As the number of days before my date with the vascular surgeon that will likely keep me off the water a couple months dwindled down to single digits, I decided that I needed to spend part of one of them paying a visit to the lower Connecticut River (CTR). I usually stick with the Housatonic for my springtime topwater bite until that peters out around the end of May, and move my striper pursuit to the CTR in early June when the bunker bring the big girls in. I won’t be fishing anywhere in June this year, so I decided a quick trip to the other river would be a good way to spend Saturday.
Once I got the idea in my head, fueled by lots of great springtime memories from there, I started to get kind of excited about my first CTR trip of the season. Uncharacteristically, I woke up a couple hours ahead of the alarm, and never really got back to sleep. May have dozed a few minutes here and there, but by 4am, I was wondering if I should just skip it. Eventually, I decided that it was my best and only chance to fish there this spring.
I’d gotten some recon from Steve, who’d fished there with Zig a couple days earlier, and set out prepared to fish both or either — plastics rigged on jig heads and plastics rigged unweighted. Of course I had some hard baits on hand as well. Wouldn’t you know it… the general area where he said he caught most of his fish was occupied by eight or ten boats when I passed under the railroad bridge.
Yeah, I’ll pick somewhere else to start.
So I ran right to the edge of the same shallow flat that I start at 9 times out of 10 on the CTR. For the first 15 minutes or so, I threw an unweighted 9″ Slug-Go without any response from the fish. I picked up my light spinning rod, rigged with an ice shad Fin-S Fish on a 1/2 oz head, and after four or five casts, caught a schoolie. A few casts later, I caught another.
Do I have something going?
Eh, not really. I worked along the edge of the flat for another 50 yards with no action, then doubled back to the area I got the two fish in, and got the big zilch there.
Guess I’ll head over and see what the story is where most everybody else is fishing. Between the outgoing tide and a stronger than anticipated north wind, it was a bit tough to fish. Although a few of the boats were anchored up, most were making repeated drifts of 3/4 mile or so. I tried to plan out a social distancing mindful drift pattern through the group.
I caught a couple pretty quickly on the same jig & plastic that I’d used in my starting stretch, but kept switching to one or the other of the two rods I had rigged up with unweighted soft plastics. The first blowup came on a 7″ Sexy Shiner Fin-S Fish. I missed the fish, but the lure got attacked four or five more times as I continued to work it back to the boat!
Hadn’t even caught one on top yet, but the deal had been sealed. It would be a long while before I picked up the jig rod again. Caught 4 on the Sexy Shiner Fin-S Fish, but it took me two drifts through the area to do it. I was getting hit enough that I felt like I should have caught a dozen, but I lost half the ones I did hook, and flat-out missed at least that many.
It kind of bothered me that I only saw a couple fish caught by other anglers while I was working that area. I just got the feeling that the fish were too spread out over too wide an area there. Not to mention that there were a whole lot of guys casting to them, and there was still that matter of the uncharacteristically poor hookup ratio to figure out.
First things first. A move was in order. But to where?
My next idea, a couple sand bars all the way out at the edge of the Sound, didn’t pan out at all. But the one after that sure did. Most of the secondary buoys and markers aren’t in yet, so things I normally reference to position myself are missing, and it took a bit of maneuvering to get my path right at the next breakline I decided to fish. But when I did, the topwater hits came at a steady clip. Hookups though, were another story. Too many missed fish. Too many short term temporary hookups. Tried putting a 7″ Fin-S Fish on my heaviest rod, to power the hook home better. Nope, that didn’t do it. Still dropping or missing way more fish than I was catching.
Grabbed my light spinning rod, made a couple casts with the jig, and caught a fish. Hmmm.
I just caught a fish on that jig, so why not clip it off?
Wait. What? Why on earth would you cut off something that’s been working?
Because I had an idea germinating in my head, and went with it. I only had the one light action rod with me, and I wanted the softer tip. I suspected that the fish were not sucking the bait in very successfully against the resistance of the stiff action rods. I also wondered if my strong hook set with the stiff rod and big, 8/0 hook I was using might be poking too large a hole in their lip. Theories — that’s all. But you’ve got to try to come up with a rational reason for the lousy landing ratio, and that’s the one I was going with!
I searched through the “go box” on the front deck for a previously rigged, previously used, 7.5″ Slug-Go on a 5/0 Texposer that I knew had been in there since my first successful topwater outing of the year, back on April 7th, and tied it on the lighter rod.
Actually, now that I think of it, that rigged Slug-Go had been in the go box since the day after the aforementioned trip when I took it off in favor of a 9″ Slug-Go. Caught the snot out of them on the 9″ that day, too. Just goes to show that best ins’t always best, and you’ve got to look at each trip as an opportunity to figure things out all over again.
Getting back to yesterday’s trip, I couldn’t be 100% sure if it was the smaller hook or the softer rod that made the difference, but I started hooking and landing virtually every hit with that set up. To top it off, I seemed to be getting more hits, too!
The wind was a bit stronger in this spot, but the current was substantially less. Spot locking to work a section along the break thoroughly, then drifting another 50 feet or so down river before locking up again proved pretty simple and pretty effective.
The 27 inch slot-fish-in-training at the right was the biggest fish I got on topwater today. I later got a couple on a jig & plastic that were just about the same size as this one, but topwater fish count more, don’t they?
Eventually, the bent rod pattern drew another few boats into the area, but social distancing remained in effect — between boats anyway; Not so sure about on board the boat with four guys fishing. That one looked a bit crowded. All was good though, except for the one guy who wouldn’t shut down his outboard, and kept drifting over the 20 to 30 inch deep rocky area on the flat, bumping his lower unit on the rocks and for some reason, revving his engine in neutral every couple minutes. That guy shut the fish down for a while.
The tide was getting lower, and with the day warming quickly, the pleasure boat crowd decided it was time for the weekend wake-making to commence. I was catching all my fish in 2 to 5 feet of water, and between the wind and the deep vee pleasure craft running around aimlessly, the shallows got muddy in a hurry and topwater hits started to get tough to come by. This wasn’t what I had in mind when I decided to hit the river, so I stowed everything and headed back toward the ramp.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the ̶f̶o̶r̶u̶m̶ ̶ ramp.
I started marking small groups of fish near bottom in 12 to 15 feet of water, that I hadn’t seen on any of my earlier passes over the open water. Shut it down. Didn’t even put the electric in the water. Got the light rod out of the rack, clipped off the topwater setup, and tied the same 1/2 ounce jig and Fin-S Fish I’d been using early in the morning back on. First cast, I caught a 27 incher. Two casts later, another. By the time I’d boated it, I’d drifted away from the fish. I idled back upwind, drifted back down again, and picked up a smaller schoolie in the process.
Cool, but the bouncing and rocking was getting to me. It was a few minutes past noon, I had a long ride home ahead of me, and there was still last night’s very short sleep to contend with. It was time.
Glad I went in when I did. The ramp was a zoo. Government pronouncements aside, I guess the lockdown is effectively over, as the entire lot was full and there were people everywhere. Lots of them were just watching a group of five guys who were apparently descendants of the Keystone Kops try to get a boat on the trailer and out of the water. I don’t know how long they’d been trying before I got there, but I had a bit of a wait to get to a dock and a longer wait in line to get the trailer in the water, and they were still at it when I left shortly after 1pm.