Mario Santos scored on a recent night in the Aquidneck surf.
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)
Striped bass remains the main species for most of the anglers fishing Rhody waters. As predicted, the water in the bay crossed the 70-degree barrier and most of the bass exited the upper reaches of Mount Hope and Narragansett Bays. I saymostbecause there are still some stubborn schools that seem to be hanging out in the Warwick area and hanging with the schools of bunker there. Even with that information in hand, the better bass action has been in the approaches to the ocean, both the east and west passages and the Sakonnet River. One of our customers pulled a 40-pounder from the lower Sakonnet just the other day, it was a solo fish though and only a handful of 30-inch class fish rounded out the morning on the water. Bait is still going to be your best bet, either live eels or live/fresh bunker. We still suggest finding moving water and concentrating your efforts there. There appears to be another push of large stripers headed east from the Watch Hill area, several large bass were reported from shore and boat last week, the largest a 55-pounder taken from one of the Watch Hill Reefs. There were also several reports of big stripers on SW Ledge and it won’t be long before the ‘floating city’ is set up oh-so-dangerously-close to the three-mile line. Just remember the new laws state that any striped bass outside of the 28- to 35-inch slot, must be released and that means your personal best too. The plug of the week for the boat crowd was the 7-inch Lil’ Doc, we were hearing that the 7 was out-fishing the 9-inch version, I still prefer the 9!
The Surf Has Been Weak
Most surfcasters are reporting weak results right now, those that fish the most are catching the most fish (surprise-surprise), but the difference is that many are recording skunks more than 50% of the time! Some of those big fish headed in from South County were taken by surfcasters including one (or maybe two) 50-pounders, it’s hard to tell if the stories are the same fish or not. Basically I heard there was a 54-pounder taken from the surf and then I heard a day earlier that a fish over 50 was caught and released in South County—the supposed location was given, but I can’t give youeverything!For my money, I’d bet the farm on live eels as we cross over into July. But I am getting closer and closer to fishing only plugs, I just enjoy the challenge. So if you’re like me, make sure you have Zig Zags, Needles and Little Neck Swimmers from Super Strike, Needles and Large Dannys from Gibbs, and maybe a Mack Attack Jointed Swimbait or Sebile Magic Swimmer to cover the hard goods. But don’t neglect the soft plastics either, 9-inch Slug-Go’s have proven themselves as a viable eel alternative and so have The GT Eels from Gravity Tackle. Rig them up on an Owner Beast Hook and stick them in the bag. As I use them more, I’m learning that the fish will sometimes eat them when they won’t even LOOK at a plug! And as I’m sure you heard, the Canal had two good days this week and then went silent again. The body of fish that has fueled more than a decade of blitzes has been whittled down to a shadow of its former self. Hopefully, the new regulations can beef it back up in a few years.
Great Time to Fish the Flats
Water temps are still cool in the salt ponds if you fish incoming tides. Focus on early in the tide and on the edge of the flat. Stripers are there to find a meal and easier to see when they first come upon the bright sand. If you don't see loads on sand eels throw a crab. Here are some suggestions for flies LI Flies Crab and the Nauset Sand Eel both weighted and unweighted.
Predictions: We’re going to see a window open up for large striped bass along the entire ‘front’ of Aquidneck Island. Look for at least a few 40 and 50-pound fish to be reported before we write up the next one of these. Concentrate your efforts on days with a good surge coming in coupled with an onshore wind.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Not unlike the last report, bluefish are around but they’re not easy to pinpoint. Large ones seem to be shadowing the bunker schools in the lower bay. Smaller ones from 1 to 7 pounds are scattered throughout the area. Your best bet for bluefish is always going to be to find the bait. For the smaller ones, try any small, splashy topwater plug or a reflective tin. Big ones seem to gravitate toward chunks.
Predictions: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)
Fluke fishing picked up a bit over the last seven days or so. Still, the best fishing is way west, Misquamicut, Watch Hill, and the south side of Fishers Island. The anglers I spoke with said they had their best luck staying away from the fleet on the popular pieces and set their sites on schools of baitfish instead. Squid have been abundant throughout Rhody waters for the last three weeks and they seem to be sticking around, for now, if you find the bait over some good fluke bottom, you have a good shot at putting a few good ones in the box. The old Spro Jig and Gulp Swimming Mullet rig have been scoring well from what I’ve heard but the new M3 Flutter Spoons are really starting to gain ground with local sharpies as well.
Predictions:Fluking always seems to heat up with the weather and we’ve had some legit summer weather over the last week-plus. I think we’ll finally see the local fluke bottom catching fire in the next couple weeks, look around the mouth of the Sakonnet River, or outside the Center Wall in Point Judith, or do some homework and find some humps and bumps on the chart that probably won’t have any other boats on them.
Sea bass opened up last week, but reports have been scarce so far. I have heard that Block has been pretty good. But local anglers either aren’t catching or aren’t talking. And the mini bonito boom seems to have chilled out for the time being. There were a few more reported from the Vineyard, but no Rhody fish that I’ve heard about. Still, if last year is any kind of an indicator, don’t let down your guard. The Shimano Stickbait was a slayer last year along with the Exo Jigs from Game On Fishing. Any time you see small bait being pushed in a rip, it’s worth a few tosses. Lastly, the bluefin wire has been crackling hard as news of acres of footballs ‘from Block Island to the Hamptons’ has been drawing lots of attention from offshore enthusiasts. And these fish have not been all that far from the dock with places like the Cambria Wreck, the Inner Mudhole, and the Cartwright Grounds have been hot. These are good steam from Newport, but if you trailer to Westerly, it’s not a bad ride if you have the weather.