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February 15, 2008
Long Island Sound fishing forecast
This is the fourth in a series of 2008 saltwater-fishing forecasts for Rhode Island waters.
By TOM MEADE
Journal Sports Writer
STONINGTON, Conn. - Anglers will continue to find trophy striped bass in the waters from Watch Hill, Rhode Island to the mouth of the Connecticut River this season, two experts predict. There may be fewer trophy fish, however, if recent trends continue on eastern Long Island Sound.
Look for the best bites inside and off the mouth of the Thames River, say Don Michaud of King Cove Outfitters in Stonington and Pat Abate of Rivers End Tackle in Old Saybrook. Abate also recommends the Connecticut River for catching stripers, and Michaud predicts that the mouth of the Mystic River and the Pawcatuck River -- Little Narragansett Bay -- will continue to provide plenty of bass.
Menhaden will be the bait of choice again, starting around the first of May, when migratory menhaden appeared last year, the experts agree, and soft plastic shad imitations, like the Storm Wild Eye, probably will be among the most popular artificial lures. Deep-diving plugs and jigs are becoming more popular as tube-and-worm-rig sales slip slightly at Rivers End. At King Cove, the hub of kayak fishing on the Sound, the tube and worm took several big fish last season, and the rig continues to be a favorite.
"If things hold true, based on the guys that were fishing the Thames last winter and right now, I think bass fishing is going to be at one of its all-time highs," said Michaud.
He and Abate stress that menhaden are the key to holding big bass in the Sound.
Last season, migratory stripers arrived in late April, said Abate, and the first big push menhaden were right behind them, bringing big stripers to the eastern Sound.
"I was thinking about the 40- and 50-pound fish that were weighed at my shop, and there were three guys who ended up in the top 10 or 12 anglers in both On The Water and The Fisherman [magazines] last season. Ken Zwirko, a New Jersey guy who fishes these waters, had one that weighed 58 pounds and change, and Ray Jobin, a local [Rhode Island] fisherman, had one that was 59 and change."
Another angler caught two trophy bass a week apart, Michaud said, "and both fish weighed exactly 52.45 pounds."
Menhaden were so effective as bait that some anglers were driving to Providence and Pawtucket -- where the baitfish were concentrated -- to catch enough of them before launching at Barn Island in Stonington.
"From May to mid-June, we had the best fishing I've ever seen in shallow water," Abate said.
"The run of squid and butterfish we normally see on the reefs never materialized," Abate said. Large schools of spearing arrived during the summer, attracting school bass that provided a lot of action for fly fishermen. In late August, pods of menhaden kept stripers near the mouth of the Thames. By September, huge schools of juvenile menhaden -- "peanut bunker" -- arrived, and there were massive feeding blitzes of small bass and large bluefish on the reefs and along beaches and rocky points.
False albacore and a large number of bonito also arrived, and fishing for them was fairly consistent off the western end of Fishers Island, Abate said. Otherwise, the bonito and "albies" were scattered.
Fishing continued to be hot through October
Then it ended as abruptly as a door slamming.
Each year, Abate conducts an unscientific, but illuminating, "hit count."
"I generally go out by myself and count the number of hits I get," he said. "That tells me what the level of activity is. Three years ago it was not unusual to go out for a few hours and get 20 hits and land some fish. Last year, I'd go out and get eight hits. This year, I expect to go out and get, maybe five hits.
"But if the bunker come around, it will aggregate the bigger fish again."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 1:14 PM to Fishing
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