Are Menhaden Making a Comeback?

Are Menhaden Making a Comeback?

Many years ago menhaden were prolific along the shores of Long Island Sound. So abundant that mass die offs occured in some back bays due to low oxygen. I kid you not. That all changed in 1993 when the menhaden population in Long Island Sound crashed. And not surprisingly, here in Connecticut, our fishery was dramatically altered.  After all menhaden are a critical part of the food chain for both bass and blues. Bluefish responded by moving offshore. And stripers began migrating up the Connecticut River to feed on shad and herring.

Menhaden in the Lower Connecticut

Since then menhaden have returned to Connecticut shores in some years, but unfortunately never like the good old days. That maybe about to change. Yesterday I saw a large number of adult menhaden in the lower Connecticut River. Are they making a comeback? Maybe. Sadly there were no bass or blues feeding on them. Both of those populations are not in poor shape. Still the presence of menhaden (bunker) is a positive sign for the future of our fishery.

Stock assessments show that menhaden are doing fairly well. In part that is likely due to the lack of predation by bass and blues. And I have to think the legislation myself and many others worked on to push the commercial reduction fishery out of Northeast water is also a contributing factor. So damaging was this reduction fishery it was literally causing localized extinctions in our waters. One day we had menhaden, the next day they had all been netting and shipped out-of-state. Crazy shit.

As you can see in the above chart the reduction fishery has declined since its heyday. And the following charts will show the menhaden stock is healthy, although reproduction is not that great. Still I’m optimistic menhaden are rebounding in our water.

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Are Tough Times Ahead for the Northeast Saltwater Angler?

Are Tough Times Ahead for the Northeast Saltwater Angler?

In years past,  the Northeast saltwater angler relied mainly on bass and blues for much of the season. The bass were here by May and the blues followed right behind them. And both hung around right into early November. Nice. Then in the fall bonito and false albacore arrived, to spice things up bigtime. Yeah they are the icing on our cake. All-in-all a long season with a very nice mix of action.

Now best I remember bonito and false albacore were not really not part of our game in the 1980’s. I think I caught my first “albie” on the Vineyard around 1991? And we have had times when either bass or blues were in short supply, but I never saw a time when both of them simultaneously declined. If that happened, obviously, the bulk of the season would collapse, leaving only bonito and false albacore to fill in. And we all know the local availability of these two species varies greatly from year to year.We would be in serious trouble!

But frankly isn’t that pretty much what had the last two years? Striped bass and bluefish are in short supply. And spawning success, especially for striped bass, is very, very weak. So there is no clear recovery in sight. Think I’m talking through my hat? Could I be wrong? Sure. But take a moment and look at these charts. They paint a dim picture.

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Fishing Denied

Fishing Denied

Got up early this morning, hoping to find a few striped bass. With coffee in hand, headed out in the dark for Ocean Beach in New London. Traditionally this has been a good spot for late season bass. I was seriously pumped.

Fishing Denied

Got to the parking lot by 6:30Am. The damn gate was locked! Really? Years back I always got in early. Come on! Fishing denied.

Were they going to open the gate later? Maybe, but the fishing here usually fades fast with the sun. No sense waiting around. Jumped back behind the wheel and drove to Harkness State Park. Man oh man, the gate was locked there too? Fishing denied again. Kept searching for a place to wet a line. Bingo, I thought of a beach where I stood a decent chance. Great. Drove off trying to beat the sun. Got to the beach and its was plastered wall-to-wall with no parking signs. WTF? Never had them before? Fishing denied. I’m pissed.

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Dave gets another Tailing Red

Dave gets another Tailing Red

Dave down on the Florida Gulf Coast just sent me another picture. Once again Dave got himself a “tailing” red. Nice going Dave. You rule!

Dave’s Red

The light color of this red suggests it has been spending some time over sandy bottoms. When hanging over muddy bottoms, reds get a much darker bronze. Hey striped bass adapt to their habitat the same way. In Long Island Sound stripers tend to darken, while out on Cape Cod they look like Casper the friendly ghost. And I’m going to guess from the clouds it has been raining down Dave’s way. While rain discolors the water it also can drop temperatures which in turn invites reds back into the shallows. Any way you cut it a good looking redfish.

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Took the Kayak to Pine Island

Took the Kayak to Pine Island

Wonderful weather yesterday. Amazing for late October. Threw the kayak in the truck and aimed the windshield at Pine Island over by Bluff Point. By the way if you’re hauling a kayak that extends beyond the flatbed in your truck be sure to drape a warning flag at the far end. Believe me without it, on a quick stop the car behind you may pay an unwanted visit.  Don’t let it happen.

Kayak Flag

I knew that Pine Island was fogged in heavy. So I delayed a bit hoping the fog would lift. No such luck. The water was socked in solid. And get this: my kayak’s radar unit was in the repair shop. Wait a freaking minute! I don’t have a radar unit! LOL With near zero visibility, I didn’t dare paddle out front. Boats often don’t see kayakers even in clear conditions. No sense tempting fate.

Fog Lifting a Little

With that in mind, I decided to tuck around the corner into the Pawcatuck. Nice water back there. Loaded with bait. Once I arrived I got out, slapped on a stripping basket and waded the shore. Very peaceful. Fog lifting a little.

Walking the Beach

After a time I decided to travel farther back in the river. A fine day to explore. Found a few small bass on a flat. I could see them wandering around. But once again the bite was nothing to write home about. Still a glorious day on the water. Enjoyed it big time.

Around me the spartina grass was rusting, a sure sign of the year’s ebb. Ahh….the salt marsh in Autumn. Hey, the earth is tilting away from the sun. And old man winter is lurking in the wings, my friend.

The Spartina Grass is Rusting

Well all-in-all it proved to be another slow day. Hey fishing is wishing. What fly was I using? I was seeing large silversides so I stuck with a simple streamer pattern. And I fished all day with my Meridian 7wt. This rod is a jewel. Am I thinking the fat lady has sung? Na. I have high hopes the season isn’t over yet. Hell the water temperatures are off the chart! There may be bass action into yule time. 

The Fly Du Jour

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