Fishing Forecast May Full Moon Period 2023
By Dave Anderson
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)
Last year’s first forecast told of unprecedented ‘off the charts’ striper fishing that was blowing minds across the region, it might seem impossible, but what we’re seeing so far this year is even more mind-blowing. It’s not that uncommon for the striper season to come on like a freight train like it has in 2023. Looking back over my 20 seasons fishing southern New England, there have been several years where we saw a rapid influx of bass followed by a rapid ascension in size. What do all these seasons have in common you might ask? They were all preceded by an unseasonably warm winter. In my experience, a warm winter means a very short ‘schoolie season’ and a very fast transition to keeper-size and larger fish. If you’ve been waiting for the schoolie season to pass before you make your first casts of 2023, you’ve already missed the starting gun.
Okay, so I said the start to the 2023 season was even more surprising than what we saw in 2022, but then I went on to explain that it was predictable. There are two things that have made this season stand out already; I’ll start with the most surprising thing, the abundance of peanut bunker. I don’t remember a spring run with even 10% of the peanuts we’re seeing this year. The bulk of these baby bunkers are inside Narragansett Bay, from Bristol and Greenwich Bay north, with the thickest schools and heaviest action happening from Goddard Park up to Providence. The reports and photos look and sound more like late-September than late-April. The fish are ranging from 20 to 40 inches with an average somewhere near the middle of that range. There has been some concern among anglers about the low numbers of fish under 24 inches so far this year and that has been a trend over the past few spring seasons (and may be a reason for some concern). The lures that are getting it done are a lot of the things you might expect: Jumpin’ Minnows, 1-ounce Super Strike Poppers, 5-inch NLBN paddletails, small bucktails, Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Poppers and other topwaters. The Nomad Shikari has been a productive lure this spring as well. After dark, the bite changes to subsurface with Mag Darters, SP Minnows and Tsunami Swim Shads leading the way.
The other thing that has been very surprising about the current influx of stripers is that there have been some big fish sneaking through, we’ve heard reports of at least one fish north of the 40-pound mark coming from Rhody waters—in my experience, that’s unprecedented for April. But even the numbers of 35- to 40-inch fish showing up during the last week of April is pretty surprising. We’ve heard of 40-plus inch fish coming from all over the bay and Mount Hope Bay, including the Taunton River. Of course, there have been some good ones in those Providence peanut blitzes as well, the largest I’ve heard of was 28 pounds. If you’re a striper fisherman, this should be telling you that it’s time to put the schoolie rods away and to make the transition to larger lures as well. For daytime, it might be time to toss The Doc in your bag, I know some will start with the 7, but I’m skipping right to the 9 and mine will be wearing a pair of 9/0 inline hooks from Owner or BKKa. This would also be a great time for boat anglers to deploy Ben Parker Flutter Spoons, I know a few people who have landed quality fish on them already.
Surfcasters should be thinking nighttime, and they should be thinking about packing a very typical spring run surfbag. Don’t get too wrapped up in trying make sure you have a selection of small stuff in the bag, a 1-ounce Bucktail and an SP Minnow will cover you there. Pack things like Super Strike Darters, Gibbs Danny Plugs, Super Strike Needlefish, Loaded Red Fins, NorthBar Bottle Darters and other larger plugs that you would typically pack when any size fish is a possibility. There have been reports of fish up to 40 inches in the breachways, at the West Wall and nearly all the way to the Canal, so there’s a lot of wide selection of potential hotspots and we’re already hearing about the first wave of larger fish in western Long Island Sound, so the conveyor belt is running and the fishing is only going to get better from here.
Predictions: We’re on the cusp on the full moon; bigger tides and stronger currents mean new bodies of fish will be on the move. Look for more reliable catches of larger fish 20 to 40 pounds, and look for schools of adult bunker in the bay. (And make sure you have your circles hooks ready to go!) It’s also important to remember that these fish don’t just magically appear in the bay, so fishing ‘out front’ is a very good option as the waves of new fish move along the coast and enter the bay. By our next report I expect to be hearing about consistent catches of 30-pound fish and a growing number of 40’s as well.
Blackfish: (Current season 4/1 to 5/31 3 fish per angler per day, minimum size is 16 inches and only one may exceed 21 inches.)
Togging came on strong in April, a welcome side effect of a mild winter and higher-than-normal water temps. We have not heard about any really big ones yet, but that’s due to happen any time. We’ve heard about fish to 9 pounds so far and they have been coming from pretty shallow water as well, 5 to 15 feet has been the hottest zone, but some are fishing as deep as 25 and finding success. Don’t forget that only one fish in your limit can exceed 21 inches. The fact that a lot of the fish are up in the shallows makes them a perfect target for a blackfish jig. We’ve heard about great catches from inside the Bay, all around Newport, across at Beavertail and all along the Narragansett shoreline. We have all the hooks, and leader material you’ll need. Or, if you’d rather stick with the jigs, check out our Blackfish Jig Page.
Predictions: May is a great month to fish for blackfish in Rhode Island and by mid-month it should be red hot. Look for the fish to stay shallow as well.
Bluefish (Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
So far, there have only been a few blues reported; and all of the ones we’ve heard of came from South County and squid was the main food source. So for now, if you want to hunt down a bluefish, stick with the bait schools; squid or peanuts. But they are not in thick just yet. The calling card of the bluefish is hitting almost anything that moves so we recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with baits like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures, and the 5.5-inch Charter Grade Popper from 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 Leaders and affordable pliers like the Admiral and Lunar-1 models from Danco or you can splurge and get yourself set up with Danco Premios or Van Staal Pliers. There’s no telling how long this will last, so if blues are your thing, your time is now.
Predicitons: Look for the blues to really fill in over the coming two weeks, they will be where the bait is. Bluefish are very hard to predict beyond knowing that they will show up, but their sizes and numbers fluctuates so wildly from one year to the next that we’ll have to take a wait and see approach until they arrive in bigger numbers.
Fluke (Open May 3 to December 31, 4 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 18 inches)
Fluke season opens today, so we don’t have any reports to share. But with good numbers of squid showing off South County and here in Newport, the bait is in place, now we have to wait and see if the fluke follow. The Spro Prime Bucktail is the local favorite for fluke, but the Berkley Fusion Bucktails are also gaining popularity. When they’re in stock, the Poison Tail Jigs from Backwater Customs make a great teaser and are also great for fishing from shore.
Predictions: The past several seasons have seen a slow start to a string of mediocre fluke seasons and, as much of an optimist as I am, I don’t see any reason to think that we’ll see magically better results this year. Your best bet to look for the clouds of squid over historically ‘fluky’ bottom and fish hard below the bait. Or wait until June when the fluke fishing tends to find it’s footing.