More (& Bigger) Stripers Showing
First Bluefish Arrive
It’s an awesome time of year to be an angler in Connecticut and Rhode Island! So many different kinds of fishing are heating up simultaneously that it can be hard to choose what to do. In saltwater, striped bass are increasing in numbers and size all across the region. Fluke and tautog are biting in Rhody waters and winter flounder limits can be had in tidal rivers and harbors of Long Island Sound. Chatter about the elusive weakfish is picking up and just when you thought your soft-plastics were safe, the first bluefish are starting to show. If that wasn’t enough, trout fishing is hot and heavy in freshwater and Saturday is a “free fishing day” in Connecticut.
Rhode Island Fishing Report
The south shore of Rhode Island is swarming with schoolie stripers right now according to Steve McKenna at Quaker Lane Outfitters. He’s been catching over 10 every trip out on Cocahoe Minnows and bucktail jigs. The biggest bass Steve has landed so far was only 28 inches, but he knows bigger fish will show up any day now. Narragansett Bay is heating up too. OTW contributor Dave Pickering said the striped bass and bait numbers really kicked into high gear last weekend. He witnessed incredible numbers of pogies in the Bay with bass up to keeper-size close by. Dave also had a friend elsewhere in the Bay at the same time report several bluefish taken near another big school of menhaden.
There is some good daytime topwater action along the beaches of Newport according to Peter at Saltwater Edge. He hasn’t heard of any bass over 35 inches yet, but he noted this has been the best spring schoolie fishing he can remember in the last several years. Ron at Breachway Bait and Tackle said lots of pint-sized bass are being caught at the breachways in Westerly on small bucktail jigs. Joe at River and Riptide Anglers reported that fresh bass are moving into the salt ponds and the annual cinder worm hatch is slowly getting underway.
Fluke fishing is also getting better by the day. Ron at Breachway Bait told me that some commercial rod-and-reel guys are getting 50 pounds a day from about 35 feet of water off Green Hill. Most of the fluke have been falling for a 3/8-ounce Spro jig tipped with squid and fished above a 4-ounce jig on bottom. Mike at Watch Hill Outfitters heard of commercial fluke anglers doing well in 90 feet of water off the east side of Block Island. They are using big jigs with fresh local squid. Fluke are not having trouble finding squid, but anglers in Newport and Sakonnet are having a slow go at it right now according to Larry at East Providence Bait and Tackle.
Tautog reports are much better now than they were last week, but not everyone is finding them in solid numbers. Robin at Quonny Bait and Tackle has customers doing well by drifting over rock piles east of Quonny breachway using green crabs. She said the bigger the chunk of crab the better the results. Mike at Watch Hill Outfitters reported very good toggin’ at Ragged Reef, also with green crabs. Howard at Galilee Bait and Tackle has been hearing about many shorts being caught off the West Wall and Bonnet Shores. He also threw in that there have been a dozen encounters with weakfish in the 5- to 6-pound range in the last week or so, all caught by anglers in the Point Judith/Narrow River area while targeting striped bass.
In freshwater, fantastic trout fishing has been the talk of the town according to Joe at River and Riptide. He said we are starting to see prolific dry-fly hatches like quills and hendricksons on the Wood and surrounding rivers. But even when bugs are hatching, sometimes the trout will respond even more to a juicy streamer with a quick retrieve. Many of the ponds recently stocked with trout are giving up nice catches for those throwing bait and lures as well.
Connecticut Fishing Report
While striped bass are starting to be caught on the reefs and beaches of Long Island Sound, big tidal rivers remain the most consistent game in town. Striper action in the Connecticut River really stepped it up a notch this week. Andrew of Fishin’ Factory III said the topwater bite from Middletown to Haddam is improving steadily with fish up to 36 inches crushing pencil poppers, spooks and metal-lip swimmers. Q at River’s End reported that the lower river is giving up bass to those soaking sandworms off the DEP pier and boaters chucking Slug-Gos or flies. He noted that the ebb tide is ideal and it’s even better when it coincides with low light. The Thames River has a lot going for it right now too, as Cheyenne from The Fish Connection said there is a lot of bunker between the Gold Star Bridge and the 2A Bridge. The Housatonic River is another major player in the tidal river scene with Chris of Stratford Bait and Tackle reporting lots of fish and fishermen in the Derby/Shelton area below the dam. He said it’s all about the herring and pencil poppers and Danny plugs have been the ticket during the day. Try plastic swimmers or Slug-Gos at night.
A two-fish limit of winter flounder is more feasible this weekend than last according to Howard at Hillyers Tackle. He said anglers in the Niantic River have been doing pretty well anchoring along the edges of the channel and drawing flatfish in with plenty of clam chum. The only bait they are using is sand worms. Cappy at Captain Morgan’s Bait and Tackle echoed the positive flounder report, stating most harbor and tidal river channels along the Sound will offer a shot at a limit right now.
There are no excuses not to dabble in freshwater this weekend, as CT DEEP has designated Saturday as a “Free Fishing Day” in Connecticut where no fishing license will be required. This opportunity will be available to both residents and non-residents, adults and children, and applies to all public waters of the state. There are a number of events taking place in conjunction with the free fishing day, including two fly fishing clinics. One will be at Kent Falls State Park with the Northwestern CT Chapter of Trout Unlimited between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. The other free clinic will be held at the same time at Merwin Meadows Park in Wilton with the Mianus Chapter of Trout Unlimited. In addition, the Hammonasset Chapter of Trout Unlimited is hosting a youth education day at Chatfield Hollow State Park from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm that includes lessons on fly casting, fly tying and river ecology. Two other events on Saturday will be held at Mirror Lake in Meriden’s Hubbard Park. Both a children’s fishing derby sponsored by the Meriden Rod and Gun Club and an introduction to carp fishing hosted by Saxon Tackle will be kicking off at 10. The kids can get their fill of stocked trout and then learn all about how to catch huge carp in Connecticut. Contact CT DEEP’s Bill Gerrish at 860-424-FISH for more information.
CT DEEP remains hard at work stocking tens of thousands of trout across the state. The bit of rain we finally got this week was a big help too. Lots of areas got fresh batches of fish Tuesday and Wednesday including Squantz Pond, Farmington River, Upper Fulton Park Pond, Prospect Town Park Pond, Great Hollow Pond, Southford Falls Trout Park, Scantic River, Somersville Mill Pond, Broad Brook Mill Pond, Mount Misery Brook, Myron Kinney Brook, Patchaug River, Natchaug River, Salmon River, Dickenson Creek, Blackledge River, Day Pond, Stratton Brook Pond, Black Rock Pond, Salmon Brook, Christensen’s Pond, and Highland Lake.
Fishing Forecast for Connecticut and Rhode Island
Striped bass fishing is your best bet in tidal waters this weekend. Whether bunker, herring or cinder worms, stick near the bait and you should find some willing fish. One of the great things about striper fishing this time of year is that you can easily catch them inshore during daylight hours. Try tossing some topwater lures like pencil poppers or spooks to see if you can draw viscous strikes on the surface. In freshwater, it’s hard to pass up Connecticut’s “free fishing day” on Saturday, especially with the crazy amount of trout that have been getting stocked into the state’s public waterways.