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 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)
Summer has returned although August has been anything but typical. It almost feels like we’ve had an equal number of hot days and unseasonably cool days which has made the bass fishing weird, especially for the surfcasters. The other thing that has been odd is the lack of larger stripers around Aquidneck Island. There have been some big fish taken by boat anglers trolling Tube and Worm Rigs around submerged humps that rise out of 30 feet of water, but most anglers are reporting a tougher bass bite overall throughout most of Rhode Island, the exceptions being the Watch Hill Reefs and, of course, Block Island—both of these areas have been giving up larger bass into the upper 40-pound class.
Aquidneck Island has been giving up good catches of bass between 20 and 30 inches for surfcasters fishing at night with 3/4- to 1-1/2-ounce bucktails, white has been the most popular color and most anglers are tipping their bucktails with Fat Cow Jig Strips. The action has been best on nights with increased wave action and an onshore wind. You can pick your spots based on the direction of the wind, you want it in your face. Mornings and evenings have seen an increase in surface-feeding bass, but again, finding a fish north of 26 inches has been tough in these mini-blitzes. Topwater plugs like 1-ounce Super Strike Poppers, Jumpin’ Minnows, Hogy Charter Grade Poppers and 1-ounce Cotton Cordell Pencilshave been catching tons of fish, but don’t shy away from using Albie Snax on a 4/0 Owner Beast Hook (here's the Weightedversion if you prefer) blitzing stripers go crazy for those things! These fish are on peanut bunker, silversides and butterfish, we heard reports on Thursday of halfbeaks showing off Ocean Drive, so there’s plenty of bait around—blitzes have been erupting throughout the East and West Passages and in the Sakonnet River, as far north as McCorrie Point. Large bass have been tough to come by over the past few weeks, but September looms close. Another thing worth mentioning is that forecast models are coming into alignment for a close brush or a glancing blow with a weak hurricane or tropical storm this weekend, we’ll see what kind of changes that ushers in, but one thing is certain, big waves will mix inshore waters and cool them down—we might just see another flurry of bass activity when the water clears up next week.
Predictions: It’s harder than usual to make a prediction right now because we are waiting on the final forecast adjustments for the approach of a hurricane. Let’s look on the bright side; water temps are going to cool down and this long stretch of calm seas is over. The cooling waters and constant infusion of estuary-born baitfish is likely to turn the bass bite on and I believe we will see a more consistent local bite for fish approaching and eclipsing the 20-pound mark with a better aggregation of larger fish perhaps stretching past the 40-pound mark.
Photo Courtesy of Earl Evans
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
“Scattered” is the word most people are using to describe the bluefish bite right now. The best action for ‘teeth’ in local waters seems to be in an elongated triangle that can be plotted by drawing a line from Brenton Point, to Whale Rock, to Point Judith and then back to Brenton. But it’s been a case of looking for birds, in that wide area and casting on the blitzes to see if it’s chub macks, bass, bluefish or bonito. If you’re looking for blues, we recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with things like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures and the 5.5-inch Charter Grade Popperfrom Hogy. And if you’re really smart, you’ll swap out any treble hooks for single Siwash, a VMC 7265PS O'Shaughnessy Live Bait Hook or VMC ILS 4X Inline Single. The shop is also well stocked with Steel Leadersand affordable pliers like the Admiral model from Danco .
Predictions:Right now it’s hard to nail down bluefish and after this storm passes it’s going to be even tougher… unless it pulls a big school into the area. For the next seven days be ready for anything when you’re out fishing—after that, concentrate on the bait nurseries and use your eyes to find pods of bait being harassed by birds and fish.
Fluke(Open May 5 to December 31, 6 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Most fluke-hopefuls are heading to Block Island right now, the Windmills and the East Grounds have seen a reawakening over the past 10 days or so, charter boats are starting to land more keepers and some nice fish up to 8 pounds too. Some nice fish are also coming from isolated structures south of Brenton Reef, south of Sachuest and off Beavertail as well. The South County beaches have been rife with shorts, but a few nicer flatties have come from breachways, some even taken by shore anglers. Bucktails like the Berkley Fusions and Spro Primes are all catching well. Tip them with our mind-numbing selection of Gulp shapes and colors or go old school and throw a strip of bluefish belly on there and start bouncing. Some of the best hardcore guys recommend fishing larger baits to cull out the smalls.
Predictions:Unchanged for the most part. Block Island will remain the ultimate fluking spot
Photo Courtesy of Teezer Charters
Black Sea Bass (current season 6/24 to 8/31 3 fish per angler [increasing to 7 fish per angler per day on 9/1] at a minimum size of 15 inches)
The only thing that has changed since the last report is that the sea bass fishing somehow got even better! Boat anglers are crushing them on structure inside the bay, on every rock larger than a kitchen table outside, on all the humps south and east of Point Judith, all around Block Island and Coxes Ledge as well. It does seem like the guys that run the furthest seem to catch larger sea bass, but the fishfinder screens have been lit up with so many sea biscuits that anglers have reported long stretches where they caught fish on every single drop! Shimano Flat-Fall Jigs, the larger Exo Jigs and bucktails with Gulp are all catching fish, but anything you can drop to the bottom that flutters will get eaten. We have also received multiple reports of sea bass eating live eels and bucktails cast for stripers from the surf, and some of these fish have been on the larger side—that just shows you how many of these things are around right now. If you’re really into sea bass fishing, give us a call and ask about the Slow Pitch options we have available from Daiwa Harrier —these lightweight and parabolic rods add a whole new level to the sporty side of jigging sea bass.
Predictions: With the popularity of sea bass fishing and the epic bite that’s taking place, the fishing should remain really good locally but those most popular spots might start to get picked clean of keepers. Spend some time looking at charts or your Navionics App and find some humps, bumps and rock piles that aren’t seeing 112 boats dropping 336 jigs on them daily—unpressured spots are good spots.
Photo Courtesy of Reel Talk with Grace
Hardtails (Check local regulations for size and bag limits)
How long have you been waiting to see this category return to our forecast? It is that time of year again, but don’t get your undies in a bunch just yet, we have not heard a single report of false albacore anywhere close to home, but we have seen the first big push of bonito into Rhode Island waters and that news is so fresh you can eat it raw. The reports for bonito went from sporadic pods popping up anywhere from Point Judith, Watch Hill, Block Island or Coxes Ledge to several anglers hooking up in hyper-local waters on Wednesday. We heard about good numbers and sizes of bonito showing in a big way from Whale Rock to Point Jude and then around to the West Wall that afternoon and there were more shore reports from the West Wall on Thursday. Bonito are pretty aggressive fish and will willingly devour several plugs and lures that albies often seem less enthused about. Swimming plugs like SP Minnows in the 5-1/8-inch size are popular baits, laser sardine and chrome are two of the more popular color choices. The 3 ½-inch Yo-Zuri Twitch Baitis another awesome plug that gets ignored by most hardtail hunters. You might also want to keep a few Jumpin’ Minnows in your bag because bones will crush those as well. But of course, you will need the traditional stuff too, Hogy Epoxy Jigsin bright colors like Pink, Albie Crack, Silver and Bone are must-haves. Exo Jigs in Pink, Electric Chicken and White are also bone-crushers. The trio of fall mackerels are in residence now as well, with chubs, bullets and frigates all showing up throughout Rhode Island waters, tiny baitfish flies are your best bets for these, but small tins and epoxy jigs will also work.
Predictions:I don’t know how to find new ways to say that this untimely hurricane is making predictions very difficult! I want to say that more bonito seem likely to move into the area with acres of peanut bunker, schools of butterfish, sand eels, rainbait, halfbeaks and many other species of baitfish filling our inshore waters. But we’re going to have to wait and see. One thing I do feel pretty confident about is that we will have at least heard rumors of albies racing into Rhody waters by the next forecast. Stay tuned for details about our very popular Albie Shootout that is scheduled to run for most of September this year! And if you want my advice on albie season and albie lures, I would say, “stock up now,” supply chains are still a cluster and we just don’t know how quickly stuff will come back in stock once it’s gone.
Photo Courtesy of Awe-Struck Fishing
Offshore Species (check your local regulations for size and bag limits)
The football bite fell apart for about a week but they seem to be gathering their ranks south and east of the windmills now and the jig bite has been hot. Anglers venturing two to four miles south and east of the windmills are finding lots of life, whales, dolphins, bait and tunas. Most of these fish are in that 25- to 60-pound range, but there are some giants in the mix too and several have been hooked and lost on spinning gear. Remember, the giant fishery (fish 73 inches and longer) is closed until September 1. We have seen some fish in the 50- to 60-inch class popping up in these areas as well. Jigging has been the popular method, along with feeding the fish live baits. You can also get them on topwaters like the Shimano Splash Walk or the Hogy Charter Grade Slider, but again, dropping jigs like Ron-Z Big Game or Shimano Flat-Fallsfrom Shimano has been the best bet. Make sure to have some smaller tins rigged on a spinning rod in case you find a high-flyer or weedline loaded with mahi.
Predictions: Offshore fishing is not my area of expertise; I would have to guess that the storm might move these fish around a little too. But I would also guess that it will take a few days for someone to find them and then the bite will fire right back up. We’ll see if I’m right.