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Situated some 50-plus miles from the mouth of the Connecticut River, the Enfield Dam marks the first major obstruction for shad and herring as they return to their spawning grounds.
By Toby Lapinski
I was amazed when I first learned just how far up the Connecticut River a striped bass is willing to travel. Situated some 50-plus miles from the mouth of the river, the Enfield dam marks the first major obstruction for shad and herring as they return to their spawning grounds. Striped bass use the dam to their advantage as they feast upon migrating baitfish. I have taken stripers as far north as the Holyoke dam, some 75 or so miles upstream from the mouth of the river, but many of the truly big fish stop in Enfield. I know of at least six fish that scaled over the 50-pound mark from this stretch of the river and have taken a few over 40 pounds here myself. The dam itself is not too spectacular these days as much of it has been damaged by spring flooding and seasonal storms and it now stands as little more than a stretch of rapids spanning the width of the river.

This is primarily a shore fishing spot and I would in no way recommend anyone attempt to fish here by boat unless they were accompanied by an experienced boater; even then it is a questionable endeavor. Jet boats are seen speeding along the river, even shooting the dam at times, but this is not for the newbie or faint of heart. Fishing usually begins for small stripers in late April or as soon as the spring flooding recedes and the river flow begins to approach normal levels. While the run used to last well into June, even going strong into July some years, the fishing has all but fizzled up by the second week of June these days. Small fish stick around for the summer and anglers targeting smallmouth bass often hook these semi-resident fish. The peak is generally from Mother’s Day to the first week of June.

Tackle here is your standard surf equipment with spinning gear seeing the most use. At times, very long, accurate casts are required to reach stripers that can be seen blitzing schools of herring, so select a rod of nine to 11 feet in length.

There is fishing to be had all along this stretch of river, but shore anglers are content to stick to the first 1,000 feet below the dam. This is where I first made the comparison to small trout stream fishing, only on a super-sized scale, when targeting striped bass in the rivers of Connecticut. You will find pools, eddies, current breaks and rapids in this stretch of river, all worthy of a few casts.

First light is the preferred time for topwater action and pencil poppers come out of my bag at the first sign of daylight. Nine-inch Slug-Gos rigged on a single hook take their share of bass, as do seven-inch Finnish swimmers like Bombers and Red Fins. As with most striper hot spots, the largest of fish are landed here after dark.

To access the dam, take exit 47W off I-91 and head west on route 190 into Suffield. Take a left onto route 159 and then another left onto Canal road. Follow this to the end and you will see a parking lot. The dam is accessed by taking the bike trail at the southern end of the parking lot and following it to the river.