Monday, January 2, 2023

Chain Gang

Most years, during late fall and early winter, there are a few weeks between hanging up my saltwater gear and tuning up my ice fishing equipment. It's a time when I like to visit a favorite body of water in Connecticut—a challenging fishery with incredible scenery where I have spent many a chilly outing chasing trout and walleye.

Not many lakes and ponds in my home state are home to both walleye and the fast-growing seeforellen brown trout. Throw in a healthy population of smallies and crappie and, at least to me, that rounds out a desirable lineup of target species. And here, they all have the potential to reach true trophy size—think state record potential. 

One reason for this is their diet consists mostly of landlocked alewives, which you can see schools of dimpling the surface on calm mornings. Another reason these fish have the ability to grow so large are the strict angling regulations in place. Rules that limit big chunks of when, where, and how you can fish, which ultimately deter some anglers from even bothering to try.

All that said, for me, it's the chance of encountering something genuinely special on any given outing that is a main motivator for logging hours and miles along its rocky shores. Over the years, more times than I'd like to admit, I have gone home without catching a single fish. Yet each trip, skunk or success, I learn from, and if you are going to get blanked, it may as well be at a place as beautiful as this.

This past November and December I was only able to make three trips—two morning shifts and one evening. What's more sad than the lack of time I spent there were my piss poor results. I landed a handful of fish, but none that I actually set out to catch. One was a brown bullhead that ate a shiner I had set on bottom in hopes of a sunrise walleye. Another was an unimpressive largemouth bass that fell for a shiner suspended under a slip bobber. 

Most discouraging though, were the high number of chain pickerel that I landed on both lures and live bait. Pickerel are a native species that I respect, yet have never seen in these numbers in this body of water. It wasn't just me either. I talked to a few other anglers and a tackle shop owner that reported similar results—the most pickerel any of them had ever experienced. I don't know what to make of the population explosion, but I hope the trend doesn't continue in 2023. God willing I will be there perched on a rock next fall to find out. 

Tight lines and happy New Year!

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