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)
It is summer, but it hasn’t felt like it over the past week or so, we’ve had cooler temperatures, lower humidity and several days of freshening north winds. Which has made the transition from July into August feel more like August into September. The striped bass seem to be responding accordingly and so do the baitfish. Peanut bunker have been streaming out of the estuaries for over a week now and blitzes of schoolie and slot bass have been pretty common during daylight—and not just early morning and late evening either. The approaches to Narragansett Bay have been alive on most days with Brenton Reef and the surrounding areas holding lots of fish that have been willing to take topwater plugs and soft plastics with ferocity. The 7-inch Doc has been a popular plug in the whitewater, but we’ve also heard about good catches coming on the Coltsniper Stickthis week as schooling stripers compete to crush fast-moving baits. Some good choices when peanuts are on the menu are 4- or 5-inch Fin-S Fish, Jumpin’ Minnows, Super Strike 1-ounce Poppers, Daiwa 5-1/8 inch SP Minnows and the Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitch Bait. Along with any number of other smaller plugs and plastics that get down closer to the size of the bait. Most of the peanuts are under 2 inches right now, so it’s also a great time to flick some flies for stripers, if you’re looking to up your long-wand peanut game try Strolis Simple Baitfish, EP Perfect Minnow and RIO's Booze Cruise
But it’s not just peanuts, larger bass are being taken from shore and boat using a variety of methods. The Block Island bite at SW Ledge is on and live eels on 6/0 to 8/0 circle hooks are always going to be the top choice. The two most popular circles in the store are the Owner Mutu and the Gamakatsu In-Line Octopus. Pair those with your favorite mono or fluorocarbonLeader Material and you’ll be well on your way to scoring big at the Ledge. Large, slender soft plastics like Z-Man Heroz or 14-inch Hogy’swill also get bit out there when threaded onto a jigheadof the appropriate weight to get them down and keep them there. On the mainland side of Rhode Island Sound, daytime fishers are doing well on tube and worm rigs or drifting with bucktails over rocky bottom.
Surfcasters have been reporting good catches of bass in the 20- to 36-inch class with a few larger fish up into the 20-pound class. There has not been a consistent bite for larger fish from the surf. Fast-moving lures in shallower water has been a good bet as the fish have been in a competitive mode since the recent weather change. Soft plastics like Super Snax, 10-inch Hogy’sand Slug-Go’s either rigged on 1/2- to 1-1/2-ounce jigheads like those made by Magic Tail, or rigged with an Owner Beast Hook will earn strikes in the surf. It’s also a great time for Coltsniper Jerkbaits, Stick Shadds, Magic Swimmers and Super Strike Bullets. Whatever method you choose, don’t be afraid to fish fast. Most of the better catches we’ve heard of have been coming off of shallower points, but some nice fish are being taken from the deeper spots along Newport’s ocean-facing shorelines on bucktails with Fat Cow Strips attached or Super Strike Needles fished deep.
Predictions: It’s pretty unlikely that we won’t see a return to summer weather so take advantage of this mini autumn while you can. When we come out of it, the bass will probably transition back to summer patterns. Staying deep during the day and moving up after dark to feed. Block Island should remain hot for the next couple weeks, and the deep waters around Aquidneck Island should continue to hold plenty of bass throughout the rest of the month, they might just be a little tougher to hook when the weather blazes back up.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Most of the blues we’re seeing right now are firmly in the medium class—5- to 8 pounds—but there have been some really big ones popping up at random, mostly between Brenton Point and Point Judith. Smoker sized blues can be found on the peanut schools up inside the Sakonnet River, in the West Passage and up on the northern tip of Jamestown. 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 or VMC ILS Inlines or the Zo-Wire Inlines. The shop is also well stocked with Steel Leaders and affordable pliers like the Admiral model from Danco or you can splurge and get yourself set up with Danco Premios.
Predictions:With the recent injections of small bait these fish are going to be harder than normal to nail down as they move with the food. Best bets for boaters would be to set up in moving water just after first light or right after dinner and fish with your eyes. Look for birds or frantic baitfish. Shore anglers should either stick to the source of the baitfish—inlets on dropping tides—or throw, big, annoying topwater plugs and try to earn an angry strike.
Jen with a nice one!
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Fluke catches have fluctuated like a volatile stock over the last couple weeks or so. The traditional spots—East Grounds, the Windmills and the SoCo Beaches all have fish, but the reports we hear all over the map when it comes to results. Reading between the lines on that, the fish aren’t just carpeting the bottom. The most successful anglers are taking a more focused approach to fluking, fishing in structure, fishing specific ridges and humps and making short drifts over the prime location before moving on to the next likely spot. The boats making the long, random drifts are pulling lots of shorts, sea robins and bycatch sea bass. Bucktails like the Berkely Fusions and Spro Primes are all catching well. Some are adding a skirted teaser like Tsunami Glass Minnowabove the bucktails. 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. As is to be expected, there are way more shorts than keepers. Some fluke sharpies recommend culling the little ones by using bigger baits. We’re also seeing a noticeable increase in the use of the M3 Jigging Spoons which offer a different look and a more angler-engaging way to hook up. Some of the best hardcore guys recommend fishing larger baits to cull out the smalls.
Predictions:The fluke fishery will probably remain in this unpredictable pattern over the next two weeks. The best catches are likely to come from unpressured bottom, so don’t be afraid to try areas that aren’t considered among Rhode Island’s Top 10 fluke spots. We hear about really nice fish coming from the waters south and east of Sachuest, the East Passage and Fort Wetherill every year, but these areas are often overlooked by fluke anglers—give them a try.
Black Sea Bass (current season 6/24 to 8/31 3 fish per angler at a minimum size of 15 inches)
Sea bass are everyone’s new favorite fish, they are stacked on structure in waters ranging from 50 to 110 feet and are readily taking jigs and bait. The Windmills have been very popular and productive, with some bycatch codfish mixing in for a lucky few. There are fish on the humps and bumps south of the Harbor of Refuge and then wrapping back up into the mouth of the bay as well. All that deep water from Beavertail, up into the East Passage and then spreading out beyond Land’s End, are also producing very well. Diamond Jigs, Flat-Fall Jigs, the larger Exo Jigsand Bucktails with Gulp are all catching fish.
Predictions: There should be no slowdown in sight for sea bass in any of the areas mentioned. For those that know how to keep the jig down on the drift, the fish should keep coming over the rails with ease for the next two weeks. The best advice is to move around and try new structure that’s off the beaten path because the best spots can get picked over pretty quickly when everyone is stopping there to make 10 drifts per day.
Tunas & Chubs (check your local regulations for size and bag limits)
The bluefin bite has been drawing anglers from all over the coast like a rare earth magnet this summer. There has been an amazing push of football and school bluefins between Nomans and Block Island, that started in June and continues to this day. It has not been quite as good over the past week, but it’s reasonable to believe it will fire up again. The hotspots have been Tuna Ridge, The Gully and The Claw, with fish showing at The Dump and the Ranger as well. And over the past few weeks there have been some giants in mix as well. The amount of life out there has been eye-popping, Nat-Geo stuff by many accounts. Whales, shoals of sand eels, tunas flying out of the water, mahi on the weedlines and white marlin slashing through the pockets of cooler surface water. There have also been some yellowfins taken at the Ranger Wreck, suffice it to say, it’s been an amazing year for nearshore, offshore fishery. By most accounts it’s been a troll bite with Sidetracker Spreader Bars and Slug-Go Bars being some of the most popular rigs. But you can get them on topwaters like the Shimano Splash Walk or the Hogy Charter Grade Slider, or dropping jigs like swing-hook Ron-Z’s or Flat-Falls from Shimano. Make sure to have some smaller tins rigged on a spinning rod in case you find a high-flyer or weedline loaded with mahi.
Inshore we have seen the annual influx of chub mackerel which has coincided with the first push of bonito. The chubs have been much more prominent fizzing their way from Watch Hill all the way to the Canal at this point. But Newport and Point Jude seem to be about the perfect center of the action for those. Fly fishers are going to do the most damage with chubs throwing the tiniest baitfish flies in the box like EP Micro Minnow or Strolis Silly Rabbit. Spin anglers should try the same flies on a Casting Egg or the smallest Hogy Heavy Epoxy Jigs or the Fat Cow Fat Minnow Resin Jig. The bonito have been around for almost two weeks at this point with mostly boat catches reported so far, but a few have been caught from the rocks of some of the more popular jetties over the past week. Bones are aggressive and will eat some larger baits like the Yo-Zuri 3D Twitch Bait. But your best bet is going to be something like the 1-ounce Exo Jig or the Hogy 7/8-ounce Epoxy Jig, pink is always a popular color, but silver is also a great one for these smaller sashimi missiles.
Predictions: There’s a lot here to try and chew on all at once. But it’s safe to say that the chubs will be here for at least another month and probably more like two. The bonito have shown on the Vineyard now too, so let’s hope for a 2019 August when the bonito showed in big numbers and were caught well from several inlets by shore and boat anglers—we’ll know soon. Offshore, it’s a tough one to predict, but with the longevity of this bite so far, it’s hard not think it will continue; let’s hope it does.