The Last Few Trips


Black sea bass are one of my favorite fish to eat.

June is a month that gives an angler in the northeast many options. I tend to have trouble focusing on any one species, because fishing for just about everything I target is worthwhile. Usually, the local striped bass get most of my attention, but this year I have been disinterested in fishing for the bass that call the Connecticut River their temporary late spring/early summer home. I don't know if it has to do with the slow May I had with nothing but schoolies (and lots of them) to show for my efforts, or the fact that everyone else is down there fishing these same fish and it is an absolute zoo. Whatever it is, I've been less than motivated to target those fish. I'm also in the process of painting my house, and was hoping to get it finished before I go up to Lake Champlain for four days next week. I've run into some unexpected home repairs as well that have kept me off the water. I did get out for a couple short trips this week to various spots inside the river. I also took a drive up to Buzzards Bay, MA. for some bottom fishing last Sunday, and did some poking around some CT. River backwaters on foot while taking a break from scraping, sanding, and priming my house.


6/2 Blues and More Schoolies

One of the better bluefish that made it into the kayak that day. I will never complain about bluefish this size or bigger.

This was a fun trip all in all. I will never complain about steady topwater action. We had a very late arrival of bigger bass this year. I know there were some slot and over slot sized fish mixed in, but I couldn't cull one out of the schoolies to save my life. So after a slow start (at least for me) bass wise, I was very excited to see bluefish, as they have been just about non-existent in this area for a couple years.


I basically threw a silver Cotton Cordell 6" pencil popper that entire day. Once I found the fish, it was non-stop topwater blowups. I was less interested in the bass knowing there were some good sized blues showing themselves behind my plug and tailing over 8 feet of water. The blues were just about stapled to this one specific rock pile toward the end of the ebb, setting up behind the pile and from what I could tell, using it as a current break and an ambush point. I love the aggression bluefish use to attack a surface plug. It makes me giddy! I caught a good 10 or so as the tide slowed down, and just like that, they up and decided to move out onto a rip line but were very spread out as the tide slacked. The blues started to mix in with the schoolie bass on the incoming tide, and on this trip I was considering the schoolies to be "interference fish", because I was looking for a gator. I continued to catch a mix of both bass and blues, but the bigger blues at that point went elsewhere.

Bendo.

The biggest blues I landed this day were 33" and 30", and I missed and lost a few that looked to be 36" or better. Awesome to see them inshore again after a couple years of just about zero bluefish to be caught from shore or kayak (little Millstone snappers don't count). It's no surprise they are in the river this year with the amount of bunker we have. Hopefully they stay local through the summer and into the fall.


6/11 CT. River Topwater Largemouth

I'm always happy to see a river largemouth this size, especially when they're hitting topwater.

Yes, largemouth, you read that correctly. As I mentioned earlier, I have a very hard time focusing on just one species in June (most of the season actually). Part of me feels like I should focus a little more on one species at a time, but when success rate is spotty for one species, I will switch things up. Sometimes the writing is on the wall, other times it is my "ADHD" (I don't really have ADHD, but I get bored doing the same thing, especially when the results don't improve). Saltwater is fun, but freshwater is where my roots are. Sometimes I can't decide whether to fish salt or fresh, and I am constantly swapping out the gear that I keep in my car. This causes for some serious tackle disorganization...


I live right around the corner from a fairly productive little backwater of the big river. It's one of those spots that always looks "right", but can be stingy at times. I decided to take a break from prepping my house for paint and shoot over there to see if I could get some post-spawn largemouth on topwater. I've always favored an incoming tide at this spot, especially fishing it from shore. The way the current seams set up gives a good slack pocket for bass to position themselves and wait for food to be conveyer belted by.


Long story short, my first cast with a Whopper Plopper was answered by a solid 2.5 lb river greenie, right on the edge of the current and slack water. I proceeded to catch another 5 solid largemouth in the same general area in about 20 minutes of casting. Some where hanging closer to the weed edges, others were in the tailwater of the rip. I found it interesting that all but one of the bass I caught that day had melanosis, which is nothing more than a skin pigmentation issue that shows up as black spots and blotches on both largemouth and smallmouth bass. One of the fish had black lips, a few of the others had a splotch of black here or there. This "defect" seems to be common in the river, and other large waterbodies such as the Hudson, Champlain, and the Great Lakes.

Unusual markings on this fish's lips caused by melanosis.
River bass are always chunky, and it's no mystery why with the amount and variance of forage.
More melanosis.
I'm pretty sure using the Whopper Plopper is cheating.

6/14 Buzzards Bay Bottom Fishing


This was a short trip, mainly due to the conditions getting pretty sporty. Also, I caught a limit of sea bass by 9am. It's funny to drive 5 hours round trip to fish for 5 hours, especially when you're leaving your house around 2:45am. Then when you get home, you still have to clean fish and hose down all your gear. It certainly makes for a long day, but knowing how good the fishing can be up there, it is worth the trip.

A fish like this makes the long drive at 3 am worth it.

Things started out slow, and most of the fish were on the smaller side. The spot Addison and I met up is a popular one for kayak anglers, and with how slow the fishing was to begin, my thinking was that the keeper fish have all been kept and the spot was fished out. We got on the water around 5:15am, and there were other kayak guys launching when we were, and there were already a handful of guys out there. Not to mention the boats too (it was a Sunday). I didn't catch my first keeper sea bass until about 7:30am. I don't know if it was because I broke away from the pack of kayaks all fishing the same area, or whether I found a "better" spot as I was drifting with the tide, but out of nowhere it turned on for me. Most of the keepers I caught were females, but I got one nice sized knothead male to take home. All my sea bass besides one were caught on a slow pitch jig, the other on a white bucktail while searching for fluke.

Slow pitch jigging is a fun way to target these fish.

The whole slow pitch jig thing is fairly new to me, and right now is very popular the world over. The rods used are specialized to work the jig. They are very light rods with a lot of action, but with a fair amount of power. Light line is used for better action, feel, and getting your jig to the bottom faster and to not "scope out". The jigs range in weight and shape a bit, and generally have assist hooks tied on at one or both ends. When worked properly, the jigs flutter and dance on the fall, giving them an enticing action. This type of fishing is not all that much different than jigging an epoxy jig on the bottom on light spinning tackle, which many of my fishing buddies and I have been doing for years. However, with the specialized gear used, you can upsize your jig weight considerably to adjust for deeper water.


6/15 & 6/18 CT. River Stripers


Nothing groundbreaking or insane on either of these two short outings. Targeting river stripers is the ultimate "you should have been here yesterday" fishing. It's amazing how one day they can be completely fired up, hitting everything you throw at them, and the next day with identical conditions, they are sluggish and disinterested in anything you present to them, sometimes including live bunker. It can be very frustrating, but if you're in the right place at the right time, it can be lights out fishing.

A solid topwater bass on my favorite plug, The Mully.

Addison and I met up on the evening of 6/15 at a new spot. One I've been meaning to check out for years, but just never took the time. Generally, the water in this area is a bit deeper than most of the spots I fish stripers inside the river, but they use these areas just the same. We had a very strong incoming tide, and we immediately noticed lots of bunker around the channel on our fishfinders, which gave us hope that we would find some active bass. We made the rounds, and it took some searching, but I ended up with just one good fish of about 36" (I don't measure most fish under 40"). That one fish hit a 24/7 Lures Mully in a slight current break in about 12' of water. After I safely released the fish, I quickly noticed that fish was not alone, as I marked some nice sized bass on my sonar in 12-20'. I threw every artificial lure that made sense, but could not buy another one. I know if I 3-wayed a bunker in their faces I would have caught more, but as far as I'm concerned, the whole fishing bunker thing sucks in a kayak unless the bunker are on the surface and the bass are actively pursuing them.


On the morning of 6/18, I hit the water around 8:30am, in one of my usual spots. The conditions seemed too perfect not to give it a shot. The fish had a different read on the conditions... As I worked my way up the flat with the end of the flood tide, I was greeted by very sluggish bass just laying around, and at one point I spooked a very big school of very big fish. To my dismay, I couldn't even get one to follow a topwater or subsurface offering. As the tide slacked and started to move the opposite direction, there was a very slight (generous description) uptick in action. I was getting fish to follow and roll behind the lure, but they weren't committing to the plugs at all. Once the tide picked up a bit of steam, I got a few fish to hit, but the hits were so violent and wild that they completely missed the plug. I drifted with this one school of bass just about the entire time until they eventually spread out and seemed to suddenly disappear from the flat. I had drifted quite a ways and hadn't seen a fish for about 20 minutes, and decided to make one last run up to the small piece of structure I started my drift from. It was a good decision, because I found another pod of fish that was working it's way down the flat, and I was able to get two bass on The Doc. Both fish were about 37-38". Not the best day by any means, but it was nice to turn my frustration into some short lived success. I was off the water by 11am.

The Doc elicits some violent topwater explosions from these fish.
A quick photo and safely released.

All in all, not my best June on record. I certainly didn't get as much fishing in as I had hoped due to all that I'm trying to accomplish with my house, planting a garden, replacing my tenant's water heater, and all the other things going on in daily life. I'm hoping next week's trip to Champlain with a few fishing buddies is the turning point of my fishing season.