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)
A lot will change over the next two weeks as we wait for the full moon to come and go. We’ve had a captive audience of big bass in the Bay for a solid month, but the carnival is leaving town kids. Water temperatures have eclipsed 70 degrees and it won’t be long before those stripers start to ‘sweat’ and head out to the ocean looking for some relief. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that it’s already begun. There have been reports of an uptick in striper action inside the east passage and along the ocean shorelines of Jamestown and Newport. We’ve heard from a few boat guys casting plugs on the reefs out front that there are some big ones out there twisting trebles and crushing dreams. That should come as no surprise considering the fact that the Bay has had some serious monsters in residence, the largest of which went 56 pounds and there were many other high 40 and 50-pound class fish taken. Outside the Bay there have been some good reports of high-teen to 30-pound stripers along the Narragansett shoreline—most of these fish are being caught by surfcasters after dark. South County has a little bit of everything with lots of schoolies, the breachways giving up slots with a few overs to 40 inches and the Watch Hill Reefs seeing an increase in 20- to 35-pound stripers now too. The big fish nursing home out at Block Island is open for business again and the first few reports of big ones coming from that area are starting to filter in. Buzzards Bay and the Canal have been mostly quiet over the past week or so, we’ll see how long that lasts.
Large walk-the-dog plugs have been the best bet for anyone throwing plugs. You may have noticed that the Big Doc plugs are sold out right now, sign up for a restock notification so you can be the first to know when we get them back on the shelf. A plug that has been gaining traction among the plug purists is the Shimano Splash Walk. Another plug that has been taking some good bass when the bunker are showing is the 182 size, floating Stick Shadd. Surf guys plying the night surf have been keeping it simple with white and black bucktails leading the charge like those made by Magic Tail and the new Spro Power Bucktail. Super Strike Dartersand the large sized Yo-Zuri Mag Dartershave been making waves anywhere there’s a good sweep. Some of the deeper spots have given up a few decent fish on the Red Eye Super Strike Needlefish. Night rides on the boat are dominated by large soft plastics like GT Eels and Zman Heroz.Look for the tube and worm bite to crank up soon too as more stripers find their way out front.
Predictions: Look for striped bass to stream out of the bay sometime very soon when the action out front will crank up. As the fish settle into their summer patterns, there will be some big fish to be had in the deep holes off Aquidneck Island. Schoolies and smaller slot fish should be a mainstay in the local harbors and all along the oceanfront. Let’s hope these bay bass find what they’re looking for nearby and we might just have a red hot Rhody summer.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
The nitro-fueled bluefish hits we saw in May and early June are over now. There are still some fish running the SoCo Beaches but they’re topping out at around 8 pounds now. The larger blues seem to be roaming the bay looking for bunker and have been (mostly) staying west of Prudence and south of Save The Bay. The blues we’re hearing about up there are mostly in the 7- to 10-pound class but there are some big ones here and there as well. Out front it’s been mostly smaller blues popping up at first light or any time someone slings an eel or tosses a soft plastic. We recommend keeping things one the inexpensive side with things like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures, Point Jude Sea Scallopsand the 5.5-inch Charter Grade Popperfrom 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 Leadersand affordable pliers like the Admiralfrom Danco or you can splurge for Fathers Day and get yourself set up with Danco Premios. There’s no telling how long this will last, so if blues are your thing, your time is now.
Predictions:Now that things are settling into a ‘pattern’ that looks more like a typical recent June, it seems likely that things will mirror recent years with sporadic shots at bluefish that trend on the smaller side. If you feel like you absolutely must find some blues, start by looking for bait. If you feel like you must find a big one, go drop a Diamond Jig at North Rip.
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Fluking is showing encouraging signs of a strong recovery over last year’s anemic results. There have been very good catches from Fishers, along Misquamicut and then out to the Windmills and the East Grounds. There have also been some recent catches off Point Judith and from Beavertail up to Fort Wetherill. Bucktails like the Berkely Fusions and Spro Primes are all catching well. Tip them with our mind-numbing selection of Gulp 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. We’re also seeing a noticeable increase in the use of the M3 Jigging Spoons which offer a different look and a more angler-engaging way to hook up.
Predictions:There is evidence that we be enjoying a little windfall of bigger fluke all along the Rhody shore and early reports from Nantucket are insane so far. Look for the fluke to stay deep for the next couple weeks, 70 to 110 feet, also look for the deeper waters off the Sakonnet River to start giving up more fish. Let’s stay optimistic, it’s definitely better than last year.
Weakfish(1 fish at 16 inches or greater, open all year)
We’ve seen every mode of weakfish possibilities so far in 2021 from the early season surprise, to the early May vanishing act to a week of plenty to another period of disappearance. The best fishing was taking place way up the western shore of the Bay on a few tide-swept points and river mouths. They didn’t return on the new moon so we’re just going to have to hope that they make a resurgence on the full. Something we should be looking for is bycatch by black sea bass anglers. We’re already seeing this in Massachusetts and Connecticut, sometimes weakfish will take jigs and bait intended for sea bass on deep structure. If you’re going to target weakies grab some small paddletail soft plastics like Bass Assassins or Cocahoes in colors like pink, purple, chartreuse or white and thread them onto light jigheads. Target the turns of the tide for your best chance.
Predictions:It’s hard to even formulate a single sentence predicting these historically unpredictable fish. I have a feeling they will not show up again in the bay estuaries, but I do think they will move onto the nearshore ledges and will show up in bottom fishing catches soon.
Black Sea Bass (current season 6/24 to 8/31 3 fish per angler at a minimum size of 15 inches)
Before we dive in I want to say sea bass season is NOT YET OPEN in Rhody. It will open on June 24th, but it seemed like a good idea to mention that the open seasons in Massachusetts and Connecticut seem to indicate that our local season should open up to a hot bite right off the bat. One of the more popular methods this year has been rigging a Game On Exo Jig backwards (move the hook to the line tie and tie your line where the hook used to be).
Predictions: As alluded to above, all signs point to a red hot start to Rhode Island sea-bassing. The ledges in the mouth of the Sakonnet River all always a good bet, the Windmills will have them and there are plenty to be had in the East Passage as well.