After a long winter punctuated by high winds, spent hurricanes, flooding rains and one heavy wet storm that dumped ten inches of heavy wet snow that took down trees and power lines throughout the region including one section of a beautiful old maple tree in my back yard. The branch that constantly knocks my hat off when mowing, so good riddance to it. There were more potentially large destructive storms in the near future. These destructive winds are Mother Nature’s way of trimming her forests. Problem is when those trees fall, they often do tremendous damage to everything man-made throughout the region. The forest manicures are part of nature’s master plan.
The night before storm number two struck, the weather man did say, in more polite terms, to quote one of my favorite Lee Van Cleef westerns “Duck you sucker!”, before he tosses a lit stick of TNT at the bad guys. Problem is the dynamite sticks, the lit ones, are not done coming our way quite yet.
That night for the second or third time I was outside walking the dog in the heavy snowfall when thunder and lightning boomed out of the blizzard a rare occurrence, “thunder snow”, something the weather people were excited about that I have only experienced once or twice before. Reason being, during the winter the temperatures are cold enough to freeze rain into snowflakes, it’s too cold to create the friction in fast rising air molecules to create lightning and the resulting boom of thunder.
At least the heat and lights didn’t go out at my home for a welcome change, though sadly many people all along the coast were without power. Though unless people were foolish enough not to evacuate when told by authorities, most are in aggravating, miserable circumstances, on a positive note they are not in imminent danger from winters cold and high tides.
Many years ago before waters began to warm and few restrictions were in place to regulate the regions commercial and in some cases sport fisheries, I had the displeasure of watching nearly every valuable species go into some level of decline, pretty much in order of the prices they fetched in the market place. Please understand that everyone who shares such a resource share some part of the blame, especially those who do not follow regulations and laws.
During the late 60’s when my buddies and I first got our drivers licenses it was possible to go down to nearly every coastal estuary, Niantic Bay, upper Mystic River, lower Thames you name it and pretty much count on catching a few flounder for a meal. On a good day, remember this was before and part of the reason these fish declined, on a good trip it was possible to fill a five gallon pail. This was before size limits but I personally always set my own limits that later on when regulations were made, were usually larger than the state and federal limits. The only time was that summer when Connecticut or one of the adjoining states waters I like to fish, had different size restrictions ranging from sixteen inches to something crazy like either 19 or 21 inches in place. Being with such large minimum sizes and most fish well under the limit, I always believed that people who kept fishing for the species were probably killing more fish they released than those impractical and realistic limits saved. I simply stopped flounder fishing and kept scup, blackfish or an occasional striper or bluefish when I wanted to bring home some fillets.
Now I have to travel to Massachusetts and fish with some friends there to be assured of hooking some winter flounder. However, the warming waters that negatively affected winter flounder spawning success, attracted summer flounder, (fluke) to our waters. To me, that was a fair trade off because fluke are one of my personal favorite species to drift for as well as take home for supper.
After such a fickle, storm filled winter my “crystal ball” is more like an eight ball, it can’t see anything that might be ahead, at least not until warm waters bring bait fish and predators back into this region from points off shore and to the south.
Odds are, like many reading these words catching some fish are the point especially after a long, snowy miserable winter. Being an angler that fishes freshwater, saltwater and the rivers that connect the two, there’s nearly always something available that I personally enjoy catching. For this reason, perhaps my biggest claim to infamy is the fact that “I’ve been skunked fishing for everything”, literally here in the northeast and caught most of them at one time or another as well.
This time of year every sunny day adds some more warmth to the earth in our region. They are called “degree days” that will build up the heat on land and in our waters throughout the region. Once the first few spring like days occurs, I plan to make my annual yellow perch and sunfish trips to a couple of my favorite spots along the Connecticut River and local small freshwater lakes that are open to fishing year round, near my home.
Many anglers have new tackle they acquired over the winter that they are anxious to try out. Don’t be afraid to experiment, one thing I’ve always done, regardless of the species being targeted is what might be called “crossing over fishing techniques, and lures” to go from fresh to saltwater or vice versa. This doesn’t mean using a surf rod for bluegills but using methods that work and modifying them reasonably to do the job at hand.
The planning and thinking about the best methods and baits is part of what my longtime fishing buddy Eric Covino and I refer to as being “scientific anglers”. We have both taught science and agree that figuring out the problem and a way to solve it in order to catch a given species is a good part of the challenge and satisfaction we get from having a successful trip, which for some species is simply not getting skunked.
Years ago we would still be fishing for over wintering school stripers in the Thames River. However, that fishery has declined enough that it’s not worth the effort, at the present time. A friend has been doing well on the Housatonic this winter playing catch and release with its bounty of over wintering stripers.
A closing few words to the fish: “Duck you nibblers and strikers!”