Many years ago, back in the late 60’s and early 70’s all anyone fished for and expected to catch on plugs and jigs were striped bass, bluefish, fluke, blackfish, and scup or porgies. Even great eating and hard pulling blackfish were nowhere near as popular as they are today. I spotted some fish on the surface and went over to catch one of them but they wouldn’t touch the Gibbs Popper that had always produced a strike. After a while, I noticed the splashes were different and caught glimpses of pointy fins in the fray. Still not knowing what they were, I down-sized to a silver Kastmaster and something grabbed it and took off like a racecar.
After a fairly long battle, I landed a fish I’d never seen that turned out to be a false albacore. Not very good eating, I don’t think I ever kept another but have enjoyed catching and releasing them over the years. August is the month when some of the best bonito and false albacore action takes place close enough to shore for most anglers to get in on the action. Neither species for me anyhow are anywhere near as cooperative as bass and blues but the effort required at times is worth the investment once one is hooked. Pretty much any species that move into our waters during the summer is here by now, though locating and hooking some species can be difficult.
Some of the fish that move in can be quite exotic. One very hot summer cobia was caught along the southern Rhode Island beaches. Occasionally sharks venture inshore close to the beaches, but more often what are reported as sharks, are ocean sunfish, which can be quite large but are harmless. They feed on jellyfish and are surprising in many ways.
One of the sunfish we encountered was pretty big; I got some decent photos of the fish then went back to fishing for fluke. That sunfish was in some fairly shallow water along the south side of Fishers Island. The fluke were playing hard to get and I was looking towards the shoreline trying to decide where to try next when that fish jumped clean out of the water. That was a total surprise because they move so slowly powered mostly by their big triangular fins. I was amazed that multi-hundred-pound fish could propel itself clean out of the water. That was a “first and only” kind of event that I suspect is not very common from a species that swims slowly near the surface probably because their food source often collects near the surface where a hungry sunfish could easily fill its gut with little effort.
When I was in high school one of my friends who had a boat that was moored at Groton Long Point would cut classes and run out to the Race for some fast action with bluefish. At that time, they were very abundant during a time when stripers were on the decline due to heavy overfishing.
We were doing well but catching somewhat what we call harbor blues, fish in the two-pound or so size range. Usually, the fish in the Race averaged from seven to twelve pounds with an occasional fish in the teens grabbing the diamond jigs we usually fished the deep fast flowing water between Plum Gut and around Race Rock Light where it was shallower and easier to fish.
I hooked my “umpteenth” small blue and was cranking it up from the depths when something grabbed it and tore off like a freight train. All I could do was hold the rod as most of the line was peeled off before the fish broke off. At the time we thought it was a shark and could well have been but it was so fast. After doing a fair amount of tuna fishing for a few decades after that incident, due to the speed of that fish, I am pretty sure it was more likely a good sized bluefin tuna. During the fall they occasionally move in along the coast to feed. Few people ever hook and land them because like me they are woefully under gunned as far as their tackle is concerned.
A few years after that incident some big tuna moved in along the Rhode Island beaches. A few people took advantage of this event. I made a couple of runs but never so much as saw, let alone hooked anything despite making the effort to snag some live menhaden for bait. I was probably better off because despite having done some tuna fishing offshore, my small boat and me alone probably could not have handled a big tuna, but I did have a plan if the fishing gods smiled down on me at that time —- but they didn’t. I couldn’t even catch a bass or blue on one of my failed attempts.
That period during the 80’s when there were several mild winters and long hot summers besides drawing some oddball species into our waters, the conditions allowed for excellent winter survival of our blue crab population. They were abandoned and had an opportunity to grow to the maximum size for this area. One year, in particular, was the best crabbing I have ever experienced.
That one year I caught a half dozen crabs over eight inches from point to point, five inches is a legal crab here in Connecticut waters. The largest of which was nine and a quarter inches. I had the shell for years as a trophy. During the move from New York State back here to Connecticut to take a better job, some boxes of books fell over and that shell was crushed beyond repair. I still have one of the eight-inch shells, also from that summer that has survived over the years in a protected place in what should be a china cabinet that I use for such delicate natural items. Over the forty years that have passed since that long hot crab filled summer, I have not caught a single eight-inch crab. Occasionally a seven incher is scooped up but I’ve not even seen anything much larger than seven inches and for many years I did a great deal of crabbing. August is the month when whatever is in the area in the way of blue crabs is out and available.