WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Mind the hook and spare the stock

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Mind the hook and spare the stock


“Beware the Ides of March.”

— William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Whenever the month of March comes round, I am reminded of that quote from Shakespeare’s play.

Mr. Churchill, my Meriden High School English teacher (Hey, John Young, remember the Red and Blue) must be smiling down at the thought that I would remember his teachings, including some of Shakespeare’s plays.

The “Ides of March” refer to the middle of the month and the warning to Julius Caesar was of impending danger to his life.

Nowadays, it could mean watch out for the fickle weather that can be cast upon us during the month of March, especially after the crazy winter we have experienced so far. But as I make my rounds, checking out different fishing sites in our area, it does my heart good to see the ice going. (Sorry about that, icefishing lovers). Yet just as it starts to look good, we get another deep freeze.

Oh, not enough to make the ice safe, but enough to discourage attempts to get some fishing time on the open water. But I did see Meriden resident Marty Loos using his spinning rod in some open-water fishing the last day of trout fishing at Black Pond until the second Saturday in April. It was quite cold that day, but Marty is a hardcore fisherman.

In our area, you can fish Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park year round, BUT you do have to return any trout caught back to the water unharmed. After the opening day of trout season (the second Saturday in April) you may keep the trout. The same goes for Hanover Pond below the bridge on Oregon Road down to Hanover Dam.

The Quinnipiac River upriver from Oregon Road Bridge to Cheshire Street is closed the last day of February to the second Saturday in April.

The entire Quinnipiac River that runs in Southington and Cheshire is designated as a Wild Trout Management Area and is open to year-round fishing, but only with barbless, single-hook lures and flies ONLY! Also, fishing in the WTMA on the Quinnipiac River is catch-and-release only. There is no bait fishing!

Sorry to say, there are always a couple of people (they are not sportsmen) who try to interpret the rules on the Quinnipiac River as allowing them to fish hook-and-release anywhere and anytime they please.

Silver Lake, North Farms Reservoir, Wallingford, and Lake Beseck are also fishable year round. You can also check the Connecticut Angler’s Guide for more spots to fish when the ice is out.

Striped bass

In a recent survey from Stripers Forever, 450 striped bass anglers, including 47 guides from North Carolina to Maine, said they were disappointed with the striper fishing in 2018.

A major reassessment of the wild Atlantic striped bass population has prompted the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which manages striped bass, to admit that the spawning stock has shrunk sufficiently enough to require a warning that the bass is being overfished.

Stripers Forever blames the ASMFC management plan that focuses too much of the fishing effort on older fish that are vital to the breeding population. Over the last 10 years, a reduced striped bass breeding population has resulted in highly variable production: two good year classes, two average and six below average, including a record low spawn in 2016.

In a recent release, Stripers Forever president Brad Burns said, “Stripers Forever supports significant reduction in recreational fishing mortality beginning this season. The commercial fishery has comparatively small socio-economic benefits and it is concentrated on large breeding-age fish, which are the sector of the resource that is in the greatest trouble.”

Burns also said, “The commercial fishery for wild striped bass enables the existence of a black market. Stripers Forever feels that all commercial fishing activity for stripers should end, either through a buyout program paid for by the sale of a striped bass stamp or phased out by grandfathering those commercial fishermen who have had a minimum average amount of sales over the past several years and not issuing any new licenses.”

The ASMFC announcement also revealed that 90 percent of the striped bass fishing mortality along the Atlantic coast is estimated to be from recreational fishing activity. The remaining 10 percent is from commercial fishing, not including illegal commercial fishing activity, which is not estimated by the ASMFC.

The larger recreational impact on striped bass reflects the fact that the recreational fishery benefits many hundreds of thousands of individual citizens fishing for personal use. The average recreational fisherman harvests less than one striped bass per year.

Stripers Forever expects the ASMFC to announce in May that regulatory changes will be imposed in 2020 to reduce the striped bass mortality — specifically, increased minimum sizes for recreational fishing and a decreased quota for the commercial fishery.

Some states may take immediate actions to reduce the striped bass mortality, such as Massachusetts, where circle hooks may become mandatory for bait fishing and gaffing of live striped bass may be prohibited.

From where I sit, many anglers who say they are fishing catch-and-release using baited hooks for species like striped bass — and even trout in some of our Trout Parks — need an education on the damage many of them do to fish when they deep hook them and then rip the hook out and throw the fish back into the water to die.

I have seen this way too many times. Game wardens only need to go to Wharton Brook to see this kind of irresponsible action. If an angler wants to fish hook-and-release, then they should be fly fishing or using a lure with barbless hooks.

That’s it for now, gang. THINK SPRING! See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.