Fishing is great for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the great friends you meet!
I met Matt through fishing, and we started Why Knot Fishing. I grew up fishing with my brothers and we met our good friend Brian Malchoff on the water.
Brian first introduced us to fishing in Upstate New York a couple years ago, and while we were there on one trip we met Chuck Yauch and Mike Trifiletti and their great group of friends. Chuck and Trip always put us on the fish and showed us a great time when we went up North, and it has been our honor to return the favor when they come down to New England for Stripers.
Over the years Mike and Chuck have taken separate trips down to join Matt and I on the North Shore of Boston, but this past summer they took a trip down together and joined Brian, and Keith Lee, on the water in Connecticut. They had a great couple days filled with Big Fish, and as always, a great time!
Mike wrote a great report of their trip from this past June, and I hope you enjoy the read!
There’s nothing like fishing new waters with good friends and fisherman; our Connecticut trip this past summer was no exception.
The plan was to fish rivers off of the Long Island Sound for big Striped Bass. However, prior to the the trip we were warned by our friend/guide for the weekend, Brian Malchoff, that the fishing hadn’t been too productive, and we might want to have a Plan A, B, C, D, and even Plan Z. One plan included forgoing Connecticut and heading to Massachusetts to join Matt and Joe on Boston’s North Shore. And one plan was even to ditch Striped Bass altogether and instead fish for inland Trout, which can be fun, but when you have expectations set for line screaming giant Stripers, the idea of hooking into a 10″ Trout just doesn’t have the same thrill.
Chuck and I decided that we’d make the best of the situation and target Stripers with Brian and company in Connecticut anyway, win or lose. And at the very least, even if we weren’t slamming fish we’d be slamming beers, a win-win situation.
Day 1: First days on new water are always the most memorable for me, from the new smell of water, to the unique scenery, to the sounds of wildlife, I take it all in.
We started our trip on River X by searching for bait, which in this case were Adult Menhaden or bunker, which is fairly large baitfish, approximately 12 inches long by 6 inches tall. There are two ways of catching bunker, cast nets or by using a big ass weighted treble hook. Of course we chose option 2. If you’re new to Striper fishing like we were the idea of legally snagging any fish is completely crazy and unethical, but in the Striper game it’s no holds barred when trying to get bait.
So here we are attempting to snag bunker unsuccessfully, our guides, Brian and Keith, start yelling at us “You guys need to get angry!”, and so we did for the rest of our trip. Chuck became a man possessed! Bunker no longer needed to fear Striper they needed to fear Chuck… and Chuck was angry, very angry. We successfully snagged our baits in no time, and it was time to start fishing for the target species – Big Stripers.
We started out by using a Bunker on a circle hook just trolling behind the back of the boat while we were casting plugs off the front. We managed to pick off a few small Bluefish, one small Striper, and a keeper Striper that measured 31-inches all on plugs. We ended up keeping the keeper since it was unfortunately hooked deep in the gut, and even though we release 99% of our fish, we planned on keeping just one fish during our trip to try it, and we wouldn’t let it go to waste.
Sadly the Bunker massacre was in vain, and not one fish was taken on a Bunker all day. The bigguns eluded us on Day One, but our spirits were still high, and we had plenty beer with good company, and a couple more days in front of us. Overall Day One was a success for sure.
Day 2: Since we had a slow day at our first spot on Day One, we decided to switch it up and try a different River on Day Two. And we were told the sooner we find the bait the better our chances would be getting into some big Striper. The fish gods were shining down on us, we found some bait fairly early, that and Chuck woke up especially angry.
So we ended up with just enough Bunker to feel confident and start fishing. Same as day 1, one rod for bunker two rods casting plugs. Unlike Day One; first drift… “Whammy!” the Bunker rod goes off!
(So this is the gist of fishing Bunker with spinning rods, for those that haven’t done it. The bail is open on the reel so you can freely let line out, this way the Striper doesn’t feel tension while it’s taking the bait and decide to drop it. Once you know he’s got it and feel pressure you’re suppose to close the bail and set the hook. Simple enough, so we thought.)
So what do I do on that first take? Set the hook! … without closing bail… insert face-palm here! Luckily enough the fish was still on, so with the closed bail now, I slammed back on the hook-set and we were off to the races.
First nice fish of the trip, and with some serious attitude.
Striper are a great game fish, maybe even underrated, they do hard long runs, big time head shakes, and the takes can be vicious. The only thing Stripers don’t do is get airborne, which is outweighed by the other things that stripers do very well.
– So I’m gonna go on a tangent now, Chuck grew out his mustache, which we call the Chuckstache. Every once in awhile the Chuckstache makes Chuck the luckiest man alive, and that’s not a knock on his fishing ability; he’s an incredible fisherman. But in this case luck or are the only explanations for what transpired on the trip. –
So before we even got to Connecticut, my main goal was to break the 40-inch marker, I felt that this was a reasonable goal. Two years ago I joined Joe on the North Shore and hit my goal of getting my first Striper Ever. The next year with Joe I hit my goal again and got my first Striper over 35 inches. This trip I would be able to make it 3 for 3 and get my first 40-incher.
Chuck’s first big fish of the trip ended up being a 41-inch brute, which was awesome. It gave me hope that I’d have my shot. Now this is where the shenanighans or Chuckstache come into play.
Chuck was satisfied having his 40-incher so he’s kind enough to give me his bunker rod that a fish just hopped on. I was pumped, I knew it was a good size fish maybe it’s my 40incher?! As I’m playing my fish, the other bunker rod goes off (keep in mind the 2nd bunker rod would have been my rod.) I get my fish to the side of the boat Brian secures it with the boga, right after that, Chuck gets his fish close to the boat. This is when Brian essentially tells me to give the boga up now your fish isn’t worthy. And in comparison to the mammoth Chuck had on, he made a good point.
So we get both of our fish in the boat Chucks fish was a massive 43-inch striper I was a bit envious, but no worries I had also got a good size Striper and thought it might have made the 40 inch mark. Put mine on the tape and… she read 39-inch. Yup one inch short , story of my life, can’t make these things up.
You would think the insult to injury would’ve stopped there, oh no one more for good measure. At this point we were alternating who gets the next Bunker rods while we’re casting plugs. So it’s my turn up, but Keith hands the rod to Chuck since he was right next to him Chuck looks back and asks if I want it I wave him off “No, go ahead take it bud”. Big mistake, of course another 41″ fish for Chuck, what are the chances. That’s fishing for ya.
Even though I didn’t get my 40incher on Day Two, it still was an epic day of fishing, every fish we caught was over 36 inches and plenty of action throughout the day.
Day 3: I was amped for Day 3, even though we weren’t fishing a whole day, since Capt. Keith had to be off the water by noon. Which we completely understood maintaining a garden is very important business and we can’t have striper fishing get in the way.
So we got out super early to ensure we’d have enough time to find bait and be back in time for Keith’s green thumb. We knew the weather was supposed to get nasty around noon, that made our decision to fish a half day even more valid. Unlike the previous day finding bait proved to be difficult for many reasons. The water was a lot rougher than the day before, the boat we were in was a 17-18ft bass boat, so really not built for big nasty water. Keith managed to navigate through the rough water like a champ, I was very impressed.
So the other problem we were having was locating the bait, we couldn’t manage to find big enough schools of fish. Things were looking bad, we’ve spent over an hour searching for bait, with very little to show. At this point we were even debating if we should pick up and try a different body of water, or if we should tough it out and find a few more Bunker to at least get a few Stripers where we were. Chuck and I both looked at each other, we both know we marked a lot of big fish the day before, so we really wanted to fish the same place. We said screw it let’s get a few more Bunker and see what happens.
Finding a few more Bunker proved to be difficult, we decided to try an area that we haven’t checked yet. We didn’t check this area since we had seen a lot of “peanuts”, which is what they call really small Bunker. Not the bait size we need, but sometimes you can get lucky and find bigger bunker mixed in. Once again the fish gods were looking out for us. Chuck and I stood on the bow looking down, I swear it looked like the sea floor was alive, it was the largest school of bunker I’ve seen since we started fishing, there were hundreds maybe thousands of bunker.
This time, instead of us getting real angry at the school with our treble hooks, we let Keith throw the cast net. The day before he flawlessly got it done and even got a personal best of 12 netted fish. Well, today he crushed his PB to say the least. I couldn’t even tell you how many Bunker he netted, but one thing we did know is we had plenty of bait now.
We had a new problem now the wind was going against the tide creating some unruly waves. Fortunately I wasn’t sitting on the bow this portion of the trip, Brian was… He definitely took a whooping on that ride, flat bottomed boats plus big waves equals a sore bottom and 50% chance of sterilization. What would normally be a 5 minute commute turned into a 30 min adventure weaving in and out of the waves.
After a rough ride we made it to where we marked fish the day before. We were all thinking the same thing “What if the fish aren’t here?” and we punished ourselves finding bait and rough weather for nothing…
First drift eased our minds ended up boating two nice Stripers, and also had a couple missed opportunities due to user errors.
Well the dreaded noon arrived and the weather was mint at this point and the bite was picking up of course. We had a choice to make, either to keep fishing or be responsible and head in. Every fisherman has been in this situation and knows being responsible isn’t really a choice.
So we ended up staying out for four more hours and picking off bunch of fish till the weather finally turned and kicked us off the water.
Didn’t get my 40-incher, but got a lot of good fish, and Keith got out of working on his wife’s garden, solid day in my book.
Day 4 (Plan-Z): Last day of fishing, the weather finally played a factor and kept us off the big water. This meant no Striper fishing, which also meant no 40-incher. So we decided to go inland Trout fishing on the Farmington River. I was opposed to plan Z from the get-go, but when you have the decision to fish or go home and think about fishing, the choice was simple.
The Farmington River is beautiful, surrounded by large trees and canopy everywhere you look, lots of unique boulders that form pools to riffles. It’s a fly fishermen’s paradise, scenic fishing and tons of access on the whole stream. I don’t do much inland fishing, most trout fishing I do is for big migratory trout, so this made fishing for inland trout more interesting due to the newness.
The biggest problem I have with inland trout fishing is most of the fish are real small and I don’t get jacked up like I normally would when targeting other larger game fish. On the other hand inland Trout are much more difficult to catch then their migratory cousins. The challenge is what drove me to keep fishing. I have a whole new respect for inland Trout, pretty much kicked my butt the whole day. I ended up with a nice brown and a couple misses. The highlight of the trip was Chuck stripping in a streamer and having 15″ Brook Trout smash it.
Last days of fishing are definitely the worst part of fishing trips, I guess it gives us something to look forward to next time, but having to drive home 6 hours, dehydrated, sleep deprived, working the next 5-6 days when you get home is the worst…..Especially when all that’s on your mind is when are we coming back!
The Connecticut fishery is amazing. Whether you’re fishing for giant Stripers, or fishing for the challenging inland Trout, this fishery has everything that an avid angler is looking for. Big thanks to fellow TeamWhyKnot Captains Brian Malchoff and Keith Lee, as well as John Jinishian, for the amazing fishing and the incredible hospitality. Can’t wait to get back down there again!
— TeamWhyKnot Captain, Mike Trifiletti