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.
It’s that time of year again when nearly every striper nut with a boat big enough to climb a 4-foot wave throws the blinders on and refuses to fish anywhere but Block Island. I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone to hear that it’s been good. I personally know of several 50s and one 60 taken from the Ledge during the first full week of July and I spoke with two people who saw photographic evidence of a striper that may have been over 70 pounds.
It is nice to know that current regulations dictate that any of these dinosaur stripers caught by recreational fishermen must be released, but it does call the release practices of the average angler into question. And I know how difficult it can be to put the time into proper release when the bite is on fire, but guess what? You have to do it. If you call yourself a recreational fisherman, if you think of yourself as a conservationist and if you’d say that you love fishing for stripers, it’s your duty to do your part when it comes to the release. Just tossing an exhausted fish back into the drink so you can motor up-tide to reset your drift is really no better than straight-up poaching. Let me make this crystal clear, a 40-plus pound striper, pulled out of 50-feet of water, hauled onto the deck, and then held up for a paparazzi session is going to die if it is not properly revived before release. At a bare minimum, you should spend several minutes with the fish, holding it in the water in a way that ensures good (and gentle) flow of water through its mouth and over the gills. This should go on until the dorsal is erect and the fish is fighting for you to let go of its lip.
A common practice among the more respectful charter captains is to tie a Boga Grip to a rope and drift with the fish after revival until it’s good and ready to go. If you’re uneasy about drifting with a $200 Boga on a rope, a $15 Fish Grip will serve the same purpose. We are currently waiting to hear back from the good people at Seaqualizer too, they have devised a release system that helps these fish get back down to proper depth and then automatically releases them. We’re hoping these become standard issue for anyone fishing the Ledge. I’ll hop down off my soapbox now.
So yes, the Ledge has been hot for the eel crowd, but there’s been an increased
number of fish taken on artificials out there this year and the GT Eels from Gravity
Tackle is leading the charge. We have also heard about some good topwater action for stripers in the 10- to 25-pound class casting into the rocks at Block at first and last light larger Pencil Poppers like the 2.75 ounce Gibbs and, of course, The Doc have been hitting them there.
On our side of Block Island Sound, the striper bite has cooled down a little bit. Nearly all of the fish have exited the Bay at this point and there have been good numbers of schoolies and slot fish out on Brenton Reef and other rock piles in that vicinity. Some moving around may be required to find them as not every reef is holding fish, but reef hopping will likely put you on some fish between Brenton and Elbow Ledge.
Further to the west, the big fish push that seemed to be moving along South
County has dispersed, there have been some large stripers around the Watch Hill
Reefs, but their numbers have dropped off since our last report. There’s still some
topwater action to be had in the white water using plugs like The Doc, we have also
heard that the tube and wormhave been hooking some big ones over the past week.
Surfcasters have had it rough, virtually no one seems to be getting into fish consistently. The better bites we’ve been hearing about have been coming from shallow boulder fields rather than deepwater edges. Unsurprisingly, this has been mostly a nighttime affair with some fish taking smaller topwaters like the Super Strike Little Neck Popper at first and last light. In the dark it has been mostly a needlefish thing, try the Gibbs Needlefor shallow water applications and swimmers like the SP Minnow and the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow, which have been gaining in popularity lately.
Predictions: Block Island will explode as the new moon approaches and passes, and local recreational anglers will use proper release techniques so we can enjoy this fishery for many years to come. There will be a modest increase in striper activity along the ocean shores of Aquidneck Island and on all reefs between Point Judith and Cuttyhunk. Eels will be the dominant taker of larger fish for boat and surf anglers, alike. Surfcasters should stick to the boulder fields as the bigger tides around the moons will cover them with more water and may draw in larger fish. Boat anglers looking to score on artificial should keep The Doc nearby for daytime fishing along with the tube and worm. After dark try the GT Eels and see what you can hook into.
Bluefish catches are up slightly since our last installment, but it’s still been tough to draw out a guaranteed plan to catch them. The best way to find blues is with your eyes. Look for schools of baitfish being pushed on the surface, look for knots of gulls working on bait. From there it’s all about the highly-visual act of throwing a splashy topwater at them and enjoying the show. A great plug for this application is the Charter Grade Squid from Hogy. The wild action makes it easy to entice a strike and the single hook makes release a breeze.
Predicitons: 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.
Fluking just hasn’t found its heartbeat yet this season, I predicted that it would finally catch fire in the last report, but it really hasn’t. This is not unique to Newport or Rhode Island, for that matter. Reports coming in from the SoCo beaches, Block Island, Montauk, and Long Island Sound all tell a similar story; fluking is tough right now, and like roughly 98% of the fish being caught are short.
I spoke to a few guys that are way better at fluking than I am this week and two methods were offered up to increase your fluke catches. The first is to ‘short drift’ specific pieces of ‘flukey’ bottom. Find a deepwater edge, a little pile of tide swept rocks or a big sandy hump, and make short, focused drifts over it with something like a hi-lo rig with a Spro Prime Bucktailat the bottom end and a Gulp Swimming Mulleton the top. Also, don’t neglect the forward edge of these pieces, very often the most aggressive fish will set up on the upslope to get the first shot at the baitfish running by. The other method was to go big. Trying drifting with a large whole squid on a bait rig to cull out some of the little ones and target a big one. Both anglers suggested fishing deep, 60 to 100 feet. This makes the East Passage, from the Dumplings up to the big bridge, a great bet for focused fluking. Also the deep holes south of Cormorant Rock and the sloped outer edge of Elbow Ledge.
Predictions: Since the fluke bite has been slow to come together, I’m going to
cautiously suggest that it will get better before the end of the month. But, as the paragraph above suggests I think the guys that find the best results are going to do it by fishing deep. It sounds like Block has been slowing down and the dogs are moving in too, but you can never rule out some nice fish coming out of the area of the windmills. The best fishing I heard about was happening off Charlestown Breachway this week and the guys making it happen were short-drifting some tight humps in 60 feet.
By all accounts, sea-bassing has been pretty solid. Block Island has been red hot,
especially for those using jigs to beat the dogs. Plenty of fish are coming from home waters as well. Scup fishing is also on fire, anyone throwing small bait on the bottom should be able to hook a few whether you’re way up inside the Sakonnet or targeting a rock pile in 25 feet from your boat, the fish should be plentiful. There were bonito reports again one-day last week, from somewhere on the west side of the island—the fish were caught from shore. The most likely spots would seem to be Brenton Point or Fort Adams. Let’s all hope they pile in like they did last year over the next month or so. The summer is flying by, the next report will be in preparation for the August full moon and it’s a slippery slope from there… make it count