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 less than 31 inches per angler, per day)
Now we stand at the precipice of the fall run. If history is any kind of an indicator – and we all know that it usually is – we will see a change with this moon. This is not to say that the fall run will begin in earnest with the passage of this moon, but this mid-August moon is typically when the ‘bulk up’ begins. The reasons for this are of varied possibility and largely unknown, but it may have to do with the photo period (length of daylight each day), it may have to do with cooler temperatures inspiring movement among the young-of-the-year baitfish that have been holed up in backwater estuaries all summer or it may be as simple as a long-established pattern ingrained into the migrating striper that we just cannot comprehend. If you want my opinion, it’s the first wave of backwater baitfish exiting the estuaries that ignites this ‘bulk up’ period for striped bass. These are the good times and as we progress through these next 45 days, Rhode Island anglers will be blessed with some of the best striper fishing we see all year.
Coming back to the reality of the moment, the evidence of this change is only just barely beginning to show. Take a walk along a tidal river or backwater estuary and you will see more baitfish activity, with the stronger moon tides, you can expect to see more of these baby baitfish exiting into bays, larger rivers and the open ocean. And perhaps by the time we publish our next forecast, we could see the first evidence of the mullet run beginning in the breachways and up inside Narragansett Bay—but I’d be more inclined to say that will happen in the first 10 days of September. The main point being that our inshore waters are getting a much-needed injection of baitfish and that’s a good thing.
Over the last week or so, we have seen a new influx of striped bass on the local reefs, just outside of Newport, from Brenton Reef across to Elbow Ledge. These fish seem to cover a range of sizes from 25 inches to 35 pounds. Most of the action we’re hearing about is coming at the bookends of the day—first and last light—and a large percentage of these fish are eating topwater plugs. Because of the broad range of sizes, it’s wise to cover a range of profiles with what you throw; try both sizes of the Game On X-Walk, there’s a whole line up from Yo-Zuri: the 3D Inshore Pencil, 3D Inshore Popper, TopKnock Pencils and a wide array of sizes of the 3D Inshore Twitch Bait that can cover almost the entire life cycle of a bunker! For larger baits or more aggressive feeds, the 7-and 9-inchDoc and the Shimano SplashWalk are ingrained staples at this point and no one should be without them—boat or surf. And let’s not forget the old standbys like all three sizes of Little Neck Poppers from Super Strike. All of these baits are hooking fish. If you want to expand the arsenal a bit, Albie Snax are a deadly option for schoolie and slot stripers, rigged on a 4/0 BKK Titanrider or the light jighead of your choosing. Also, paddletail soft plastics like the 5-inch NLBN Baits are killers when cast into a school of feeding fish and fast-cranked away from the melee. If you find marks holding on deep edges, the GT Eel has proven itself as a big bass slayer, and the Flutter Spoons from Tsunami and Ben Parker have proven that they can attract attention.
The Dreaded Sunset Pic!
Surfcasters are still reporting slower ‘summerlike’ results locally but that should change in the next week or two. This is the time of year when we can expect to begin finding aggressive fish in the surf and fishing faster-moving baits is often the ticket to better results. SuperSnax, the bigger, more seductive sister of the Albie Snax threaded onto a jighead ranging from 1/4- to 1-1/2 ounces is a great choice for boulder fields, hard sweeping currents and deep ledges. A good second look to have in your bag is the 8-inch NLBN Paddletail with appropriate-weight heads if the fish seem to show more love for stronger vibes. Of course, there are a myriad of hard baits that can perform this same trick, the Berkley Magic Swimmer, the LC Hydro Minnow, the ubiquitous SP Minnow and one of the best for varied speeds, the Yo-Zuri Mag Darter. Sometimes the fish will show a clear preference for slower movements though, even with lots of bait present, so make sure to have Super Strike Darters, loaded Red Fins and plenty of needles including those made by Super Strike and Gibbs. These options, of course, are not the only options for this amazing transitional stretch in the surf, but they are proven. Don’t forget your metal lips like the Gibbs Danny and plenty of bucktails.
Predictions: A change is coming and it’s a good change. Expect to see more daytime surface activity on the reefs and inshore. I also think we’ll be talking about a major improvement for surfcasters as we approach the full moon at the end of the month. Fall fishing starts now.
Bluefish (Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
It’s been an ‘above average’ summer for bluefish in out immediate area. And, perhaps the best news of all, many of the blues we’ve seen have been large. Anglers fishing from Jamestown across to Brenton Reef and up into the Bau have been seeing some really big fish, pushing into the upper teens. A lot of these bigger fish have been taken on chunks or snapping wire, but that’s doesn’t exclude the pluggers and trollers from hooking up. There have also been good numbers of small to medium blues up inside the Bay which have been happy to explode on just about anything that makes a splash. We recommend keeping things one the inexpensive side for blues with things likeCotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures,and the 5.5-inch Charter Grade Popper from Hogy. And if you’re really smart, you’ll swap out any treble hooks for single 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: There’s no reason to think that much will change on the bluefish front. They have been well-established locally and out at Block Island for most of the summer and with more bait exiting the bay, those fish should be fat, happy and staying put.
Fluke (Open May 3 to December 31, 4 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 18 inches)
While the fluking has been better this year than what we’ve seen over the last five or so years, it’s still a shell of what it once was. I don’t like to focus on the negative, so let’s lean on the positive; fluke catches are up from the lower reaches of Narragansett Bay to South County to Block Island. There have been some true doormats landed south of Block this year, the biggest we’ve seen so far went a bit over 15 pounds! But there have been surprising numbers of keeper fluke in the 18- to 22-inch class hanging on the ledges and sand patches just inside the mouth of the Bay. The movement of baitfish out of the breachways and Narragansett Bay should only serve to concentrate this above-average bite further. Bucktails tipped with Gulp or natural baits are always going to be the number one lure for fluke.
Predictions: With young of the year baitfish now on the move and some of the fluke’s favorite snacks (snapper blues and mullet) coming soon to a theatre near you, the fluke bite should remain steady for the time being. With fluke it’s wise to fish tighter stretches of productive bottom rather than making long, meandering drifts.
Black Sea Bass (Current season: May 22 to August 31, 2 fish at 16.5 inches or greater)
Sea bass fishing has not been quite what we’ve come to expect over the past several seasons. There are two schools of thought on this, either it’s the fact that a two-fish limit is seen as not worth the time for most anglers or we’re just having an off year. The latter seems unlikely given the numbers of short sea bass anglers have been reporting for the last several years—perhaps some relief lies ahead as NOAA has just cited errors in their reporting processes that are likely to lead to better regulations coming soon. Overall, the sea bass reports have been lean, but fish are still being caught by those out trying. The fact that fewer anglers are fishing for them may yield better opportunities for those that do because the hotspots have seen less pressure. The best fishing right now has been in fairly deep water 75 to 100 feet. The local area is loaded with ledges so I’m not even going to get into naming spots, just open up your Navionics App and pick a few clumps and ledges, odds are you will find the fish and you will probably also find some big scup. A popular bait that’s been taking the sea bass world by storm is the Nomad Squidtrex, so you might want to give that a try. And with the abundance of sand eels in the area, it might be wise to fish slender jigs like Exo Jigs and Daiwa Zakana Jigs.
Predictions: I don’t see any major changes looming on the sea bass horizon. So, I think 2023 will continue it’s progress as a below average year. The one thing that could change that is swift action by the state to change the regulations to account for NOAA’s reporting errors (this may affect scup as well). But regulation changes are almost never swift, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Tautog (Current season: August 1 to October 14, 3 fish at 16 inches or greater – only one fish per limit may exceed 21 inches and there is a 10 fish vessel limit)
Summer togging usually sees precious little participation, but that has not been the case since the season reopened on August 1. We’ve seen a surprising number of reports coming back from anglers hooking tog from shore and boat with at least one fish going north of 9 pounds. The consensus among those we’ve talked to is that the fish can be found between 10 and 40 feet of water. Many anglers are employing a simple one hook rig with a 2- to 4-ounce Bank Sinker and a 5/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook. But jigs are all the rage right now and everyone has their favorite style and color, popular colors this week have been white and glow—you can take your pick of styles on our Blackfish Jig Page. Maybe it’s time to get an early jump on the tog season!
Predictions: This is kind of uncharted territory for me, because I’ve rarely had to report on summer blackfishing, but – if pressed – I would say that the tog fishing should only get better as we move closer to September, which is an excellent month for tog.
James Kilmartin is from RI Albie is from ACK
Hardtails (seasons and limits vary, please check DEM website)
The fever is approaching and now is when you really need to get online and order your albie arsenal for the coming season, because once the germ spreads into Rhode Island we simply cannot guarantee that we’ll have everything you need in stock. The first wave of albies came into Nantucket Sound last week and by most accounts it’s a strong push. That first big push coincides with some of the best fishing because the fish are fresh and haven’t seen every jig and plastic and under the sun yet. At this time, I typically stick with the metal lures something like the 1-1/4 ounce Hogy Heavy, the 35 gram Coltsniper Jig in Brown Aji. But I will always have a full selection of Exo Jigs in an array of colors and sizes as well as Hogy Epoxy Jigs and FishSnax HardSnax. When the fish start to get a little tougher to hook, that’s when I reach for things like Albie Snax and Zoom Flukes. We also have heard increasing reports of bonito mixing in with the chub mackerel and, if the last few years are any indication, Spanish macks and frigate macks are likely to show up soon as well.
Predictions: The first albies usually show between August 25 and September 5 in Rhody, I’m going to guess they’ll show in August this year. And when they do, it’s going to quickly flare up into full-blown hysteria, so get yourself prepared, now.