Perhaps my “it’s going to blow wide open soon” outlook in last week’s forecast was a tad premature, at least in terms of saltwater. Water temperatures are still rather cold “out front” and that’s the main reason we’re still waiting on migratory schoolies in our local waters. It doesn’t mean there aren’t a few bass with sea lice at the West Wall, but the main body of “fresh” fish is still en route. That being said, Connecticut’s holdover populations of stripers are keying in on arriving alewives and cooperating for both shore and boat anglers. In the freshwater world, trout are the name of the game. Waterways across the region have been heavily stocked and will all be open to fishing soon if not already. Trout season is underway in Rhode Island and the Opening Day siren will blast in Connecticut this Saturday.
Every shop hand that I spoke with this week said the trout fishing was phenomenal for last Saturday’s opener. The DEM did a fine stocking job and Mother Nature held up her end of the bargain, making it a great weekend for trout fishing. Jack at Quaker Lane Bait and Tackle said he limited out in one half hour and was back to the shop before 7 AM! He did very well using inline spinners like Rooster Tails and spoons such as Al’s Goldfish. Bait fishermen also caught their fair share of trout, including a customer who weighed in a 5-pound rainbow taken on Powerbait. Jack noted that there should be some broodstock Atlantic salmon leftover in ponds that were stocked late in the fishing season. Dave from River and Riptide and some friends got out Saturday morning and had success using flies and with getting away from the masses. The upper section of the Falls River provided a little breathing room for their group, who scored some nice trout on standard nymph patterns like pheasant tails and copper John’s. There were even trout feeding on the surface with the decent amount of black stoneflies and caddis flies coming off the water. After the Opening Day melee, Dave dropped by the popular ‘check-in station’ along the Wood River and was pleasantly surprised to see a bunch of trout darting around the pool. So there should be fewer crowds this weekend and a ton of trout still to be caught, although they’ll be a little more educated.
Arden at Saltwater Edge received a few reliable reports that the first schoolie stripers were caught at the West Wall recently – a good sign no doubt. That spot is one of the first to get migratory bass, but southerly facing beaches that warm up quickly and mouths of estuaries where bait congregates are also great locations to try this time of year. Clouser flies, soft plastics like Cocahoe Minnows, and top-water lures such as Jumpin’ Minnows are all good options to put on the end of your line. Arden also mentioned that impressive numbers of cod are still being caught south of Block Island, but the average size is on the small side. In addition, he said tautog fishing opens on April 15 and should really be in full swing by the end of the month.
Some anglers will do their best to steer clear of all trout waters this weekend, while others, including myself, will be taking part in the tradition and camaraderie that is Opening Day. It can certainly take on a circus atmosphere, but it’s a sure sign that spring fishing is upon us. Since early March, the DEP has stocked nearly 387,000 trout into over 100 lakes and ponds and 200 rivers and streams throughout the state. And this Saturday, at 6 AM, thousands of eager anglers will let their best casts fly into their favorite honey holes. For those looking for great family-friendly activities this weekend, you can help DEP stock trout at eight Trout Parks on Saturday morning and then fish thereafter, including Black Rock Pond, Chatfield Hollow State Park, Southford Falls State Park, Stratton Brook State Park, Wharton Brook Sate Park, Mohegan Park Pond, Valley Falls Park Pond, and Great Hollow Pond. The list of offerings that will catch this weekend is a long one. Some great trout baits include meal worms, shiners, garden worms, night crawlers, and Powerbait. Some tried and true artificial lures include Pheobes, Mepps spinners, Rooster Tails, and Trout Magnets. For a full list of trout-stocked waters, regulations, and even maps where trout are released, be sure to check DEP’s website (http://www.ct.gov/dep/fishing). Freshwater bass anglers will have more places to fish come this weekend too. Candlewood Lake and Squantz Pond to name a couple haven’t been pressured in almost a month. John at Valley Angler said early-season lures like jerk baits and hair jigs will produce for patient bass fishermen. John added that downsizing your main line to as light as 4-pound test will give you a better presentation that may yield more hookups.
For eager striper anglers, you’ll have to wait a little while longer for sea lice-laden bass while Long Island Sound water temperatures warm up a bit. The mid-Sound thermometer read 42 degrees at the time of this writing, but it won’t be long before our traveling friends start mingling with holdover bass that now have free reign on the herring in our rivers. Joe at The Fish Connection said action is really picking up in the vicinity where the Yantic and Shetucket Rivers pour in Norwich Harbor. He said the Shetucket River, particularly near the Greenville Dam, is fishing well day and night. During daylight hours, top-water plugs like pencil poppers are enticing nice-sized holdovers. At night, nothing is connecting with more bass than 9-inch black Slug-Gos. Joe said that all the shallow coves along the Thames River are seeing alewives at the moment, which in turn are attracting bass. These coves are mostly shallow though, so top-water lures are some of the best options.
The Housatonic River from the Derby Dam down to the mouth of the river is another awesome stretch of holdover striper territory. Chris at Stratford Bait and Tackle said a few boat anglers are capitalizing on deep-holding bass by trolling Bomber lures with 3-ounce bullet weights to get them down. Nick at Fisherman’s World said some of his customers are doing well at the midway point by the Sikorsky Bridge using Gag’s Whip-it Eels. As for other salty species, winter flounder reports are few and far between. Howard at Hillyers heard of a few “blackbacks” being caught in the Niantic River, as well as around Bluff Point. He said the best winter flounder tactic is by chumming with frozen clam chum and using sandworms as bait. Howard also said blackfish season is open until the last day of April, but it should be far better in terms of productivity as the end draws near.
Best Bets for the Weekend
Trout fishing will be at the top of the “to do” list for many anglers this weekend. After 6 AM on Saturday, almost every pond, lake, river, and stream will be open to fishing in both Connecticut and Rhode Island. The DEP and DEM did a heck of a job stocking our waterways this spring, now it’s up to you to get your money’s worth for your fishing license. Don’t forget to take a kid fishing this weekend too, because one feisty rainbow or beautiful brook trout may just hook him or her for life. For any anglers not wanting to be part of the zoo that Opening Day can be known for, try the West Wall in Rhode Island for “fresh” schoolies or the Shetucket River for bigger holdovers.