March is perhaps my personal least favorite month of the year. Ice begins to become deadly dangerous for inland fishermen and there are not many species in this area that are available or if they are present legal to catch due to various closed seasons.
For many years we used to spend this slow, cold month playing catch and release with the huge number of over wintering school stripers in the upper Thames River. Sadly due to a drop in their numbers its not worth the effort to play with a hand full of fish. We used to average about fifty catch and releases each during an average trip for more than a decade, at least until the huge mass that wintered in the upper Thames in Norwich Harbor. There are probably some fish there now but we have not harassed any of them for a few years now. My buddy does however travel, a miserable trip to the Housatonic River where there are good numbers of wintering stripers. To me the aggravation of a couple hour drive through heavy traffic is not worth the reward.
Ambitious anglers can drive north and take a cod or mackerel boat out though I am not exactly sure of the available species, seasons etc. Cod and pollock fishing boats run out of many Maine and Massachusetts ports when seasons are open.
Years ago here in Connecticut after ice out I’d fish for sea run brown trout (which essentially don’t exist any more) and tomcod, a great eating once abundant smaller member of the Gadidae (cod) family that were abundant in coastal estuaries during the 1970 when I stopped to ask some older anglers what they were catching. Their answer was tomcod and white perch.
Tomcod like it cold and unfortunately the warm decade of the 80’s essentially hung a job on the local population here in Connecticut. There are still a few around but I don’t think the population is any near the size it was at that time. However there may be some around in coastal estuaries that anglers may bump into when casting bait for those white perch.
White perch are a viable fishery here in Connecticut. Abundant where they are pound, decent eating they are actually more closely related to striped bass than the yellow perch they are named after due to their tall fan like spiny dorsal fin. Good eating and fun to catch I’ve spent a few early spring late winter days casting a piece of night crawler on a hook or small jig head. Scrappy, willing to strike and decent eating the species is worth investing a few hours to catch a batch for supper if you have a place, which are many of the coves and inlets on the states larger coastal rivers.
My personal favorite March fishing for decades was making a couple of runs to fish a protected marina basin off the main river in the lower Connecticut River. Coves, marinas and other protected places where the current is minimal fish of all species would over winter in these places to avoid having to fight strong currents in the main stem of this large river.
One place that sadly had to close down due to problems with vandalism from uninvited people was ideal. I could drive right to the place, park out of the way incase the marina personnel had to move any boats around. I’d use a micro ultra-light spinning rod, a 1/16 ounce chartreuse or yellow lead head and an inch piece of night crawler and catch both yellow perch, my favorite, some sunfish and occasionally a bass catfish and other species. One time I hooked a small sunfish and a northern pike of maybe ten pounds snatched it off my line as it was brought to the surface. The second time that happened the hook popped out of the small perch and stuck in the tip of the snout of the pike, which was something like 32 inches long. A fun catch on the micro ultra-light rod I was using.
My primary target species, yellow perch were plentiful and decent size, I don’t keep any to eat unless they are at least ten inches long and taking a couple dozen that passed this test was almost always achieved. I’ve caught perch up to 13 inches in this particular spot and the hassle of cleaning a couple dozen, enough to feed the family for a couple of evening meals was worth the trip, poke holes in fingers that are unavoidable while filleting that many small, well armored fish.
I have always held yellow perch in high esteem. Probably from some of my earliest fishing memories that involved catching one or two in front of my grandfathers lake front home on Amston Lake when I was a kid and just learning to fish with an old Zebco push button reel.
When that marina gave anglers the boot, once every spring two of us would launch one of my small boats on Hamburg Cove and fish for both white and yellow perch, again with the possibility of catching a pike or bass if you tossed a lure in the right spot. Hamburg Cove is a popular fishing spot that more than one angler takes advantage of during the spring.
All anglers regardless of their preferred style and target species are waiting for spring when the fish we love to cast for begin to wake up from their winter stupor, while in the ocean species from the south begin moving northward along the coast or inshore from their wintering areas along the coast. It’s only a matter of time before we will be making our first casts of the 2020 season.
I figured this out one time for the heck of it. The shortest day of the year in terms of sunlight cast onto the northern hemisphere is December 21. From that day on due to the tilt in the earths axis as it hurtles its way in orbit around the sun and that tilt inches its way from tilting away from the most direct rays of the sun to tilting towards this life giving energy and heat source. Every day from the shortest day to the longest day, June 21 the northern hemisphere picks up about a minute and eighteen seconds per day, adding 39 seconds of additional day light to every morning and adding the same amount of time to every afternoon.
The science lesson is completed for the day. If I had anything to say about fishing I would not have bored our readers with this, though I find things like this interesting, though not always directly useful, except at a cocktail party.