29 September 2008

What Do Fish Look Like on A Fish-finder?

A fishfinder comprises three components: The display head, the transducer, and the wiring harness that connects them to each other and to the boat’s battery.

The display head contains the computer, input keys to give the computer instructions, and the display screen.

The transducer, mounted [in the case of our boat] on the outside of the boat on the transom [stern] uses Sonar technology [developed in World War II] to produce sound waves that it sends through the water. When these waves hit a fish, or the bottom, they bounce back to the transducer; by measuring the time elapsed between the sending and the reception, the computer can then calculate the depth at which the object lies and it can show the bottom of the water.

The nature of the signal received by the transducer can also tell the computer the size and shape of the object encountered. The computer then displays these shapes on the screen.

The sound waves are sent out in the shape of a cone, rather like the beam of a flashlight; this means that in very shallow water the area the transducer “sees” is very small…only a few feet in diameter. At greater depths the cone has time to spread and, therefore, allows the transducer to see a much wider area below the boat.

Obviously, this is all very useful information. Knowing the water depth and seeing the bottom are helpful for finding underwater structure [rocks, holes, etc.] that may be indicators of locations where fish will queue up to feed. Seeing the actual fish gives an indication of their size and number.

Unfortunately, seeing the fish and their habitat doesn’t guarantee fishing success. Sometimes you find likely habitat, and no fish are there. Sometimes you see the fish, and they won’t bite. Oddly, sometimes no fish appear on the screen and you still catch them. No guarantees at all.

The fishfinder in the photo tells us we are fishing in 27.6 feet of water [pretty deep for us] and the water temp is 60.5 degrees F. The clutter at the top of the screen is just that: Noise produced by the boat’s propeller and the interaction of the transducer and the water. The bottom of the water is the red line at the base of the screen. All those squiggly things between 18-feet and the bottom are fish. Unfortunately, the fishfinder can’t tell us the type of fish we’re seeing; but, as I recall, they turned out to be smaller striped bass…they were all stacked up like cordwood.

On the day the photo of the screen was taken, we did catch fish.

27 September 2008

Nearly $1 Million Awarded for Projects to Improve Health of Long Island Sound;

(Rye, N.Y.) Gathering near the shores of the Long Island Sound in Westchester County, federal and state environmental officials today announced 35 grants to state and local government and community groups under the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. The $912,994 in grants will be leveraged by $1.4 million raised by the recipients themselves, providing a total of nearly $2.3 million towards on-the-ground conservation in Connecticut and New York.

This year’s grant program funded 17 grants in New York and 18 grants in Connecticut. Four grants were awarded for habitat restoration; five grants for planning and stewardship; five for education; three for improving water quality and three for conservation of native fish and bird species. Thirteen small grants totaling $68,000 were awarded to increase understanding and appreciation of the Long Island Sound through community events and activities.

The grant program pools funds from the EPA, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Shell Marine Habitat Program for projects to restore the health and living resources of Long Island Sound. Long Island Sound is an estuary that provides economic and recreational benefits to millions of people, while also providing natural habitats to more than 1,200 invertebrate species, 170 species of fish, and dozens of species of migratory birds.

Read the complete Press Release at: U.S. EPA

The bird photos in this post were taken by Deb Persson whose website you can see at: Deb’s Photos

[Dollar figure shown is a total of Federal Funds, Non-Federal Funds, and Matching Funds]

$50,700—Old Lyme: The Tributary Mill Conservancy will increase the capacity of it streamside incubation facility to supply 110,000 Atlantic salmon fry to lower Connecticut River tributaries with an additional incubator system and increased feed piping to ensure reliable hatching. Grade-school to college age students from 6-8 schools participate in hatchery operations and conduct studies to learn about the hatching process.

$121,000—Milford: Sacred Heart University will develop an integrated management strategy for Milford Point with education and training of citizen scientists to monitor important environmental indicators to inform management decision-making.

$977,500—Stonington: The Nature Conservancy will use funds to develop the deal to acquire 48-acres of tidal wetlands and associated habitat at Barn Island Wildlife Management Area.

$82,700—Middlesex, New London, Hartford, Tolland Counties: The Nature Conservancy will review land-use policies for 4 towns, create maps to show the projected development and impact on natural resources, and host public meetings to increase information about conservation.

$73,200—Quinnipiac River Watershed (including New Haven, North Haven, Wallingford, Meridian, Cheshire, Southington, Wolcott, Plainville, Prospect, East Haven): The Eastern Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area will deliver a 4-day workshop for 35 municipal land use leaders concerning tools for natural resources watershed protection in towns of the Quinnipiac River Watershed.

$66,875—Saugatuck River Watershed (Bethel, Danbury, Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton): Hydroqual will assist public agencies develop and implement innovative permitting and pollutant trading strategies.

$51,500—Sherwood Island State Park, Westport: Connecticut Parks will design, develop and install educational exhibits and materials for their newly established nature center at Sherwood Island State Park.

$66,180—Shelton, Stratford, Milford, Orange, Derby: Housatonic Valley Association will establish a Low Impact Development (LID) partnership among builders, property managers and public agencies to reduce stormwater runoff into the Long Island Sound

$88,614—Thames River Watershed (Windham, Tolland and New London, Connecticut; and Hampden and Worcester, Massachusetts): Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor will educate the 12,050 adults and children through 18 events and a website about water quality issues in the Thames River Watershed.

$59,000—Branford, Guilford, Easton, Meriden: Document Video Services will create and distribute a 3-part video series about fish ladders, clean clam harvesting and non-point source pollution to 1 million cable television viewers, 11th graders and municipal and conservation organizations.

Source of this listing of grants: L I Sound Study

26 September 2008

The Osprey

We almost always see osprey during our fishing trips on Shoo-Fly 3.

According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the osprey is a large hawk distinguished in flight by its white underparts and the distinctive crook formed by its long, narrow wings. Full adult plumage is achieved at 18 months. Adult males are 21 to 25 inches with a wingspan of 54 to 72 inches.

The osprey is found almost worldwide. Its nesting range in North America includes coastal areas and large inland lakes. These birds then overwinter from Florida to northern coastal Mexico and south to northern South America and return to Connecticut in late March. They usually choose nest sites near or over water but will travel up to several miles from the nest to seek food.

Osprey pairs usually return to the same nest site and add new nest materials to the old nest each year. An average of three eggs is laid in April. Adults are protective of the nest site and may exhibit aggressive behavior at the approach of a potential intruder. The month-long incubation period is usually completed by the female, who is fed by the male during this time. Sixty days after hatching, young osprey make their first flight. After fledging, the young remain with the parents for up to two months. Young remain at wintering grounds for two to three years until they return to the north to make their first breeding attempt.

In the 1940s, the coastal zone between New York City and Boston supported an estimated 1,000 active osprey nests. However, development pressures and eggshell thinning caused by DDT contamination reduced this number to 150 nests by 1969. In Connecticut, the osprey population has experienced a steady increase since 1974, when there was an all-time low of nine active nests. Once again, it is not unusual to see osprey along our coast and rivers. While the numbers are cause for optimism, osprey are still exposed to pesticide contamination at their wintering grounds outside the U.S.

The osprey…known as the "fish hawk"…feeds almost exclusively on fresh fish. It can capture a fish weighing up to four pounds. The toes of the osprey reflect a unique adaptation to its feeding habits; the lower surface of the toes is covered with spicules (short, spikelike protrusions) that guarantee a firm grip on any fish caught. In addition, osprey have a reversible outer toe, enabling them to grasp their prey with two toes in back and two toes in front. The osprey's plumage is compact which helps blunt the impact and reduces wetting when it plunges into the water while fishing. After prey is captured, it is carried headfirst in flight to reduce air resistance.

The development of the shore for recreation has reduced the number of available osprey nest sites. Human activities encourage the presence of predators, such as raccoons, that climb into the nests and destroy the eggs or young. One of the most detrimental human activities is littering. Carelessly discarded litter along the shoreline, especially plastic six-pack yokes and monofilament fishing line, which are often used as nest material, can cause the strangulation death of young osprey. People are encouraged to dispose of all litter in an appropriate manner.

The gorgeous photos of these birds in this post were taken by Deb Persson whose website you can see at: Deb’s Photos

The Wildlife Division surveys all active osprey nests during the summer; volunteers are always welcome to help in the effort. The source of the information in this report is: CT DEP Wildlife Division

25 September 2008

Fisherman Allegedly Found with $3,000 in Illegal Stripers

25 Sep 2008: “A Connecticut fisherman and a Rhode Island seafood dealer were arrested, accused of the illegal sale of striped bass.

"The fisherman, Sean Bradshaw, 44, of Pawcatuck, was charged with the landing and sale of striped bass without a commercial license, commercial fishing without a vessel permit, possession of untagged striped bass and the commercial sale of scup without a license and during the closed season.

"The seafood dealer, John Guerrieri, 50, of South Kingstown, R.I., was charged with buying seafood without a Connecticut seafood dealers license and operating a motor vehicle without a license."

SOURCE: www.NBC30.com

24 September 2008

What the Heck’s He Doing in There?

Don G. and I were fishing at the mouth of the Housatonic River shortly after low tide on Tuesday. We’d had a little luck with stripers and blues…no real photo fish, but fun…and we’d had a lot of cut-offs from large blues that chopped through as much as 50-lb. mono bite tips on our leaders.

We decided to run out to the end of the breakwater. It was extremely rough out there as the wind was blowing 15-20 from the southeast, and any south wind makes the mouth of the River a mess, especially when it’s blowing against the water still flowing out of the River [it takes some time for the incoming tide to overcome the force of the River after the time of the low tide]. We were going to run down the east side of the breakwater…the water wasn’t quite as nasty away from the outflow…when we saw a larger boat heading for the same area. Typical: We’re the only two boats in this area of Long Island Sound, and he’s going to exactly the spot we wanted to go.

Problem was, it’s extremely shallow in that area at low tide. I mean you can walk around in there…and some anglers do that. Not only shallow, but dangerous: There’s a low rock wall there that’s hidden at higher stages of the tide although it should have been clearly visible to this boat operator…mostly dangerous because the wind and waves would be blowing any boat in that area toward the low rock wall. Lose power…and you’re into it.

Figuring that the guy must have known what he was doing, we left and went over onto the Gun Club flat where nothing was happening. When we looked back at the area into which the larger boat had gone—and couldn’t see him—we decided to go back over there.
We rounded the breakwater through the continuing maelstrom at the far end, and we see the larger boat’s still there…but he’s right up against the rocks…and there was someone in the water! Holy mackerel! [Or words to that effect.] We’d better get over there.

So we zipped down along the breakwater over sandbars that registered two feet of depth on our sonar, expecting to get pooped at any moment [means a wave coming in over the stern of the boat]. We got down near him, tooted our horn, and yelled “are you all right?”

The guy was still in the water. Another fellow on the stern of the boat was flailing around with lines doing…who knows what. The boat was I/O [inboard engine, outboard drive] and the drive was up, prop in the air. The guy gives me the “thumbs up” sign. Like, he’s cool.

Yeah, sure!

So here’s what I figure happened. Why he went into that area I still don’t know, but probably he got down there, stuffed his prop into the bottom, and the engine quit on him. So he’s there with waves and wind pushing him directly up onto the low breakwater. He chucks over the anchor to hold him off the rocks…but he can’t let out enough scope [length of the anchor line] to have the anchor grab and hold in the muddy bottom…so he jumps into the water, picks up the anchor, and walks it out until there’s enough scope for the anchor to hold…which is exactly what you see him doing in the photo.

Long story longer: He finally gets back in the boat, re-starts the engine, and claws his way back out of there…the whole time acting like he’s got it completely under control.

Yeah, sure!

Well, he did save the boat…so I suppose all’s well that doesn’t end up on the rocks.

I once saw a boat broached on a beach in Puerto Rico when the operator ran up onto the beach to pick up his buddies only to find he couldn’t claw his way back out because of the force of wind and wave. The boat got pooped and even with a dozen men trying to get the boat back out where he could navigate, it was not possible to do.

Tip: Never go into shallow water on a strong following wind unless you know what the heck you’re doing…and still think twice about it.

23 September 2008

Trip to New Hampshire and Maine...Part IV

Originally thought we were done with posts for this trip...but we had a couple of photos left over that were [IMHO] worthy of publication.

Left-click on any photo to enlarge.

First, here's a shot of the fish tank at LLBean's. Top fish is clearly a rainbow trout and the lower two are brown trout.

Here's a shot that shows another view of the mighty Spurwink River...the grandkids had come over to see what was biting.

Sanderlings running the edge of the breaking waves. Photo by Deb Persson whose website you can see at: Deb’s Photos

And this is what it's all about.

22 September 2008

Trip to New Hampshire and Maine...Part III

We survived another feast at the Lobster Shack and another breakfast at the inn: Old-fashioned oatmeal, eggs any way you want them, thick bacon slices, pancakes, fresh muffins, melon.... It's a struggle to get up from the table after dealing with all that.

And we survived the trip back to Connecticut after just missing getting tangled-up in a traffic jam on I-495 [we got off that road and got onto I-290 through Worcester which went smoothly as most of the construction on the road seems to have been completed.

Left-click on any photo to enlarge.

In this post are some photos of the harbor area in Portsmouth/Kittery. Of interest is a nuclear submarine undergoing repairs [under the white canvas cover]...

The US-1 bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery...

A view of a ship that you would never want to have out on open water...

And then out on the Atlantic, the cliffside north of York Beach where we found the stripers feeding in schools...

21 September 2008

Trip to New Hampshire and Maine...Part II

Have been on the road for a few days…Portsmouth, NH and now Scarborough, ME.

21 September 2008: It’s the official start of the fall season which has already struck here in southern Maine. We’ve had night temperatures into the 40s and day temps hovering around 60…but there’s also been clear blue sky and clean dry air. Usually we get at least one snotty day when we come to Maine, but not this year.

Cool air hasn’t limited outdoor activities: The surfers were out in numbers in front of our lodgings, and when I arrived at the mouth of the Spurwink River, fishing rod in hand, there were already five other anglers there: Two bottom-fishing with live bait and three fly-casters. One of the latter crew was from Old Saybrook, CT and he runs a garage-door installation shop in Milford, CT. Small world. He told me nobody had caught a thing that morning…not even the bait-drowners. He also said that fishing [for striped bass] has been very spotty in Maine in general.

He and his two buddies had been braving the surf with their fly rods and had nothing to show for it except about an inch of water in each foot of their chest-high fishing waders and tired arms from flinging flies into the very teeth of about at 15-knot wind. I was glad I had taken along the spinning rod rather than the nine-weight fly rod.

Hanged around the River’s outflow casting for about twenty minutes…nothing doing. The surf was running hard and the waves would come in and smash against my legs. One particularly feisty wave slopped over the top of my waders…just enough to get things slightly damp down the left leg. Decided it was time to get out of the surf and move up-river.

The tide was coming in, but the river delta was still pretty shallow; could see the bottom all the way across. The River varied in width from perhaps 50 to as much as 100 feet depending on the contours of the surrounding land which, all sandbar on the south side, varied from meadow to cliffs on the north. The bottom was mostly sand but there was a great deal of grass and seaweed in areas where the water did not flow strongly.

I knew that 150-200 yards up the River there was a shallow section over which the water flowed into a deeper hole. In prior years this hole has held many striped bass…so I worked my way up the River, casting along the way but with no success.

Reaching the hole below the shallow, I got a strong hit on the jig/plastic combination lure [see the post of 08 September] which was slammed by what turned out to be an 18” striper…very typical of the fish that run up the River. Although small, it fought very well [thought it was a much bigger fish]. I slid the fish up on the sand bank, removed the hook—the barb had been crushed down so it was easy to slide the hook out—and pushed the fish back into the water. He swam off.

Successive casts produced hard-slamming hits from three more fish. Each of these fish was larger than the first one and even stronger. Living in the Atlantic Ocean must help them build strong muscles [with all the big, nasty things out there that like to eat stripers, the bass probably get a lot of exercise].

Back at the inn the grandchildren were either napping or building castles on the beach.

The next event on our calendar is to head back to the Lobster Shack for dinner.

20 September 2008

A Trip to New Hampshire and Maine...Part I

Have been on the road for a few days…Portsmouth, NH and then to Scarborough, ME.

20 September 2008: We stayed over in Portsmouth to fish with Capt. Peter Whelan who’s the premier guide in this area. Peter also reps for Bauer reels, Rivendell rods, and a bunch of other products. He was just back from the big fly-fishing show in Denver also attended by the likes of Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, and a host of other fishing luminaries.

We left the dock at 0630 so we saw the sun come up. Portsmouth is a gorgeous venue for fishing…lots of scenery; although Peter said the water was actually relatively cloudy, it was so clear that we could see the bottom at a depth of 12 feet. To anyone who fishes Long Island Sound, the water up here would look plenty clear…and it was amazing to see the striped bass cruising below the boat. I’ve never seen the colors in their pectoral fins so brilliant; with the sun shining on them they appeared as a luminous blue when seen from above.

We didn’t catch a lot of fish—and for those we had to run to York Beach in Maine…not as far as it might seem as Portsmouth is on the ME-NH border. At York we saw cruising schools of bass and managed to pull several of them out. None were particularly large, but one got off after straightening out the hook of the jig I was fishing…it must have been a decent fish. Back at the dock we watched a school of large bass harassing a big bunch of 10-inch bunker [menhaden]—it can’t be a lot of fun being a bait fish.

Next, we headed for Higgins Beach in Scarborough. Our family has held a gathering here for more than 30 years and although the numbers attending have been diminished by the passing of time, we’re now going through a period of expansion thanks to the arrival of grandchildren including two sets of twins.

Since arriving, we’ve hit the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth for…lobster; the Good Table restaurant for lobster rolls and baked haddock; along the way north we also went to Warren’s Lobster House and to Robert’s Maine Grill, both in Kittery, ME. Each of these has our stamp of gustatory approval.

In addition to eating, we stopped and shopped at the Kittery Trading Post and at L L Bean’s in Freeport, ME where there's quite a display of kayaks for sale as well as an amazing amount of fly-tying stuff.

Oh, yes, and we went to Maine Indoor Carting in Scarborough where son-in-law Robert thoroughly trounced me on the go-kart track [he’s done karting before…which is grossly unfair].

Back to fishing: Higgins Beach is bordered by the mighty Spurwink River [believe it’s listed in The 100 Top Surfcasting Locations from Maine to New Jersey by Frank Daignault] which flows through a series of marshes on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. At its delta, it’s not unlike fishing a trout stream…and not much wider. You can cast across it, let your streamer or other lure drift down a bit, and then retrieve. Sometimes the stripers are lying in there by the dozens…usually not large fish, but a lot of action on light tackle. I'm off to give it a try....

19 September 2008

Best Fishing Column on Long Island Sound:

Just in case you’re one of the two or three fishermen in Connecticut who is not yet familiar with Charles Walsh's fishing report which appears each Friday and Sunday in the Connecticut Post, here’s an intro to and a link to it…the 19 September 2008 edition:

"Don't put that tackle away yet. There's more fish to come in Long Island Sound. Although there has been no sign of a genuine fall run of stripers or even bluefish, the masses of bait, sand eels and bunker sticking around the area are just what the both species needs as they fatten themselves up for the long swim south.

:Meanwhile the watch is on for False Albacore as hopes for a decent run of bonito in the Sound are fading fast…."

SOURCE: The Connecticut Post

p.s.: We’re still off the Sound for a few days on a short trip to New Hampshire and Maine. Reports on the fishing there will be posted in a few days.

18 September 2008

Off-Shore Drilling On Long Island Sound?

[We're off Long Island Sound for a few days as we go to fish with Capt. Peter Whelan in Portsmouth, NH and then to fish the outflow of the Spurwink River in Scarborough, ME. We'll have reports on those trips...but you may have to wait a few days.]

"Representative Tim Bishop voted on Tuesday for an energy bill that could allow drilling for oil 50 to 100 miles off the Northeast coast, including Long Island. The legislation would permit offshore drilling in New York only if the state enacts a law to allow leasing off its coastline.

'The House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 236 to 189, largely along party lines.

"Mr. Bishop said in an interview that voting for the bill was the best alternative, faced with the Oct. 1 expiration of a moratorium on offshore drilling on some 80 percent of the United States coastline, except for areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska..

"'There are not enough votes to extend the moratorium,” Mr. Bishop said. “If we did not act, drilling would be allowed three miles offshore. We had to craft a measure to get a sufficient number of votes to become law.'

"It was not clear whether a companion bill in the Senate would pass, Mr. Bishop said."

SOURCE: East Hampton Star

17 September 2008

Fish Report: 16 September 2008:

Charlie W. and I went out for three hours Tuesday starting at 1230 which was right after the high tide. We went directly to the most-recent hot-spot and arrived just as the tide was beginning to move the water over the rocks. We were instantly into fish, but the longer we stayed, the slower the fishing got.

We did land 17 bluefish and a nice striper [photo]—that on a Slick Willy fly [see the post of 02 September]. We caught many of the fish on jig/plastic combinations [see post of 08 September] but Charlie got quite a few of the blues on a surface popper.

Perhaps the slower bite was due to the tide. Every other day we’ve been in this spot, and on fish. the tide has been incoming…today—outgoing. Also, the water, at five, six, and even seven feet, was much deeper than we’ve normally fished it there before. As you know from our earlier posts, we were seldom in water over four feet the other days.

Of course, this is all speculation. Eighteen fish isn’t bad for any trip of only three hours…especially in the middle of the day…although the cloud cover undoubtedly helped today.

On the way back to the dock we spied this submersible tied up to one of the tee docks at Brewer Stratford Marina. Anyone know what the story is on this boat?

We'll be off the water for a few days now...off Long Island Sound, at least...as we go to fish with Capt. Peter Whelan in Portsmouth, NH and then to fish the outflow of the Spurwink River in Scarborough, ME. We'll have reports on those trips...but you may have to wait a few days.

Keep your hooks sharp!

15 September 2008

Need Something that Really Cleans?

Keeping a boat clean without messing up the environment is just not easy. But thanks to the folk on the Maverick Forum we've learned about Magic Eraser from Mr. Clean. ME is a sponge-like, brick-shaped cleaning tool that really does the job. I bought a box of these [about $4.50 at Stop & Shop] and immediately tried them out on some spots that had been plaguing me on the boat: Get the sponge wet, scrub, and the stuff comes off very nicely. It really works!

Guess it’s useful for appliances and other items around the kitchen...and you can use it on your car’s wheels but not on the painted finish…so it’s a good idea to read the directions on the box before using. This means boaters can use a combination of Simple Green for general surface cleaning and Magic Eraser for the nasty crud that SG won't remove. A lot better for the environment than the old standby mixture of Dawn and Clorox.

Fishermen vs. the Nation: Food on Whose Table?

Fishermen vs. the Nation: Food on Whose Table?

From The Hartford Courant

"Battered New England fishermen are facing the possibility of even tighter fishing restrictions after a long-awaited report released Friday showed an increase in the number of stocks being overfished and slow-to-no improvement in many key species. The Groundfish Assessment Review Meeting report indicated that 13 of 19 groundfish stocks were being overfished in 2007, compared with eight in 2004.

"Priscilla Brooks of the Conservation Law Foundation said the report makes it clear that more must be done to control fishing…. Jackie Odell of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, an industry group, said the report's estimates were no more than guesses… Odell said. 'We're going to destroy a whole fishing community based on these numbers?'

"Fisherman are already working under the most severe restrictions in the industry's history, with some fishermen in the Gulf of Maine limited to about 24 fishing days annually."

This article highlights the essence of the groundfish problem: Food on the tables of a few fishermen vs. food on the tables of a nation.

Clearly, no one wants to see fishermen unable to work…yet, if the numbers of fish they take result in the loss of a major food source…we don’t want to see that either.

One factor that isn’t discussed in this article is the degree to which foreign fishing vessels may be adding to the loss of fish stock. Perhaps foreign fishing quota allocations need to be reviewed…and enforced….before imposing further restrictions on U.S. fishermen?

To read the complete article, click here: Hartford Courant:

14 September 2008

If You Like to Cook—or Eat—Check Out this Site:

Thought to take a moment to tell you about an interesting website: Sarah’s Cucina Bella.

This may not be a site for us hairy-chested, macho, masculine, rough-‘n’-tumble fisherman-types, but I can guarantee you that if you put the ladies in your household onto this site, they’ll thank you for it. Sarah is a professional writer, has worked for newspapers as a reporter, and has written a cookbook. She has a warm, humorous style and writes about topics that any woman, especially a mother, will love.

OTOH, if you like to cook, Sarah has some wonderful recipes; in the fish department, here’s a list of what’s currently available for your perusal:

∙ Baked Tilapia with Warm Tomato Relish
∙ Beer Steamed Clams
∙ Coconut Crusted Mahi Mahi
∙ Grilled Tilapia
∙ Easy Sauteed Catfish
∙ Light and Healthy Tilapia
∙ Lobster Risotto
∙ Sauteed Tilapia with Lemon-Caper Pan Sauce
∙ Seared Tuna with Sesame Soy Drizzle
∙ Smoked Salmon and Brie Sandwich

I'd bet all those tilapia recipes would work with any firm, white fish including cod, haddock, pollock, striped bass, fluke....

The website is: Sarah's Cucina Bella

12 September 2008

Friday's Weather Keeps Us Off the Water

It was a nasty, wet, cold, miserable day here on Long Island Sound Friday, so we didn’t fish…and we won’t fish Saturday as that’s the day we move from the rental cottage on the beach back to our home. We’ve had a nice time in Milford, CT for the past week; I grew up here, so it was interesting to return, drive around, and see all the changes that have taken place. I predicted forty years ago that the day would come in Milford when there wouldn’t be a vacant piece of land left—it would all be built-upon or paved-over. That day is almost at hand. Yet Milford retains a certain charm…especially around the green [second longest green in New England, as I remember] and the more historic areas of the former town, now a city. Of course, the areas out by US-1 and I-95 are completely out-of-control with strip malls, gas stations, and the like.

Frankly, I didn’t mind being off the water today. Usually I try to avoid fishing two days-in-a-row as time and tide tend to catch up with this aging bod. And this week, being down here ten minutes from the boat, I fished three days-in-a-row. As a result, took a three-hour nap this afternoon, listening to the rain overflowing the gutters, and nursed the muscles in my lower back that are complaining about so much bending over—to land and release the dozens of fish we’ve caught on Shoo-Fly 3 this week. It’s been a great week for the fishing, but now it’s time to pay-the-piper.

But recovery will take place, even if it takes longer now than used to do, and we’ll be back out on the water shortly…watching for the arrival of the striped bass migration [we may have seen the early precursors of that on Thursday] and for the fish—stripers and blues—to make their fall move up into the Housatonic River where they’ll travel all the way to Derby and Shelton.

Fall is the best time of the year.

Fish Report: 11 September

If anything, the omens for fishing on Thursday looked even less auspicious then they did the day before: [A] At 3 p.m. it was dead low tide; low tide significantly restricts where we can do shallow-water fishing as the marshes and flats have no water on them; [B] the winds were blowing 15 kts from the southeast which meant that even in the places we could get into to fish, we would be exposed to the wind and the waves coming in all the way from Long Island; and [C] there were nasty clouds, two levels of them, blowing in over-head, threatening all sorts of mayhem. It was déjà vu all over again.

Many weeks ago David M. and David A. had scheduled a trip with me; we’d gotten out on the boat for about 20 minutes, under similar cloud conditions, when we heard thunder approaching from the western sky. End of trip. We’ll play in the rain, have even caught stripers in a snow squall, but we don’t mess with lightning. So the Daves were back for another try.

Now David M. and David A. are both bass [fiddle] players. As such, they’re laid back and pretty much accept what comes along. Of course, there’s a lot of bass-talk during the trip…one has to listen to bass-player jokes [“Bass fiddle walks into a bar, says ‘Help me get loosened up, bartender, I’m strung real tight.’”] [just kidding…I made that up]. They told of the existence of 5-string bass fiddles…I didn’t know there was such a thing. At every moment there’s word-play going on and a few different views on politics, but it’s always a good trip with these two.

As to fishing: Venturing out, we rounded the end of the Housatonic River breakwater when David A. yelled that he’d seen a fish break the surface right next to the boat. David M. got a jig in the water and, first cast, caught the biggest bluefish of the day.

The first fish is an important fish: It means the skunk is off the boat; of all the trips we’ve made this year, we’ve been skunked only once—so far.

But—in that spot—nothing else bit. That bluefish must have been the village idiot. So we motored slowly into that same shallow area where Rich N. and I had fished the day before and we found fish there again.

The bite was not as strong as the day before—perhaps a function of the tide which would not really begin to move for another hour or two—but we managed 16 bluefish, 5 stripers, and one fluke. David A. had a particularly good time with his new Orvis fly rod as he got his first bend in the rod from the biggest striper of the day.

You can see from the photo that there’s a big, dark cloud over David A.’s head. This darned thing followed us the whole trip...do you remember Al Capp’s cartoon character, Joe Btfsplk, who walked around with a rain cloud always over his head? Every once in a while our cloud would hitch up its skirts and like a flirtatious lady, allow a glimpse of the sun to peek through—but it was chilly; I put on a jacket.

Mercifully, we caught no sea robins…not a one. What a change: Earlier in the week we averaged about one of these pests for every gamefish caught. Today: Nothing. Perhaps they’ve all migrated...maybe down to Stamford to visit Val S. :-).

The important observation from today is that the ratio of stripers to bluefish significantly increased. On most recent trips we’ve picked up one or two; on this trip, five. The water temp continues to slowly fall—now 71 degrees, and this may augur the return of this fabulous fish to our local waters.

Oh yes, all of the fish, save the first, were caught in less than three-and-one-half feet of water.

11 September 2008

We Were Never in Water More than 4 Feet Deep...

Rich N. joined me on Shoo-Fly 3 on Wednesday afternoon. Frankly, neither of us was expecting much. It was a beautiful, sunny day, the tide was incoming just after the low, and it was 3:00 in the afternoon…not auspicious conditions for good fishing. We’d have been better off under cloudy conditions at 6: 00 in the morning on an outgoing tide…but…one can’t always pick the circumstances under which one will be fishing: Work has to be done, family has to be attended to, and I didn’t want to shag my butt out of bed at 4:45 a.m. two days in a row.

So we went out to the mouth of the Housatonic River not expecting much…and wound up catching 33 bluefish and one striper in less than three hours. Not too shabby.

We started out at the end of the breakwater—and saw nothing at all there. I told Rich that our best chance at a large fish was probably to run to Middleground [Stratford Shoals], but that’s 7.5 miles each way and I didn’t want to have to make that trip if we didn’t have to—especially as an off-shore wind was blowing and we might have to come back in a stiff chop if the wind picked up much. So we considered trying the place where we’ve fished the last few times out with success.

I was very unsure about this as it’s a very shallow area and I knew that not much current would be working through there until much nearer high tide—but we decided to give it a go before making the run to Middleground.

We snuck into the area very slowly—so as not to spook any fish, but also so as not to run aground. It wouldn’t have been bad to run aground gently as the tide was incoming and would lift us off—but grounding out at 25 knots could be a bit embarrassing. We got into the area in about two and one-half feet of water—what we call “skinny stuff.” We could see the bottom clearly which, in cloudy old Long Island Sound, is a clear indication that you’re really skinny.

We threw a couple of casts with no result. I went to the front hatch and pulled out a jacket in preparation for the run to Middleground—started up the boat when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a fish, about 100 feet away, grab something—probably a silversides or sand eel [minnows] on the surface. It made a splash in other words. So we put down the electric motor [small, battery-powered, and relatively quiet] and stealthily headed in the direction of the feeding fish.

Rich connected first and it turned out to be the only striper of the trip—although Rich said he saw a large one later that was trying to eat the bluefish he had on his line. We subsequently were into bluefish [and the usual pesky sea robins] for the rest of the trip. We doubled up two or maybe three times and caught some of the nearly three dozen blues on flies and poppers.

We probably could have stayed there catching for hours—but we decided to pick up and head back to the dock—it had been a great couple of hours. At no time were we fishing in water more than four feet deep.

We motored back through part of the marsh that’s in the River delta, putting up several ducks along the way—a sure indication of the wildfowl migration of the fall season.

10 September 2008

ASMFC Says Stripers are Thriving:

Striped bass fishermen should be pleased to know that scientific advice presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board indicates that striped bass management “…continues to be a success…an independent panel of fishery scientists concluded that striped bass are not overfished and overfishing in not occurring. The assessment estimates that the resource
remains at a high level with spawning stock biomass (SSB) at 55 million pounds, well above the target level…of 38.6 million pounds, respectively. Estimates of juvenile abundance showed
several years of strong ‘recruitment,’ with the 2003 cohort being the strongest in the time series.” Sort of fancy science language for: they think the bass are doing well.
If you need to read something to put you to sleep at night, see the full report at:

The problem with this report is that it overshadows serious problems that are showing up, particularly in the Chesapeake area, as a result of destruction of the menhaden, one of the stripers’ main food sources. As we reported in our post of 30 August ["The Importance of An Oily Little Fish"] “Tidewater,” a fisherman from Centreville, MD, writes: The high-rollers out of Virginia are harvesting over 100,000 metric tons of bunker a year and almost all are taken from the lower Chesapeake and just outside of the Chesapeake in the ocean …. The consequence of this harvest of menhaden is that the Chesapeake has lost a great portion of not only the forage fish for stripers in this breeding sanctuary, but also the quality of the bay...."

09 September 2008

Windy, but Successful Morning On the Water...

Mal Y. fished with me today. We started out at 0600 hours to beat the weather that was forecast to come in this afternoon. We did just beat the rain which started as we were back at the dock cleaning the boat, but we didn’t beat the wind.

The wind was out of the southwest blowing 15-20 when we ventured out to the mouth of the Housatonic River, Stratford, CT…by the time we came back it was up to 25-30 and stacking up big waves at the River mouth. Now, any wind out of the south—from southeast to southwest—is problematic as it has a long “fetch” of water over which to build waves. From the south, there’s 15 miles of water to Long Island; more to the west, the wind blows down the length of the Sound from New York City; more to the east and it comes down the length of the Sound from Montauk. Not only the fetch is problematic, but also the direction as southerly winds offer few places to shelter…almost every aspect of the Sound’s Connecticut shore is subject to these winds.

There are times of the year—primarily spring and fall—when wind direction is not so important as the fish, stripers and bluefish, are running up in the River, so there are many places to hide out from the wind. However, the run up the River hasn’t started yet, so we’re stuck looking for fish out on the Sound where the southerly winds have us in their clutches.

This morning we tried a couple of sheltered and semi-sheltered spots before heading to the place where we hoped to find fish. No luck with these first spots. But after the tide changed we headed to the same place where we’ve been finding bluefish and stripers for the past several trips…and they were there again. Altogether we caught 15 blues to 5 lbs. These included a couple of “Westport releases,” so-called because the fish got off the hook right at the boat so we didn’t have to get our hands dirty. [You have to live in this area and understand what the toney town of Westport is like to get this.]

The fish hit our jig/plastic combos very hard…belted them in fact. We must have had ten more fish that we hooked that jumped and threw the lures back at us—in one case the jig came back though the air and caught on the sleeve of my jacket…a good reason to have on protective eyewear when fishing for the blues.

We also had the usual run-in with sea robins. We’ve talked about these pests before. One hit my lure so hard that I was certain it was going to be the fish of the day…but it was only a 2-lb. robin. They fight pretty well for a non-game fish. Guess some people eat these things, but from what I’ve read they’re not good fare by themselves—better served in a stew or bouillabaisse.

There were two places where we ran into “snapper” blues; these were baby bluefish 7-9” long [not included in today’s fish count] that were every bit as nasty as their larger relatives We left them alone after a few minutes as all they did was chomp off the tails of our lures.

The fishing wasn’t fantastic…we were fairly busy most of the time…doubled up only once. But Mal and I agreed that for a nasty, windy day we’d done pretty well.

About 0945 we headed back to the dock. Rounding the end of the breakwater we ran into six-foot waves where the wind and tide were fighting each other. We had to time the turn upriver carefully, but we managed without getting ourselves soaked.

It was a good morning on the water. About 1130 the first squall hit and now the area is under a tornado watch until 1600. Our timing was fortuitous [dumb luck]. We took five blues home to dinner.

08 September 2008

Favorite Jig & Plastic Combinations

The photos below show my favorite jig/plastic combinations. Both use Got-Cha® Shad Heads; the first photo shows a Got-Cha® Shad Head combined with a Got-Cha® Shad Body; the second photo shows a Got-Cha® Shad Head with a Bass Assassin® Sea Shad.

Notice that each photo shows the jig and the plastic lure before and after putting the plastic on the jig. You can see that prior to joining the two, I cut off a bit of the head of each plastic lure so that it mates flush to the back of the jig head.

The Got-Cha® Shad Heads are excellent because they are keel-weighted to keep the lure from spinning on retrieve. I’ve also found that the hooks stay reasonably sharp requiring only a touch-up with the file before each trip. Newtown [CT] Bait & Tackle [www.newtownbaitandtackle.com] [phone: 203-426-6629] carries these or they can be ordered online from www.seastriker.com.

Got-Cha® Shad Bodies [3” to 9”] are shaped very much like a bunker [menhaden] which makes them killers for stripers and bluefish. Order from www.seastriker.com.

The Bass Assassin® Sea Shads [4”] are fatter than the Fin-S and similar plastics. As a result they are much easier to put on the jig without getting a bend in the body that results in spinning and line twist. Newtown [CT] Bait and Tackle also carries these or they can be ordered online from www.cabelas.com.

07 September 2008

Hurricane Smashes into Milford, CT...not!

We arrived at our rental cottage in Milford at 1500 hours on Saturday...just in time to watch Hanna come ashore; it's strongest winds seemed to occur about 0300 Sunday morning. Hanna didn't do much damage here as it didn't arrive at the point of highest tide; we didn't lose electricity, there were no trees down. It rained, the wind blew...we pretty much slept through it. Just had to pick a few wet leaves off the car in the morning.

Here's the way the waters outside Milford Harbor looked around 1700 hours on Saturday. You can see a small flock of ducks huddled up on the beach.

Here's the way the Harbor looked Sunday morning...all peaceful.

No fishing today as I'm still trying to avoid Long Island Sound on Sat-Sun until the weekend boaters put their Useless-Crafts away for the winter. But expect to have more reports this week as plans are to fish with Mal Y., Deb P., as well as with the Daves A. and M. who got chased off the water last time by an incoming thunder storm.

Speaking of hurricanes, we offer our best wishes and good luck to our friends either living in or with property in Islamorada who may be facing Ike's onslaught: Wayne & Linda; Hanson; Mike & Eileen; Jim; Sheri, Matt, and the crew at Caribee Boat Sales and Marina; Mark at Smugglers'; Skip & Lisa. We hope you fare well.

06 September 2008

Keeping Your Glasses Clean:

There's nothing like salt water or fish slime to glop up your sunglasses. Once that stuff gets on there, it's difficult to remove; a cloth just seems to smear it around and make it worse than it was.

Solution: We've discovered Flents Wipe 'N Clear anti-fog/anti-static, pre-moistened lens cleaning tissues. Available at Target and other stores, these wipes do the job: they remove glop and smears and they air-dry so there’s no need to carry a separate drying cloth. Works on glass and plastic lenses and will not scratch them.

TIP: Keep a couple of them tucked up inside the lining of your fishing hat.

05 September 2008

Fishing Report: 04 September 2008:

Roy P. and Jack S. fished on Shoo-Fly from about 1500 hours to 1830 on Thursday. We went to the same spots as in Tuesday’s report; the catch was about the same as well: 20 bluefish, 2 striped bass, and 3 fluke. All fish safely returned to the water except for 4 blues that Roy and Jack invited home to dinner. The blues were smaller than on Tuesday…maybe to 4 lbs. and the stripers larger…maybe to 6 lbs. Anxious to get the beautiful striper back into the water, Roy released the largest bass before I could get the camera out, so we have no photo of that.

Roy’s been on the boat several times over the years while this was Jack’s first trip with us. He has an interesting attitude toward fishing: Whereas many anglers want to catch as many fish as possible, he’s happy to get a couple and just enjoy the views, see the various species of fish, and so on. While Roy was pulling in blues quite regularly—throwing a jig and plastic, Jack liked casting a popper and getting only the occasional strike as the fish were not targeting the surface that much. Popper fishing is fun: The explosion of water when a fish comes up and whacks the lure can be really exciting.

Thursday was the hottest day, weather-wise, that we’ve experienced on the boat this year. I soaked through one shirt while getting the boat ready to fish, and then another on the water as there was very little breeze…a situation that will change shortly as we get the dregs of Hannah hitting us on Saturday. Oddly, September, which is typically cool and dry, has been hot and muggy—while August, typically loaded with dog days, was lovely and dry. Seems like the fellow in control of the weather got the order of the months mubar*.

Sea robins have turned into real pests this year. We caught probably as many of these critters as we did bluefish. And, they’re big…running to perhaps 3 lbs. They hit the lures hard and fight very well. Typically, you can tell when you’ve got one on because they shake their heads less than the blues and they don’t fight at the surface, whereas the blues will jump completely out of the water—sometimes several times—during the fight. The only thing good about the sea robins is that they seem always to be hooked in the lip which makes getting them off the line fairly easy, especially as we flatten-down the barbs on the hooks. One bad thing is that they eat any lure except for poppers—jigs, flies, plugs—all are fodder for the robins. I’ll have to get a photo of one of these fish to be displayed here at a later date.

*Mucked up beyond all recognition.

04 September 2008

Want to Get the Fish Smell Off Your Hands?

Try Windex. Get a large spray bottle to keep at your fish-cleaning station; just spray your hands with it and wipe dry...there’s no need for rinsing. Windex works very well for quick clean-ups of all sorts. It’ll remove mildew. IMHO the stuff is lousy for use on windshields, but as a general cleaning product, it’s terrific. Keep a bottle at your workbench too...maybe one for the trunk of the car?

03 September 2008

Fish Report: 02 September 2008:

Charlie W. and I fished this afternoon from 1500 hours to 1730, just 2.5 hours, catching twenty bluefish to 6 lbs. and two stripers to 5 lbs.

The bite was pretty much continuous…I doubt that we ever made more than 5 casts in-a-row without a hit…but the fish were not schooled up; they were more like marauding gangs that would turn up here…and then over there, but always so close that we never had to motor to them.

Charlie got a couple on flies but we caught most of them on jigs with plastic and on poppers cast on spinning gear. We had several cutoffs…even with 40-lb. shock leaders; I lost so many fish that bit through the leader that I changed to a wire leader…which seemed to reduce the bite somewhat, but also effectively stopped the loss of jigs.

When Charlie started catching on surface poppers, I cast out my jig/plastic combo and started reeling it as fast as possible, keeping the lure on the surface. The fish whacked it as hard as they hit Charlie’s poppers.

The clouds were spectacular this afternoon…looked as though one of the Impressionists had been up there wielding paint from palette.