CT Fish Guides offers the opportunity to both novice and longtime anglers to strengthen their fishing skills. We pride ourselves on angler’s accomplishments of their own, by giving you the tools and information to land and identify high-quality fish. CT Fish Guides offers lessons on fly casting, on the water surfcasting and fly rodding from the CT shore to RI. We also offer info on destination fishing with tips and friends to visit before you hit the water. There’s a time and technique for everything and to ignore one method or another is only a way to limit yourself. Our philosophy is simple - there is never any one way to do anything and a successful angler should never stop learning. Open mindedness and thinking outside the box can help develop new and deadly skills. Learn what techniques are best suited for certain applications and make them work for you. Let us bring you to the next level.
For the past few years, a reoccurring question among surf anglers is: “What happened to the Fall Run?” First, unless you’re thinking of Montauk, get the nostalgic images of birds diving into a froth of bass, blues, and bait out of your head. Simply put, Connecticut and Rhode Island anglers don’t experience consistent fall fishing like they once did. Whatever the reason, whether it’s crashing stocks or offshore bait migrations, times have changed and surfcasters must adapt.
Surfcasters and fishermen in general can be a stubborn bunch. If you’re not experiencing the fall action that you used to, swallow your pride and rethink your spots. This is not the spring herring run, so the places that treated you well in May and June may not show the same love in September and October. The same goes for tidal phases. A good plan is to come up with a solid rotation of spots to hit at different tides.
When reevaluating your bass haunts, think of current and structure with depth close by. In some cases, these spots may have very short windows for when they are primed for taking cows. I try to concentrate on specific holding lies where there is strong current. I like to think the large opportunistic feeders will set up in areas where it’s hard to ignore an offering drifting by them at the right speed.
Another thing to keep in mind is that striped bass don’t wait until the Autumnal Equinox to start their fall migrations. Many fish will begin moving in late August and early September. Sometimes anglers get into their hardcore fall-mode too late and miss large waves of migrating bass. Overall, September has been my most successful month in Connecticut waters for the past few years. This is when I encounter many bass in the 30-pound class locally.
This past fall, friends and I followed the old adage of not leaving fish to find fish. We were lucky to experience some great early-fall action in our home waters, which cut down on drive times and gas money. We had a string of consistent fishing that lasted nearly two months. Live eels and large soft plastics accounted for dozens of stripers between 15 and 30 pounds, but never an ounce over. On one night in late September, more than 24 bass over 15 pounds were landed, four surpassing 24 pounds. The larger fish remained elusive, but we went without a skunk in September and October. It was epic only because of its consistency.
As good as early-fall fishing can be, don’t make the mistake of hanging it up too early. Atlantic herring move into tidal rivers and harbors in late November and early December, and pursuing striped bass are never far behind. Unlike summer when it’s strictly a night game for surfcasters, fall is a great time to get out during the day.
The great fall migration of striped bass still occurs every year, although it might not be as visible as it once was. Discounting holdover populations, all stripers have to migrate and you can bet they put on the feedbag before starting their long journeys. We don’t frequently witness bass blitzing on football fields of peanut bunker anymore, but there is still plenty of feeding going on right under our noses. Who knows, maybe the fall blitzes of yesteryear will return someday. In the meantime keep an open mind out there and good luck.
Targeting water that many shore-bound anglers would neglect or overlook. Fishing spots knowing that you are there for that one bump. Casting and retrieving for hours to no avail, yet still having confidence that your hit could come at any moment. And shaking it off when you go home fishless. This should be the mindset of the angler who regularly plies trophy bass habitat.
So you have a few spots that cough up keeper-sized bass, with the occasional above average one mixed in. But how many 20-plus-pound fish do these locations yield collectively throughout a season? If your answer is low, you should consider seeking out new haunts. Big fish spots are labeled that way because they are reliable. Trophy bass return to these areas not by accident.
One of the keys to success in the surf is knowing where your quarry feeds. After all, if you don’t know where big fish hunt, then you’re not hunting for big fish. Current, structure, depth close by and tide stages are the main ingredients in the big fish recipe. Factors like bait presence, wind direction, tidal stage, barometric pressure, time of year, and moon phase also come into the equation. Even luck plays a role, but you can be in right place, at the right time, more often, by doing your homework.
Classic examples of current and structure are Rhode Island’s three breach ways. Although they are not everyone’s favorite place to fish because of their occasional circus atmosphere, they do consistently attract trophy striped bass. Think of those salt ponds as refrigerators full of bait, emptying out into the Atlantic with every tidal exchange. It may be worth your time to suck it up, play nice and be part of the rotation at the ends of these breach ways. If you seek solitude, these well-known locations are not for you, unless you fish deep-night tides and nasty conditions. Fair-weather anglers won’t go out then, but the fish certainly don’t mind. Always have a fish-landing zone in mind on these rocks. Wear Korkers and watch your step too. Fly rodders can score here as well standing on the breachway rocks and casting to the inside and outside of the breachway.
How does one locate big fish spots? Good students of this sport use the latest technology, reconnaissance, networking, and publications to give them an edge. The most obvious, the Internet, can be a double-edged sword. Yes, many a spot have been burned to the masses on public fishing forums. However, many a spot have also been revealed to the saltwater angler studying satellite photos. Scouting in daylight during the lowest tides exposes structure that you can fish over during high water. Joining fishing clubs, attending seminars, listening to sharpies, hanging out in respected fly and tackle shops will cut the learning curve. Scouring books, magazines and articles, old and new, for every available piece of information is only helping your cause. A local legend once mentioned that loose lips sink ships. If someone is kind enough to share a spot with you, respect this. If you want to share it with someone else, ask first. Anglers are protective over their stomping grounds; for good reason too. Much hard work and effort goes into locating these big fish spots. Sometimes the best fishing areas are also the most difficult to access. It only takes one clown to ruin it for everybody else.
If you truly are interested in hunting trophy bass, find areas with both current and structure. Stick with them and they will treat you well. It takes years to acquire a solid rotation of big fish spots. But the mentality discussed above should help speed up the process. We will leave you with one last thought. This quick tip comes from Mike Everon himself, better known in surfcasting circles as “Iron Mike”. In a conversation a few years back, Mike said “Get a wetsuit and equipment that can handle being submerged. Plant yourself on a rock 30-yards out and cast parallel to the shore.” Keep in mind that this came from an angler who scored two 50-pound bass in one night. Now go get yours…
Surfcasters have a dizzying array of choices when deciding on which method of fishing to employ each time on the water. Spinning rods, conventional bait-casting rods, and fly rods are the main tools of the trade, but even within these applications, there are countless combinations of natural baits and artificials an angler can present to hungry fish. Knowing when and when not to use each tool is just one of the many keys to successful surf fishing.
One of the best things to have in the surf is an open mind. Surfcasters can sometimes be stubborn and get too caught up in the method rather than the results. Strange as it may seem, there are anglers out there who will ignore, and even look down upon, a certain method, even if it is out producing another. Whether it is fly, spin or conventional, artificial or bait, an angler must choose the best application and presentation for the particular situation at hand.
For example, during summer full and new moon phases on Long Island Sound, a highly sought-after phenomenon known as the cinder worm hatch can sometimes occur. These worms hatch out of muddy flats, which can create a feeding frenzy among striped bass. The best method to duplicate this forage is with a fly rod, a floating fly line and small worm patterns. I have been in these situations without the right tools for the job and it is very frustrating to say the least. You would be wasting your time fishing during this hatch with anything but small worm imitations.
Another example can occur while fishing near a large school of adult menhaden, also known in our area as bunker. Striped bass and bluefish are at times so keyed in on the real thing, that presenting life-like artificials, even on the outskirts of the school of baitfish, often turns up fruitless. Snagging a bunker with a weighted treble hook, and live-lining the now-injured baitfish, can be much more productive, as your struggling bait should stand out in the crowd. If that doesn’t get their attention, using fresh cut bunker chunks under the school may entice the target species. Large striped bass are known to be lazy at times, not wanting to waste their precious energy. Scooping up an easy offering on the bottom expends much less energy than tracking down a fleeing baitfish.We all have our preferences when it comes to fishing, but try to keep an open mind before and throughout each outing. Leave all options on the table and keep your ears and eyes peeled. Ultimately, it’s not what you want; it’s what the fish want.