New England Fishing TV Report: Housatonic River Stripers
December 2, 2017
By Tom Richardson; photos AJ Derosa
The last day of November found me and the rest of the New England Fishing TV crew in Stratford, CT, for a late-season striper trip with Capt. Ian Devlin of Devlin Charters. After launching Devlin’s flats skiff at the Birdseye Boat Ramp, we idled up the Housatonic River, bundled in heavy clothing to ward off the 28-degree chill. We moved slowly upriver, as Devlin watched his side-scan sonar for the marks of striped bass, which winter-over by the thousands in the Housatonic, as well as the Thames and Connecticut Rivers. As we entered progressively brackish water, the fish marks became more and more numerous, until finally they covered the entire bottom.
All it took was one cast with an Al Gag soft-plastic paddle tail swimbait to confirm that the river was indeed infested with school stripers. As Devlin explained, the stripers move into the river in late fall and spend the winter stacked up along the bottom. Why they do this is unclear, as the water temperatures inside the river are much lower than in Long Island Sound. It could be that food is abundant inside the river through the winter, or even that the fish spawn here in spring, as Devlin suspects. Whatever the reason, the “Housy” represents a viable winter fishery for die-hard anglers who don’t mind fishing in sub-zero weather.
Fortunately for us, the wind was light to calm, and the air temperatures rose slowly into the 40’s as the day progressed. Playing striper after striper on spin and fly gear also helped keep us warm, of course, and we probably landed 50 fish between the 2 of us in just a few hours. Most were in the low to mid-20” range, although Devlin has caught them to 30 pounds during the winter. He added that Atlantic salmon are a possible, albeit rare, bycatch during the early winter, and that carp, smallmouth bass and catfish can also be found within the upper tidal portion of the Housy, just below the Derby Dam.
If you want to sample this exciting winter fishery with a pro, book a trip with Capt. Ian Devlin at Devlin Charters, (203) 451-9400; firstname.lastname@example.org.