Fishing for broodstock Atlantic salmon in CT

Every once in a while, you gotta do something different. Even if you’re a creature of habit. No, especially if you’re a creature of habit.

Before Tuesday, I’d never gone fishing for broodstock Atlantic salmon. It’s a little curious that I hadn’t, even more so since I enjoyed it immensely, and that was after freezing my toes off and catching…nothing. You can try for Atlantics in moving water in the Naugatuck and Shetucket Rivers; the Shetucket is where I fished. Striper angler extraordinaire Toby Lapinski graciously offered to show me the ropes. We basically went out and had at it for four hours. Unlike much of what I write here, this little piece isn’t intended to be a detailed guide or even a primer. If you want more information, you can check out the CT DEEP site. Another great resource is Atlantic salmon aficionado Ben Bilello’s website.

So. To the fishing. I used my Ken Abrames #3 Salmo Sax in switch mode with a floating line. Leader was about 12′ long, tapering down to 10″ P-Line. I used a bunch of different flies, from classic Atlantic Salmon flies like the Same Thing Murray and Mickey Finn to soft hackled streamers like the Hi-Liter. I did have a few touches; several were from smaller fish that were not salmon. I might have had one salmon touch, but it was not a big boil or roll or even a sharp tug; it almost felt like a striper taking the fly into into its mouth. In any case, no adrenaline rush. The method was the greased line swing and dangle, which if you’ve read my stuff you already know I love. I hated when the clock said we had to go. Folks, I need to do this again.

Cast…upstream mend…upstream mend…another mend…then let the current and the fly and primal attack instincts do their thing. I like to teach big mends, which I call “mending like you mean it.” You actually pick the line up off the water and place it where you want it. A longer rod helps the cause. Photo by Toby Lapinski.

3 comments on “Fishing for broodstock Atlantic salmon in CT

  1. Pierre Sauvé says:

    Interesting. So I visited the two websites you mentioned and looked up the Shetucket river. Might as well share what I found: this CT fishery is maintained by stocking yearly both “soon to be retired ” broodstock salmon (about 200, average weight 10-15 pounds) as well as 2-3 year old salmon (1,000-2,000, average weight 2-5 pounds) in three sections of river (one on the Shetucket) as well as in a pond and a lake. The stocked section of the Shetucket is between two dams so, unless there are fishways, the stocked fish stay there so they must feed in the river (as you know, wild Atlantic salmon that have gone to sea and came back to the river to spawn don’t feed in the river unless they winter there and go back to sea the next spring when they will feed voraciously coming down river). And I wonder how many salmon are taken yearly in that fishery. Over the years, some of the surviving (if any) ones must have grown big.

    As to your fishing: were you in fly-only waters? if so, are weighted flies allowed (as Ben Bilello website seems to indicate)?

    And tight lines next time.

  2. John Halnon says:

    I always wondered what the fish do after the water gets really cold in December and again when the water gets bathwater warm in the summer. My guess is their instinct to move takes over and since the river can rise as much as 6-9′ in a typical 3-day spate, they go over the dams and downstream.
    But that is assuming concrete reared salmon still have that much instinct left.

    Luckly, they do have enough instinct left to move to a swung fly. I usually get them on the hang down. Don’t forget your steelhead fly box. They do like bright flies at times and stripping the fly works as well as a swing.

    That said and as Steve found out, other fish do nip at the flies; fall fish, white perch and stocked trout. The small salmon will nip too so those steelhead flies tied on shanks and small stinger hooks help.

    The rivers are beautiful though and have classic runs if you know what to look for. I practice all things spey on the river from my OPST 4-wt. to my Loop 15′ with long belly spey. And every once in a blue moon, a swing produces a salmon. I use this time to hone my spey casting before heading to NY or out west.

    Catch and keep starts Dec. 15 and many salmon do get kept by very knowledgeable fisher folk.

    Good luck and cheers!

    • Steve Culton says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, John. What you call the “hang down” I know as “the dangle.” Tomayto, tomahto. I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season.

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