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Fishing - Long Island Sound

The first cast of the season draws near

Local anglers should get their tackle boxes ready and start a to-do list of the trips they want to make

The first cast of the season draws near

Local anglers should get their tackle boxes ready and start a to-do list of the trips they want to make

Fishermen and women all over the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are looking forward to another year on the water, hopefully full of big fish, more trips than the year before, both with blue skies and fair winds.

Like all the rest of the angling world, I, too, seek another good season, and at this time would like to share some of the ideas for possible outings for the fishing year.

As I write this column, the last of the New England snowbirds in the Florida Keys are wrapping up another winter, readying boats for storage or transport back up I-95. My fellow snowbird friend, Al Golinski, and I shared some fine adventures this winter aboard his 25-foot Sea Vee that he kept at a slip in Murray Marine right next door to Key West, home to numerous world record fish.

Reveling in Southern waters

One sunny Saturday we set out north of Ellis Rock, out in the Gulf of Mexico, looking for blackfin tuna that pop up behind anchored shrimp boats when they clean their decks after a night of dragging the bottom for shrimp. When the deck hands toss the bycatch over the side, any tuna in the vicinity home in on this chum line.

Unfortunately the shrimpers had completed their work by the time we arrived so the tunas were gone.

Switching to Plan B we headed to a nearby wreck where we dropped 1-inch pieces of cut herring to the bottom on ?-ounce jigs. In time we had eight whopping mangrove snappers from 4 to 11 pounds in the box, the latter caught on 12-pound line that has been submitted to the International Game Fish Association in Dania, Fla., as a new Line Class Record for that species. A Line Class Record isn’t the heaviest fish of that type ever caught, but rather the biggest to date on that weight line. If accepted, that fish will be the 27th record set aboard Al’s boat.

This and other sunny memories will continue to draw us and many other fishy folk from the Northeast back to this little island at the end of Route 1, where winter temps seldom drop below 65 while our home turf is snowy and icy or gray and gloomy.

Northern latitudes check list

Back home, one of the first spring trips we hope to do is a long run from the Mystic River in eastern Connecticut out 65-plus miles to a series of wrecks south of Block Island, fishing with Capt. Jack Fiora on his fast 42-foot Wesmac. Thanks to the speed we’ll cover the distance in a day after a very early start, hopefully jigging up some large pollock.

Later in the summer we hope to make another trip with Jack, fishing this time around Stellwagen Bank after Jack moves his boat to Scituate, Mass., for a week of fishing, diving and hunting for shipwrecks. Last year we started a day out in 300-plus feet of water northeast of Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod. We caught haddock and cusk (great for fish chowder) then headed back to the Bank to look for new spots to both fish and dive thanks to a side-scan sonar towed astern, that unit owned by Mark Munro of Griswold, Conn. Unlike a regular fishfinder, a sonar scans large areas of bottom behind a slowly moving boat, which enables finding new areas much less time consuming.

The day after I left, the crew found a fishy pile of rocks right atop the Bank where they enjoyed more good fishing in only 100-plus feet of water, not the usual depth associated with summer cod fishing, but who can argue with success.

The day before I arrived, Jack and crew dove some of the local wrecks along the South Shore of Massachusetts, collecting lobsters for more great eating, one of them a whopping 13-pounder stored in an iced cooler up in the flying bridge, ready for pictures when I showed up the next morning.

As the season rolls on

During the summer I hope to get up to Maine to do some haddock fishing with Capt. Barry Gibson, former editor of Salt Water Sportsman magazine, and now the owner of a new 28-foot Whitewater, a center console sea cutter made in Miami. It’s powered by a single 300-hp outboard that will push the craft along at 30 to 33 mph with decent fuel burn, eating up the miles between BoothbayHarbor and the fishing grounds out in the Gulf of Maine.

Later in the summer I hope to get out with my good friend Sherwood Lincoln, who is hunting for a fluke over 14 pounds in his 24-foot Hydra-Sports in the deep water of eastern Long Island Sound.

Sherwood only hunts for true doormats, using large strips of fluke belly tipped with a big shiner, dropping that combo down into depths as deep as 140, far below what the average Saturday fluke angler might try; however, those spots are home to fish that rarely have to be measured.

One secret of his success is to fish only during times of lessening current. Otherwise, it would be difficult to tend bottom in the swift tides of the eastern Sound.

As summer lengthens, I hope also to fish the ocean side of Fishers Island during one of those calm, clear, full moon nights, when it’s a pleasure to be on the water and not stuck in traffic somewhere. Those are special times, T-shirt weather with bass to 30 pounds eager to take a live eel or plastic lure tossed into the rocks anywhere from Race Rock to East Point.

A 40- to 45-inch bass on 12-pound spinning is fun galore, the fish sprinting away in long runs, looking great for pictures, the silver sides gleaming as you admire them then let most go free, taking a couple home for some great eating.

Sunset on summer

Time will tick away, bringing summer to a close, but also more fishing opportunities. If the fall winds relent somewhat, Al Golinski and I hope to drop down on some of the wrecks between Watch Hill and Charlestown, R.I., looking for more jumbo sea bass. Early last November, Al caught one that weighed 7.8 pounds, not a record but darn close.

Maybe 2008 will be the year he’ll get that record or perhaps, the 4-pound test mark for striper will be caught on his boat. In 2006 his wife Emme fought a bass for 45 minutes on that light line that was estimated over 40 pounds. Al had the leader in his hand once but just couldn’t bring the deal to closure.

Emme is an accomplished angler, setting records off Key West and also landing a whopping 58-pound striper on 8-pound test off Fishers Island. Most of us would be happy to catch that fish of a lifetime on any tackle, never mind a spinning rod and line so light one local later said he uses for trout in spring, not jumbo striped bass.

We’ll see how the fish and weather gods treat us this year, but hope is always part of a fisherman’s kit bag. We always look for a better tomorrow; always plan for the next time leaving the dock.

Tim Coleman has been fishing New England and Long Island waters for more than 30 years. He was managing editor of The Fisherman magazine’s New England edition until 2001, and is now a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.