Updated: Apr 23, 2020
A solid mix of species kept Addison and I busy, combining for over 150 fish caught.
Launch Time: 7:30am
Conditions: Foggy/Overcast, Calm
Water Clarity: Stained/Silty
Water Temp: 37°- 39° F
When conditions allow, open water fishing in just about any CT. River cove during the dead of winter can yield some surprising results. These coves are some of the best wintering holes the river has to offer for it's inhabitants. Just about every river dwelling species uses them to get out of the sometimes swift current and cold, muddy water in the main stem of the river. Baitfish like alewife, baby shad, pond shiners, and others will also use these coves for refuge. Addison and I were waiting for a day like this. Cloudy, flat calm water, not too cold, and lots of hooksets.
We were greeted at the boat launch by a muddy, fast moving main river. The fog was so thick we couldn't see the bank on the other side. Addison was eager to finally get in his Hobie Pro Angler 14 with the MirageDrive 360. The type of fishing we were going to be doing didn't require much use for a pedal drive that has steering capabilities, but it is always exciting to play with new toys out on the water.
We made our way into the cove. It looked like a dreamworld. The water was so flat it looked like a mirror, and the fog against the trees looked surreal. As far as winter fishing goes, these are the conditions I wish I could put in my pocket and bring with me on every trip out. Finesse fishing in the winter requires a lot of feel, so the lack of wind was going to make for an easy time presenting small lures and feeling the subtle hits from these cold fish. Everything about the morning so far gave us the feeling that we were about to have a good day of fishing.
As we got our bearings in the fog, we found the bank and the structure we were looking for using our charts on our fishfinders. With that structure, large schools of fish. It didn't take us long to settle into a pattern and start setting hooks.
"They're on the blade", Addison exclaimed as he started immediately getting action from a mix of yellow and white perch. I introduced Addison to the bladebait last winter. Though we had some pretty rough outings during last year's cold water period, and didn't catch much on blades, Addison took a liking to them, and apparently, figured out how to use them too. Addison caught more fish that day on the bladebait than any other presentation.
I started the day with an ice jigging rod in my hand with a Eurotackle Z-Viber tied on, and I just about never put it down. I was basically ice fishing without the ice. I would position my kayak over a school of fish, whether they were crappie, white perch, or yellow perch, and lower the jig down to them while watching the jig drop on the sonar and amplitude scope on my Elite 5Ti screen. I would hang the jig just over the school and start imparting some slight action on the jig. As I watched my screen, fish would start to rise up out of the school with interest. I could almost anticipate the exact moment the fish would hit. "Video game fishing" is what they call it in the ice fishing world. The drawback to fishing like this, however, was that it seemed like I would catch a few fish, and the school would "spook" either from the noise I was making in the kayak, or from watching their buddy go rocketing to the surface. I had to move around a bit to stay on biting fish.
Addison had a couple surprises on the bladebait. One was a 3+ lb. largemouth that he managed to drop yakside, the other was this healthy channel catfish!
We continued to pick away at the fish, a great mix of crappie, yellow and white perch, largemouth and even a fallfish. It seemed like the "bigger" jigs we were throwing (3.25" Fin-s Fish) seemed to cull out the bigger fish in the crowd. Addison and I both caught large perch and crappie with mouthfuls of 4" alewife. The fish were feeding hard at times, and the bait would just get pushed from one school of predatory fish to another. At one point, the white perch had pushed the bait right to the surface, and gulls were diving on the bait. For those of you that may not know, that sort of thing in mid-January is not a normal sight to see.
We fished until we were both too cold to stay any longer, so we made our way out of the cove just around dark. Solid day of fishing. We've been wanting to duplicate this trip ever since, but the coves keep wavering back and forth between being open water and holding an inch of ice.