May and October are the bookends of the angling year, one leads spring into summer and the other turns greens of summer into the radiant colors of fall. Both are periods when fish of all species feed actively in the spring to recover from the depredations of winter and or spawning and in the fall, primarily to store calories in preparation for migrations or the approaching winter.
Due to the fickle weather this year, its difficult to determine what conditions will be like in May being there was still snow piles in my driveway on “April Fools Day”. One thing for sure, come rain or shine, the northern hemisphere receives approximately a minute and eighteen seconds more sunlight every day, after December 21, which is the shortest day, with June 21 “the longest day” with half a year separating them. Despite the foibles of week to week weather, as more light penetration means more heat in the ground and atmosphere, so warming is inevitable unless some geological catastrophe occurs.
I read a book about the eruption of Mount Krakatowa that blew so much dust into the upper atmosphere it actually blocked a great deal of light penetration. That cloud sat over much of the northern hemisphere causing tremendous problems for people who were essentially subsistence living during that time. That year New Englander’s called it “the year with no summer” because so much warming sunlight was reflected back into space many crazy things took place such as summer time frosts, even snows. The end result was a great deal of suffering in areas where crops did not grow or mature/ At that time refrigeration was non existent and the movement of goods was short range for the most part and slow at best.
In my life time unseasonably cold or warm weather messes up some crop production in this region but for this readership, it has caused “normal” arrival dates of migratory species to vary by a couple of weeks either side of “normal” if there is such a thing. Nothing much more catastrophic than some inconvenience for people who booked fishing trips a year in advance and the species they targeted had not arrived when they got on the boat.
Water temperature does not only govern the arrival of game species, as importantly it determines when forage species become available. Its a simple matter of the fact that predators are usually below and or right behind the prey upon which they feed. One reason surface splashes and breaks attract sharp visioned terns and gulls which are in turn chased by sharp eyed fishermen.
Last spring an early run of menhaden helped coastal anglers in Connecticut start their seasons off with some decent striped bass and bluefish action.
What is most likely to be is likely to be taking place as far as the migrations of important inshore species and their food sources which in a scientific formula would equal how productive the fishing should be is a bunch of “mumbo-jumbo” but its the best I can come up with as of this writing.
Being was a fisheries biologist for the first half of my life and a science teacher for the second, I’ve got a bunch of what for most people is useless factual information bouncing around in my cranium, with no place to go since I’ve retired. When I was first working on this column, for some reason a totally non scientific formula popped into my head kind of like Einstein’s theory of relativity jelled in his in credible intellect. A goofy take off on his famous formula for fishing popped into my head.
GFC = PA x PA Catch ability equals Prey Abundance squared. (GF game fish, Catch ability, equals Prey Abundance, squared) A silly way to express a sport fisherman’s equivalent to Einstein’s theory of relativity, which essentially means, simply translated means where there is prey, there is also predators focused and feeding on them. Obviously physical factors such as water temperature, a factor of season and light intensity, time of day and in the ocean a factor freshwater anglers don’t have to deal with the tidal movement, both direction and speed.
Over time through learning from others, trial and error along with in the case of scientific minded anglers, experimentation those who work hardest, learn the most are almost always the most successful sport and or commercial fishermen.
Success is a direct factor of effort on the water as well as on the job. Paying attention to details can make a tremendous difference when fish are located in a relatively small area along the bottom or zone of water depth.
This must be prefaced by noting the fact that neither myself nor my fishing partner of more than three decades Eric Covino like trolling. However under certain circumstances, for certain species it is the best way to hook up. Remember the fishing for a named species verses “anything” or “Everything” is something like eighty percent more effective. (Know thy quarry.)
On one instance years ago while fishing for over wintering striped bass on the Thames River our normal jigging technique was failing. We were marking densely packed schools of fish within five feet of the bottom but not spread out with the usual fingers coming off the schools. (Our suspicion was a sudden influx of cold, less dense freshwater due to a recent snow melting rain that had a colder cloudy water on top of the few feet of brackish, slightly warmer (39-40 F vs 35-37 F) water that when flows are low penetrate well up the Thames, my guess is to Norwich harbor at times. Not much but enough for a cold blooded animal to care.
We switched over to long lipped swimming plugs to get down to the proper depth and run just above and slightly into the schools and we or rather one began catching fish while the other was not (we were using slightly different versions of the same lure.)
We performed a quick “side by side taste test” which we do often by simply switching rods, do eliminate some little thing the angler was doing. The fish stayed with the same rod. The next thing was to see how deep our lures were running, so we ran up into a slow sloping bud bottom, the rod catching snagged at 10 feet, the other at 6 feet, which meant it was running four feet above the fish in the “discomfort zone” while the other was tickling their noggins. That rod was switched over to a clone of the successful lure and we both caught fish as we followed the school down river with the ebbing tide.
Soon, later this month and into June the squid will move inshore to spawn, with stripers, bluefish and fluke in tow and feeding heavily. When this annual phenomenon occurs, the “squid bite” takes place and its fun when the bait and bass are feeding shallow over the top of a reef because casting anything that looks like a squid ranging from Yozuri Hydro-Squid, to Slug-Go’s to the original buck tail jig with a strip of pork or plastic on the hook.
When the bass are “slurping squid” the fishing can actually be easy. Without using extremely heavy trolling gear its possible to catch mid sized stripers on top or near the surface on light spinning and bait casting tackle. My favorite event of the fishing calendar. There should be a “squid slurping day between Memorial Day and Fathers Day.
Around that same time, when water temperatures reach the high 60’s in area salt ponds and coves on larger rivers, the “yellow jawed clam worms” or cinder worms as anglers call them come out of the mud into the water column to spawn creating “the worm bite” another great event that can be enjoyed on even lighter tackle than the squid fest, because in general the bass that are in the salt ponds feeding on the worm hatch are generally smaller than those eating seven inch to foot long squid on the reefs.
Either way May ushers in an exciting and potentially productive period of fishing for marine anglers, so be sure to get the boat running and in the water to take advantage of these fun light tackle fisheries. Pay attention to the regulations.