By Dave Anderson
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)
Man, it really feels like fall is here! With all these gloomy, foggy days and hurricane swell battering the shoreline… all we need now are red leaves, shoreline blitzes, and a pumpkin spice latte! The latter of which I wouldn’t consume on a bet! But, as we predicted, the striped bass bite has really progressed over the last two weeks. Driving around the local area, it’s not uncommon to spot vast dark patches in backwater areas—these are usually huge schools of peanut bunker. Anglers are reporting these sightings all over the Bay and, every single day, a few of these schools slips out of the Bay and meets an uncertain fate “out front”. Up in the Bay, these baitfish are mostly being harassed by snapper blues and occasional schools of small bass. But if you look at the three passages that empty and fill the Bay (Sakonnet River, East Passage and West Passage) as massive conveyor belts of baitfish and then consider how and where their flow will deliver whatever bait it’s carrying on that turn of the tide, it’s not hard to guess where the stripers (blues and hardtails) are likely to be. I have not yet heard of or seen any mullet, my experience has been that these amazing little critters typically appear closer to September 10, we’ll have to wait and see.
Another great catch By Salt of the Earth Sportfishing
In the waters surrounding Aquidneck Island, the best bass fishing has been centered around the waters stretching from Lands End to Castle Hill, with a second-best bet being around Cormorant Rock and Elbow Ledge. These fish are in the 15- to 40-pound class are on bait and can be caught using many artificials. We saw some nice fish fall for topwaters like the 7-inch Doc, the GameOn X-Walk and the Shimano SplashWalk. Baits in the 5- to 7-inch range seem to be getting the most attention. There were even some impressive stripers taken on Albie Snax being cast for albies. While isolated hot zones dot the shorelines east and west of the island, the other area that’s been roaring back to life is Block Island, and it’s not just the ledge, boaters targeting structure in 20- to 40-foot depths (and sometimes deeper) are finding a new push of fish, and more than a few of them have been over 50 pounds. Live eels on circle hooks are dominating that fishery and we have all the Circle Hooks and Leader Material you will need to get in on that. But an increasing number of hardcore boaters are targeting these fish with artificials and these long, eel-like soft plastics (GT Eels, GameOn DuraTech Eels) are really getting it done. Anglers are fishing these on 1- to 3-ounce jigheads (some will say heavier or lighter—let the situation dictate)… we recommend using the BKK Harpax Offshore Jighead for this purpose. And there have been a lot of nice fish taken out there on Flutter Spoons too, either the Ben Parkers or the Tsunami.
Surfcasters are reporting a solid spike in their catches, both here on Aquidneck and across the state. The change has happened, all that bait leaving the Bay, breachways and other estuaries along our coast has pulled in piles of bass. And we’ve rapidly transitioned into that time period when good fish can be caught at any time of day or night. Of course, you’ll want to ‘pick your days’ when it comes to noontime surfcasting, but with some clouds, rough seas or even just a pile of bait, anything can happen. As we highlighted in our last forecast, we’re seeing a robust class of peanuts this year that range in size from dimes to dollar bills, seeing numbers of large peanuts is unusual for the last week of August and I really do think it will pave the way for some especially memorable inshore and surf striper bites this fall. There has been a strong preference on the part of nighttime surfcasters (and maybe the bass as well) for SuperSnax on light jigheads. Other soft plastics though, have also been crushing it; the 10-inch eel offerings from both Gravity Tackle and GameOn Lures have been doing similar damage rigged in the same fashion. And, at times, the thump of a paddletail has provided an undeniable boost to the bite, so make sure to have both the 5- and 8-inch sizes of the NLBN Paddletails in the bag rigged on their awesome Jigheads ranging from 1 to 1-1/2 ounces. I find that it pays to go heavier on the NLBN jigheads than you would for a sleeker, skinnier plastic. Pluggers have been favoring needlefish when the seas are calm to moderate we carry Gibbs which are perfect for shallow boulders and calmer seas and we carry the Super Strikes which excel in rougher and deeper waters. With all these peanuts around, swimming plugs are an absolute must the Daiwa SP Minnow with 2/0 VMC Trebles is a slayer when all these young-of-the-year baitfish are around—so is the Yo-Zuri Mag Darter which can be especially deadly because it’s offered in several sizes, allowing you to match the size of the bait more closely.
Daytime casters are finding a lot of success using pencil poppers and spooks some of the shop favorites include, the 9- and 7-inch Doc, the Savage Gear Panic Pencil, Island X Hellfire, Gibbs Pencil, GameOn X-Walk, Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil, and both sizes of the Yo-Zuri TopKnock Pencil. Surfcasters should also never leave the house without a couple Super Strike Poppers they cast a long way, swim on a straight retrieve and draw vicious strikes. Daytime fishing is often overlooked by a huge component of the surfcasting public, but that’s a mistake, especially in September and October, so don’t neglect it!
Predictions: Another notch! Look for the striper bite to continue to evolve and improve over the next two weeks. Also, look for storms and bigger tides to elicit an increase in feeding for striped bass. Additionally, these next two weeks often bring with them a major positive change for surfcasters, look for more and bigger fish to be in tight on a nightly (and daily) basis. This is a great time to be alive!
Bluefish (Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
The ‘year of the bluefish’ has continued with more great catches reported from Rhode Island waters. Most of the summer has been about gator blues and those fish are still around in good numbers, but it’s hard to pin down exactly where they will be. I always say if you can find a heavy concentration of bait, and there are blues around, they will find that bait—usually before you do. But big blues also like to hang on deep structure so dropping Diamond Jigs on some of the humps and bumps outside the East and West Passage might yield some gators, or it might yield a couple keeper sea bass for the box. We’ve also seen a new wave of tailor-size blues which have been crushing small lures, epoxy jigs, little poppers and snipping Albie Snax this week. And there are snappers up in the Bay estuaries as well. We recommend keeping things one the inexpensive side for blues with things like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures, Point Jude Sea Scallops 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 Siwash or Zo-Wire Inlines. The shop is also well stocked with Steel Leaders and affordable pliers like the Lunar-1 model from Danco or you can splurge and get yourself set up with Danco Premios or Van Staal Pliers.
Predictions: With the steady exodus of peanuts and other baits from the Bay and other backwaters, I feel like the bluefish bite can only get better. The hardest part on most days will be finding them, but – like I said above – find bait and the blues will usually follow.
Fluke (Open May 3 to December 31, 4 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 18 inches)
Fluking has maintained a steady ‘better than average’ pick since mid-July and, like the other fish we’ve covered so far, the bite for fluke will only benefit from all the fall baitfish entering the equation. Look for some fluke to move up into the passages to the Bay, setting up in the sand patches and on the edges near the bridges and anywhere there is suitable bottom contour. The same procedure will work around the breachways as well, set up drifts through the zone where the inlet is spreading its bounty of baitfish and you will likely find the fluke. Doormat flatfish love snapper blues, a bait which is often overlooked by anglers, don’t be afraid to tip your bucktail with a whole snapper or a belly strip from a larger bluefish to take advantage of this fact. If you can’t get a bluefish to strip out, Bucktails tipped with Gulp or other natural baits will draw plenty of attention from fluke.
Predictions: Good things happening during the next two weeks or more for fluke. Steady streams of fall baitfish give flukers the opportunity to fish over a captive audience as the fluke stack up, lying in wait for schools of peanuts, snappers or anything else they can fit in their faces flutters by. Make it happen now though, because the fluke bite tends to taper off quickly toward the end of the September.
Black Sea Bass (Current season: August 27 to December 31, 3 fish at 16.5 inches or greater)
Well, we recently got a modest bump in the bag limit for sea bass, up from two fish per day to three. It’s still probably not going to be enough for most anglers to dedicate a day to sea bassing, but with tog now in play, keeper sea bass are a common bycatch on crabs, furthermore, if you limit out on tog, putting in some time with jigs or smaller baits like squid, might result in a trio of keepers to top off the cooler. Lastly, since the albies are here, there will be time in between albie flare-ups to drop your epoxy jigs to the bottom where you might snag a few sea bass as well. With all that said, we are seeing more participation on the sea bass front now. There have been some decent reports from local waters around Aquidneck Island, for the most part, sea-bassers are reporting weeding through a lot of shorts, but there have been some really nice fish taken. And Block Island has been even better. 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, Daiwa Zakana Jigs and the Point Jude Po-Jee. But don’t sleep on larger offerings like the Hogy Sand Eel Jig or a bucktail tipped with Gulp.
Predictions: With more reasons to be out bottom fishing (tog) and more time spent wondering when the albies might show up, there will be more time devoted to sea bass. As a result we’ll hear more sea bass reports this month. I think the sea bass have been there all summer, but the meager limits and availability of other species kept many anglers off the sea biscuits and that could be a good thing for fall bottom fishers.
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.
Hardtails (seasons and limits vary, please check DEM website)
As predicted, the albies have arrived a little earlier than usual in Rhody and Aquidneck Island is at the heart of this initial push. The awesome thing about what we’ve been seeing this year is that there are good numbers of bonito in the mix. One of the early hot zones has been the area around Brenton Reef, add a mile east and west to that. At the same time, Block Island has also seen a good early run that included the pending Rhode Island state record at just under 20 pounds! Now that’s an albie! So far we’ve heard of fish being caught on just about every albie slayer known to man. There has been a lot of tiny bait around and the albies are wallowing in it and have – at times – been a little finicky. This is when going extra small and using something like the 14G Hogy Heavy Minnow will draw attention when nothing else will. Other times though, the fish have been hot and heavy and willing to eat almost anything it seems, lures that have been flying off the pegs include Albie Snax, but we’re still waiting on a shipment of 4/0 Owner Beast Swimbait Hooks so keep your eyes on that page for everyone’s favorite Snax hook, or give the BKK Titanrider a try. Another hot item has been the 4-inch Ron-Z, these little soft baits slay albies! For hard baits, the 1-1/4 ounce Hogy Heavy, Point Jude Po-Jee or the Yo-Zuri Monster Shot and everyone’s favorite the Exo Jig are all moving fast and catching well. The shop just got a big shipment of Hogy Epoxy Jigs so you should be able to find your favorite colors and sizes right now. The fish are filling in more every day so be prepared to be mobile and you will find them. And don’t forget to sign up for our Albie Shootout which begins on September 1 with awesome prizes up for grabs!
Predictions: It’s a little too early to make a confident call, but it seems like we might have a good to great albie run ahead. I certainly hope that this turns out to be true. These next two weeks will tell us a lot about we’ll be working with for the next 6 to 8 weeks. I think it’s going to be a good one.