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)
This is the big show, the dark side of the June, the pinnacle of the spring run—historically, the new moon June marks that point when the widest swath of New England water is ripe for producing a giant striper. And if you had to circle middle of that swath, it would pretty much be Rhode Island. As we ride out the last of the May full moon tides, we can reflect on what has happened over the last week or so, there have been some really big bass taken up in Narragansett Bay—several over 40 pounds and rumors of a couple 50s as well. But, so far, the fishing has not been consistent, these big fish are not staying in one specific area, and it’s mostly been the heavy hitters that are taking these big fish; the charter captains and the hardcore locals that know the Bay like the floorplan of their own homes. So far, it has not been like last year when a huge body of big bass set up camp in a couple spots, the word got out and there was an armada that could have rivaled the Normandy invasion on these spots. We’re not hearing about lots of fish being taken on big surface plugs—there have been some, but most of the plug-slingers are striking out or catching smaller fish. The best method, by far, has been slow-trolling live bunker on a Inline Circle Hook. And because the fish have been spread out, most guys are just following a long contour and paralleling the shoreline until one of the rods goes off. Just remember that snag-and-drop fishing is no longer legal—if you snag a bunker you will need to reel it in and re-hook it on a circle hook. Another method that has been hooking some big ones is trolling Bunker Spoonsand while we haven’t actually heard of anyone catching on a Mojo Rig this week, it’s safe to assume that they are working as well.
On the surfcasting side of the coin, catches of big fish have been down overall as well. We’ve heard of a smattering of 20- to 35-pound fish taken from the suds, but no one seems to be getting on anything with consistency. Darters have been very popular lately, Super Strike Zig-Zags and a Yo-Zuri Mag Darters have been doing well when the big fish are around and don’t forget your North Bar Bottle Darterseither. Of course, there are always a few guys hauling good ones out on live eels too, so make sure you have your Mono Leader Materialor Fluorocarbon of choice in the strength you like, your Spro Power Swivels and your circle hooks as well, we have them from Gamakatsu and Owner—most guys are using 7/0s.
The better news for both surf and boat anglers is the numbers of smaller bass that are around right now. So far, 2021 has seen a huge influx of 20- to 30-inch bass and these fish are hitting day and night. Daytime anglers are finding them on things like the new Shimano Splash Walk, Yo-Zuri Top Knock Pencils, Super Strike Poppers and Cotton Cordell Pencils. Something that’s been working around the clock is a 1- to 2-ounce white bucktail, try Jecks or Andrus. At night the best baits have been SP Minnows, Hydro Minnows, Red Fins, 9-inch Slug-Go’s, Jr Bottle Darters and 6.8-inch Keitechs. These fish are piling up in the mouths of estuaries throughout the Bay and at inlets, breachways and points out front. The bite has been really good when you land on them, but they have not always been easy to find.
Predictions: Let’s be optimistic. There are lots of big fish to our west, so let’s just assume that they have found enough bait to keep them happy and that they’re taking their time heading east. The Bay is chock full of bunker, and so is the oceanfront, you can find bunker almost anywhere. So we’re putting our bets on the Bay bite flaring up in the days leading up to the new moon and then staying hot for a week or so before the water temps push them out. Right now is also when we should see a much more consistent bite for nighttime surf guys fishing eels and big plugs from the rocks. These next 15 days should be fished hard.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
The bluefish bonanza is ongoing and showing no signs of stopping, the only thing that has changed is the sizes which have come down from megalodon gators to more typical, but still large 8- to 12-pounders and there are still the occasional beasts in the mix. As predicted, a percentage of those giants from SoCo moved into the Bay and can be found keeping close tabs on the bunker schools up there. We have heard more stories of bunker being chopped in half with eye-popping bite radiuses than fish actually being caught, but they are out there and they can be caught. If you’re going to head out to target bluefish, we recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with things like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures, Point Jude Sea Scallopsand Talkin’ Poppersfrom Tsunami. 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 Admiraland Duffy Tournament models from Danco. There’s no telling how long this will last, so if blues are your thing, your time is now.
Predictions:It appears as though the 2021 season is going to be a good one for blues—we’re seeing big ones from South County, throughout Buzzards Bay and around to South Cape Beach. It seems to be a safe prediction that they will be around in good numbers for the next two weeks. In Rhody, either focus on the bunker schools in the Bay or stay on those South County breachways.
Colors for Fluke
Image Courtesy of On The Water
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Fluke fishing continues to prove that it’s going to be better this year. There seems to be no shortage of short fish at the most famous of Rhody fluke spots—the Windmills and the SoCo Beaches. Keeper ratios are flirting with 20 to 1 in both locations. But these fish are now spreading throughout state waters and can be caught anywhere you find good bottom. Most of the fish we’re hearing about are coming from depths of 30 to 60 feet and are being caught on bucktails like the Berkley Fusion Jigs and Spro Prime. Gulp Grubs , Z-man DoormatadorZ and Gulp Swimming Mullets have been the most popular trailers and teaser and the shop is fully-stocked with nearly every color spectrum. Keep in mind that the squid have mostly moved out, but good numbers of sand eels are moving in now. We have heard of fluke coming from the 30-foot depths west of the Center Wall, along with some of the 30- to 40-foot humps in the lower stretch of the West Passage—some of the high spots around the mouth of the Sakonnet probably have fish as well.
Predictions:The one certainty is that we’re going to see way more shorts than keepers—but, after last year, we should not complain. June has proven itself as a time that can produce some big fluke. Fish gnarly bottom with larger baits and you just might score a true doormat. Also, those that have been prospecting closer to home have been rewarded—the Windmills and SoCo will have fish all month, but if those that make their own way may have fish to themselves all month long.
Weakfish(1 fish at 16 inches or greater, open all year)
Wow what a spring run it has been for weakfish! The estuaries along the western and northern shores of Narragansett Bay have been holding numbers of weakfish not seen in decades! Most anglers are catching a handful here and there, but a few guys have gotten into bites that produced as many as 40 fish in a tide! These fish have mostly been on the small to medium side, topping out around 23 inches, but with weakies being so rare for so long, there has been a lot of interest—just so anglers can cross another species of their personal lists. Small and bright has been the ticket—white, purple and pink have been the top colors. Fly guys are getting them by counting down Clouser Minnowsand on bright flies on sinking lines in deeper water. Anglers throwing spinning tackle are hooking up on Zoom Flukes, Bass Assassins, small Ron-Z’s and anything else with a similar profile and action. A few anglers have nailed them on Jumpin’ Minnows too. Nighttime fishers are getting them on 1-ounce Mag Darters in Cotton Candy, Holo Pink and Blurple.
Predictons:The weakfish bite has been so good this week that we feel pretty safe in saying that it will hold on for at least one more moon. History has shown that weakfish are very moon-centric, so it won’t be huge surprise if the bite dies off during the weaker tides and then fires back up as the new moon approaches. If a weakfish is on your bucket list, you should be able to scratch that one out this month.