By Tom Schlichter
I’ve always found Stamford, CT to be an interesting port from a fishing perspective. Tucked up along the north side of western Long Island Sound, roughly opposite Lloyd Point on the Long Island coast, the waters here warm up early in the spring and retain some heat well into the fall. This makes the area ideal for early season stripers and late-season blackfish. In between, fluke, porgies, bluefish, false albacore and just about anything else that swims in our waters passes through on its way east or west.
Smack in the middle of this fishy confluence resides a Freedom Boat Club franchise (www.freedomboatclub.com) and its members enjoy some super fishing starting in May and continuing right into December. If you aren’t familiar with Freedom Boat Club, it allows members to sign-up at any location across the country and then use the vessels at any of its 160+ franchises. Between Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island alone there are fourteen operations including Stamford, Stratford, Branford, Westbrook, Deep River and Mystic in Connecticut, Newport, Portsmouth, and Warwick in Rhode Island, plus Freeport, Babylon, Northport, Port
Jefferson and Port Washington on Long Island. That’s a lot of coverage and, being that the locations are spread out, you can actually follow the best striper, fluke, false albacore and blackfishing from port to port if you so desire.
“I chose the Stamford Freedom Boat Club because it’s just 20 minutes from my home,” explains Alban Gjyrezi, who likes to target stripers throughout the season, fluke and porgies in the summer, and blackfish in the fall. “This setup is perfect for me because I travel a lot so I really get to take advantage of all the locations. I’ve already fished out of Freedom Boat Clubs here in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida, California and the Carolinas so I’m really getting my money’s worth. I had my own boat and was trying to decide whether to upgrade to a new one or pour more money into my current vessel. The upkeep and repairs were getting costly and it took a lot of time to keep on top of things so I opted to join. Now I just show up at the dock, step aboard and head on out. There’s no need for excessive cleaning at the end of the day, no winterizing, no storage issues. I just cruise and fish. It’s really a great deal.”
Stamford club member Matt Blasco agrees. “You have a lot of friends during the boating season when you captain your own vessel, but when it comes time for all the hard work to open or end the season, you’ll generally by yourself. This way, there’s no hassle. I don’t have to prep, scrub or repair the boat – ever – and I don’t have to store it in my driveway.”
Even better, continues Blasco, Freedom boaters can choose from a fleet of vessels to match any outing. “When I bring my wife along and we simply want to cruise, I like using a boat with a pilot house because we are protected from the elements. When I want to do some serious fishing, the Key West 239FS Center Console is a perfect choice because it covers a lot of water in a short amount of time. One thing I really like about the Stamford location is that it’s close to the open Sound. Most Connecticut ports have a lot of ‘No Wake’ zones so it can take some time to get outside. Here, I’m headed to the fishing grounds in minutes.”
As far as productive fishing locations in the Stamford area go, there are plenty to choose from. During May and June, pods of bunker set up off most of the major points and sometimes inside harbor waters as well. This puts anglers in perfect position for snag-and-drop action with the big linesiders that stalk the silvery baitfish. Quietly approach a bunker school that’s rippling the surface and use a large weighted treble hook to snag a baitfish, then just let it swim. As it struggles to keep up with the pod, it becomes an instant target for stripers that can weigh 20 to 30 pounds or more and bruiser bluefish weighing well into the ‘teens.”
Once waters warm up and we slide into July, big bass and blues slide out to the Middle Grounds area which, as the name implies, is out toward the middle of the Sound. Here you can troll umbrella rigs, Tony Maja bunker spoons or parachute lures if you’d like, although most anglers prefer to fish cut bunker chunks right on the bottom through the summer months.
June, July and August also bring a steady bite of fluke, many in the keeper class. For these, set up around Buoy 32A, roughly two nautical miles south of Stamford Harbor, in 35- to 50-foot depths. Use a high-low bucktail rig sporting a Spro bucktail or fluke bullet as the bottom hook and a white, chartreuse or pink teaser on top and stem the tide if possible. If the tide is pushing hard, another alternative is to use a standard hi-low rig with a 6- to 8-ounce sinker. If you want to try something new, tie on a Panther Martin Fluke Train (www.panthermartin.com/Lures/swimbaits/FlukeTrain) as the bottom hook on this rig. Last year in field tests, it scored well with keeper summer flatties on a consistent basis. No matter which rig you choose, tip the hooks with spearing or squid and dinner awaits.
Gjyrezi, a serious angler who knows the area well and likes fishing from a Jeanneau Merry Fisher cuddy cabin because it provides comfort and protection in the spring and fall when temperatures on the water can be pretty cool, favors the Buoy 32A area for stripers and porgies. He’ll target the linesiders with live eels and the scup with clam baits. Another of his favorite spots is located just south of Greenwich Point, roughly 1.5 nautical miles west of Stamford. Here he catches blackfish on green crabs each fall. “Cut them in half or quarters,” he advises,” and toss the claws over as chum.” For fluke, he recommends jigging with 4- to 6-ounce bucktails in deep water or working Dr. Fish’s Wiggle Soft-Bait lures in shallower areas. There is also an artificial reef on the Long Island side off Matinecock Point that’s within reach and if you check your charts, you’ll find additional wrecks, ledges, rocks, boulder fields and interesting areas over which to prospect.
As for Blasco, he’s still learning the waters here. He’s had some luck with fluke, decking a couple keepers last year that measured between 22 and 26 inches but he hasn’t quite yet nailed down the bass and bluefish he’d like to battle. That should come this year as he gets out more on the water, gains a little confidence and talks to other club members who are on the fish.
“I remember catching a ton of blues and other fish as a kid,” revealed Blasco. “I want to have that feeling again. It’s one of the reasons I got back into boating.”
With no worries this summer about his vessel thanks to Freedom Boat Club, he’s already half-way there.