I've been very fortunate to be part of some memorable fishing trips this fall. One particular experience that will stay with me for a long time involved three different states and insane amounts of fish. It started before dawn on a Monday in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. There, on a dock along the lower Connecticut River, I met friends Billy and Andrew and boarded an impressive boat, a Contender over 30-feet long with twin 250-horsepower outboard engines. Under brightening skies, we left the river mouth and set a course for Block Island.
Following a short, smooth run to the "Porkchop," we opted to take a quick look around its Great Salt Pond for signs of false albacore and bonito before getting to the meat of the trip, black sea bass fishing. As we slowly made our way through the Coast Guard channel, a helpful surfcaster let us know there was some life around with a point of his hand to water he couldn't reach. There was a small pod of false albacore speeding around the shallow pond, wreaking havoc on balls of bay anchovies. I had never seen albies in such a skinny, confined area before. Elation quickly turned to frustration, however, with the realization that these fish were much pickier than ones I had encountered in deeper, choppier water. We spent a good half hour giving in to temptation, but it proved fruitless in the end with only one long-distance-release and no other hook-ups.
Even from over a mile away and cruising at 40 miles per hour, we could still make out dozens of boats dotting the water around the famous lighthouse. As we inched closer, it became more apparent that we were about to witness a special evening of fishing. When we arrived to the outer rips, there were individual pods of false albacore busting as far as the eye could see. Billy set us up for a long drift and we were into fish instantly with multiple double and even triple hook-ups. Over the next couple hours, the fancy footwork on board the Contender would have made the cast of Dancing With The Stars green with envy. Soft-plastics, metal, flies - it didn't matter. Anything remotely close to representing a bay anchovy was getting destroyed if albies were within reach.
There was enough action happening along the outer rips that each boat was playing nice and working their own patch of productive water. In tight to shore was another story altogether. We made sure to stay well out of casting range of surfcasters, but the same cannot be said for other boaters that were drawn into the ensuing chaos like moths to a flame. Tens of thousands of striped bass and false albacore were whipping the water into a white froth and every single angler that put an offering anywhere close to this mess was doubled over, which of course resulted in some crossed lines and headaches. More than once I had the urge to let loose a cast into the melee, but thought better of it. Instead I broke out the camera and just watched the madness unfold. I had heard about these blitzes, but to see them up close was pretty amazing – just a surreal amount of feeding going. It wasn't all just small stripers either. Andrew took advantage of a nice space between boats and hooked into a plump keeper-sized bass and we saw others reel in bigger.
As the sun began to creep lower in the sky, the blitzes worked north and west around the point. We followed the party since it was on the way back home and were treated to a spectacular sunset in the distance. On cue, the surface action began to subside with the dropping sun and one by one the boats headed for the barn. Unlike most of them that headed to marinas on Long Island, we had a much longer trip across the Sound in the now-sporty seas. The Contender plowed right through the swell at high speed and we held on tight for an entertaining ride home. Back at the dock, Andrew and I cleaned the boat as Billy filleted the day’s haul. We each brought home a freezer bag full of sea bass meat, but it never made it to the freezer. I split my share between some family and friends that all reported back with rave reviews. The phenomenal meals on top of incredible fishing made for one hell of a fall trip. I cannot wait to do it all over again next year!