Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Long Island Fisherman Magazine - Article - Harbor Hopping on the Western Sound

The Fisherman Magazine published an article that I wrote this month entitled Harbor Hopping on the Western Sound. The article discusses kayak fishing the fall striper fishery in the harbors and bays of the western Long Island Sound on the north shore of Long Island. I've been fishing this pattern for about 7 seasons and it is very reliable. The consistency of the pattern is especially important as a backup plan to summer-run weakfish, whose presence can vary from season to season. It is also a good contingency plan if pelagics like false albacore / bonito don't show, which is another local fishery that sometimes lacks consistency. Also, if you can't make it to the east end to fish the fall run at Montauk, this can be a good alternative. This fishery is quantity over quality. Although you won't catch many trophies, 20 - 40 stripers per trip is the norm. Most of these fish will be from 20" - 27". This issue also contains another article about kayak fishing featuring some familiar faces such as Eric HarrisonElias VaisbergShawn UncleDuke Barham, and CaptJerry Collins. The Fisherman Magazine is focusing on the growing trend of kayak fishing and this is my third article this year and fifth in last three years. Magazines are starting to recognize the substantial number of anglers that are abandoning boat and surf to fish from kayaks. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and recommend checking the magazine out. Here are some pictures.

Summer Bottom Fishing - Long Island Sound - Scup and Black Sea Bass

For most of August, I dedicated one evening after work to targeting scup on some rockpiles near points on the western Long Island Sound. Usually, I would fish from about 7 pm until dark. Tactically, I was diamond jigging with 1 ounce jigs tipped with sandworm or Gulp. The scup liked a horizontal retrieve and held in tight schools over certain structure, so a GPS was useful for working schools and eliminating dead areas. Vertical jigging wasn't as productive, but also worked on nights where the scup were aggressive. Over three weeks, I caught several scup in the 18" range. 

I also jigged up some keeper sea bass as well to about 17", which was a really nice bonus. This is the first time I saw nice sea bass so far inshore and I hope it was the start of a trend. 

September Night Stripers on the Long Island Sound - 9-2-14

 Yesterday night after work, I targeted stripers for the first time since May withGeorge Terezakis in the western Long Island Sound. We fished the rocks near Mattinicock, NY from kayaks. One of the few benefits of living on Long Island is the quick access to good saltwater kayak fishing. Within a 20 minute drive, we access some really nice beaches within an easy paddle to the boulder fields of the Sound. We had good success and caught several schoolie stripers. The stripers will be transitioning soon to the harbors and a good bite on plastics and metal occurs for the next two months. With 92 degree temps during the day, it was really nice to be out on the Sound with a cool breeze on the water . . . . not too many nights like this left now. As always, good fishing with George. Below is a picture of typical stripers from last night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kayak Fishing for Kokanee Salmon - August 24, 2014

Kokanee are landlocked sockeye salmon. They don't grow as big as their sea run counterparts and are similar in size to brook trout. One of my goals for the fishing season was to catch a kokanee that qualifies for a CT trophy award. In CT, the kokanee must be at least 17" to qualify for a catch and release award. 

Last year, I had fished West Hill Pond on two occasions in June and caught about 5 kokes with my largest being about 15". For this season, I planned on two trips to East Twin Lake. Both lakes are located in the western part of northern CT.

The kokanee fishing is challenging. Firstly, it is a niche fishery which requires specialized equipment. For the kayak angler, leadcore with dodgers or flashers is a must. Shoe peg corn is also necessary.

After hooking into one, the loss rate is high because the kokes have very soft mouths and I've seen the hook clear straight through the mouth, so a gentle rod tip is valuable as well.

Further, you must troll very slow at about 1 mph for the kokes to hit.

With all the nuances, you must specifically target kokes and they are rarely caught as bycatch.

I had a productive morning and caught 3 kokanee. Each salmon was 14". I used a wedding ring spinner  behind a flasher.

I like East Twin a little more than West Hill because it is much bigger, which leads to longer trolls and the ability to cover a larger territory. However, I travelled a long way before I could find the kokes. They were in 30' and some as deep as 40'. I marked trout higher in the thermocline at 20'.

The kokanee I caught were similar in size to last year and didn't appear to be turning yet. Kokes have a three year life cycle and all of the fish I caught were third year salmon that will begin to turn red in about a month.

I will be returning on September 9 for one more shot at a big fish before the fish begin to turn and stop feeding.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Kayak Fishing Sanibel Island and Captiva - Snook, Redfish, Jack Crevalle, and Trout - June 19, 2014 - June 22, 2014

A snook from the flats on the Pine Island Sound east of Sanibel Island, FL
I made a kayak fishing trip to the Sanibel / Captiva Island in Florida with my buddy George. Captiva and Sanibel are two barrier islands located off the coast of Fort Myers. Between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pine Island Sound are bayous, creeks, small keys, and passes each surrounded by mangrove shorelines. The bottom is composed of areas of both sand and mud that grow significant grass. It is no doubt a healthy ecosystem with substantial marine mammals as well, such as dolphins and manatees. 

Much of Sanibel Island is protected parkland and development is limited. The combination of these two factors have resulted in very good fish populations of such popular gamefish as snook, redfish, jack crevalle, and speckled trout. We encountered all four species on the trip while fishing off the beach in the Gulf, the backwaters / bayous, and the Pine Island Sound. These four species made for a nice Gulf Coast slam less the prestigious tarpon. 

It was all shallow water sight fishing in low light conditions and the feeding period where the snook and redfish were really aggressive only occurred for a brief time. The fish were wise to our artificial lures but would let their guard down in spurts. The higher water fished better but moving water coupled with low light was the largest factor for success. 

Typical Pre-Dawn Snook
On the first afternoon after arriving, I launched the kayak off the beach to fish the Gulf along a pass but had no success so I changed gears to flsh some backwater flats prior to dark and caught 3 snook in a drain that was pushing out water from a bayou between two mangrove islands on the outgoing tide. A big snook broke my 12 lb fluorocarbon leader against coral which taught me a lesson to upsize to 25 lb. There were reds tailing the flats adjacent to this drain that would not take my offerings. 

On the second day, I slept later and travelled farther into the Pine Island Sound to the scope out the area. Launching at 8 am was too late. I couldn't find any snook or redfish in the backwaters. So, I headed out to the Pine Island Sound to fish the area around the Wulfert Keys for speckled trout and redfish. I found a nice trout on the flats but otherwise saw no signs of life at the keys so headed back in for the morning. In hindsight, I wish I woke up and stopped fishing earlier. Although I found some actively fish feeding in a mangrove cove, the sight fishing was over by 9 am. I believe the fish sought the cover of the mangroves as the sun moved higher. 

My buddy arrived around noon on the second day and we started fishing again around 5 pm. We travelled outside the mangroves and found a oyster bar adjacent to a channel stacked up with tailing redfish in 12" of water. It appears that the reds were rooting out crabs and were very difficult to catch. However I managed a nice slot redfish on a Johnson's Minnow spoon that I quickly released after a picture. My friend lost a very big snook on the flats as well using a Zara Spook. The snook appeared to be in the 30" class. 

The next morning, we launched before dawn and found moving water with snook and and jacks crashing bait between the mangroves and a sandbar pre-dawn and the fishing was excellent. We both caught snook and jacks during the pre-dawn feeding frenzy. Before sunrise, we found 30" snook almost beached in 4" of water. The oyster bar from the night before also produced a nice snook for me. George lost a snook boatside that broke his line that was about 3' long. Overall, it was an excellent morning for snook. No reds during that outing though. 

Redfish were actively

patrolling the flats during
the late afternoon

We had low and stagnant water for our afternoon fishing and both caught nothing nor saw many fish feeding except for some reds near the oyster bar that had produced the prior day, but far fewer than the night before. As the tide tailed out, those fish stopped feeding as well. We headed back in a little bit early. 

The last morning, George made sure we on the water extra early, but the crashing fish that had greeted us the prior morning were gone, and there was only sporadic feeding activity around our usual spots. George hooked into a nice snook that he lost pre-dawn . . . . and then there was a lull. At dawn, the incoming tide started moving faster and water began to flush over the 10" flats, pushing in some baitfish. At sunrise, I caught a nice snook in a drain adjacent to the mangroves on a zara spook which was the start of some epic morning flats fishing for snook and redfish. 

As the sun went higher, predators started feeding heavily on the flats - snook pushing baitfish and reds tailing for crabs. We began to cast gold spoons and got into fish immediately. My first fish was a slot sized redfish that took me on some drag screaming runs in very shallow water, digging in hard like a typical red. After this, the fishing became hot, and I started to get hit or catch a snook on almost every cast for about a half hour. The snook were aggressively feeding in very shallow water. 

The snook were more

plentiful and aggressive 
than the redfish
As the sun got higher, the fishing waned and the bite became slow. I hit our oyster bar one last time, but had no success. By about 9:30 am, we decided to call it a trip. I had one last area that I wanted to fish before going in, and stayed out after George to work this spot. On my first cast, which was near the mangroves, I got hit and the fish started to run hard. As such, I knew it was a big fish and the battle began. First, the fish raced outside towards a sandbar, and I battled him back to the kayak where I went to grab my net, fighting the fish the entire time. But, maybe I fought the fish too hard to keep it away from the sandbar because it turned harder than I could handle towards the kayak and the mangroves. As I got the fish to the kayak, I saw that it was a snook in the 30"+ range and grabbed the net. At this point, the snook turned it up a notch and rolled straight to the mangroves. I've turned big striped bass away from piers and rocks with similar tackle, and initially, I got the snook away from the mangroves, but I couldn't turn this fish on the second run, and she took drag, turned the kayak brought my fishing rod behind me as she ran for the roots where she subsequently cut my 25" fluorocarbon against some coral and barnacles inside the mangroves. After this, I called it a trip. I'm glad I hooked into that snook, but wish I got a picture. It would have been the perfect way to end the trip. But, such is fishing. 

Special thanks to Captiva Kayak Company who outfitted us with great fishing kayaks for the trip. The shallow nature of the fishery makes Mirage Drive-powered kayak less appropriate than normal circumstances. The kayaks we used were designed for fishing skinny water in the flats and held up well. Captiva Kayak Company delivered the kayaks to our cabins at Castaways fully loaded and we fished that area the entire trip. 

We stayed at a cabin in the Castaway Resort. It was perfect for our fishing trip, with access to the Gulf of Mexico, Pine Island Sound, and several different bayous inside both Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. I highly recommend it for a fishing trip and plan to go back in February. 

Sanibel / Captiva is the ultimate in inshore fishing in Florida. The remoteness of the islands keeps the fishing pressure from boats low with easy access to a vibrant ecosystem. I can't wait to get back! 

We rented our kayaks from Captiva Kayak Company in McCarthy's
Marina on Captiva Island. 

Much of our fishing required staking our kayaks and wading the flats

in water 6" deep. 

Typical redfish for the trip. It was the best redfish bite I've experienced
in Florida. 

Nice redfish could be found in the late afternoon and early monring

near oyster bars and on the flats. 

An early morning redfish on the Sanibel Flats. 

As the tide rose, redfish pushed bait to the very edge of the flat in 
inches of water. 

Snook could be found on flats adjacent to mangroves during low 

light periods with moving water. As the sun became higher in the
sky, they moved deep into the mangroves. I lost some snook to 
the mangroves and coral. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kayak Fishing for Brown Trout - Pepacton Reservoir - June 10, 2014

I fished a full day on Pepacton targeting brown trout.

I launched around 8 am and fished the entire day. It was a slow morning and a tough start. It was also a calamity at times as well. I dropped the first two trout that I hooked into. Later, I was about to land a nice brown when my leader got caught in my watch as I grabbed my net. I watched as the brown quickly escaped with my Sutton spoon, which is a pity because I can't find anyplace to buy them anymore. After that, I was fighting a 21" brown near the boat that had turned me to my weak side. In the chaos that ensued as I attempted to net this fish, it made a dash from the front of the boat to the back. In the process,  my second leadcore trolling outfit got in the way and fell into the water. I helplessly watched as it sank to the bottom. I would have rather lost the trout than the rod. In any event, I ended up landing this nice fish, which was very quickly released since I already had my limit.

As the morning was slow, I decided to explore the reservoir and made the long haul to the big cove before the power lines. I had consistent action along the way, with several hits. This was the area that my line broke on my watch while I was netting a fish.

I was surprised by the size of the big cove, and I estimated that the distance from the point of the cove to the back of the cove was about the same as the distance from the point to the dam. The water in the cove was flat and dead. I didn't get a good feeling about the fishing, so I crossed the reservoir. On the other side, I found active brown trout that were pushing alewives to the surface.

Heading towards the dam, I hooked into a nice fish that immediately went airborne. It turned into a very good fight. After going airborne, the trout stayed near the surface and I saw it was a decent fish. Out of curiosity, it followed me to the kayak but once I grabbed the net, the brown frantically and abruptly turned hard and dove to the deep water taking two colors of leadcore in a matter of seconds. After the second run, and another battle near the kayak, I netted it and it measured 22". The girth was greater than the weight and this was a well fed trout.

About a half hour later in the same area, I hooked up again. Right away, I could tell it was a nice trout. This trout also went immediately airborne and made several jumps before heading deep again. I saw it for the first time as it leaped 3' out of the water and my guess that this was a big brown was confirmed. I finally got the fish to the kayak and, just like the last fish, it turned hard after it saw the net. This time, it dove down three colors on my leadcore. As I got it to the surface a second time, it went on another run and took down two colors. I repeated this process one more time before I tired the big brown and netted him. This trout measured 23".

For anyone that hasn't fished Pepacton before, these trout fight like saltwater fish, so be prepared to go free spool in tight quarters if you are using leadcore with a light leader - I believe that the violent turn that they make may even break 10 lb fluorocarbon.

I stayed in this area for another hour, but activity ceased after the second trout. As such, I made my way back towards the dam. On the way, my fishfinder battery ran out of juice so I headed to the launch instead of the dam to get my second battery. Traveling about 4 miles, I only trolled up one small brown that measured about 6" - I'm betting that this was a native fish. Later, I caught a nice 20" trout near the launch. It hit as my spoon dropped as I was reeling up my other line.

For the last two hours, I stayed in a cove near the launch and picked off two more browns. One brown was 20.5" and the second was 21". They both fought frantically near the boat.

The surface temp varied between 68 degrees and 73 degrees. All of my fish were caught over 150' while trolling leadcore about 25' down. The browns were very spread out, and moving around fast. One spot would only produce for about an hour at a time before the fish moved on. Trolling speed was about 2.0 mph .

In total, I caught 7 trout with 6 trout over 20" and my two largest 22" and 23". After a slow start, it turned out to be my most successful trout trip of the season, and my best trip to Pepacton to date.

These trout definitely don't associate with breaklines and move around like pelagic fish in saltwater. Pepacton Reservoir is huge, and this gives them the liberty to behave like pelagics. Find the alewives and you will find the trout. If I'm not catching, I move on to find active trout. 

All of my trout were caught trolling spoons and leadcore. Stingers and Suttons produced well as usual. 

Catskills - Brown Trout and Smallmouth Bass - May 30, 2014 and May 1, 2014

I hit Walton Lake in Orange County, NY last weekend in pursuit of brown trout. It was my first time fishing this 110 acre pond. Although small in size, the lake is deep with plenty of 60' flats on the bottom to sustain holdover trout that grow to good sizes with an alewife forage base. This is a good combination for a little lake although it is fished heavily.

The drive is a little more than an hour from the Throgs Neck Bridge to this lake which is located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. 

I launched early morning with several boats from the state launch. Some of these boats were targeting browns, while others were targeting largemouth and smallmouth bass. In any event, it was a bit crowded at the launch, and on the lake as well. So, if you are looking for solitude, you won't find it here.

I launched around 6:30 am and noticed a substantial amount of small trout rising - these were dimples and you could tell that they were small fish. I believe that they were taking midges,. After crossing the lake, I worked a breakline that dropped to about 30', and worked this area trolling two leadcore rods, and one spinning. I consistently marked trout 20', but also found some marks closer to the surface as well.

For the outing, I worked the 30' - 35' breaklines around the lake, and found them holding near a somewhat large basin where I had consistent action. My tally for the day was 5 trout and 3 smallmouths, with my two biggest trout being 17" and 18". All of my trout were silvery holdovers and fat from eating alewives.

My smallmouths were between 16" and almost 20". The 20" qualifies for a NYS Catch and Release Angler Achievement Award. These smallmouths weren't targeted but instead caught as byproduct while trolling for trout in open water. I find more and more that browns and smallmouths have similar temperature preferences and often find them schooling together in the thermocline during the summer.

I marked lots of alewives on this lake moving from the surface down to 21' in big pods throughout the lake. Lots of fishable areas in this lake and to find the fish, your best bet is marking alewives, which tend to move all around the lake. For this reason, good sonar is important here. Action slowed as the morning progressed and I stopped around noon.

I returned a week later for similar action. This time, only one smallmouth but three nice trout instead with the largest being about 18".  The water temperature was 72 degrees and it was a bright day with no wind. This made for a tough bite. I found the trout mostly at 28' trolling spoons and leadcore. This time, the trout were holding over 35' - 40' with some in the open deeper water as well.