking fish.
44 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
DIAMOND JIG Lures don’t get much more basic than this chrome-plated chunk of metal. One key to its effectiveness is that it imitates a variety of baitfish, from squid to herring. The lure’s flat, reflective sides catch the light and draw the attention of predators, which are also attracted to its erratic action. You can find diamond jigs in different sizes and adorned with everything from bucktail to rubber tubes. While the latter work well in certain situations, such as when sand eels are prevalent, a plain jig rigged with a single hook usually does the job nicely. Half- to one-ounce diamonds work well in situations where peanut bunker, silversides, juvenile herring and butterfish are on the menu and the depth is less than 20 feet. Medium jigs in the two- to four-ounce range are great for targeting fluke and sea bass in moderate depths (20 to 40 feet) and current, while jigs of six to eight ounces do a good job of imitating larger squid, bunker and herring in deeper water and heavy current.
CORDELL PENCIL POPPER The venerable Cordell Pencil Popper may not be the most fancy or expensive pencil popper on the market, but it remains one of the best. Sporting a hard-plastic body and two treble hooks, it will tempt everything from striped bass to tuna with its bobbling, wobbling surface action, while the internal rattles add fish-attracting sound and increase casting distance. This lure really excels in the spring, when squid invade the inshore waters of New England. Many pros remove the lure’s belly hook to reduce foulhooking, and also crush the hook barbs to make releasing fish easier. Another modification is to replace the rear treble with a single Siwash hook. And to increase casting distance, some anglers drill a hole in the belly of the popper and add BBs.
Fishing a diamond jig is pretty straightforward. You can cast and retrieve them parallel to the surface when fish are feeding in the upper part of the water column, or you can drop them straight to the bottom and jig them vertically. For fluke, sea bass and other bottom fish, simply hop the jig over the bottom using short, sharp six-inch lifts of the rod tip. Make sure the lure taps bottom on every drop by letting out more line as you drift along. When jigging for striped bass in a deep rip, free-spool the jig to the bottom, engage the reel and take five to ten quick cranks of the reel, then free-spool the jig back to the bottom again. Be sure to keep your thumb on the spool as the jig flutters downward, as many fish will hit it on the drop. If you feel a tap or a hesitation of the jig’s descent, clamp your thumb down on the reel spool and lift sharply.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 45
The venerable parachute jig has probably produced more stripers than any other type of lure fished on wire line. At first glance, it doesn’t look like any kind of baitfish a predator would be interested in, until you consider how it performs underwater. Unlike most other lures fished on wire, the parachute should be jigged for best results. This makes the “reverse” skirt flare and pulse as the jig darts through the water, imitating a squid. The best way to achieve this action is to hold the rod upside-down, with the tip pointed at the water, and use a short, sharp, sweeping motion, like using a broom. White, pink and chartreuse parachutes are particularly effective in areas where menhaden, herring, shad and squid are present, while darker patterns (black, red and purple) work well over rocky reefs inhabited by scup, sea bass, cunner and the like. Another great thing about parachutes is that they can be trolled very deep—up to 40 feet— without additional weight. A final note on fishing parachutes: Always add a long strip of pork rind to the hook, and make sure the lure is fished just above bottom. If you don’t tap bottom every so often, you aren’t fishing deep enough.
If you live for the thrill of watching fish fish attack a topwater plug, you’ll want want to have a Jumpin’ Minnow in your tackle box. This oldie-but-goodie is a killer on striped bass and bluefish in the Northeast. When fished correctly, it exhibits a lazy, side-to-side swimming action that stripers find irresistible.
REBEL JUMPIN’ MINNOW
The 3 ½-inch lure comes in many colors and patterns, but the pearl version is tops, especially early in the season when squid are common. The Jumpin’ Minnow is best fished on relatively light gear— 8- to 12-pound test is ideal. Use a wind-on leader system and a 20- to- 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
46 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Bucktail jigs have been around since the first caveman invented the artificial lure, but the SPRO version is a cut above the rest. This wellmade jig features sharp, strong saltwater hooks and a chip-resistant finish that withstands abuse from rocks and teeth. The realistic head shape, patterns and prismatic eyes also set it apart from traditional bucktails. The SPRO bucktail is deadly on fluke and sea bass, but it helps to add a small strip of squid or scented soft-plastic bait to the hook. Hop the lure over the bottom while drifting, making it imitate a squid or baitfish.
SPRO BUCKTAIL JIG
Small SPRO jigs work great in shallow water and light current, while three- and four-ounce versions can handle deep water and strong currents. Carry them in different sizes.
If you fish for stripers anywhere in the Northeast, you’ll want to have a Santini Tube Lure in your arsenal. This long, plastic lure probably imitates an eel (although the stripers aren’t sayin’), and is best trolled on leadcore or wire line. It was designed by Everett, Massachusetts, tackle shop owner Pete Santini, and is an outstanding lure for taking bass during daylight hours, when the fish are holding deep. Here are several keys to fishing the Santini tube effectively: •
Place a live seaworm on the hook. The scent of the worm apparently convinces the bass to strike after first being drawn to the swimming action of the lure.
Troll the lure as slowly as possible; between one and three knots is ideal.
Troll the lure through areas with good current flow and a boulder-strewn bottom in 10 to 15 feet of water.
Trolling outfits usually consist of a six-foot boat rod and a conventional reel filled with either wire or leadcore line. The latter is easier to use and works well in depths of 15 feet or less. Use a six-foot fluorocarbon leader of 50-pound-test to connect the leadcore to the lure. The most popular tube color is dark red, although fluorescent green, pink, and black all take fish on certain days. Try the brighter colors in low-light situations and darker colors on sunny days.
SANTINI TUBE LURE NEWENGLANDFISHING.COM
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 47
BOMBER LONG-A When it comes to early-season lures, this one’s a keeper! The Bomber 16A Heavy Duty (HD) Long A, in the “Mother of Pearl” pattern, does a great job of imitating herring and squid, both of which invade the shallow coastal waters of New England in May. The lure can be cast or trolled, which is useful for prospecting large areas for schools of bass and bluefish. Also, it swims fairly shallow, which allows it to be fished over structure in ten feet of water or less, where many game fish hang out in the spring. While the lure comes factory-rigged with three trebles, many anglers remove the belly hook to limit foul-hooking.
48 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
STORM WILDEYE SWIM SHAD The Storm Wildeye Swim Shad is another excellent inshore lure. Top colors include pearl, bunker and chartreuse. The lure’s effectiveness is boosted by its realistic profile and swimming action, courtesy of its paddle tail. Plus, the big, prismatic eyes and black spot behind the gills on some models provide an appealing target for many predators. This lure is a go-to choice of many anglers when schools of “fresh” stripers are moving through the bays and sounds in May and early June, feeding on squid and herring. It’s particularly useful when a school of bass suddenly sounds, as it gets down quickly to where the fish and bait are holding, keeping you in the game while others wait for the fish to surface again. It’s a good reason to keep one rod rigged with a shad and another with a topwater plug, shallow swimmer or soft-plastic bait. The Swim Shad can be cast out and retrieved slowly, but also works well when jigged vertically through the water column or just above the bottom. The lure also takes fish in coastal rivers when migrating herring are making their way upstream or dropping back to the ocean after spawning. In this case, retrieve the lure slowly past rocks and pilings, through deep holes and along channel edges for the best results.
YO-ZURI CRYSTAL MINNOW The Crystal Minnow is effective for targeting stripers in shallow to moderate depths. It features prominent prismatic eyes, as well as a tight swimming action and highly reflective sides, and is rigged with strong, sharp saltwater hooks. Perhaps the most versatile size is the 5 ¼-inch, fiveounce version, which matches silversides, mackerel and herring. The floating model will dart and dive to three feet or so then float to the surface, allowing it to be fished in shallow areas where the bass are likely to hold after they first arrive in the bays.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 49
ACME KASTMASTER When small, wide-bodied baitfish are on the menu, it’s hard to top this trusty standby. Small KastMasters are very effective on stripers, blues, false albacore and bonito in the fall, when young-of-the-year herring are dropping out of the coastal rivers. However, larger versions can also be jigged just above the bottom for black sea bass and fluke. Another advantage of the KastMaster is that it can be fished at different levels of the water column depending on where the fish are holding. Sometimes simply letting it free-fall to the bottom can be the key to hooking stubborn fish. Carry it in several sizes to match the size of the prevailing forage.
When it comes to kicking up a surface commotion, you’ll want to have at least one of these classic plugs ready for action. The Creek Chub Striper Strike has been around for many years, but it remains deadly on stripers and bluefish in a variety of situations.
CREEK CHUB STRIPER STRIKE
50 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
The sinking, cup-faced popper is a dream to cast and should be retrieved with short, sharp jerks of the rod tip to make the lure throw water. A slow retrieve with pauses between pops is generally considered the most effective technique for stripers, but don’t be afraid to mix things up. Smaller versions of the Striper Strike are best in calm coves and estuaries, while the larger, heavier lures are terrific in turbulent surf and rips.
CAPE COD LARGEMOUTHS
Often overlooked by anglers seeking saltwater sport, Cape Cod’s many freshwater ponds offer tremendous action with largemouth bass all season long! BY CHRIS NASHVILLE PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM RICHARDSON Many of the Cape’s kettle ponds can be fished in a kayak, canoe or from shore.
52 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
ention “Cape Cod” to an angler, and he is likely to conjure up images of striped bass, bluefish and bluefin tuna. However, the Cape also offers a freshwater option that’s equally exciting, not to mention more dependable and accessible, especially during the steamy summer doldrums or when the wind howls on the ocean. The Cape is peppered with over 360 kettle ponds, many of which teem with well-fed largemouth bass, plus a supporting cast of trout, pickerel, perch, sunfish and other species. Many of the ponds can be waded around in their entirety, while others require a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or skiff to access the best spots. Free maps of the ponds showing their depth contours and access points are available on the state’s MassWildlife website.
GEAR UP REEL Shimano Stradic 2500
ROD 7’ medium-fast Shimano Convergence spinning
LINE 8 lb. test PowerPro braid LEADER 10 lb. test Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 53
CAPE COD LARGEMOUTHS Toothy chain pickerel spice up the pond action, but may cost you a few lures.
The shallow pond edges fish best in late May and early June.
FORMATIVE YEARS Kettle ponds were formed some 10,000 years ago by large chunks of ice left behind by the retreating Laurentide Ice Sheet. The remnant ice chunks were partially covered by sand and rocks carried in the glacial meltwater that helped create the Cape and Islands. As the ice melted, it left water-filled depressions in the soil. While the Cape’s kettle ponds can be up to 80 feet deep, most average 30 to 50 feet, and feature steeply sloping bottoms. Fish-holding structure in the ponds mostly centers on aquatic or shoreside vegetation, although some ponds feature rocky bottoms that provide terrific structure for bait and predatory fish. And speaking of bait, a handful of these ponds serve as spawning and nursery grounds for migratory river herring, which provide a rich food source for some unusually large largemouths.
Gary Yamamoto Senko Worm Daddy Mac Viper Bluegill Booyah spinnerbaits Booyah Pad Crasher & Poppin’ Frog Yo-Zuri 3DS Minnow Baker Lures jerkbaits Colorado spoons Worden’s Rooster Tail spinners Arbogast Jitterbug
54 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
QUICK TIP: In midsummer, topwater plugs fished at night can produce spectacular action.
PRE-SPAWN STRATEGY The kettle pond bass fishery comprises several distinct phases during the season, each requiring its own set of techniques. The spring pre-spawn bite begins after the first good stretch of warm weather, usually around the end of April or early May. During this period, the bass are constantly on the move, searching for good spots to make their beds in the shallows. Therefore, they will mostly be found near shore in one to six feet of water. Pre-spawn fishing can be difficult at times, since the fish seem to be more interested in breeding than feeding. Also, the fish move around from day to day, so you often need to put in some time to find them. One day you may see them cruising along the shoreline, while the next they may be out of sight in slightly deeper, darker water. Casting six-inch Gary Yamamoto Senko soft-plastic worms, shallow crankbaits and even small jerkbaits is a great way to cover a lot of water during the pre-spawn period. A moderate to slow retrieve with a “wacky-rigged” six-inch Senko on a 1/0 Gamakatsu wide-gap hook can be deadly. By the way, this is a great time to target the trout-stocked ponds; if the bass bite is slow, the trout can pick up the slack. NEWENGLANDFISHING.COM
SPAWN TIME The next phase is the spawn, which tends to happen a few weeks after that first warm-weather window. You’ll know when the fish are spawning due to the number of beds—round, sandy depressions—along the edges of the pond. You’ll often see the number of beds increase two-fold in the course of a day during the height of the spawn. This is the perfect time to cast lures over or along the edges of the bass beds with unweighted soft-plastics and jerkbaits. Salamander imitations work especially well during the spawn. The bass will aggressively protect their beds as long as their eggs are present, and the strikes can be violent. You’ll know the spawn is over when the abandoned beds start to collect leaves and other debris. This post-spawn period, which usually begins around mid-June, can be a challenging time. The fish aren’t as hungry from their reproductive duties and defense of their nests as you would think. However, searching slightly deeper water with jigs and deep-diving crankbaits can be productive.
The author displays a fine kettle pond bass that hit a wackyrigged Senko worm.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 55
CAPE COD LARGEMOUTHS
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS Once midsummer arrives, those who venture forth after dark can reap big rewards. Jitterbugs and other topwater lures fished at dusk and through the night can elicit heart-stopping strikes from large, unseen fish as they patrol the shallows, drop-offs and the edges of lily pads, looking for a meal. Anther shift occurs as summer gives way to autumn. Fall fishing can be hit or miss, depending on the weather. In mild years, bass fishing can remain productive into November, while other years it turns too cold, too quick. At this time, jerkbaits and other slow-moving lures can be the key to success. In ponds with herring runs, expect the bass to lurk near the creek mouths, waiting to ambush the departing youngof-the-year baitfish.
A deep-diving crankbait fooled this hefty fall fish.
While kettle pond bass will never possess the mystique of a surf-caught striper or 500-pound tuna, at least theyâ€™re guaranteed to show up. The next time your ocean plans are foiled by the weather, or if youâ€™re simply looking for a more laidback kind of fishing, give the Cape Cod ponds a try. Like some of the herring that end up in the bellies of big kettle pond largemouths, you may never return to the sea.
The following kettle ponds hold good numbers of bass and offer excellent public access for waders and paddlers alike. 1. Brewster: Nickerson State Park (Big Cliff, Little Cliff, Flax, Higgins Ponds) 2. Dennis: Scargo Lake 3. Sandwich: Spectacle Pond, Peters Pond 4. Yarmouth: Long Pond
56 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Start your season here.
S. Dartmouth, MA | Newport, RI
FISHING THE RACE
Expert anglers reveal their top strategies for catching striped bass and bluefish in one of the most productive—and challenging—hot spots in the Northeast. TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM SCHLICHTER
The author displays a striper caught on a bucktail rig fished in the Race. Note the distinct rip line in the background.
58 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
hen it comes to fish-holding features, rips rank among the best. And thanks to its swift tidal currents, the Northeast has plenty of themâ€”although none compare to the three-mile stretch of hyper-turbulent water between New Yorkâ€™s Fishers Island and Little Gull Island known as the Race. Arguably the mother of all rips, the Race is infamous for its ferocious currents and tall, standing waves created by a bottleneck of landmasses and a steeply sloping bottom that rises abruptly from over 300 feet to less than 30 feet in some spots. The combination of current and topography attracts predators, which hold near the craggy bottom, waiting for food to be swept past.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 59
FISHING THE RACE
QUICK TIP: Using the lightest jig or sinker possible to tend bottom will let you detect more strikes.
MAGIC SPOT Stripers and bluefish are the main targets of Race fishermen, with the former arriving in late May, the latter a few weeks later. Cow and schoolie stripers are at their peak concentrations in June and linger through October, feasting on shoals of herring, squid, silversides, sand eels, menhaden and butterfish. Finding the Race is easy. A prominent “rip line” forms at the crest of the reef, with a section of smooth water on the upcurrent side. At slack water, however, the rip line disappears for about an hour, and on windless days conditions can be remarkably tranquil. But don’t be fooled; the Race has many faces and moods—some extremely sinister. Use caution, especially in a wind-opposing-tide scenario.
Dawn often sparks the best action with stripers and bluefish.
Always bring a variety of bucktails and pork rind in different colors.
SQUIDDING & BUCKTAILING The two most popular methods of fishing the deep, turbulent waters in the middle of the Race are jigging big (8- to 12-ounce) diamond jigs and drifting bucktails. With the first approach, run upcurrent of the rip line while watching your depthsounder. When the sloping bottom reaches a depth of between 160 and 190 feet, throw the engine into neutral and free-spool your jig rapidly to the bottom. Once it hits bottom, take ten quick turns on the reel. Free-spool the jig back down and crank it up again. Remember that bluefish and bass often strike a jig as it falls, so if your line stops abruptly or you feel a bump on the drop, engage the reel and lift sharply on the rod to set the hook. Repeat this speed-jigging, or “squidding,” process until you near the rip line then reel in and motor back upcurrent about a quarter-mile and make another drift. If you’re new to the game, simply follow the fleet, marking productive spots when you hook up so you can repeat the drift. Bucktail jigs are fished on a three-way rig, where a heavy bank sinker, tied to a three-way swivel, is used as the primary weight. The jig itself trails behind the sinker on a six-foot leader. To fish bucktails, run upcurrent of the rip line to the same spot you would when diamond jigging. Free-spool the rig to the bottom and immediately take a few turns on the reel to prevent a snag. With the current running at or near peak velocity—the best time to fish—it may be necessary to let out more line as you drift along, even though the water gets shallower as you near the rip line. It’ll take some experimentation to figure out the precise amount of line to let out based on the current and the depth at which the fish are holding. Other than depth adjustments, you don’t need to impart any action to the bucktail during the drift.
60 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
LIGHT TACKLE 3-WAY RIG 3-way swivel
1 ¼ oz. bucktail jig
6’ 80-pound mono leader
12” 30-pound mono
Because of the Race’s strong current and deep water, bucktailing and jigging have traditionally involved heavy, 6 ½-foot boat rods rigged with workhorse reels like the Penn 4/0 Senator, loaded with 40- to 60-pound mono. Sixteen- to 24-ounce sinkers were necessary to keep the thick mono somewhat vertical. However, a new era in light-tackle Race fishing is upon us, and one of its pioneers is Kerry Douton, owner of J&B Tackle and captain of the well-known charter boat DotE-Dee out of Niantic. “The invention of super-braid line has allowed us to lighten up tremendously on tackle and still effectively fish deep water,” says Douton. “Thanks to the thin line, we’re able to fish with weights as light as eight ounces. This allows us to use much lighter rods and smaller reels—and have a lot more fun.” Douton’s three-way rigs consist of a 1 ¼-ounce bucktail jig with an 8/0 hook, which is bigger than the hook normally found on small bucktails. “I use a white Smilin’ Bill leadhead,” explains Douton, “These jigs normally come with a 6/0 hook, but we order them with bigger hooks, which hold better on large bluefish and bass. You can go with a bigger bucktail, but if you go too heavy, you lose its action when the current slows. Remember, it’s the sinker that gets the rig to the bottom, not the jig.” Douton tips his jig hook with a strip of red, yellow or white pork rind, which flutters seductively in the current and simulates a baitfish’s beating tail or a squid’s pulsing tentacles. Other anglers use a strip of felt soaked in a fish-attracting scent.
8 – 12 oz. bank sinker
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 61
FISHING THE RACE RACE RODS & REELS To fish light bucktail rigs, Douton recommends quality, high-speed conventional reels without a levelwind. He maintains that levelwinds restrict the speed of the drop, allowing a belly to form in the line before the rig can reach bottom. He prefers reels made by Penn and Shimano in sizes equivalent to a 2/0 to 3/0. He fills the reels with 30- to 40-pound Dacron backing then “top-shots” them with 150 yards of 30-pound braid. He matches his reels to 6 ½- to 7-foot, medium-heavy freshwater “muskie” rods in the 17- to 40-pound-class and 14- to 30-pound-class range. My personal favorite Race outfit is a Shimano Torium 16 reel paired with a 6 ½-foot Lamiglas Tri-Flex graphite medium-fast-action, 15- to 30-pound-class rod (model BL6630C). This outfit performs well with any amount of weight and can handle the largest fish in the Race. I fill half the reel with 50-pound braided Dacron backing and a top shot of 40-pound-test PowerPro braid.
Caution is needed when fishing the Race at peak tide, especially in a small boat.
BORDER OPTION While the majority of anglers prefer to fish the Race’s deep spots, there’s another option that’s tailor-made for those in small to midsize boats. On the perimeter of the rip is a series of islands and reefs in 5 to 20 feet of water that offer some of the best light-tackle action in southern New England. The prime structure runs from Race Point on Fishers Island to the Sluiceway east of Plum Island. Between these two points are the reef off Fishers Island, Race Rock, Little Gull Island, Great Gull Island and the boulder-studded shallows over to Old Silas Rock. If new to this area, explore it at low tide, on a day that offers bright sun, gentle winds and light current. Wear polarized sunglasses, which are invaluable for spotting the rocks. Mark their location for future reference.
“The ‘perimeter’ waters can be very productive,” confirms Captain Dixon Merkt, a former guide who has long fished the area’s myriad rocks, islands and rips. “And it gets even more exciting as the season progresses!” The shallow-water action starts with bass in May and June, with bluefish moving in by July. Bonito begin to show in mid-August, followed by false albacore. In September and October, the Race holds bass, blues, and albies, plus a few Spanish mackerel. “You can catch fish at midday, especially bluefish and false albacore,” says Merkt. “However, if you want bass, fish a half-hour before sunrise. The single most important consideration is the tide. Either tide—they can both be good. The fish and birds start feeding when the water begins to move.”
SHALLOW-WATER TIPS “Learn to read the water,” continues Merkt. “Look for ‘nervous’ water created by the current flowing over submerged structure. Start fishing upcurrent and drift through the nervous water. If you see feeding birds, get upcurrent of them and set up a drift that will take you through them.
Bluefish and other predators will chase topwaters fished in the “perimeter”waters.
62 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
“Also, it’s best to cut the engine, unless you’re drifting into an area where it should be left running for safety reasons. Engine noise can put the fish down. That’s particularly true with bass. And always have an anchor handy; if your engine quits it will keep you from drifting into the rocks or out to sea.” NEWENGLANDFISHING.COM
FISHING THE RACE
The Deadly Dick will take all species that feed on the shallow edges of the Race.
Aside from the number and variety of species, one of the main draws of this area is the eagerness of the fish to strike a surface lure. The fish are seldom fussy, and almost any medium-size topwater or swimming plug will draw strikes.
Live eels can also be effective when fished around shallow structure. While eels are great for taking trophy fish at night, they can be effective on larger school bass at dawn and dusk. And don’t hesitate to sling eels at midday. Cast them around the rocks in shallow water or drop them into the deep eddies on the downcurrent side of prominent structure, such as Race Rock.
In addition to plugs, Merkt favors one all-purpose metal lure for lighttackle fishing. “The Deadly Dick,” he says, “is effective on all species. It works very well on false albacore and bonito in early autumn. Three-quarters of an ounce is about as heavy as I go.”
Diamond jigs are one of the simplest yet most effective lures ever created, and they excel in the Race. Not only do diamonds imitate a variety of prey items, from herring to squid, their streamlined shape lets them reach bottom quickly in fast current. That said, always use the lightest jig possible when vertical jigging. If your jigs come factory-rigged with treble hooks, replace them with heavy-gauge 8/0 Siwash singles. Treble hooks make catch-and-release difficult, are a greater safety risk in rough seas and increase the chance of snagging bottom. Also, avoid rubber or vinyl tubing on the jig’s hook. Although it looks enticing, the water resistance created by the added material is enough to make reaching and tending bottom difficult. Lastly, because of the speed a diamond jig is fished, wire leaders are unnecessary, even when bluefish are present. Instead, use 40 inches of 80- to 100-pound mono for abrasion resistance, and use a loop knot to attach the jig.
64 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
An appropriate spinning outfit for the lighttackle approach starts with a 7- to 7 ½-foot, medium-action rod, which is light enough to cast small floating lures and soft-plastics, yet has the backbone to handle most of the fish you’ll encounter. Match the rod with a medium spinning reel filled with 15- to 20-pound-test mono or 30-pound-test braid. The leader can be 18 to 24 inches of 30- to 50-pound-test mono or fluorocarbon. Whether it’s big bass and blues in the extreme depths and currents of the Race or a variety of light-tackle targets along the shallower margins, the rips and rocks of eastern Long Island Sound stand ready to please all types of anglers. Pick your days and conditions carefully, and you’ll soon see why this stretch of water has long been considered one of the fishiest spots in the Northeast.
Baert Marine 7 River Street Middleton, MA Tel: 978-774-7712 www.baertmarine.com
Bayside Marine 441 Washington Street Duxbury, MA Tel: 781-934-2051 www.baysidemarinecorp.com
Boats Incorporated 133 Main Street Niantic, CT Tel: 860-739-6251 www.boatsinc.com
Catalano & Sons 34 South Water Street Greenwich, CT Tel: 203-531-9207 www.catalanoandsons.com
The sportfishing edge.
The new Canyon 306
Cataumet Boats 1280 Route 28A Cataumet, MA Tel: 508-563-7102 www.cataumetboats.com
Cataumet Boats 12 Barton Avenue Barrington, RI Tel: 401-245-5222 www.cataumetboats.com
Outermost Harbor Marine 83 Seagull Road Chatham, MA Tel: 508-945-4366 www.outermostharbor.com
Port Harbor Marine 1 Spring Point Drive South Portland, ME Tel: 207-767-3254 www.portharbormarine.com
BUZZARDS BAY STRIPERS
Shallow stones yield heart-pounding, light-tackle action with spring stripers along the southern New England coast. TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM RICHARDSON
y home waters of Buzzards Bay offer no shortage of rocks, particularly the hard, propeller-bending kind. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because the same ledges and boulders that make boating so interesting in the bay also provide prime structure for striped bass, especially in late spring.
GEAR UP REEL Shimano Spheros 2000
The fun starts around mid-May, when the first migratory schools of bass push into the shallow bays and coves, feasting on squid, silversides and herring. Once they find a food source, the fish tend to hang around for a few weeks, moving onto the warmer flats and ganging up around structure in 3 to 15 feet of water. And that’s when things get exciting.
ROD 7 ½’ St. Croix Avid 15-30 lb. class
Of special interest are isolated patches of boulders or ledges surrounded by 10 to 12 feet of water at high tide. Many of these rock piles, or reefs, are completely submerged at high water, or may have one or two especially large boulders poking above the surface. In any
LINE 30 lb. test PowerPro braid or 10-12 lb. test mono
case, caution is needed when fishing them.
68 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Jonathan Craig plucked this striper from the rocks off Bird Island in Marion.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 69
BUZZARDS BAY STRIPERS
QUICK TIP: If live bait is available, drift one behind the boat as you cast lures to the rocks.
Also on my target list are boulder-strewn stretches of shoreline, submerged jetties or groins, and rocky points, especially those near river, pond and creek mouths. The latter can attract large bass if associated with a herring run. While dawn is always a great time to find stripers around the stones, I’ve found that tide is most important in the early season. I prefer a rising tide in most cases, and strive to be on the water at least three hours before high tide. That gives me plenty of time to “work” a series of prime spots before slack high.
Max Richardson took this schoolie on a Zoom Fluke.
Soft-Plastic Hogy Skinny Series
70 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
EBB TIDE STRATEGY
Small hard baits like the Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow often draw explosive strikes around the rocks.
Slack tide can bring an abrupt halt to the action. The lack of current gives the bait a chance to scatter and the bass shut down accordingly. There are exceptions, of course, places that continue to hold fish as the tide ebbs. For example, I find that rocky points washed by the outgoing current can be productive, especially on the first two hours of the dropping. And rocks near the mouths of tidal ponds and estuaries can be productive when large amounts of baitfish are being flushed out. During the lower half of the tide, try working any deep “holes” in the vicinity of creeks, pond inlets, rock piles and ledges.
DRIFT & MOVE To fish the rocks efficiently, set up a drift that takes you past either side of the hazard, keeping as far away as your casting range will allow. Drift past one side of the structure, then the other. If you don’t get a follow or a strike on your first pass, move a bit closer and try again. However, in my experience it’s usually a waste of time to make more than two drifts past the same spot; if the fish are present and in a feeding mood, you’ll usually know it by your first or second cast.
PHOTO MATT HAWKINS
Fishing around such “bony” structure is best done from a small, maneuverable, shallow-draft boat, for obvious reasons. Boats with low freeboards offer another advantage, as they can be equipped with a trolling motor, which makes avoiding the rocks infinitely easier—and less stressful.
TOP PLUGS No matter what the tide, my arsenal of lures never changes. Favorite hard-bodied plugs include the bonecolored Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow, Zara Spook, Cordell Pencil Popper and the Rapala Skitter Pop. All four make a commotion on the surface and contain rattles that attract fish. Retrieve them at a moderate speed to make them slash, wobble and pop on the surface. In the soft-plastic department, I love the seven-inch SlugGo and Fin-S-Fish, in pearl or Arkansas shiner. I rig mine Texas-style on a worm hook. This bait is dynamite when twitched slowly on or just below the surface, and can be a day-saver if weeds or grass are a problem.
Cordell Pencil Popper
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 71
PHOTO MIKE LAPTEW
BUZZARDS BAY STRIPERS
Scattered boulders over otherwise sandy bottom serve as bait magnets, attracting both bass and blues.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
ROCK TACKLE All the above lures fish well on light spinning gear. My go-to outfit is a 7 ½-foot, fast-action graphite rod rated for 15- to 30-pound-test line. I fill the reel with 30-pound-test braid or 10- to 12-pound-test mono. The leader is a three-foot section of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon attached to a two-foot loop tied in the end of the main line using a Spider hitch or Bimini twist. I use a Bristol knot or slim beauty knot to connect the doubled main line to the leader. This wind-on system allows the leader to pass easily through the rod guides for better casting accuracy and also helps when landing fish. Of course, flies also work well around the rocks, and it’s tough to beat a 2/0 or 3/0 Clouser Minnow, Half-and-Half or Rhody Flat Wing in olive-over-white, all-white or chartreuse-over-white. Large herring and squid patterns are also effective in the early season. Fish all of the aforementioned flies on a nine-weight outfit with an intermediatesink or a sink-tip line and a nine-foot leader ending in a 20-poundtest fluorocarbon tippet.
PHOTO DAVE SKOK
The ends of jetties and rocky points are great places to find stripers.
CATCH THE BREEZE I’ve mentioned that tide is an important factor in early-season rock pile fishing, but wind can also play a role. I’m a firm believer in the famous angler’s saw, “east is least.” Not that I’m superstitious; it’s simply that my experience over the last 30 years of fishing bears this out. Even the slightest whisper of wind from the east seems to shut down the inshore action, perhaps due to barometric pressure. On sunny days, you can often sight-cast to bass around the rocks.
72 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
On the other hand, a rising southwest breeze really seems to rile the fish and put them in a feeding mood. Combine it with a rising tide and you’ve got the recipe for a superb day of fishing the rocks!
A JOY TO DRIVE. A JOY TO SHARE.
MEET THE FIRST-EVER BUICK ENVISION. A luxury SUV designed to turn heads and welcome you in. Experience how its quality craftsmanship, spirited performance and a conversation-friendly cabin make every drive an enjoyable drive. Discover more at buick.com.
VISIT YOUR NEW ENGLAND BUICK DEALER newenglandbuickgmcdealers.com
Â©2017 General Motors. All rights reserved.
DIGITAL & MECHANICAL RIGGING MEET
BIG-BLOCK POWER Yamaha’s award-winning 4.2-liter V6 four strokes set the standard for offshore performance. Not only do they feature class-leading 4.2-liter displacement, but they’re also:
FLEXIBLE — Both the 4.2-liter V6 225 and 250 are available with either mechanical or digital controls, for ease of repower LIGHTER — At 562 pounds (digital) and 551 pounds (mechanical), they’re up to 73 pounds lighter than other four strokes in their class FASTER — Up to 19 percent faster than other 300-hp competitors, planing offshore boats with ease* SMARTER — Up to 17 percent better fuel economy, at cruise RPM, than comparable outboards* Learn more about the powerful performance of our 4.2-liter V6 Offshore F300, F250 and F225 at YamahaOutboards.com/V6offshore.
*Testing conducted by Yamaha at Yamaha’s test facility on a Grady-White® 257 Advance/300 hp, with each boat rigged for maximum performance. REMEMBER to always observe all applicable boating laws. Never drink and drive. Dress properly with a USCG-approved personal floatation device and protective gear. © 2017 Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. All rights reserved. 1-800-88-YAMAHA
A trip to the edge of the continental shelf can lead to the catch of a lifetime—but that’s only part of the adventure.
The crew of Tokatomist pose with an 80-pound wahoo taken at Oceanographers.
76 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
ou’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. Or New England, for that matter. When you’re floating some 1,000 feet above what might loosely be considered terra firma, you can’t help but feel a little, well, out there. Welcome to the North Atlantic canyons. These great underwater fissures on the edge of the continental shelf, carved by meltwater-fueled rivers during the last ice age, comprise an altogether different realm. Appropriately, the waters are populated by creatures not encountered by mortal men—at least not those who fish inshore waters.
TEXT BY TOM RICHARDSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT RISSELL
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 77
The warm, deep-blue Gulf Stream waters that flow along the shelf edge carry with them everything from triggerfish to blue marlin. Yellowfin tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi, bigeye tuna and hammerhead sharks also travel the great bluewater river, and far below, along the steeply sloping canyon walls, are colorful tilefish and that most mysterious species of allâ€”the broadbill swordfish.
Top left: Jackson Parmenter with a rare 145-pound yellowfin taken in Fishtales Canyon. Top right: The canyons are home to several species of tuna, including bigeye, yellowfin and albacore. Above left: Mahi are common around any type of flotsam. Above right: Quality stand-up gear can handle even the biggest canyon beasts.
78 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Top: A 700-pound blue marlin caught aboard Skipjack out of Falmouth Harbor. Above left: Tense times in the cockpit as a marlin is led boatside. Above right: Aside from the occasional container ship or other passing vessel, the canyons can be a lonely place.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 79
Of course, you need the right boat to fish the canyons, which lie anywhere from 80 to 120 miles offshore. The weather has to be stable, the seas manageable. And even when the elements align, success is never guaranteed. But that’s okay, because fishing the canyons is really about visiting a place few others get to experience, and you’ll be excused if you find yourself feeling like the ancient mariners who were sure the dark seas contained ship-crushing beasts. Here, truly, there be monsters!
Top: Wahoo are a top target of canyon anglers. Center: Dawn and dusk can be the most productive times for trolling, often bringing in wolfpacks of yellowfin and bigeye. Above: Fish fight at sunrise—a great way to start the day in the canyons.
80 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
SOME PEOPLE THINK TUNA IS CHICKEN THAT COMES IN A CAN.
The power and reliability of the Verado 350 will take these people to an aisle they won’t find in any grocery store. Sorry, Charlie. Ahi’s on the menu tonight. Learn more at mercurymarine.com or visit your local dealer, today.
CONNECTICUT Branford River Marine Branford, CT 203-488-8921 branfordrivermarine.com Defender Industries Inc Waterford, CT 800-628-8225 defender.com Guilford Boat Yards Guilford, CT 203-453-5031 guilfordboatct.com Niantic Bay Mobile Marine Repair LLC Mystic, CT 60-848-2628 Oak Leaf Marina Inc Old Saybrook, CT 860-388-9817 oakleafmarina.com O’Haras Landing Salisbury, CT 860-824-7583 oharaslanding.com Spicers Marina LLC Noank, CT 860-536-4978 spicersmarina.com
McLellan Brothers Inc Everett, MA 617-389-5508 mclellanbrosinc.com
Royal River Boat Repair Inc Yarmouth, ME 207-846-9577 royalriverboat.com
Jamestown Distributors Bristol, RI 401-253-3840 jamestowndistributors.com
Merrimac Marine Supply Methuen, MA 978-682-7291 merrimacmarine.com
RPM Service Inc Naples , ME 207-693-3014 rpm-services.com
Obsession Boat Sales East Falmouth, MA 508-540-0877 obsessionboatsales.com
South Port Marine South Portland, ME 207-799-8191 southportmarine.com
Portside Marine Service Danvers, MA 978-777-5727 portsidemarine.us
TW Willard Inc Caribou, ME 207-493-4507
Rick’s Outboard Marine Inc Fairhaven, MA 508-992-4888 Riverfront Marine Sports Inc Salisbury, MA 978-462-7755 riverfrontmarine.com Slips Capeway Marine Inc Raynham, MA 508-822-6948 slipscapewaymarine.com
M A S S AC H U S E T T S
USA Marine Inc Worcester, MA 508-791-7116 usamarineinc.com
Action Marine & Water Sports Inc Holyoke, MA 413-534-8000 actionmarineholyoke.com
Wareham Boat Yard & Marina Inc West Wareham, MA 508-748-1472 wareham-boatyard-marina.com
Bill’s Outboard Motor Service Inc Hingham, MA 781-749-1303 billsoutboard.com
Captain Bub’s Marine Inc Lakeville, MA 508-763-4000 captainbubsmarine.com Doug Russell Marine Worcester, MA 508-791-4917 dougrussell.com Essex Marina LLC Essex, MA 978-768-6833 essexmarinallc.com Grey Lady Marine Acquisition Company LLC Nantucket, MA 508-228-6525 greyladymarine.com Hank’s Marine Cherry Valley, MA 508-892-4788 hanksmarine.com
Branch Pond Marine Ellsworth, ME 207-667-2268 branchpondmarine.com Clark Marine Manchester, ME 207-622-7011 clarkmarinemaine.com Mid Maine Marine & RV Inc Oakland, ME 207-465-2146 midmainemarine.com Oquossoc Marine Inc Oquossoc, ME 207-864-5477 oquossocmarine.com Parker’s Boathouse George, ME 207-636-2722 parkersboathouse.com Port Harbor Marine Inc South Portland, ME 207-767-3254 portharbormarine.com
White Rock Outboard Inc Gorham, ME 207-892-9606 whiterockoutboard.com NEW HAMPSHIRE Dover Marine Dover, NH 603-742-5453 dovermarine.com Green’s Marine Inc Hooksett, NH 603-485-5131 greensmarine.net Monadnock Boat Store Rindge, NH 603-532-5911 Stoddard, NH 603-847-9300 monadnockboatstore.com Paugus Bay Marina Laconia, NH 603-524-1233 paugusbaymarina.com Ward’s Boat Shop Inc Center Ossipee, NH 603-539-4563 wardsboatshop.com Winnisquam Marine Belmont, NH 603-524-8380 winnisquammarine.com RHODE ISLAND Billington Cove Marinainc Wakefield, RI 401-783-1266 CL Marine Inc Warwick, RI 401-732-6764 clmarineri.com
Boat Headquarters Swanton, VT 802-868-4444 boatheadquarters.com Fairlee Marine Fairlee, VT 802-333-9745 fairleemarine.com Vermont Home & Marine Williston, VT 802-658-5427 vthomemarine.com Woodard Marine Inc Hydeville, VT 802-265-3690 woodardmarine.com N E W YO R K Canada Lake Store & Marine Caroga Lake, NY 518-835-6069 canadalakemarine.com Capital District Marina Cohoes, NY 518-237-3442 capitaldistrictmarina.com Chic’s Marina Inc Bolton Landing, NY 518-644-2170 chicsmarina.com CR’s Marine Service Inc Schenectady, NY 518-370-3596 crsmarine.com Day Brothers Boats Plattsburgh, NY 518-562-2628 daybrothersboats.com E-Z Marine & Storage Inc Brant Lake, NY 518-494-7381 ezmarineandstorage.com Point Breeze Marine Saratoga Springs, NY 518-587-3397 pointbreezemarina.com Snug Harbor Marina Inc Ticonderoga, NY 518-585-6685 snugharbormarinainc.com
Candlewood Lake features prominent structure that provides cover for both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
84 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Bustling with wakeboarders and pontoon boats, Connecticut’s largest lake also happens to host some of the best freshwater bass fishing in the Northeast.
estled in the southwest corner of the Nutmeg State, busy Candlewood Lake, which bustles with pontoon-boating families and wake-riding teens through the summer, doesn’t seem to be the type of fishing spot that would garner the attention of pro anglers. Yet in 2015, the massive manmade lake was ranked as one of the top 25 bass waters in the country by Bassmaster Magazine. “What really makes Candlewood shine is the abundance of big bronzebacks,” explains local guide T.J. DeFelice of Bloodline 203 Fishing and Guide Service. “We’re talking tons of quality fish pushing the four-pound mark, plus a surprising number of largemouths weighing six to seven pounds.”
BY TOM SCHLICHTER
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 85
To be sure, this honey hole is no secret. Recreational boaters of all types flock to the lake in summer to relax and pursue assorted watersports, while anglers mine every nook and cranny. Yet Candlewood, the largest lake in Connecticut, manages to absorb the pressure. Created in 1928 as a source of hydropower, the lake is 17 miles long by two miles wide, with roughly 100 miles of shoreline shared by the towns of Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman, Brookfield and New Milford. “When they flooded this valley to create a lake,” says Pete Planer, a tournament angler who fishes Candlewood frequently with his partner, Norm Izzy, “they left the old buildings, stone walls, junk cars and farm stuff right where it was. What a break that turned out to be for future generations of fishermen!”
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Topwaters work well in the morning.
CANDLEWOOD FISHING CHARTERS Bloodline 203 Charters (910) 381-8304; bloodline203fishing.com Candlewood Lake Guide Service (203) 948-5054; candlewoodlakeguideservice.com 86 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
TRACTORS, PLANES & CARS Indeed, divers have found all sorts of artifacts from before the valley—and a small village named Jerusalem—was claimed by eminent domain and intentionally flooded. Among some of the more interesting discoveries have been the remnants of covered bridges, a small plane, farm tractors and even a Model T, parked on the muddy lake bottom.
This Candlewood smallie nearly choked on a bluegill.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
“I’m not sure how it turned out for the villagers,” says Planer, “but it all adds up to plenty of structure for bass and other species these days.” Planer, who runs a series of open “buddy” bass fishing tournaments on both Candlewood and Greenwood Lake, New Jersey, notes that such an abundance of structure requires good electronics. “If the bite goes soft,” he reveals, “you can bet the bass have either suspended or are relating to some kind of bottom mess. A quality fishfinder can eliminate a lot of the guesswork.” Ask the pros on these waters to talk about their favorite bass seasons, lures and techniques, and you’ll get surprising variety of responses. In early spring, when the water temperature is below 55 degrees, DeFelice throws a floating fly hair jig he designed specifically for targeting suspended smallies. It matches up well to yearling bluegills—a primary prey of earlyseason bass.
Paul Mueller Fishing (203) 910-3676; paulmuellerfishing.com Bassman Tours (203) 570-7952; bassmantours.com The Valley Angler (203) 792-8324; thevalleyangler.com
PHOTO TOM SCHLICHTER
A bass-stacked boulder.
SWIMBAIT SUCCESS As the water warms, Planer and Izzy favor three- to five-inch Big Hammer square-tail swimbaits. Cast them out, let them settle just above the bottom then retrieve them slowly. DeFelice likes swimbaits, too, but switches to twoinch Keitech Swing Impact softplastics fished on six-pound line once the bass move onto their beds. Come June, tournament angler and fishing scribe Mike Iovino, who guides out of Candlewood Bait and Tackle in Danbury, likes to “walk the dog” early in the morning. “Don’t be afraid to throw big surface lures,” he advises. “It’s okay to go with a saltwater-sized Zara Spook. These bass aren’t easily intimidated.”
BAIT & TACKLE Candlewood Bait & Tackle (203) 743-2221; candlewoodbait.com The Valley Angler (203) 792-8324; thevalleyangler.com
QUICK TIP: When the waters heat up, try a drop-shot rig with a live alewife or soft-plastic worm for tempting smallies.
MIDSUMMER PRODUCERS Once the summer heat moves in, some anglers switch over to live shiners and alewives fished on drop-shot rigs around structure, while others prefer Senko worms fished either “wackystyle” or Texas-rigged. “Think about using 10- to 12-pound-test mono line instead of thin-diameter braid or dense fluorocarbon when worming,” advises DeFelice. “That extra thickness will slow your worm’s descent, giving the bass extra time to pounce.” Drop-shot rigs work well with either live bait or soft-plastics. Iovino likes to drop-shot a 4 1/2-inch, straight-tailed Roboworm. He fishes this setup in 25- to 30-foot depths once the water temperature tops 75 degrees. By that point, the smallies and baitfish have mostly moved out of the weeds to suspend offshore. The largemouths, however, stay in thick vegetation throughout the summer, so you’ll need to toss weedless frogs or punch jigs with trailers to reach them.
TOP LAKE SPOTS
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Hot spots change with the seasons, of course, but are more related to water temperature and depth than any specific piece of structure or location. As a soft rule, you’ll find the most bragging-sized largemouths from Chimney Point south, including Squanz Cove and Turtle Bay. The smallies are everywhere, although the New Milford arm of the lake, towards Candlewood Dam, is especially consistent.
Candlewood pro Mark Condran hefts a big bronzeback caught in midsummer.
For such a big lake, Candlewood’s shoreline access and wade-worthy stretches are limited. The area around 11-acre Candlewood Town Park off Hayestown Road, however, can really rock for both species of bass in the spring, plus it’s pretty good for trout, crappie, yellow perch and sunfish. There’s a fee to use the beach here, but fishing is free.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 87
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
PHOTO TOM SCHLICHTER
Live alewives fished on a dropshot setup can be a sure bet when lures are’t working.
Candlewood crappie are a great option when the bass come down with a rare case of lockjaw.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
RAMPS & REGS
Refuel at Down the Hatch.
If you wish to launch a boat, the Lattins Cove ramp at the southern end of the lake is free of charge, as is the ramp on Squanz Cove in Fairfield. Both are good, but Lattins may experience low water in the fall due to drawdowns. Gas is available at Pocono Point Marina in Danbury, Echo Bay Marina in Brookfield and Gerard’s Water’s Edge Marina in New Milford. Trailer-boaters should note that there is a 26-foot maximum boat length limit on Candlewood, a 45-mph daytime speed limit, and a 25-mph nighttime limit from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise. A six-mph speed limit applies to all waters within 100 feet of shore, docks, moored vessels and hazardous areas. No-wake zones exist in both Lattins and Squanz Coves.
After a morning of fishing, many Candlewood anglers head for DOWN THE HATCH, the lake’s only dock-and-dine restaurant. Located on Echo Bay in Brookfield, the casual restaurant opens for lunch at 11:30 a.m., and features plenty of guest slips. That said, be prepared to wait for a space to open up on busy summer weekends. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor patio seating, and serves a wide range of menu items, ranging from burgers, sandwiches and wraps to more elaborate entrees, including steak and seafood dishes. It’s the perfect place to wrap up a great day on the water! (203) 775-6635; downthehatchrestaurant.com
88 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Lastly, keep in mind that this is big water. Light winds from the west make for great fishing, but gusty northerlies can churn up four-footers. Pay attention to the forecast before launching. “At the very least, choose your days wisely,” cautions Planer. “Reschedule if you suspect a significant chop. The bass will still be there tomorrow.”
With beautiful lines, sleek new flybridge and legendary Tiara accoutrements, the F44 Flybridge will put you on top of the world. A graceful profile and elegant finishes may be refined, but the Volvo Penta IPS 600s still provide superior performance as needed. Sit back comfortably in ample, inclusive spaces that connect captain and guests. Enjoy the views from an easy-to-access flybridge, featuring bridge and guest lounges. It’s the perfect combination of styling and efficiency of space that make the Tiara a sleeker, more sophisticated 44-footer that others can only look up to.. quite literally. The Tiara Flybridge series also includes the F 53 Flybridge model, which boasts a grander flybridge, larger galley and salon, and optional third stateroom below deck. POWERED BY
IT’S MORE THAN PERFECTION. IT’S TIARA ELEGANCE IN EVOLUTION. DISCOVER AT WWW.TIARAYACHTS.COM
We have the research and science to prove it works better than live bait. But the only proof you need is the fish on the end of your line. See all our innovations at berkley-fishing.com
berkley-fishing.com Berkley is a register trademark subsidiary of Pure Fishing, Inc. ÂŠ 2016
FEATURE GRILLED BLUEFISH TITLE
This simple, delicious recipe might just change your mind about the culinary value of the humble bluefish.
Score the skin and cook over high heat,
BY TOM RICHARDSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM CROKE What’s not to like about bluefish? They fight hard, are readily available through much of the season and are easy to catch. About the only knock against them is that they don’t make good eating. Just don’t tell that to Helen Rennie, a French-trained professional chef who happens to hold blues in high regard. Indeed, they’re her favorite fish to grill. “Most fish are difficult to grill,” explains Rennie. “Cod, haddock and flounder are all very flaky, so they tend to break apart. Bluefish, on the other hand, have a very moist, firm meat that sticks together nicely on the grill.” Rennie’s method for grilling bluefish fillets is fast and simple, and works with any standard propane-fueled gas grill (propane is preferred, as it burns hotter than charcoal). She likes to serve this summer dish accompanied by grilled corn and panzanella salad. Try her recipe and we think you’ll end up keeping a few more bluefish this season! To learn more about Helen Rennie and her many recipes, visit helenrennie.com.
92 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Above: Will and Mason Johnson with the day’s catch. Right: Chef Rennie gets ready to grill.
(SERVES 4) CILANTRO LIME BUTTER: • 1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temperature (but not melted) • 1 tsp. lime zest • 1 tsp. lime juice • 1/2 garlic clove, mashed • 1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro • Pinch of chili flakes • Pinch of salt and pepper BLUEFISH: • Disposable aluminum pie pan • 4 pieces of scaled bluefish fillet, skin on (6-8 oz. each) • 1 tsp. ground coriander • Salt and pepper • 2 tsp. canola oil, plus more for grill
COOKING: Make sure to start with a clean grill surface. Place a large disposable aluminum pan upside down over the grilling surface. Cover the grill and preheat on high for 10 minutes. Do not remove the pan until you are ready to place the fish on the grill. Dry the fish thoroughly with paper towels. Lightly score the skin on a diagonal at half-inch intervals (without cutting through the flesh) to prevent the fish from curling. When the grill is at peak temperature, sprinkle coriander, salt and pepper on both sides of the fillets. Coat the fillets with canola oil. Remove the pan from the grill. Dunk a wad of paper towel in canola oil and, using tongs, wipe it over the cooking surface. Place the fish on the grill, skin-side up, diagonal to the grill grates. Cover the grill and cook for three to four minutes per inch of thickness, or until the fish displays grill marks. Slip the tines of a fork between the grill grates and gently push up on the fish to separate it from the grill. Flip the fish and grill on the skin side three to four minutes per inch of thickness.
Chef Helen Rennie serves her grilled bluefish with grilled corn and panzanella salad.
Check to see if the fish is done by separating the flakes in the thickest part of fillet with a fork. The fish is done when a trace of translucency still remains in the center. Remember that the fish will continue to cook after it’s removed from the grill. Remove the fish by first dislodging it with a fork then lifting with a spatula. Top with the cilantro-lime butter and serve. 2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 93
The spring haddock bite on Stellwagen Bank is a great way to kick off the fishing season and put some fillets in the freezer. TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM RICHARDSON
Plentiful and delicious, haddock are a great way to shake off the winter rust.
94 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO JONATHAN CRAIG
o the general public, there seems to be no shortage of doom and gloom concerning New England’s oncevaunted groundfish fisheries. Yet while cod stocks have foundered over the last several decades, Gulf of Maine haddock are becoming more abundant, to the point where anglers are all but guaranteed a limit (12 fish per person in 2017) of these tasty, white-fleshed bottom fish. This is especially true during the spring run of haddock on Stellwagen Bank. Beginning in April and running through May, haddock gather on the bank in large numbers to spawn and feast on the abundance of sand eels, crustaceans and other prey. It’s game on for anglers who have their ship and tackle together!
REEL Heavy: Penn GT 320 or Shimano TLD 20 Light: Shimano Calcutta B or Maxel Hybrid 25
ROD Heavy: 6 ½’ , 30-80 lb. class Shimano Trevala Light: 6 ½’, 20-40 lb. class Tsunami Trophy Jigging
LINE Heavy: 50 lb. test PowerPro braid Light: 30 lb. test PowerPro braid NEWENGLANDFISHING.COM
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 95
TAKE IT TO THE BANK “It’s like the old days of cod fishing,” states Captain Rich Antonino of Black Rose Sportfishing. “And, somewhat sadly, it’s really the only viable early-spring fishery we have north of Cape Cod.”
If you’d like to learn the basics of haddock fishing, especially with light gear, book a trip with Capt. Rich Antonino of Black Rose Fishing Charters.
Antonino begins targeting haddock in mid-April, launching his 25-foot C-Hawk cuddy cabin out of Green Harbor in Marshfield, some 15 miles from the southern portion of Stellwagen. This port, as well as nearby Plymouth Harbor, also puts anglers reasonably close to the middle and northern parts of the bank should the fish be staging farther north.
Capt. Rich is an enthusiastic host, and loves to fish with families. Give him a shout at (508) 269-1882; blackrosefishing.com.
Antonino points out that haddock move around quite a bit, so it’s helpful to have some local intel on their whereabouts before making the run. “That said, I usually find that the fish start off on the western side of the bank and make their way to the eastern side as May progresses.”
Standard cod jigs reach bottom quickly in strong current.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Naturally, the presence of bait is a good sign that you’re in the right place, so watch your depthsounder for clouds of sand eels coming off the bottom or dimpling the surface. “I know it sounds strange, because haddock are bottom feeders, but look for working birds,” adds Antonino. “The birds indicate bait, and that bait can be spread all the way from the surface to the bottom.”
PHOTO GENE ALLEN
In recent years, haddock have gathered in good numbers on or near the southern edge of Stellwagen by early May. The easiest way to pinpoint them is to look for the fleet of drifting boats. Otherwise, Antonino recommends starting at the southwest corner of Stellwagen and working north along the western edge of the bank in a zig-zag pattern. Drift from deep water to shallow, or vice versa, depending on the current and wind, and use your plotter trail to mark your progress. Continue making drifts along the bank edge and onto the bank until you find the fish.
DOWN TO BUSINESS Once you’ve found the fish, catching them isn’t too difficult. Simply lower a metal jig, such as a Vike, Gibbs, Daddy Mac, Crippled Herring or diamond jig, to the bottom and make gentle lifts of the rod to give it some action. It usually doesn’t take long before a fish climbs aboard. “Haddock in particular seem to be attracted to turbulence on the bottom,” Antonino says. “I’ve put a GoPro camera on the bottom in front of a jig, and when we dragged the jig along, kicking up mud, the haddock swarmed it and really attacked.”
96 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
The author shows off a haddock destined for the dinner plate.
HADDOCK LIGHT Antonino loves the spring haddock fishery because it allows for the use of light gear. “In some cases, you’re only fishing in 70 feet of water on top of the bank,” he says. “Plus, the average size of the haddock is four or five pounds, so there’s no need for heavy gear. And lighter gear encourages kids and grandparents to come out and have some fun with these fish.” As long as the drift speed isn’t too extreme, fluke and sea bass gear is perfectly suitable for spring haddock fishing. Start with a 6 ½- or 7-foot rod in the 15- to 30-pound-class range and match it with a light conventional reel filled with 30-pound-test braided line. The terminal rig is equally basic: Tie a barrel swivel to the end of the main line then tie on four to five feet of 40- to 60-pound-test mono leader. One to two feet above the end of the leader, tie in a six-inch dropper loop for attaching the teaser. For the teaser, Antonino prefers flies tied on 5/0 to 7/0 Gamakatsu octopus circle hooks, as they last longer than soft-plastic grubs and shrimp tails (which are also effective). In both cases, pink, red and orange colors generally get the job done, but bring a variety in case the fish show a preference for one type. If bites are hard to come by, try dunking the teaser in a fish-attractant, such as Berkley “Gulp!”
TENDING BOTTOM To fish effectively with light gear, Antonino has his anglers cast “into the drift” (downwind or downcurrent) and free-spool their jigs to the bottom. This allows the jig to reach bottom by the time the boat is directly overhead. “When the line is vertical, slowly lift the rod tip, just enough to stand the jig on end. That’s usually enough to draw a strike.” Heavier gear may be required when current and wind create a fast drift.
LIGHT-TACKLE HADDOCK RIG
If you choose to stick with more traditional, heavier gear, you’ll want to fish on the upcurrent/upwind side of the boat. The main goal is to make sure the jig is tapping bottom, which means letting out more line every so often as you drift along. When the angle of the line exceeds 30 degrees from the rod tip, reel in and repeat the process. Also important is keeping the rod tip low to the water, allowing plenty of room to set the hook when you feel a bite. Once you hook up, hold the rod at a 90- to 45-degree angle to the water and reel steadily. Don’t pump and wind, as this may allow the jig hook to fall out of the haddock’s soft mouth.
4’-5’ 60 lb. test mono
4-8 oz. metal jig
red or pink teaser fly
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 97
If you plan to fish the spring haddock bite starting in April, check your boat-insurance policy. Standard polices for New England boaters only cover the period from May through October, so you may need a rider to extend coverage before the policy start date. Fortunately, such riders cost very little, if anything at all, and can usually be established the same day.
The presence of party boats is a sure sign of haddock below.
Jigs with single hooks make it easier to release small fish.
COD ALERT Speaking of hooks, Antonino rigs his jigs with single hooks, which usually result in less damage to undersized fish or any cod his clients happen to catch. He also points out that haddock and cod caught and released in relatively shallow water have a much higher rate of survival than fish taken in very deep water. In recent years, the number of codfish on Stellwagen seems to be increasing too, and you’ll likely catch a few while jigging for haddock. However, check the regulations before making your trip, as they change often, and you may not be allowed to keep any cod in federal waters. This has been the case in the last two seasons. If you find yourself hooking a bunch of cod, try moving to a different spot that only contains haddock. Also note that all fish racks (carcasses) must be retained if you choose to fillet your haddock on the way to port, so that law-enforcement officials can determine the species and size of the fish if you happen to be inspected. The alternative is to leave a portion of skin on each fillet to allow identification. Oh, and remember that you’ll need a saltwater fishing license for all anglers over age 16. Yes, there’s no shortage of complicated regulations governing today’s fisheries, but at least there’s some good news where the haddock fishery is concerned. Give it a try next spring and you could find a new way to start the season.
98 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Cod are a common bycatch on the bank.
THE DAY’S BIG CATCH SHOULD BE YOUR ONLY FOCUS
Insurance coverage through BoatU.S. makes for a great start to what could be an epic day of fishing. We provide coverage for the things that are important to you...your boat, engine and equipment. Our policies are designed with coverages custom-made for Anglers and include 24/7 claims service from boating experts. Agreed Value Coverage for Your Boat, Engine(s) and Boating Equipment • Broad Cruising Areas Coverage for Fishing Gear • Tournament Coverage • Charter and Guide Coverage Options Available • Unlimited Towing from TowBoatU.S. for as little as $3 a month!
Log-on to BoatUS.com/insurance or call for a free quote 800-283-2883 All policies subject to limits and exclusions. Unlimited Towing endorsement not available in all states. Pricing varies by boat length and location.
Download the NEW BoatU.S. app for self-service, marine weather, tides and more!
Your guide to finding and catching these colorful, hard-charging, high-flying summer visitors. BY LARRY BACKMAN
102 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO MATT RISSELL
Does it get any better? In the case of mahi, not really.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 103
n many respects, mahi mahi are the perfect game fish: they fight hard, they jump like mad, they taste delicious, they reproduce like rabbits and they come in a rainbow of surreal colors. It’s too bad you have to travel to Central America, Baja, Florida or the Caribbean to catch them. Or do you? While it’s true that the biggest mahi—specimens of 50 pounds or more—roam deep-blue tropical waters or the Gulf Stream far offshore, plenty of fish in the threeto ten-pound range can be caught relatively close to shore in southern New England starting in July. When 75-degree water spins off the Gulf Stream and pushes inshore, mahi can be found within 25 miles of Point Judith, Westport and Falmouth—and even closer to harbors on Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island. In rare years, they have even been caught within five miles of Newport.
Mahi make the ideal fly-rod targets on eight- and nineweight gear.
104 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
MAHI HUNTING Locating mahi usually isn’t hard. Simply head south until you hit clear, warm blue water. In midsummer, this usually occurs near the 25-fathom line, some 20 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Once your temperature gauge shows water of 70 degrees or more, set out a trolling spread. My standard spread comprises a pair of Joe Shute/ballyhoo combinations on the long ‘riggers (40 and 50 yards back), a pair of small squid bars off the short ‘riggers (25 yards), a pair of ballyhoo off the transom corners (5 and 10 yards) and a bird/ Black Bart Tuna Candy combo off the center ‘rigger (100 yards). Trolling speed is around five to six knots. This spread will work for bluefins, as well as mahi. In my mind, it’s more important to have a simple, weedless spread that’s easy to manage than having more lures in the water, especially if fishing short-handed.
FLOTSAM PATROL As you troll, keep a lookout for any type of floating structure, such as logs, weeds and pallets. Mahi gravitate to any kind of object, and even something as small as a five-gallon bucket can hold several dozen fish. When you find any of the above, troll the spread within 10 yards of the flotsam and watch for gold and blue streaks. Of course, lobster pot buoys are among the most reliable mahi magnets, and there are a number of areas within 25 miles of shore where you will find good concentrations of pot buoys equipped with radar reflectors, also known as “high fliers.” Once you reach the 25- to 30-fathom lines, you will start to see the odd pair of fliers. If you run another 10 miles to the southern half of the area shown on charts as the “dumping grounds,” you will start to see long lines of fliers set around its borders. Find them and you will find mahi.
QUICK TIP: Once you hook a mahi, keep it swimming next to the boat. This will draw its schoolmates within easy casting range and keep them in a feeding mood.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
In addition to the spinning gear, bring a pair of slightly heavier conventional outfits filled with 40-pound-test braided line and rigged with two to three feet of 50-pound-test leader and a 5/0 bait or circle hook. Once the mahi school is chummed close to the boat, hook a chunk of bait, flip it out a few feet from the boat and leave the reel in free-spool. The idea is to let the hook bait sink at the same speed as the chum. Once a fish picks up the bait, flip the reel in gear and hang on.
If you can keep the mahi interested with a slow but steady stream of cut bait, you might be able to pull at least a half dozen fish off a single pot buoy before the school becomes wary. Once that happens, find another high flier and start the game all over again. Note that not every flier holds mahi, so keep moving if you don’t raise some fish after a throwing out some cut bait.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 105
MAHI MADNESS Mahi are within range of midsized center consoles.
HOOK UP! NOW WHAT?
PHOTO MATT RISSELL
Once you hook the first mahi on the trolling gear, bring in the rest of the spread and break out some buckets of fresh bait, such as squid, butterfish, pogies or mackerel. Cut the bait into twoinch cubes and toss out a few chunks every 30 seconds. This will hopefully draw the rest of the school close to the boat and keep them in a feeding mood. Now grab some light spinning outfits filled with 12- to 20-poundtest line and rigged with a two-foot trace of 50-pound-test leader, to prevent cut-offs from the mahiâ€™s small, raspy teeth. Tie a rubber shad on one outfit and a white or yellow bucktail on the other and start fan-casting the area. Small, metal and epoxy jigs also work well.
106 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
T h e B o sTo n W h a l e r Daun T l e ss Trusted by professional anglers, Boston Whaler’s formidable fleet is unrivaled in performance, comfort and capability. Just ask Henry Waszczuk, host of the popular show Fishing the Flats. The Dauntless is Henry’s boat of choice, thanks to its array of smart amenities and its remarkably soft, safe, dry ride. WHEN YOU FISH WITH WHALER, YOU FISH WITH CONFIDENCE.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
LOOK FOR HIGH FLIERS IN THESE AREAS.
POT HOPPING You can also find mahi by “pot hopping,” or running from one high flier to another and casting small lures around them until you locate a school of fish. In many cases, you can see the fish swimming around the pot line before you even make a cast. And if you don’t, try sending a small, shiny spoon or jig into the depths below the buoy and working it back to the surface with short, jerky motions. If you succeed in hooking a fish, bring it close to the boat and let it swim around. This will often keep its schoolmates swarming around the boat for a minute or two while the rest of the crew casts spoons, jigs chunk baits—or flies.
108 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Mahi love Daddy Mac jigs and similar flashy lures.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
High fliers are mahi magnets.
MAHI ON THE FLY Catching mahi on fly gear is a blast, and the fish are suckers for a variety of flashy patterns. Many anglers use flies tied on circle hooks, which are virtually guaranteed to set in the corner of the fish’s mouth. Eight- or nine-weight rods rigged with intermediate or full-sink line are ideal for most of the mahi you’ll encounter, and a large-arbor reel makes it easy to stay tight to these frenetic, mad-dashing fish. One last piece of advice: Bring a large cooler and lots of ice on a mahi trip. When you locate a concentration of fish, it’s easy to catch a bunch—and you’ll have plenty of takers when it comes time to hand out fresh fillets.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 109
SEA BASS BONANZA
Black sea bass numbers have exploded in recent years, with plenty of big fish available.
110 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Four charter captains share their advice for scoring more and bigger black sea bass from Cape Cod to New York. BY TOM SCHLICHTER
“Those look like baby sea bass,” I thought, although it seemed unlikely, given the species’ affinity for rocky bottom. But sea bass they were, and their numbers kept increasing. There were hundreds of them the following week, and uncountable numbers by the start of August. A giant swarm of so-called “sea biscuits” had invaded the inshore waters of eastern Long Island! NEWENGLANDFISHING.COM
PHOTO TOM SCHLICHTER
even years ago, I was snorkeling along a stretch of sandy beach in eastern Long Island Sound when I saw something ususual. It was July, and the waters were clear, warm and teeming with dozens of small, olivechecked fish.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 111
SEA BASS BONANZA
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Sea bass are suckers for bucktail jigs tipped with squid.
QUICK TIP: Always
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
bring jigs in several sizes to account for changing wind and current.
112 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
IN THE BLACK It was the beginning of a sea bass explosion in the Northeast. Within three years, the famed Block Island fluke grounds were crawling with two- and three-pounders, while New England’s bays and sounds saw catch rates swell to unprecedented levels during spring and early summer. In Maine, lobstermen were catching so many incidental sea bass that the state opened a commercial fishery for the species. Fisheries managers confirm that sea bass stocks are at sustainable levels, are not overfished, and that the species is expanding its range. It’s as rosy an outlook as you’ll see for any food or game fish species these days, and will hopefully lead to more liberal season, size and catch limits over the next few years.
BUZZARDS BONANZA “It’s as close to ‘can’t miss’ fishing as I’ve ever seen—and it’s likely to get even better!” says Captain Eric Morrow of the Bounty Hunter Fleet based in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. “We’ve got tremendous numbers of fish here in Buzzards Bay. Big fish, too. Many are in the three- to fivepound class.” “The season kicks off in late May,” Morrow continues. “The fish initially show up to spawn over mud bottom in 12 to 35 feet of water before moving to deeper areas with more structure in late June. During that early-season period, try the waters off Bird Island, north of Cleveland Ledge and off Scraggy Neck. Just follow the fleet and you’ll find some fish. “There’s not much current here, so you can get away with your favorite freshwater bass outfit—either spinning or baitcasting. I like to fish 20-pound-test braid with a 10-pound-test top shot of mono or fluorocarbon.”
Matt Nugent with a big "bumphead" he caught during the spring run in upper Buzzards Bay.
Morrow favors small Crippled Herring jigs, Ava 007 diamond jigs and bucktails. “You’ll rarely need more than two ounces in these waters, except in very windy conditions. With the metal jigs, free-spool them to the bottom, crank up a few turns at a moderate speed and repeat until you get smacked. With bucktails, keep them on or near the bottom and keep the rod tip moving to give them action.”
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 113
SEA BASS BONANZA PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
SPRING FLING A bit farther north and east, Captain Mike Bosley of Dragonfly Sportfishing calls the spring and early-summer sea bass fishery in Nantucket Sound “spectacular.” “Sea bass love structure,” explains Bosley, “and we have tons of it.” Nantucket Sound contains scattered rock piles, along with several artificial reefs. Just last year, in fact, the concrete rubble of a local school-demolition project was distributed over a well-defined area now known as the Harwich Artificial Reef. “There’s your sea bass honey hole,” laughs Bosley. “The GPS numbers are right online. It’s a big area and no secret. Nearby Yarmouth Reef is another great spot.” From late May through mid-July, Bosley targets sea bass up to six pounds in 15- to 40-foot depths. Since currents in the Sound are a bit stronger and the fish tend to hold slightly deeper than in Buzzards Bay, he prefers to use a larger reel filled with 20- to 30-pound-test braid and a 30- to 40-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. His lures of choice include a one- to three-ounce chartreuse or green-over-white Spro bucktail jig tipped with Berkley Gulp! or a small strip of scup belly, usually adding a high hook with another piece of Gulp! or squid for bait. If the bite is hot, he might switch to small diamond jigs, which also “serve as a good handle for lifting sea bass out of the water.”
Sea bass are the ideal species for kids to tackle.
SOUND OFF The waters of Long Island Sound are also loaded with sea bass, but the fishing here has a split personality. The best action occurs to the west off Clinton, Bridgeport and Norwalk from late May through June, while fishing from Niantic to Fishers Island and the Race peaks from August into September.
Catching is easy these days, notes Bosley, so it’s okay to be selective. With so many three-pound-plus fish around, there’s no justification for keeping anything much smaller. “We don’t keep anything less than 18 inches long on my boat,” he states, “and no one gets short-changed on fillets.”
Basic diamond jigs and other metal lures take their share of fish.
114 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO TOM SCHICHTER
“Sea bass catches have been phenomenal the past few seasons,” says Captain Jack Bucchi of the charter vessel Priority One out of Clinton. “We drift for them in 100-foot depths over a mix of sand and gravel bottom. We actually avoid structure so we can get in a long drift and keep fish coming over the side.” Fluke rigs baited with strips of squid are all you need, notes Bucchi, but to make things more interesting, he recommends a five-ounce Williams Yabi jig or Shimano Lucanus jig. If the current is running strong, you can tie a foot of 30-pound-test mono to the bottom eye of the jig and add an appropriate sinker. That will get your offering down to the bottom while ensuring the lure stays just above the rocks. Tip the jig with a piece of squid and keep it bouncing. In the eastern Sound, from Niantic to Fishers Island and across to Long Island’s North Fork, the best sea bass action runs from August through September. Here, however, standard high-low rigs and squid baits are favored for fishing over wrecks, rock piles and submerged boulder fields in depths of 80 feet to over 100 feet.
The New 2017 Sailfish 245DC The Latest Entry In the Versatile Sailfish Family of Dual Consoles!
Style, Seating, Storage -- The Sailfish 245DC is Compact and Complete! The Sailfish 245DC is the latest entry in our exciting dual console line-up. It boasts comfortable seating for up to 14 people, our high performance sixth generation VDS hull, highly ergonomic deck layout, and enough storage space to accommodate whatever your crew brings on board. The Sailfish 245DC is another “leader in its class” of dual consoles.
DEEP FULLY UPHOLSTERED BOW SEATING
RECLINING CAPTIAN’S CHAIR - FLIP UP ARMRESTS
SPACIOUS STEP DOWN HEAD
3 POSITION LOUNGE/STORAGE/COOLER
25 GAL. TRANSOM LIVEWELL
FOLD DOWN AFT SEAT / BOLSTER
The 245DC is extremely versatile, family friendly and yet respectful of Sailfish’s proud 30-year fishing heritage. It features a spacious well appointed step-down head, optional retractable ski-pole, in-floor and above deck storage, plenty of cup holders, and an optional galley with a sink, counters and a refrigerator. These features make the 245DC a fantastic, fun-on-the-water day boat. Deep bow seating, a three position, port-side passenger lounge, adjustable captains chair and fold-up seating surrounding the cockpit provides comfortable seating for all while allowing for maximum fishing space. Adding to its fishing credentials is a transom live well, in-floor and bow-seat fish boxes, and transom, gunwhale and hard top frame rod holders.
Visit your nearest Sailfish dealer and take a walk through the Sailfish 245DC and Discover the Difference - the Sailfish Difference. MarineMax - Norwalk, CT .......................................................... 203-831-6311 MarineMax - Westbrook, CT ...................................................... 860-339-5581 MarineMax / Russo - Boston, MA ......................................... 617-288-1000 MarineMax / Russo - Danvers, MA ...................................... 781-395-0050 MarineMax / Russo - Hingham, MA ..................................... 781-875-3619 MarineMax - Warwick, RI ........................................................... 401-886-7899 Port Harbor Marine - South Portland, ME ........................... 207-767-3254
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
SEA BASS BONANZA
BUZZARDS BAY: Bounty Hunter (774) 766-1228; fishbountyhunter.com NANTUCKET SOUND: Dragonfly Sportfishing (774) 212-0712; dragonflysportfishing.com BLOCK ISLAND: Block Island Fishworks (401) 466-5392; sandypointco.com LONG ISLAND SOUND: Priority One Charters (860) 916-4586; priorityonecharters.com
ROCKING THE BLOCK If there’s an epicenter to the recent sea bass explosion, it’s probably the waters surrounding Block Island. “There’s obviously a ton of fish here,” says Chris Willi of Block Island Fishworks. “How could all those boats from Montauk, Connecticut and the Rhode Island mainland be wrong?” All kidding aside, Willi notes that the rocky bottom surrounding the island is covered in mussels, making the area a sea bass dreamscape from late May right into August. Combine that with the ecosystem developing around the recently installed wind farm southeast of the island, and there’s an even greater draw. You’ll find plenty of fish holding over and around structure in this area, but Willi adds that some of the best action occurs over patches of open bottom. On the south side of the island, for example, there’s a large, sandy stretch that gradually slopes from 40 to 70 feet deep. It’s a favored spot for doormat fluke, but flounder anglers catch plenty of huge sea bass there as bycatch. “I love working that stretch, because it gives up big fish and you don’t lose any rigs,” explains Willi. “I’ll rig up with a Hogy Sand Eel jig tipped with Berkley Gulp! or Fishbite products and score almost at will. All you have to do is get your lure down to the bottom and keep it hopping along. The sea bass, some topping five pounds, will take care of the rest. Just be careful to avoid the gillnets in this area.” Sea bass can provide consistent action throughout the day.
116 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Tons of sea bass over sandy bottom? I think I’ve seen that before, even if only on a very small scale near a very special beach!
TROPHY BASS TIPS
Remember these tips and you can score with big bass all season!
hile there’s seemingly no end to the list of strategies concocted to fool big stripers— with new ones cropping up all the time—the fish themselves haven’t changed. That’s good news for anglers, because those tried-and-true striper-catching techniques invented by our fishing forbears remain viable in modern times. To make things easier, let’s simplify the game plan for finding and catching big bass on a consistent basis. TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM RICHARDSON
118 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
IC KULIN PHOTO ER
It has been said a million times, and for good reason: big bass like big baits. The largest bass are also the laziest, so they aren’t going to waste their energy chasing down a mouthful of bay anchovies. Rather, the only thing that’s going to get them off their aquatic couches is a super-sized meal that’s rich in fat. An adult menhaden (bunker), herring or mackerel is the food they crave, so find some big baitfish and you’ll be one step closer to glory.
Stripers like structure, be it a rock pile, ledge, bar or single big boulder. That’s no secret, of course, but you need to narrow it down somewhat to find the honey hole. Look for areas with strong current, as they serve as good places for stripers to ambush a critter that can’t fight the flow. Depth is also important. While you may find big bass in five to ten feet of water in May and June, you’ll have to move deeper as the season progresses. The exception is the waters north of Boston, where cooler temperatures often keep the bigger fish feeding in shallow water through midsummer.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 119
TROPHY BASS TIPS
The best fishermen keep detailed logbooks of their trips, as it helps them discern patterns that lead to repeated success. For example, if you happen to score a large fish at a certain rock pile, using a certain bait, at a certain time of year, in certain wind and tide conditions, chances are you’ll find fish again when all those elements realign. The only trick is that you have to put in your time to amass enough data in order to gain meaningful information—but that’s not such a bad thing, is it?
PHOTO JO NATHAN CRAIG
Despite the fact that current plays a big role in locating prime striper structure, consider that some of the biggest bass on record have been taken during the small window of slack tide. The theory is that these monster fish find slack water the optimum time to patrol the rocky bottom around their lair without having to fight the current. It may also be why eels perform best on record-setting stripers.
While plenty of trophy bass have been caught during the bright, mid-day hours, your bets improve considerably at first light. False dawn is when stripers have a big advantage over baitfish such as menhaden and herring, as these baits are vulnerable to attack from the dark waters below and appear clearly against the backdrop of brighter sky. The take-home lesson: Whether you’re fishing from a boat or shore, be at your designated fishing hole just as the eastern sky is beginning to brighten. 120 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
While the old chestnut “don’t leave fish to find fish” is good advice, it doesn’t apply to the quest for a trophy bass. If you’re catching small fish in a certain spot, but have your sights set on a cow, it’s best to pull stakes and head for greener pastures. Bass typically school by size, so you’re not likely to find a 50-pounder hanging with a bunch of hyperactive schoolies. Plus, the more aggressive, smaller fish tend to out-compete the larger, slower lunkers.
If you uncover a pocket of large bass, do everything you can to fish it hard. You may enjoy several days of outstanding fishing as long as the conditions remain stable. And you’ll surely kick yourself if you wait a week and find the spot empty upon your return.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 121
TROPHY BASS TIPS
Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Unless you love risk, using featherweight gear to battle a 30-pound-plus fish is asking for trouble. If a big bass is your goal, bring your “A-team” tackle and make sure your line and leader are fresh and nick-free. Similarly, test all of your knots (twice), and give your hook point a touch-up with a file before making a cast.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference in fishing. Similar to checking your hooks, line, rods and reels, take the time to wash your hands of sunblock or insect repellent before handling a bait or lure. These products can ring the warning bell for suspicious stripers. Along the same lines, make sure you have a good-sized landing net onboard and keep it ready for action. After fighting a fish, check your leader for signs of wear and tear, or play it safe and tie on a new one.
Never randomly launch a trip and hope to catch a monster fish. Instead, take a look at tide charts, log books and weather conditions before launching. Create a game plan for the day based on your comfort range and the conditions—and stick with it. Be methodical. That way you won’t waste time in your search for a trophy.
122 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
CAPE COD FLATS
For a truly eye-opening fishing experience, plan a spring trip to Cape Cod’s Brewster Flats. ant to see something cool? Feast your eyes on the miles of corrugated sand that is the Brewster Flats at low tide. Aside from an occasional gull pecking at some piece of detritus, there’s not much to see. However, as the tide advances, flooding the flats through a labyrinth of guzzles and channels, the keen-eyed observer will notice ghostly shapes meandering through the shifting web of light and shadow. These are your quarry—stripers and bluefish, themselves hunting prey in some one to three feet of water. To catch them in such an environment requires stealth, careful observation and perseverance, as these are not the same fish that inhale foot-long menhaden with abandon or eagerly crush parachute jigs in the comfortable depths of a rip. But that’s what makes this fishery so remarkable, so alluring. For many anglers, flats fishing is the only fishing, and the reason they make the pilgrimage to this seven-mile stretch of Cape Cod each spring.
PHOTO CATHY & BARRY BECK
BY TOM RICHARDSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHY BECK, BARRY BECK & DAVE SKOK
124 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Fly fishermen flock to the flats each spring, intent on sight-casting to skinny-water stripers.
GEAR UP REEL Sage 6200 fly reel
ROD 9’ 9-weight Sage Method fly rod
LINE & LEADER RIO InTouch Intermed. Line 9’ 16 lb. RIO Striper Tapered Leader
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 125
CAPE COD FLATS
PHOTO DAVE SKOK
On foggy or overcast days, flats anglers must be attuned to the slightest surface disturbance.
126 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
SHALLOW-WATER PARADISE The fishery begins in mid-May, triggered by the migratory run of stripers entering Cape Cod Bay via the Cape Cod Canal, according to Captain Dave Steeves, a guide with Goose Hummock Shops. Steeves says that the main push of fish depends on water temperature, but adds that the flats usually hold good numbers of stripers by late May, with mid-June being prime time for both bass and bluefish. Come summer, the fish thin out as the water warms and boat traffic increases, although dawn can still produce dependable action, even if itâ€™s not necessarily a sight-fishing game. Steeves prefers to fish the low incoming tide, when itâ€™s easier to intercept the bass. As the water slowly covers the sand, the fish move out of their deep, low-tide haunts and spread out over the flats, looking for prey, which includes silversides, sand eels, squid and crabs. Good intercept points include the edges of bars and channels, which the fish use as highways to access the flats and as escape routes when danger looms. Once the water gets high enough, the fish roam the flats in large schools, which are easier to spot, but also travel alone and in pairs. These individual fish can be exceptionally hard to detect, even on sunny days, so polarized sunglasses are a must.
PHOTO CATHY & BARRY BECK
PHOTO CATHY & BARRY BECK
Fly selection is based on the type and size of bait on the flats.
Pay close attention to the tide when fishing from a skiff.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 127
PHOTO CATHY & BARRY BECK
CAPE COD FLATS
FLATS CLUES The higher stages of the tide can present a challenge, because once the majority of the flats are covered by water, the fish could be virtually anywhere. To help find them, look for bird activity, particularly any circling, dipping or diving terns and gulls. Also look for the swirls and boils of feeding fish, or the wakes and ripples of fish cruising or lazing just below the surface. In very skinny water, you may even see the broad tail fins of stripers as they root on the bottom for crabs and sand eels. Approach any potential fish-holding areas slowly and carefully to avoid spooking your quarry.
Note that flats fish can be understandably fussy, given the clear water and their heightened sense of vulnerability. If you have trouble drawing a strike, slow your presentation, try a different lure or fly, or keep changing your retrieve until you find the formula that works. Reducing the size of your leader and using fluorocarbon can also turn the trick. Of course, it could also be that the looming presence of the boat or kayak is putting the fish on alert. If you suspect thatâ€™s the case, drop anchor and try fishing on foot. You may be surprised by the fishâ€™s change in attitude. 128 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO DAVE SKOK
Once you spot the fish themselves, the next goal is to put yourself in the right position for a cast. Ideally, the sun and wind should be at your back and the fish swimming either toward or parallel to you. Drop the lure or fly 10 to 20 feet ahead of the fish and let it sink to the bottom before beginning the retrieve.
PHOTO DAVE SKOK
FLATS TIP: If you have trouble drawing a strike, slow your presentation, try a different lure or fly, or keep changing your retrieve until you find the formula that works.
Stripers possess keen eyesight, which makes them spooky at times.
FLATS TACKLE The Brewster Flats hold fish of varied size.
Effective spin tackle for fishing the flats includes a 7- to 7 ½-foot graphite rod with a flexible tip for throwing light lures, paired with a light spinning reel filled with at least 200 yards of 30-pound-test braid or 12-pound-test mono. The leader can be three feet of 12- to 16-pound fluorocarbon connected to the main line via a Bristol knot, Slim Beauty knot or uni-to-uni knot to create a wind-on leader system. For tossing flies, a nine-foot, nine-weight or eight-weight outfit with sink-tip or intermediate-sink line will do the job nicely. Finish with a nine-foot tapered leader ending in two feet of 12- to 16-pound-test shock tippet, although you may need to reduce the tippet size if the fish are selective.
PLASTICS, PLUGS & FLIES Top lures for flats fishing include five- to eight-inch, soft-plastic baits like the Slug-Go, Cape Cod Sand Eel, Hogy, RonZ, Fin-S-Fish and Got Stryper. “Walk-thedog” plugs such as the Zara Spook and Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow are also effective, as are poppers such as the Rapala Skitter Pop. Good colors include pearl, bubblegum and olive-over-white. And on many days, fresh sand eels fished on the bottom can’t be beat!
Big bluefish also roam the flats in late spring.
In the fly department, the Clouser Minnow, Half-and-Half, Mushmouth, Gurgler and any number of sparsely tied epoxy sand-eel patterns will take fish on the flats. And since crabs are high on the menu of flats stripers, bring some patterns such as the Red Hackle Crab and Merkin. These should be heavy enough to reach bottom quickly in three to five feet of water.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 129
CAPE COD FLATS
SAFETY FIRST While flats fishing seems pretty tame, a potential source of danger for wade fishermen is being trapped by the rising water. Itâ€™s important to monitor the tide and plan your escape route back to shore, especially in the early season, when the water is very cold and fog is common. Pack an inflatable PFD, a cell phone, handheld compass or PLB, as well as some type of sound-signaling device in case you find yourself in trouble. Kayakers and paddleboarders have a ready means of escapeâ€”as long as they stay near their ride. Also, both vessel types serve as convenient gear-transport systems, and allow you to access different parts of the flats without having to wade through deep channels.
A flats skiff lets you spot fish from a greater distance and cover more water.
130 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO CATHY & BARRY BECK
For many anglers, a shallow-draft boat is the preferred flats-fishing platform. A skiff not only gives you a higher perspective on the surrounding water, allowing you to spot the fish more easily and from a greater distance, it lets you investigate distant parts of the flat in an efficient manner. However, fishing from a boat requires close attention to the tide, as the water drains surprisingly quickly from the flats. Failing to make your ebb-tide retreat could mean a long, dull wait until the next tide.
OVER HALF A MILLION BOATERS CHOOSE US
300 & 600
300 PORTS NATIONWIDE WITH OVER 600 TOWBOATS
TRAVEL, MARINA & BOATING DISCOUNTS
Unlimited* Towing Membership â€“ $149 a year WATER TOWING / SOFT UNGROUNDINGS / JUMP STARTS / FUEL DELIVERY
DOWNLOAD THE NEW BOATU.S. APP FOR ONE-TAP TOWING SERVICE. *
Towing details can be found online at BoatUS.com/towing or by calling.
Don’t let the dog days get you down! Try these warm-water tactics and you can enjoy action with a variety of game fish in Narragansett Bay through the steamy summer months.
BY CAPTAIN DAVE MONTI
t’s midsummer and the heat is on. It’s the dog days of summer, the period between July and August when the water temperature in Narragansett Bay can climb to 75 degrees—and even higher in the shallow coves and salt ponds. When the water gets that warm, compounded by poor flushing of the bay’s north-facing coves, the oxygen level drops and fishing in many areas can be challenging, to say the least. So, what’s a summer angler to do?
132 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO TOM RICHARDS ON
As a charter captain, I’ve often had to find fish for customers during the toughest conditions, so I know it can be done. Here’s some advice on beating the heat in Narragansett Bay.
FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE A major key to catching fish during summer is water movement. The bay water is warm, so you have to fish areas that are flushed often and feature deep structure or “edges.” This includes channel drop-offs, bridge abutments, rock clusters, jetties, outcrops, points of land and wrecks, preferably in 20 feet of water or more. The deep shipping channels, from the southern tip of Prudence Island to Providence, serve as “fish highways” as they sweep baitfish in and out of the bay. Productive spots with good current flow include Warwick Point, Providence Point, Sandy Point, the T-Wharf on the southern end of Prudence Island, Popasquash Point in Bristol, Sally’s Rock in Greenwich Bay and Quonset Point in North Kingstown. The Jamestown and Newport Bridge abutments also serve as fish magnets, as they are washed by swift currents and provide good structure for game fish and their prey.
BOTTOM LINE Perhaps the best way to score during the height and heat of summer is to target bottom fish such as black sea bass, scup and summer flounder (fluke). This can be great fun for the entire family, and may even yield some fish for the table. Bottom fishing can be done while drifting or anchored over structure. Moving water is most important, which is why I like to fish two hours before or after high tide. Some of my favorite places to bottom fish during the dog days are the waters off Warwick Neck Light, Providence Point, the northern tip of Prudence Island and the T-Wharf. Another good spot to anchor is General Ledge, a third of a mile northeast of the Jamestown Bridge. The current here is strong, and the ledge sits in about 30 feet of water, surrounded by 45to 60-foot depths. This is one of my go-to places to catch scup and sea bass when I have children onboard and need to hold their interest. Similar ledges, humps and rock piles are scattered throughout the bay. Indeed, it’s often rewarding to study a chart and investigate likely areas where the bottom rises to within 20 or 30 feet of the surface from much deeper water. These spots almost always hold bait and game fish.
Believe it or not, keeper-sized fluke can be caught in parts of the bay through the summer.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 133
BRIDGE GAMES Drifting under and around the Jamestown and Newport Bridges can also be a great way to score with fluke and sea bass. A favorite spot is the area just south of Rose Island in 20 to 30 feet of water, near the G C “1” can, where the water drops abruptly to 60 then 90 feet. The rocky bottom on the south side of Rose Island, closer to shore, also holds scup and sea bass in summer. Fishing for fluke below the Newport Bridge can be good, too. Depending on the wind and current, I will fish either the north or south side of the bridge. Both ends of the bridge are productive. The idea is to stay close to the bridge abutments at the start or end of the drift. Strikes often occur along depth breaks and where the current is strongest.
QUICK TIP: Tube lures dressed with a live seaworm will take summer stripers and blues when trolled along steep channel edges.
BEST TACKLE, RIGS & BAIT The tackle side of the equation is pretty simple. All you need is a double-hook (high-low) rig above a bank sinker, or a standard fluke rig on a three-way setup. You can buy pre-made scup, sea bass and fluke rigs at most tackle shops for about three to five dollars apiece.
When targeting fluke, I believe in larger baits. I typically fish three- to five-inch strips of squid, with some other type of natural bait to hold the squid in place, such as strips of fluke belly, bluefish, sea robin or scup—basically, whatever incidental species I happen to catch that day. For summer bottom fishing, I generally use light tackle. Spinning or conventional reels matched to light- to medium-weight rods and 15- to 20-pound-test braided line is all you need. Use just enough weight to hold bottom.
134 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Scup are reliable summer bets over rock piles and other bottom structure in 20 to 30 feet of water.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
The natural bait you’ll need is readily available, too; seaworms, squid or clams will all do the job. I often start out with multiple rigs and bait types, with each angler fishing a different bait until we figure out which one the fish want. Only use small pieces of bait when fishing for scup and sea bass. Both species are master bait-stealers, so you need to set the hook quickly when you feel them tapping.
PHOTO MIKE LAPTEW
DOG DAY BLUES & BASS To catch bluefish and striped bass during the summer months, the same rules apply: find a combination of structure and moving water. However, it’s also critical to locate a concentration of bait, be it juvenile menhaden (peanut bunker), bay anchovies, silversides or adult menhaden (bunker, pogies). I’ve had great success by trolling tube lures on leadcore line and weighted with a one- to two-ounce keel sinker rigged between the line and a five-foot monofilament leader. The keel sinker helps get the lure down to where the fish are holding, and also prevents line twist. I find that red, amber or bubblegum-colored tubes work best, especially when the hook is tipped with a live seaworm. Tube-and-worm trolling works well along the steep channel edges at Popasquash Point off Bristol and the fast-moving water off Conimicut Point. Once again, you need to be there when the water is moving, not at high or low tide. The best period is two hours before or after slack water. Trolling in Greenwich Bay works well for bluefish, especially in the northern part of the bay along the 15-foot contour line. The waters off Sally Rock, on the south side of Greenwich Bay, are also worth trolling. The edges of Ohio Ledge, which extends north of Prudence Island, can hold fish as well.
Expect fluke to hold in deeper, cooler zones with good current flow and bait concentrations.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Keeper sea bass can be taken over deep, hard-bottom areas in the lower bay.
Live eels are one of the most effective summer baits for stripers, day or night. Hook the eel through the roof of its mouth and out one eye. I use circle hooks, which generally catch in the corner of the fish’s mouth, making release much easier. Some good spots to drift eels for summer bass include the jetty at Coddington Cove in Middletown, the Newport Bridge abutments, Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge. Live menhaden and scup are other top summer baits. The latter can be caught on small pieces of squid fished over hard bottom or rock piles, but need to be of legal size to use for bait. Menhaden can be snagged with a weighted treble hook or gathered with a castnet. With menhaden, hook the bait through the bridge of its nose and let it swim around with the bait school. You can also anchor and chum the fish in with chunks of bait, or drift chunks of cut menhaden or scup around the bait schools. Some anglers use a nylon fishfinder weighted with a bank sinker to get their chunks to the bottom in deep water. No matter what technique you go with, fishing early in the morning—preferably before dawn—will yield the best results during the summer dog days. Also, don’t forget to try different spots, and look for new places that other anglers run past on the way to so-called greener pastures. These could be summer day-savers for years to come!
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 135
PHOTO PETER MASSINI BIGCITYAERIALS.COM
NORWALK ISLANDS VARIETY
The Norwalk Islands are a fish-rich archipelago that produces throughout the season.
136 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
A season-long smorgasbord of game
BY CAPTAIN TOM MIGDALSKI
and food fish awaits the angler in and around the beautiful Norwalk Islands in southwestern Connecticut.
he Norwalk Islands represent some of the best fishing structure in Long Island Sound.” So states Captain Chris Elser, a man who has fished this glacial archipelago off southwestern Connecticut for over 30 years. “Glance at a chart and you’ll notice many areas with extremely tight contour lines indicating abrupt depth changes,” Elser adds. “That translates to prime holding areas for bait and game fish.” Today, a few of the Norwalk Islands are privately owned, some are held by the cities of Norwalk and Westport, while still others are part of a national wildlife refuge. But for anglers, it doesn’t really matter, as the waters surrounding them are open to the public and comprise a vast network of fish-attracting channels, bars, boulders, reefs and rips.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 137
NORWALK ISLANDS VARIETY
138 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO MIKE LAPTEW
PHOTO TOM MIGDALSKI
PHOTO TOM MIGDALKSI
Fly anglers will find plenty of willing takers, including bluefish.
Trailer-boaters can access the islands via the Visitor’s Dock.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Bonito often invade the islands in August.
SEASON STARTERS Fishing among the islands heats up when surface temperatures push past 50 degrees and the big stripers move in, followed closely by other species. “The large migratory bass typically arrive by early May,” says Elser, “but I’ve had excellent fishing with 20-pound fish as early as the second week of April. These fish are chasing schools of bunker. As the season progresses, sand eels move into the island chain. The two- to four-inch baitfish are necessary for consistent shallow-water striper and bluefish action, and they also affect the fluke fishery. Fluke move in among the islands in mid- to late May, and they feed heavily on sand eels.” While all of the islands hold fish, Cockenoe (pronounced “ko-kee-nee”) is a good place to start, given its easternmost position in the chain. Because of its rugged shoreline and proximity to the Saugatuck River, Cockenoe consistently produces good catches of blackfish, porgies, striped bass, bluefish, weakfish and flounder.
Fluke lurk along the edges of rocks and other bottom structure.
Use caution when fishing this area, however, as the water is extremely shallow and rocky. Don’t attempt to run between Cockenoe Harbor and the Saugatuck at low tide, or you’ll soon find yourself in a foot or less of water. Instead, stick to the deeper water amid the boulders and reefs of Georges Rocks and Cockenoe Shoal, marked by Buoy G “1” and the R “24” bell. Both spots are good places to cast, troll or drift natural baits, including live bunker.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 139
PHOTO MIKE LAPTEW
NORWALK ISLANDS VARIETY
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Striped bass and scup mingle over ledges and boulder fields.
HOT OFF THE SHELF “To the south and east of the buoys,” says Elser, “the depth drops sharply from 8 to 40 feet. This shelf is a good place to hunt for many species, especially blues and bass, as the current flows over the shallows. It’s also an excellent spot for blackfish and sea bass. These two species are also abundant around Greens Ledge, Great Reef and the boulder fields near Chimon and Goose Islands.” Chimon and Sheffield Islands form the core of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 145 acres of the Connecticut shoreline. At 70 acres, Chimon is home to the largest heron rookery in the state, as well as other nesting shorebirds. For this reason, access to much of Chimon and Sheffield is prohibited during nesting season (April 15 to August 15). However, Grassy Island, Shea Island and the beach on the west side of Chimon are open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Great-tasting black sea bass are a reliable bet.
140 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Fried whole-bellies at Sono Seaport Seafood.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
The Sound-side edges of the islands offer many prime spots for live-lining eels and bunker, chunking, slow-trolling and plugging for bass, weakfish and blues. “You can work these shallows from almost any boat,” says Captain Ian Devlin, another local guide who has spent his life plying these waters, “but the fish are easily spooked, so your best approach is with a pushpole or trolling motor.” Devlin likes to work rocky outcroppings or crescent-shaped bights where deep water abuts the shallows. He drifts through the prime zone while blind-casting until he finds the fish then circles back upwind to repeat the drift. Devlin also looks for concentrations of sand eels, silversides and herring, and pays close attention to working birds. His favorite lures for fishing the shallows include big Zara Spooks and Slug-Gos, which he works with a side-to-side sweeping motion to give them a lifelike action.
Bluefish from snapper size to gorillas are always up for a fight.
Fishing the Norwalk Islands can leave one with a craving for seafood, so if you can’t wait to get home and cook your catch, set a course for SoNo Seaport Seafood, a dock-anddine establishment of the old-fashioned kind, hard on the gritty Norwalk Harbor waterfront. The venerable (since 1984) eatery and fish market offers six slips for boaters in midsized
PHOTO MIKE LAPTEW
craft, although larger vessels can dock at the nearby Norwalk Visitor’s Dock (for a fee) and either walk to the restaurant or take their dinghy over. SoNo Seaport offers indoor and outdoor “family-style” dining, and serves the typical seafood fare, ranging from boiled lobster dinners to delectable whole-belly fried clams. Other popular
“If you prefer trolling,” says Elser, “the Norwalk Islands are ideal for tubeand-worming. Look for rips and reefs that run north-south then troll parallel to and slightly upcurrent of the structure. “I have my best success with red and bubblegum tubes trolled on No. 27 colored leadcore line. Given average tide and sea conditions, I deploy one color [10 yards] of leadcore for every four feet of depth. Since I almost always troll tubes at depths of 18 to 35 feet, which is a good general depth zone for big bass in general, I feed out anywhere from four to eight colors of line. “It’s important to troll the tubes no faster than two knots, to give the lure the best action and achieve the proper depth. Try to stay near the reef, but don’t allow the lures to hit the high bumps. It’s a fine line between fishing in the strike zone and getting hung up.” Blackfish and fluke also gather around many of the islands, with the south side of Copps Island being especially productive. This includes Copps Rocks, which extend about a half-mile east of the island toward Buoy R “26.” Shea Island’s eastern shoreline is also strewn with rocks that provide excellent habitat for bass, blues and blackfish, especially in October.
items include fresh local oysters, shrimp, calamari, steamers, chowder, lobster rolls, king crab legs, fish & chips, hamburgers, sandwiches and more. Entrée prices range from $17 to $25.
Diners enjoy the view of Norwalk Harbor.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 141
NORWALK ISLANDS VARIETY QUICK TIP: During periods of slow current, try anchoring in the rocky areas and fishing green crabs for big fall blackfish.
Copps Rocks, Beers Rocks and Goose Island are known for attracting bonito and false albacore starting in September and running through October. Indeed, fall offers a good shot at the coveted “Northeast Grand Slam,” or catching a bonito, false albacore, striped bass and bluefish in the same day. Proven lures for the albies and bones include four- to six-inch white or pearl soft-plastics like the Slug-Go or Zoom Fluke, or small, metal lures such as the Deadly Dick.
The deep-water wrecks off Norwalk are home to big blackfish.
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
The shoreline of Grassy Island is mostly gravel and fine sand, and provides several sheltered boat-landing areas. While you may find some bass here, the area appeals more to bluefish, weakfish, flounder and porgies.
SOUND ADVICE If the action is spotty among the islands, which is often the case in midsummer, head for the deeper, cooler waters of the open Sound. About ¾-mile south of Sheffield Island are the submerged tugboat Celtic and the barge Cape Race. The wrecks appear on charts as a 32-foot high spot surrounded by 70 feet of water, and provide prime structure for blackfish, sea bass and porgies. The edges of the wrecks are often patrolled by big fluke. The rocky bottom surrounding Buoy “28C,” about two miles south of Greens Ledge on the western end of the islands, is a great spot for a number of species. Explore the area 100 yards south of the buoy in about 45 feet of water. Blackfish are numerous here, especially in the 30- to 60-foot depths, through Thanksgiving. Start in the shallower spots and work your way deeper until you find fish.
Porgies (scup) can be caught on small baits and shiny jigs.
BAIT & TACKLE Fisherman’s World (203) 866-1075; fishermansworld.net GUIDES Capt. Chris Elser (203) 216-7907 Capt. Ian Devlin (203) 451-9400 142 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Buoy “11B” (marked as Eatons Neck Point), about a mile southeast of R “28C” and three miles south of Sheffield Island, marks a high spot in 15 to 30 feet of water that serves as a perennial hot spot for stripers and bluefish in the fall. If the fish aren’t holding here, work nearby areas along the sloping reef drop-off in 35 to 90 feet.
BOAT LAUNCHES Saugatuck River state ramp Compo Beach & Marina town ramp Veterans Memorial Park Calf Pasture Beach
FISHING LICENSE A saltwater fishing license is required to fish the coastal waters of Connecticut. Purchase one online at ctwildlifelicense.com. Anglers who hold a saltwater license from New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Maine are exempt from having to purchase a Connecticut license. NEWENGLANDFISHING.COM
NORWALK ISLANDS VARIETY
FALL FAVORITES Mid- to late fall usually sees a hot bite on the mid-Sound reefs. Look for bird and bait activity from Buoy “11B” west to “28C,” then triangulate toward Eatons Neck Point. This area holds lots of baitfish and provides excellent diamond-jigging action.
PHOTO TOMMY COSTELLO
Just over a mile south-southwest of “11B” is the Obstruction Buoy. The rip here, along with the rips that make up along “11B” and “28C,” are the best spots south of the Norwalk Islands for trolling lures, drifting live baits and chunks, and diamond-jigging for striped bass and bluefish in autumn. During periods of slow current, try anchoring in the rocky areas and fishing green crabs for big fall blackfish. They catch some big ones off Norwalk!
144 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Chunking and diamond-jigging take big bass in the fall.
NEW HAMPSHIRE TROUT & SALMON
BY STEVE WYMAN
The headwaters of the Connecticut cast a spell over anglers seeking world-class action with trout and salmon in a spectacular North Woods setting.
146 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
PHOTO TOM RICHARDSON
Tommy Costello works a section of the Trophy Stretch below First Connecticut Lake.
grew up fishing the New England surf with my dad, a member of the old-school beach buggy crowd, and have lived the salty life since the day I donned my first pair of hip waders. Yet even with 50-plus years of salt flowing through my veins, I recently found myself drawn back to the sweetwater destinations I fished as a college student in New Hampshire—more specifically the town of Pittsburg in the northernmost part of the state. Once known as the “Indian Stream Territory,” Pittsburg comprises a vast swath of forest, lakes, streams and rivers. In 2002, the state set aside 25,000 acres between Clarksville and Pittsburg as conservation land, in part to protect the system of lakes that forms the headwaters of the Connecticut River, which flows for 410 miles to Long Island Sound.
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 147
NEW HAMPSHIRE TROUT & SALMON The Upper Connecticut offers steady action through the summer months.
Rainbows are one of three trout species found in the river.
SOURCE OF POWER Beginning as a trickle some 300 yards below the Canadian border, the river initially flows into Fourth Connecticut Lake—really just a spring-fed bog—before continuing south into Third, Second and First Connecticut Lakes. At 2,800 acres, First Connecticut is New Hampshire’s fifth largest lake, and is home to several cold-water game species, including lake trout and northern pike. To catch lakers, which can weigh up to 30 pounds, you normally need to think deep, the exception being the period just after ice-out. In early May, these fish often hold within ten feet of the surface—but not for long. As the water quickly warms, the lakers transition to the 35- to 45-foot depth zone. In summer, the trout move deeper still, seeking water in and around the magical 53-degree mark.
PHOTO AJ DEROSA
Traditional lake trout techniques involve trolling flashy spoons on downriggers or leadcore line, although some anglers also score by deep-jigging. Lakers tend to congregate at the same depth and in the same areas, so when you catch one, drop a waypoint so you can return to the spot.
148 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Big landlocked salmon enter the river in spring and fall.
QUICK TIP: Turn over river rocks to get a sense of what type and size of nymphs the fish are feeding on.
RIVER REWARDS Of course, most visiting sportsmen—particularly fly fishermen—are drawn to the river and its robust population of trout and landlocked salmon. Each section of river between the lakes is unique, and offers a multitude of opportunities for catching brook trout, landlocked salmon, rainbows and trophy browns. The 2 ½ miles from First Connecticut Lake to manmade Lake Francis is known as the “Trophy Stretch,” for obvious reasons. The tailwater dam at the base of First Connecticut delivers cold water from the bottom of the lake, supporting phenomenal fishing all season. The spring and fall can be especially productive times to fish the Trophy Stretch, highlighted by runs of big salmon and behemoth browns that push upriver from Lake Francis. For dry fly enthusiasts, summer is a great time to fish the Upper Connecticut, as this time of year sees a lot of insect activity. Bill Bernhardt, head guide at Pittsburg-based Lopstick Outfitters, says the most important thing to remember when searching for fish with dry fly patterns is a slow drift. If your fly is drifting slowly, the fish should at least rise to check it out. If this continues to happen without the fish eating, it’s time to change flies. “Be ready to change your fly on the fly,” says Bernhardt. “The fish will tell you what to do; you just have to pay attention.” Some go-to dry fly patterns for the Upper Connecticut include the Elk Hair Caddis, Pale Morning Dun, Olive Soft Hackle and Sulphur Comparadun.
DEEP THOUGHTS While nothing beats the thrill of seeing a trout or salmon take a dry fly, it’s important to remember that two-thirds of the fish’s food is consumed below the surface. Hence, the effectiveness of nymphing. Nymph flies imitate the immature stages of insects that eventually make their way to the surface. To learn what the fish are eating, simply look at the underside of a river rock. This will provide clues as to what color and size nymph fly to tie on. Popular patterns for the upper river include the Flash-Bang, Hairs Ear, Beadhead Pheasant Tail, Hatching Pupae Olive, Gummy Worm, Elk Hair Caddis and CDC Emerger Slate Olive. At certain times, large stonefly patterns such as the Golden Stone will also take fish. The trick, of course, is getting your imitation down to the level of the feeding fish— normally a few inches above the river bottom. This can be accomplished by means of a heavily weighted stonefly pattern or a small split-shot or two pinched onto the leader about 15 inches above the nymph fly. A drag-free drift is often critical to getting a fish to eat, something that high-sticking or mending of the line can accomplish. Your fly should never float faster or slower than the current. Strike indicators can help keep the line from snagging bottom, and a light tippet is often necessary to induce a strike. Many guides recommend a 4X or 5X tippet.
The fly box of Bill Bernhardt, head guide at Lopstick Outfitters.
Ben Wyman fights a fish with guidance from Dany Dassylva.
During my last visit to the Pittsburg area, my family stayed at the Cabins at Lopstick, which also features an on-site guide service. One day we were greeted on the front porch of the Lopstick office by a friendly Quebecois named Dany Dassylva, the newest member of the Lopstick family of guides. While Dany’s north-of-the-border accent and big smile had my kids at hello, I was digging his Ford Transit. This rig would have made MacGyver proud! Dany is a river lover, wired for exploration. “Rivers and lakes are the true essence of life,” he likes to say. When not guiding, Dany can be found portaging a canoe to stretches of unexplored whitewater and catching wild brook trout on flies.
The Upper Connecticut is a fly angler’s paradise.
We booked Dany to give my kids, Emma and Ben, a fly-fishing lesson on the Lopstick trout pond, which makes an ideal classroom for fly-fishing lessons. With a “hands on” enthusiasm and a warm sense of humor, Dany conducted this little orchestra with the patience of a saint. When class was dismissed, Dany could have punched out for the day. Instead, he grabbed a pair of waders from his truck and said it was time to show Ben how to nymph-fish for trout on the Connecticut River. Suffice it to say, I have Dany Dassylva to thank for the fly rod-and-reel combo, hip waders and box of flies that found their way under the tree this past Christmas. A fly fisherman was born. — Steve Wyman
2017 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 149
NEW HAMPSHIRE TROUT & SALMON Behemoth browns often feed after dark.
GOING BIG Big trout and salmon do not get that way by relying on a restrictive diet of mayflies and nymphs, which is why streamer flies can be so effective on larger fish. These flies also allow you to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time. Often, a big fish will attack a streamer just to chase it out of its territory and thereby reveal its presence. Some local favorites include the Grey Ghost, Grey Soft-Hackle Streamer and Royal Coachman. Cast the streamer across current and slightly downcurrent, and work it back with short strips. Spey casting streamers can be very effective on the upper river, where the densely wooded banks limit oneâ€™s backcasts. Greg Inglis, another Lopstick Outfitters guide, employs this technique just below the dam at Fourth Connecticut Lake using a 10-foot Orvis Spey rod. The long rod allows him to make twohanded roll casts to drop his fly on seams and pocket water from spots where backcasts are all but impossible.
The lakes in the Pittsburg area offer a host of water-based activities.
No matter how, where or when you choose to fish the Upper Connecticut river, be prepared to try a host of different techniques depending on the conditions. And also be prepared to fall in love with the Pittsburg area, as I did some 30 years ago!
The Cabins at Lopstick make an ideal home base for any trip to the Pittsburg area. An Orvis-endorsed outfitter employing some the best fishing and hunting guides in the region, The Cabins at Lopstick comprise a network of owned and managed housekeeping units scattered throughout the area.
The Cabins at Lopstick welcomes anglers and their families.
150 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Each cabin, some pet-friendly, has a fully equipped kitchen, private bedrooms, satellite television, outdoor grills and a private porch with spectacular views of the lakes. Fishing tackle, flies and apparel are sold at the main office, but the coffee and friendly advice are free! For more information, visit cabinsatlopstick.com or call (603) 538-6659.
n the annals of surf fishing, the name Arnold Laine looms large. Laine, from Phillipston, Massachusetts, was a respected and tireless surfman who patrolled the beaches of Cape Cod with the likes of fellow surfcasting giants Frank Woolner, Stan Gibbs and Jimmy Andrews. Here, Laine (center) poses with a night’s catch taken from the Outer Cape with pals Maurice DiBenedetto (left) and Dominic Mastro (right). The precise date is hazy, but the photo was likely taken in the late 1950’s or early ‘60s. Today, the scene may elicit the wrath of conservationminded anglers, but must be taken in context. It was the heyday of surfcasting, when striper populations were at an all-time peak and big fish were common on any given night. Surf fishing had became a cultural phenomenon after World War II, and many surfmen and their families spent the entire summer on the beach in specially modified “beach buggies” featuring bunk beds and cooking stoves. Catch limits were unheard of, and most fishermen sold fish to supplement their income or pay for food and fuel. At the time, no one considered that the population of stripers would one day crash or that many Outer Cape beaches would be closed to oversand vehicles and overpopulated by seals.
152 / NEW ENGLAND FISHING / 2017
Catch a memory youâ€™ll never release. #FirstCatch First of the day, first of the season or first of a lifetime. Follow @Take_Me_Fishing and show us your #FirstCatch.