Before we begin I want to offer some insights regarding how and why I break the season down into these moon periods. I look at each period as 15 days which is, roughly, half of a month—it’s the seven days before, the day of the new or full moon, and the seven days following. The moons have a great influence on the ocean and the fish. The moons drive the tide timings and the strength of the current, they also drive the measurable height of the tide. For nighttime fishing, the moon phases dictate how dark the night will be if there is no cloud cover. My own observations over 20-plus years fishing for striped bass from the surf, tell me that there is no denying the fact that these periods of stronger currents are usually the times when bodies of fish make a move, into or out of a bay, from one region to another or even just a few miles down the beach. These 15-day cycles are a manageable chunk of time that I feel we can offer enough insights to help you find the fish you’re looking for.
Striped Bass(Open all year, 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches per angler, per day)
Never in my life have I seen such a disparity between the striper catches of boat anglers and surfcasters, it’s been the same story all season long. Boaters seem to be having very little trouble finding stripers day or night. As is usually the case, moving water and/or places with increased wave action have been great spots for anglers tossing topwater plugs like the 7-inch and 9-inch Doc, Hogy Dog Walkers, Shimano Walk Baits, particularly the 130 size and the universally loved Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow. Brenton Reef has been a hotspot for boaters and kayakers with lots of fish in the 20- to 35-inch range and a few larger ones as well. But it seems like the biggest fish though, are falling for the old tube and worm, like those made by T-Man or the Hogy Perfect Tube. The trick has been to troll up close to structure and turn so the tubes swing in very close to the reef, this method has accounted for many large bass over the past couple weeks and we’d expect that to continue. But even with all this action close to the dock, most guys are steaming for Block, where catching large stripers is as easy as pulling sunfish from a farm pond. One angler made his first trip ever to the island and boated four fish over 50 pounds in a single tide. Live eels are doing most of the damage but the GT Eels from Gravity Tackle are becoming more and more popular and taking some impressive fish including at least one over 50 and another that may have been pushing 70. The floating city is in full effect with boats hailing from as far east as Marthas Vineyard and as far west as… I don’t know, Ohio? There have been rumors of a topwater bite in tight around the island too with fish from schoolies to 25 pounds taking plugs at first and last light.
Surfcasters haven’t had it so easy, except those that went to the Canal last week and were treated to some old-fashioned Canal blitzes, albeit with a lower average size, there were still some big girls in the mix. Those heading to the Canal for the next set of tides should consider the fact that the mackerel were small and the fish were definitely keying in on smaller plugs. We saw a noticeable run on Left Hook Pilgrim Pencils and Raptorsas well. Also SP Minnows and Hydro Minnowsin mackerel, bone, pearl, or just about any color with a flashy, silver flank. Back home on Aquidneck Island Iron Mike put a big fish on the rocks one night last week, on his favorite plug, the live eel. I’m not sure if he weighed the fish, but the pic puts it close to 40 anyway, if not over. We haven’t heard of any successful daytime surf trips, anyone who’s catching is doing it in the dark. The heat of the summer is a great time to fish the tide swept boulder fields of Rhody, any one of these that rises out of deep water is likely to have cool water weaving through the stones and might just draw in some good fish. Slow-sink needles like those made by Gibbs are a great choice. If the surf is up then try to reach the edge with a Super Strike Little Neck Swimmer, I like white, parrot, or black—and under the bright moon, herring color is a great choice. Another school of thought is to look deep. There are several spots between Gansett, Jamestown and Aquidneck Island that feature deep water close to shore, try a 7-inch Tsunami Shad or a GT Eel on a jig head to pull big fish from these deep holes.
Predictions: Block Island will continue to pump out easy giants and the ghosts of 8 million eels will haunt all that fish there. With more and more chub mackerel moving in along the SoCo beaches and up into the East Passage, there will be an increase in large bass between Point Judith and Aquidneck Island. The daytime guys will continue to pull good fish on the tube and worm, but there will be an increase in fish taken on trolled swimmers, large plugs, shads, and maybe even Mojos. The surfcasters will continue to struggle but for some reason, call it blind optimism, I feel like it’s going to get incrementally better as the full moon approaches. And for those looking for Canal predictions, history points to the next set of breaking tides being very good. But the history of 2020 tells us not to start counting those chickens just yet.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
As far as bluefish reports go, there really hasn’t been a whole lot to go on. Bluefish are definitely being caught locally, but there’s been no hot spot or killer method. The most reliable fishing I’ve heard about is up in the bay, between Conimicut Point and Rocky Point. These fish were small ‘smoker-sized’ bluefish and they were taking small poppers like the 1 oz floating Little Neck Popper from Super Strike.
Predicitons:Unchanged, bluefish will remain fairly unpredictable as far as where and when they will show in a given place. One thing I can guarantee is that the best way to find them is to throw something they can ruin like a rigged eel or a soft plastic.
Fluke(Open May 3 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Fluking just has not found it’s groove this year. Even along the famous SoCo beaches, the results have been pretty unexciting. I talked to a few charter captains that said they have been able to find some more reliable action by fishing spots that aren’t famous, little humps and ledges that barely register on the chart. But even the ‘guarantee spots’ like Montauk, the windmills and the shoals off Nantucket, nowhere is putting up numbers like they did, even just last year. Given the unpredictable nature of this year’s fishery, I wouldn’t be trying to improvise too much, stick with what you know the old Spro Prime Bucktail and Gulp combo is as good as it ever was.
Predictions:I am not a fluke expert, but I’ve been covering local fishing long enough to say that I don’t think the fluke fishing is going to magically explode in August. Those that work hard, aren’t afraid to cover new ground and aren’t intimidated by having to fish deep will pull just enough fish to keep it interesting, the rest will go sea-bassing.
Sea Bass: (Current season June 24 to August 31, 3 fish per angler per day at a minimum size of 15 inches)
By all accounts, sea-bassing is on fire right now. From Newport to Beavertail to Point Jude and beyond. The hard part is that the numbers of mini-me sea bass is staggering. The bigger fish tend to be deeper, like don’t even try shallower than 60 feet, and don’t be afraid of 100. There are two schools of thought regarding how to hook a big one, one is to use huge dead baits like whole squid or tinker mackerel. Another is to target deep structure with jigs like the Shimano Flat-Fall, diamond jigs, or large ‘minnow style’ jigs like the Shimano Colt Sniper. Sea bass are amazingly aggressive, and you will be surprised by what they’ll take a shot at, I have caught them on giant live eels and 8-inch wooden swimmers. Going big just might result in a nice limit of sea bass without having to cull out too many smalls.
Predictions: Sea-bassing will remain very good in the deep waters off of all of Rhode Island and Block Island. And I don’t expect that to change much in the next two weeks. Although these days between the moons, with their slower tides, often result in better sea bass fishing so make it happen this week.
Exotics: I think we can safely say that 2020 has been an odd season. We had a warm winter, a cool spring, and now a blazing July. Water temps have been all over the place but now they are way up there and we have several exotic species moving in. Bonito have been in and out since early June, but it sounds like they’re starting to settle in a little bit at both Watch Hill and the West Wall—early morning has been the key. Complicating the issue has been the arrival of both chub and frigate mackerel, which we believe have been mistaken on several occasions for small, finicky bonito. The mixed mackerel have been spotted at all of the breachways, Point Judith, the East Passage, and up north of the big bridge. Triggerfish have also been popping up in some of the salt ponds. And we heard our first rumors of albies being taken somewhere along the South County beaches on Monday this week. Bonito will take a wide variety of lures from Epoxy Jigs, to small SP Minnows, to Shimano Stick Baitsand the lure we’re fired up about this year is the 3/4-ounce Exo Jig, pink, silver and electric chicken are all great colors. For fly guys try Bonito Bunnies weighted and unweighted, Albie Whores and Epoxy Baitfish. The frigate and chub macks love small epoxy jigs and small flies.
Predictions:I have no idea. These species of fish are unpredictable by nature and I can’t even begin to guess what might happen next. There are two predictions I feel pretty safe in making, 1, that the chub macks will be a mainstay all month and 2, even if those albie rumors turn out to be legit, I don’t think we’ll see any reliable albie fishing until September.
Scup (porgy) fishing has been amazing all summer long and if you’re looking for an easy limit of good eating fish, grab some bait and find some rocky structure. These fish are easy to catch and will eat almost any dead bait, sandworms are the favorite, but squid, clams and even Gulp will hook their share. The offshore tuna bite continues to draw lots of interest and some of them have been hanging just a mile or two south of Block, the Butterfish Hole has been the supposed hot zone, but this feels like one of those years when we have a shot at seeing some move in much closer to home. Lets all cross our fingers for that.