June OTW Magazine Eastern LIS Fishing Forecast
The striper migration is fully underway, and while they might still be looking for their summertime haunts, stripers have – for the most part – spread throughout much of New England. But as you make your next few trips in search of line-siders, I would like to encourage you to step back and really give your “regular spot” a thorough look over.
When I first started fishing Connecticut waters I was largely stuck on shore. I had a couple friends that owned a boat, but for the most part I spent my time surfcasting. At the time, I was not aware of the massive surfcasting community that existed, so my first couple seasons started very slowly. Combined with the fact that I was always a bit nervous to wade into rough or deep water, I’m sure that I started more slowly than others.
Soon after getting my first legitimate surf rod I was taken to a good friend’s “secret” spot. A rocky outcropping that seemed to be like any other rocky outcropping on a map. As I began to fish this spot with some regularity, my friends and I always tried to get out into deeper water. There were a few large rocks that were out a little further than I was comfortable wading to, so obviously they were the “correct” rocks to stand on for fishing. We all caught a few fish here, but most walks back to the car were filled with disappointment and jokes of the skunking. While I never really felt like I had this spot figured out, it was apparent to me that we just weren’t getting out far enough to reach the stripers.
Eventually I was invited out on a boat trip, and it turns out these guys know the same spot I had been fishing from shore. But from a 17’ center console, these guys fished the spot in a different manner entirely. Motoring into position, they would shut off and raise the motor so the tide could drift us in the shallows of the rocky shoreline. From the shoreline we had been trying to cast our eels and plugs as far out into the sound as possible, but these guys were doing everything in their power to get their lures closer to shore. Again, we caught a few fish, but I was perplexed that two groups of fishermen I trusted would fish this spot completely differently. So differently from each other that if my surfcasting friends and my boating friends had been fishing the spot at the same time they would have been casting past each other and tangling lines with each cast.
Fast forward a couple years and I was the new proud owner of a Hobie kayak. Partly because I wanted to be able to fish spots I couldn’t fish from shore, but also largely because I wanted to truly understand spots like this rocky shoreline that I couldn’t figure out. After just a handful of trips to this same spot I had fished from shore so many times and fished from a boat several times, I was getting nothing but skunk. I tried fishing the same drift my boating buddy showed me with nothing to show for it. I tried fishing deeper water like we always wanted to from the surf, and still nothing. One evening as I packed up and headed home empty handed I had an epiphany – maybe the “right” drift was somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum that I already knew.
The next time I pedaled my kayak out to this spot I did my best to forget everything I had seen before. Instead of fishing the spot like a surfcaster or a boater, I fished that middle ground, between the two. I positioned my kayak in about 10’ of water and cast my live eel toward shore. As best I could figure my eel was swimming in about 5 feet of water between the boulders. That very first drift and BAM! I was on with a good fish. A good enough fish to pull my kayak around a bit, and eventually break me off on a rock. But that was all I needed to get me excited. Over the next couple hours and into the slack tide I hooked and landed more decent stripers than I had caught in two+ seasons surfcasting the exact same spot. Mind you – had I been surfcasting on that same night, I would have been standing on the exact same boulders that these stripers were feeding in and around.
Over the past several years I’ve gone back to this spot with some regularity. And (knocking on wood) getting skunked here has become very rare for me. Occasionally while I’m fishing this spot in my Hobie kayak a surfcaster or two will wade their way into the deep water and climb up on one of the boulders I described. Sometimes I move to the next spot down the shoreline, other times I’ll pedal in to them to say hello. If the fisherman is friendly I usually leave him with some advice for the spot based on my past success here. More specifically – “hey man, if I were you I’d go back toward shore about 100 feet and drift your eel right by this boulder you’re standing on, I caught a 45-incher right behind that rock last time I was out here”.
Sometimes fishermen take my advice, sometimes they have some advice for me. Either way, I encourage all of you to take a step back and look at your spots differently once in a while. Maybe the way you’ve been fishing it isn’t the best way? Maybe the “secret” you heard at the tackle shop was just hearsay? Maybe you’ll start catching more and bigger fish at that spot you’ve been fishing for years?