My crystal ball has been on the blink for months, due in part to a miserable case of Lyme Disease that was miss diagnosed around June, so the parasitic bacteria had way too long to build up and do plenty of damage. Hopefully not to the areas of my brain where intuitions, those feelings that cartoons make fun of with the angel and devil each whispering into an ear: “do it” — verses “Don’t do it”.
If your brain is having that argument to begin with its probably because commonsense or past experience is saying: “Remember the last time you tried this —- didn’t turn out so well, did it?”
Nightly news across the country is full of the results of these internal arguments that ended up making the wrong mistake.
One particularly sad story was that of a couple of young men, I think it was in the south, venturing out for a fishing trip in Florida the day after a tropical storm warning had been issued. Their boat was found, but the young men were not.
Who knows what the opposing thoughts that were probably going through their minds, but they were ignored for many reasons that could range from: “Let’s just go a little ways out, turn and get back to shore before the storm hits.” Discarded fishing line, maybe even a rogue wave or simply a larger than average wave hitting a boat from the wrong angle at the wrong time can change a plan like that in an instant, turning a short trip into life long mourning for family and friends, on top of a potentially dangerous, costly search and recovery mission for rescuers.
For many years friends, family and I would take a twenty plus hour drive north to Ontario Canada to fish for pike, walleye and smallmouth bass with a friend whom I met at a show, Dick Harlock. Dick owned and operated Gogama Lodge, a fishing and in season hunting camp, with a permit to exclusively fish and hunt on something like 60 or 70 remote lakes within a twenty mile or so flight in a Cessna fitted with pontoons. No roads or access other than on foot to these lakes, only a sea plane could fly customers in and out.
One had the option to day fish and go back to the lodge, for a home cooked meal, dry place to sleep and opportunity to fly into a different lake the next day. This was great fun, excellent “catching” and high adventure. The thing that impressed me every time we flew to a remote lake was the consistently good fishing but you had to know where to go.
Remember ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water. The lake basin was huge, with many incoming rivers, coves and only a handful of camps and private cabins clustered close to the town of Gogama, with population of only a couple hundred full time people.
The first time we were flown in, the view was spectacular, like flying over a green ocean of evergreens, punctuated with dozens of lakes that looked like blue specks from a distance that turned into a lake with loads of structure in the form of aquatic plants, rock ledges and islands. You can see the curvature of the earth, like being in a plane over a blue ocean, except its green with blue dots. The topography that far north is quite flat with a few hills to break up the spectacular view.
The pilots would usually lay the plane over on its side so fishermen could have a look at the water to get an idea where they might want to fish, before touching down on the water near a beach or dock where there would be a small boat turned over, waiting for the next anglers. These lakes varied a great deal in size and most of the fish had never seen a hook. Kind of like the ocean with millions of fish of many species many of which have never seen a hook either or they probably would not be around to catch due to the heavy commercial and recreational pressures legal or “market” sized individuals face throughout their lives.
It’s like running a constant gauntlet of hooks and nets on a daily basis at worst, seasonal basis at best.
The reason this column is focused on freshwater and inland rather than marine fishing is due to the fact that by Connecticut regulations there are two marine species that are active this time of year and open to fishing, cod and pollock. Both of which would require a very long boat ride or a long drive by car to get on a boat running out of the states from Rhode Island to Maine, followed by a boat ride that is also long or at best uncomfortable and cold. Not impossible, but a great deal of effort.
Inshore along the coast coastal rivers and estuaries, that may or may not be frozen when this article is printed, may harbor some viable fisheries. There are some striped bass to be caught in the Housatonic River below the first major dam. A friend has caught a few mostly small school stripers there during the course of this winter but I’ve not joined him. The winter striper fishery in the Thames River is essentially gone, until the striper population rebounds from its current decline.
Larger rivers and their coves may produce some freshwater species, including perch, northern pike, bass, and pickerel in the Connecticut River, not sure about these species in the “Housey”. White perch fisheries are also viable on the Thames, Housatonic and other larger rivers flowing into Long Island Sound this time of year. Places such as Niantic River, the Pawcatuck River, and Mystic River once had sea-run brown trout fisheries, runs of tomcod and white perch to play with during the dead of winter months. I haven’t heard of a tomcod in years and only an occasional “lost” trout from up stream stockings that follows their instinct to travel down river to the Sound.
White perch are present to fish for, though runs of these fish have not been like they have been in the past, or at least few people are pursuing them. I have not seen anyone fishing Poquetanuck Cove on the Thames for a long while during the dead of winter and that was a hot spot when it wasn’t frozen for my entire half century of fishing. I’d bet there are some around to catch and people will begin fishing for them later this month when temperatures moderate, ice melts and spring is on the way.
Remember spring and increasing water temperatures are dependent on the amount of sunlight penetrating into the water, releasing its energy and incrementally increasing its temperature with every passing day.
One of those completely useless factoids I calculated many years ago out of curiosity, that based on available sunrise and sun set tables published, I think the Earth receives one minute and eighteen seconds more sunlight each day after the shortest day, December 21, and looses the same amount of sunlight every day after the longest day, June 21. Spring and improved fishing options are approaching and after this relatively mild winter as of this printing, I’m ready to go catch something, anything with scales and fins.