Thursday, December 27, 2012

Like Cordwood

Yesterday I took a ride to a Connecticut tidal river that pours into western Long Island Sound. The target species was fresh Atlantic herring that recently arrived here from offshore, as they do each winter. I can only imagine the challenges these silvery, foot-long fish encounter during their journeys at sea, only to come inshore and get pummeled by mergansers, seals and anglers like me.

Catching them can be fun and easy if your timing is right. The tide preferred by local herring sharpies is high outgoing, which happened to coincide with the warmest part of the day yesterday, though it was still bitter cold. Chemical hard-warmers helped keep me in the game, as did not touching the wet fish while shaking them off the hook. The mainstay method of catching herring on a rod and reel is with a Sabiki rig, which is basically a long leader with several little dropper hooks with glow beads and flash. At the bottom of the rig is usually tied a lead bank sinker that gives the desired casting distance and gets the offering down to the strike zone.

There were four of us on the rocks today, all strangers working in rhythm to fill our buckets. The process consisted of casting upstream on a current seam, letting the weight hit bottom and slowly reeling in. As the lead sinker bounced along the rocks and sand, the rig worked its magic in the current and herring latched on like it was their job. The fish tried like hell to dislodge the hooks from their paper-thin mouths by doing somersaults on their way in, but when one herring would pop off, another would grab hold. They were stacked like cordwood and we often caught multiple herring at a clip. I counted several doubles, a few triples and my eastern European neighbor had a lucky retrieve with four herring on at once!

I was a little unprepared today showing up with only one Sabiki rig. Not having a local tackle shop open near me due to the holidays, I decided to risk it and go anyway. Of course it didn't take long for my lone rig to get snagged in some riprap while pulling in a brace of herring. The line broke as I could still feel them trying to wiggle free. Thankfully a good Samaritan fishing next to me told me to grab a new rig out of his truck and I was soon back in line bailing fish. I owe him a hot cup of coffee for sure! I kept the good karma rolling by giving hand-warmers to one of the foursome that was going back and forth to his car to warm up. The small token was just enough to keep his fingers operable in the raw conditions.

The regular who spared an extra rig kept telling me the bite would slow down as the tide dropped, but it never happened. After a busy couple of hours, I bid my new jigging friends farewell and left the fish biting. I finished with a total of 54 morsels up to 13-inches long; by far my best day of that type of fishing. And while I won't be eating any of them, I never met a fish that didn't like herring! They will serve as fresh bait for a long time to come.  

1 comment:

  1. i am planning on going out and doing the same thing locally. my question long can you keep the herring in the freezer? until next spring?