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)
The striper bite in Rhode Island is as scattered as we’ve ever seen it, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to where these fish are. There are still good-sized stripers up in the Bay and bunker in every cove and estuary. The best bass fishing in the Bay is way up in Providence, there aren’t many really big ones, but slot fish are pretty common with plenty in the 36- to 42-inch class, topping out around 28 pounds by most accounts. The most effective way to connect with these fish has been chunking in low light or after dark, but we’ve heard a few reports of fish being taken early in the morning or around last light on swimmers like the Hydro Minnowor a Red Fin and these fish are being taken from shore and boat. The fact that these fish are still hanging tough defies logic since upper bay water temps have been hovering between 70 and 75 degrees, but it’s the abundant bunker that seem to be holding them. The East Passage, Brenton Reef and the area around Kettlebottom Rock have also been holding stripers. These may be the rest of the Bay fish that exited because of rising water temperatures. Most of the bass in this area are between 24 and 34 inches, with the bulk being right around 26 to 28 inches. But there have been some big ones showing up here and there, ranging from 25 to 40 pounds. We’ve had a lot of swell and wind which has fired up the topwater bite for guys throwing both the 9-inch and 7-inch Doc and the new Shimano SplashWalk as well. Surf guys have been fishing mostly in the dark with black or white bucktails, Jeck’s Bucktailsare a shop favorite but the Magic Tail Bullet Head Bucktails are also a great choice that feature a seriously strong hook. On those windier nights the Super Strike Little Neck Swimmer is catching well in all of your favorite colors, along with Super Strike Needles. Surfcasters hitting the breachways have been pulling a lot of stripers just shy of the slot, but a few big ones have been reported on drifted eels and larger plugs like the North Bar Bottle Darter. Whether you’re chunking or slinging eels don’t forget your circle hooks, we’re really liking the Mutu Circlesfrom Owner—check them out. Lastly, the giant striper fish tank on Southwest Ledge is again giving up giants to most of the anglers that have the means to get there in the dark. Eels are the dominant bait, but eel imitations like GT Eels, Ron-Z’s or Bill Hurley Sand Eels threaded onto leadheads of the proper weight are also getting crushed.
Predictions: The July new moon is usually a very good period for stripers around Newport and especially at SW Ledge. In either location, eels are going to lead the way for the biggest fish. Look for the local fish to settle into the deeper waters with current around Newport, Beavertail and Narragansett. It’s hard to say what will become of the stripers up in Providence, but guys we’ve talked to say there are fish up there all summer, a good play to keep in the back pocket. Southwest Ledge should go nuclear as this moon takes hold, expect to hear about many 50-pounders in around this moon. These next two weeks are – historically – very good weeks to fish for a trophy striper and we think this year will be no different.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Blues have regressed into the same scattered and unpredictable fishery we experienced in 2020. The fish can be found anywhere, but no one seems to know exactly where they will show up. Your best course of action is to look for bait. Most of the blues we’re hearing about now are in that 2- to 6-pound class—bigger fish are showing sporadically. If you want a big one try North Rip at Block or head south of the island, where some bruisers are mixing with school bluefins feeding on sand eels. We recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with things like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures, Point Jude Sea Scallopsand Tsunami Talkin Poppers. 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 Leadersand affordable pliers like the Admiral model from Danco or the Barracuda Pliersfrom Dr Slick both have jaws are narrow and are the right tool to unhook a bluefish from a treble.
Predictions:Check around local inlets or any visible schools of bait to search out some bluefish action inshore. The bigger fish will probably center around Block Island as more bait moves in around the ‘Bermuda of the Northeast’. They will remain hard to pin down, but throwing something they can destroy like a live eel or soft plastic is a great way to find out if they are around.
Greg Vespe's 15lber!
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
This is definitely one of the better fluke seasons out of the last 10—at least so far. The Nantucket Shoals have been giving up giants like it’s no big deal, 10- to 15-pound fish are being taken on almost every boat that drifts the shoals right now. But, you don’t have to run out there to hook a beast. Just this past week a 15-pounder was boated in Newport! The East Grounds at Block have also been giving up good catches of 6- to 9-pounders with a few double digits reported. Bucktails like the Berkely Fusions and Spro Primes are all catching well. Tip them with our mind-numbing selection of Gulp Saltwater Grubs 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 like the Gulp 6-inch Saltwater Grub. Another great tip is to short-drift small structures that don’t see as much pressure.
Predictions:Rhody fluking will come into it’s own over the next couple weeks, shorts will continue to plague most, but there are more and bigger fish around than there were last year. We will see some really nice fish coming from the 80 to 100 foot depths in the East Passage and off Beavertail as well. The hot zone will continue to be Block Island though, but beware of the burgeoning dogfish population that seems to be piling up at the Windmills right now.
Black Sea Bass (current season 6/24 to 8/31 3 fish per angler at a minimum size of 15 inches)
The season has barely been open a week but early reports have been very good, all around Aquidneck Island, off Point Jude and out around Block as well. Jigging has been the more popular method because the dogfish are so thick right now. Flat-Fall Jigs, the larger Daiwa Zakana Jigs and Bucktails with Gulp are all catching fish. Depths between 40 and 100 feet have been producing well, but there have even been some small keepers taken from shore.
Predictions: The sea bass fishery has been booming over the past five years and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue to impress in 2021. The mouth of the Sakonnet River and the deeper waters off of Elbow Ledge are typically very good in July. The same could be said for Fort Wetherill and most of the East Passage. The biggest sea bass tend to come from Block Island though—the bottom line is, no matter where you end up, you should be able to hook up.