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Spring Recap

Updated: Mar 21, 2023


Happy client Jim who caught this 36" striped bass on a live bunker on a guided kayak fishing trip with CT Fish Nerd in Connecticut.
Returning client Jim Ingrassia with a solid bass from the Hobie.

As we head into the summer months, and knowing I haven't made a blog post in over a year (sorry), I figured I would go over some the spring fishing I experienced, on solo trips and with clients. Once the striped bass migration begins, my focus is strictly stripers and the schedule becomes packed with trips. Before that, most of my trips are for freshwater bass, pike, and panfish, which there is noticeably less interest in from clients, but I will still get a few guided trips in on the sweetwater. Aside from guiding and tying jigs, I've taken on a couple other responsibilities in the fishing/kayak fishing industry which have kept me busy and have helped keep the lights on. These added responsibilities have proven to be a good addition to what I do and what I have to offer, and have presented some great opportunities. First, the fishing...


Spring Run Stripers


40" striped bass caught from a Hobie Outback in Connecticut. Guided kayak fishing for striped bass with CT Fish Nerd guide Josh Rayner.
A lean 40" bass mixed in with the slot sized bass, keyed in on adult bunker.

It has been a busy and eventful season so far, with many successful striped bass trips with clients new and old from early May through this week. There have been countless solo sessions in between guided trips to pattern these fish the best I can. Most of my striper trips have been in the Connecticut River, mainly because the fishing has been so consistent, and consistency is just as important if not more important than size. The average size fish is also pretty good, right around 32", which is a fun size on light gear and having a kayak as your fishing platform. There are plenty of bigger fish in the mix too, but the majority have been slot sized to just over slot. Staying away from the fleets has been the biggest issue, along with wind on some days, but clients who have been able to get out with me during the middle of the week have experienced some excellent fishing with far fewer boats running the bass over. Weekends can be tough on pressured water, but there are little niche bites you can get into with certain tide/location setups in areas most boats won't venture into or other anglers might not know about. These river fish can turn on and off at the flip of a switch, and some days live bunker are your only hope at catching. Other days, big topwater plugs or soft plastics are getting blasted nearly every cast. This year's spring run has been great in comparison to the past several years, and I feel like I have a head of steam going into July. In the coming weeks, my striped bass focus will shift to structure areas of Long Island Sound at night and pre-dawn using live eels, large soft plastics, and plugs. I'm kicking myself I haven't spent more time on the sound this year, but the river bite has been great.


CT Fish Nerd's favorite topwater plug for striped bass is the 24/7 Lures Mully. Josh's largest striped bass was caught on this plug in Connecticut.
When fish get sick of seeing The Doc, switch to a wood plug such as a 24/7 Lures Mully


CT Fish Nerd Guided kayak fishing, A solid striped bass caught on topwater from the kayak in Connecticut.
Another wood plug I have a lot of confidence in is a Lloyd's Lures Waterdawg.


Mid to high 30" bass on topwater will never get old for me.



Early Season Freshwater Trips


My client Denver Lamont with his PB northern pike.


For me, every season starts with some late winter/early spring largemouth & smallmouth bass, pike, holdover stripers, and panfish action, starting after ice-out until the striper migration begins. Being dedicated enough to want to get out on those bitter, windy March days is not for everyone, but it can be lucrative if you know where to go and what to look for. Largemouth bass are usually a main focus, as the jig bite can be very good. Not only does the jig put up numbers, it has a knack for finding the biggest fish in the mix. I love teaching clients how to use skirted bass jigs, especially those who have never really used them before.


My client Mark Signor with a near 6 lb. (left) and a 5 lb. bass (right), both caught on a jig.


When fishing environments such as the Connecticut River, sometimes you get catfished.

On days where bass fishing is dull, you can usually rely on crappie and perch to keep your rod bent. It's not uncommon to have 30-50 fish days when targeting panfish, sometimes even more. Panfish such as crappie and perch in the Connecticut River are not small, in fact the average size crappie is 12" and I've seen them as big as 17"! Perch are swollen with eggs well into open water season, and big yellows are a blast on ultralight gear.


Although I didn't put a ton of time into pre-spawn smallmouth bass this year, I typically will do a few smallie trips, mainly using hair jigs, ned rigs, and jerkbaits. Pike fishing can be hit or miss all depending on when they spawn, but usually when the herring start running the pike are back on the feed. I had a poor showing for pike this year, only personally catching a few rats. I had one client get a 37". I feel that late summer and early fall are the best times to come out pike fishing in the kayak.



Writing For On The Water Magazine


One of the extra responsibilities I've taken on is writing the Eastern Connecticut Fishing Planner column each month for On The Water Magazine. This has sort of taken the place of writing posts for my website's blog unfortunately, but reaches a wider audience to not only give pointers on the fishing from month to month, but also to bring light to my guide service. Don't expect all the secrets and spots to be written about in this column, but you can expect some useful information that can be applied to where you fish. I'm grateful for the opportunity to write for such a great publication on such a frequent basis, and hopefully it will lead to greater things ahead. It has always been a dream of mine to be an outdoor writer in addition to a guide, and I feel like my foot is in the door. I've written one full length article for OTW so far, which was featured in the 2021 November/December issue talking about fish migrations within a large tidal river such as the Connecticut.





Kayak Rigging & Repairs



Another Industry based responsibility I've taken on and has become more than supplemental side income is rigging and repairing Hobie Kayaks and other fishing kayaks such as Old Town, Bonafide, and Jackson. Having worked for a Hobie dealer for nearly 4 years and fishing from Hobie kayaks for nearly 6 years, I've gotten to know these kayaks inside and out. Name the part or accessory, and I've probably replaced or installed it and more than once. Fishing from a kayak almost every day of the week gives you a great understanding for where accessories should and shouldn't go. Most who own an expensive fishing kayak are terrified to drill holes in it, and the process of installing things like light kits, fishfinders, and electric motors sounds like a nightmare. I'm happy to take on all rigging and repair jobs, including hull repairs, steering line replacement, MirageDrive repairs, all the terrible and ugly stuff.







If you are interested in a guided kayak trip for one or two people, a guided smallmouth wading trip for up to 3 people, or kayak rigging/repairs, contact me. I have plenty of availibitity going into the summer. Night time is best for stripers, but early morning starts give you a solid chance at some real big ones. Bottom fishing will go strong through the summer, and is a great option if the bass fishing is tough. Light gear and light jigs makes even catching porgies a great time. In freshwater, river smallies are a fun time throughout the summer, and can be targeted by kayak or wading. For more information on guided trips, click here.



-JR

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