This is the time of the year when we start getting reports of tropical fish that come north on the Gulf Stream and peel off when the surrounding water warms up enough to make survival possible. Stories concerning exotics have to be handled with kid gloves, since the majority of local anglers aren’t all that familiar with southern species, and fishermen are a creative bunch, to say the least. (I’m trying to be gentle here, folks).
Gray triggerfish are actually fairly common in local waters, as are juvenile jack crevalle, but it seems like every year, there’s an unusual confirmed catch that stands out.
A friend of mine caught a ladyfish a number of years ago at Millstone, and a Hartford-area angler once caught a big horse-eye jack in Quonochontaug Pond, of all places.
Not to be outdone, the commercial crowd chipped in with a tarpon that had blundered into a fish trap over in Narragansett.
I even got into the act myself a few years ago by spotting a yellow fish that was either an angelfish or a butterfly in Quonochontaug breachway.
But 2011’s exotic catch of the year (so far) would have to be a 48.9 pound red drum, or channel bass, that Brad Thompson reportedly caught on a chunk of bait at the Weekapaug breachway a couple of weeks ago. Red drum are rarely caught this far north. I’ve never seen one in 50 years of fishing the salt.
Apparently, Thompson is a Gales Ferry resident. Since I’m also a Gales Ferry resident, this should serve to remind me to be a lot nicer to my neighbors, and maybe I’ll be asked to go fishing once in a while. With my angling skills, I’m sure that fish would have been mine had I been on the scene. Or at least that’s what I believe. Others’ opinions may vary. Vary a lot, in fact.
On the subject of exotics, lionfish, native to the Pacific Ocean, have recently established themselves the Caribbean, and have been found as for north as North Carolina. It’s just a matter of time before they start showing up here, if they haven’t already. Lionfish have poisonous spines that can do a lot of damage, and beachgoers would be well advised to avoid handling any unfamiliar fish. (See the above illustration.) This is one species that you really don’t want to mess with.
We’re starting to hear whispers about bonito in the area. Nothing confirmed yet, but given the approach of fall, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be some in local waters.
Most of the bonito action in this neck of the woods is from boats, but for anybody willing to drive over to RI and fish the West Wall in Galilee, there’s always the chance that some bonito might pop in there.
I like weighted bunny flies for bones, usually white. Just cast into breaking fish, let the fly sink down a ways, and give it a twitch. The fish will do the rest.
I’m usually a strict catch-and-release guy, but I do make the occasional exception for bonito (when I’m lucky enough to catch one). Pan-seared or cooked on the grill, fresh bonito is a real treat.
For those who are interested in such things, it appears that one Greg Myerson of North Branford has earned his way into the record books by boating an 81.88 pound striped bass in Long Island sound. If the catch stands up to IGFA scrutiny, Meyerson’s fish will break the current all-tackle world record by three pounds or so.
The fish ate a live eel, that unfortunately for the fish, contained Myerson’s hook. (Click to read Myerson's tale of the catch).
As might be expected, the internet rumor mill has already begun to spit out fanciful tales of malfeasance that would shame the likes of Bernie Madoff. I’m not sure what it says about fishermen that everyone who catches a record fish these days has to go out of his way to prove that his personal ethics are in the same class as the Mahatma Ghandi’s.
I also seem to recall that the holder of the current record was unjustly accused of everything from stuffing his fish with lead sinkers to finding it already dead and washed up onto the beach.
I mean, we can’t all be liars, can we?