September - 2013

Newsletter of the Naugatuck-Pomperaug Chapter
Trout Unlimited

Publisher: Cathy Unger
Contributors: Bob Gregorski

Steven Farnham caught this three weeks ago in Hudson Canyon. It was a 295 lb Bigeye Tuna and it was sold and shipped to Japan

Upcoming Events

Monthly meetings are at 7:00 PM the first Wednesday of the month in the Community Room at the, Naugatuck Savings Bank, 87 Church St., Naugatuck. For further information call Dom Falcone at 860-274-4103 or or visit

Poor Man’s Tarpon Time -- Hickory Shad by Bob Gregorski

Last week I wrote about bluefish and stripers and pursued them last Wednesday from shore in the lower Connecticut River in Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. Had lots of luck catching and releasing snapper blues averaging about 5”- 6”. Caught them on both the SNAPPER POPPER and small flies during the last two hours of the flood tide. I was pleasantly surprised when a hickory shad grabbed my dropper fly and went airborne about 40’ from shore. The 14-incher put up a valiant fight and earned its release. I was surprised to catch hickory shad that early in August. But I missed the best fishing by an hour as attested to an angler who had 5 in his cooler when I arrived. The hickories were destined to be chunk bait for large stripers.

Small schools or pods of shad chase bait fish from Long Island Sound up the Connecticut River into Massachusetts. And follow their dinners into the river’s tributaries and coves. All good places to catch them. Wherever the feed goes, the shad follow. It’s being at a location when they are chasing baitfish. The larger the school of bait, the longer the action, which can last for an hour or two. Frank McDonald and I and others hickory aficionados have caught and released several dozen during that time period

During late summer/early fall, some anglers target hickory shad for sport or to use them as bait for large stripers. I’ve caught hickories on the day that were members of several age classes; they ranged from 10” to 17” however, most were 12”-15” long and weighed 1.0 to 1.5 pounds. The Connecticut record weighed 3.25 pounds. These “mini, tarpon-like fish” hit and fight hard, breaking water many times. Anglers lose some shad due to them having tender mouths which do not hold a hook well.

Use light spin or fly tackle. Spinning line 4 or 6 pound test with willow leaf with split shot up ahead or small jig head (1/8-1/16 ounce) with plastic curly tails or bucktail jigs will catch lots of shad. Fly rodders use 5 wt. to 7 wt. outfits, 6-pound tippets and small bucktails or streamers. White and chartreuse are favorable colors. Many anglers use freshwater outfits when fishing for hickory shad. Remember to wash all fishing gear with warm soapy freshwater after each saltwater excursion.

Technique; In waters that are moving, cast directly across and let the lure or fly drift or use a slow retrieve. In quiet water, cast and retrieve fast in warm water and more slowly in colder water.

Taking youngsters fishing for hickory shad is a lot more exciting for them than fishing for snapper blues. Both species fight hard, but the shad are much larger and do aerial displays, which every one likes to see, and the larger ones will make your reel drag sing.

Locations: In the fall, schools of hickory shad have been feeding in the lower sections of the Connecticut and Mystic Rivers and in the Niantic, Lieutenant, Black Hall, West (Guilford), Back, Pawcatuck, Saugatuck, Hammonaset, Mianus and Housatonic Rivers and various bays and estuaries. In Rhode Island, they may be present in the larger salt ponds, Narrow River and areas in Narragansett Bay.

Side Bar: Hickory shad arrive in the Connecticut River around late April depending on water temperatures. Hickory shad are most likely reproducing in the river based on information that 3”- 4” juvenile shad are present in the summer and fall. Based on scale sampling by fishery biologist, seven year-old measured 22 inches in length.

This pair of 14” hickory shad were caught as a ‘double’; one on a willow leaf-flutter spoon and the other on a white jig-head dressed with white curly tail. Both fish were released quickly.

Photo, caption and capture by Bob Gregorski


Stripers and Bluefish                                   Bob Gregorski

The two most popular saltwater species that anglers hunt during the fall are striped bass and bluefish.  One fraternity of striper anglers is dedicated to releasing most of the bass they catch.  They include anglers who fish with light tackle (fly, troll or spin).  They catch bass that mostly measure less than 36 inches long.  Another tribe hunts linesiders that are at least 28 inches long (keepers).  Members of that tribe use medium to heavy weight outfits (fly, troll or spin).  Bait dunkers use chunk bait, live eels, scup, bunker or hickory shad.  Surf casters sling a variety of plugs and tin ware from beaches.   Another group troll with lures.  Historically, the biggest bass, bass that weigh more than 30 pounds, are caught on bait.  The Connecticut Nearshore Saltwater Record striper weighed 75.4 pounds.  Steven Franco caught the monster in New Haven Harbor in 1992 fishing with bait.

My striper preferences are fly-casting with a 7-weight or a 9-weight outfit or spin-casting jig heads dressed with curly tails for bass that are 18 to 36 inches long.  My first choice would be to fish both ways while wading in a salt pond or in quiet surf; second choice is to cast to working bass while standing in a boat using either outfit.  The three largest bass that I have landed were 36”, 36” and 37”.  The first two were caught while fly-casting from a boat (Charlestown Pond and Connecticut River) and the last one was caught on a fly while fishing from the rocks at Watch Hill Light House.

There are similar fraternities of bluefish anglers. State Record Bluefish is 24.81 pounds caught by Charles J. Toth near the Norwalk Islands in 1979.  Before the daily creel limit was changed to ten, some anglers would harvest pails of snapper blues, which ranged from 6 to 12 inches.  Now only a few anglers target snappers for food. 

Presently, schools of snappers are marauding small baitfish along the coast, in harbors, bays and river estuaries.  They are fun to catch with ultra light fishing outfits.  Freshwater outfits (fly and spin) can be used.  A frozen shiner on a hook about two feet below a bobber is a good outfit for youngsters to use.

A Snapper Popper, a specially designed float that has about a two-foot leader attached and a hook with a vinyl sleeve covering the shank.  The rig is cast and reeled with a slow to fast speed.  The popper action creates sound and breaking water behind it.  Both actions attract attention and may represent a pod of swimming baitfish trying to swim away quickly.  Snappers will fight for that single dressed hook.  Youngsters have a good time catching and releasing these small terrific fighters.

I caught my largest bluefish a few years ago while trolling a surface plug in Niantic Bay. It was the only fish Frank McDonald and I caught that time. I’ve told the whole story before, McDonald caught his largest bluefish near the mouth of the Connecticut River using a fly rod.  Both blues were 30+ inches long and put up tremendous fights.

The Connecticut bluefish regulations include: no minimum size and daily creel limit of 10 fish per angler (including snapper blues); open season: year round. Note: The latest DEEP report listed bluefish hot spots which included: Bartlett Reef, Black Point, Long Sand Shoal, New Haven Harbor, Charles Island area, Bridgeport Harbor and around the Norwalk Islands. Snapper bluefish about 3-6 inches in length are in thick.

Both blues and stripers can be caught from shore, the surf, jetties, wharfs and boats and while wading in breachways and salt ponds.

The majority of anglers will say that pound for pound, bluefish put up a greater fight. As far as which fish is better eating, it’s a matter of preference.  I have eaten fresh bluefish, grilled and baked and pickled blues. They all were fine tasting.  I’ve only eaten baked striper; it was delicious.

Striped bass and bluefish should be around to catch until November.  Still lots of great fishing to be had this season.

Photo by Bob Perrella - Bob caught and released this nice smallmouth in the Naugy.

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