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.
Image Courtesy of Double Haul Anglers
Striped Bass(Open all year, 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches per angler, per day)
The season is young but it has aged enough now that anyone fishing Rhode Island waters has a shot at breaking 30 inches—but let’s make it known that something like 85% of the bass being caught right now are 26 inches and under. But stripers have overspread the area now with catches reported from western Connecticut to outer Cape Cod. The fish are coming from a variety of locations—some are up in the estuaries and ponds, some are showing up in the beach corners, the West Wall has fish, so does Watch Hill and there have been fish at the breachways as well. Reports from inside the Bay have been solid too. Small soft plastics and light bucktails are doing the bulk of the damage—we’re big fans of the Jeck’s Bucktailsin daytime special, pink or chartreuse. For soft plastics we’re really liking the Hazedong Shadfrom MegaBass, check them out. Of course, Bass Assassins, Zoom Flukesand Keitech Swimbaitsare all great options as well. The Owner Inshore Slam Jighead is a killer option for springtime fishing because it comes in a wide selection of weights, features a corkscrew collar and a beefy hook that’s scalpel sharp. We’re also starting to hear about more stripers hitting topwater now as well, baits like the ubiquitous Jumpin’ Minnow, Coltsniper Walk and Heddon Super Spook are catching well, but don’t rule out the 1-ounce floating Little Neck Popperfrom Super Strike either. Most of the bass approaching the slot are being caught at night. Swimming plugs like the Daiwa SP Minnow and the Mag Minnows from Yo-Zuri are scoring well, 7- and 9-inch Slug-Go’s are also catching fish. There’s been a noticeable trend toward small glidebaits also, try the Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitch Bait or one of the smaller sizes of the Sebile Stick Shadd. We’re still not at that point when you have a legit shot at a giant, but the table is being set, we’re hearing about huge numbers of bunker up in the Bay and the herring runs seem to be full of herring. The May new moon is a little early this year, but it still has a good shot at producing.
Predictions: The striper bite will only get stronger as the moon comes and goes, look for a new body of fish to move in with the stronger tides. By then we should have a very real shot at breaking 20 pounds and a few early-arriving big girls will likely find their way into the bay and start shadowing those bunker schools. If you don’t have your big plugs and replacement hooks ready, now would be a good time to place an order.
Photo Courtesy of Double Haul Anglers
Blackfish: Togging has only just started to come into its own over the past week or so, Block Island had been the only game in town and those fish were down deep and mingling with codfish (which has been pretty steady for those interested). But now we’re hearing about more fish on ‘our side’ of Block Island Sound, by most accounts the fish are still stuck to structure out in 30-plus feet of water, but there was a 10-pounder taken form shore last week in South County and there have been several reports of keepers taken inside Narragansett Bay—so don’t be afraid to look shallow. Newport, Jamestown and Narragansett have some of the toggiest structure you’ll find anywhere within their range and these waters hold giants. There have been rumors of a crab shortage this year, but clams and seaworms have been working too. If you’re heading out for your first togs of the season, swing by our Tog Jig Page and see which ones pique your interest.
Predictions:Much like striped bass, you can expect the blackfish bite to keep getting better over the next two weeks. Also look for the fish to push into shallower water. If we get some weather, try to get out there right when the seas start to build, very often, those first few hours of turbulence coincide with big feeds.
Photo Courtesy of Double Haul Anglers
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Local anglers were pleasantly surprised to find some "decent" bluefish in local estuaries. They were mixed in with stripers near a herring run and hammered topwater lures. It was a treat to reconnect with the yellow eyed devil. Bluefish are a reliable indicator that better bass are around as well.
Predictions:By the time we run our next report, hopefully there will be bluefish reports from all over local waters. But the bite will, almost certainly, be like last year, unreliable, random and mostly comprised of smaller fish.
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Everyone is wondering what fluking in a post-COVID world will be like—in actuality they’re just hoping it’s better than last year. Fluke season opens today, so we don’t have any up to the minute news to share. BUT, squid have moved into place at Goat Island and if you’re looking for an early fluke, underneath the squid clouds is the place to look. The shop has more Gulp! in stock than probably any other shop on the Eastern Seaboard with every imaginable color ever from White to Electric Chicken to New Penny and beyond. We also have a huge selection of bucktails like Spro Prime Bucktails, Ultrahead Bucktails from Jeck’s and the Fusion19 Bucktails from Berkley. Now is the time to gear up, not when the fishing suddenly explodes.
Predictions:It can’t be worse than last year, so let’s be optimistic. Fluking will pick up quickly on the humps and bumps a half mile out off of the South County Beaches and clouds of squid will be the thing that gives away their location. As we move into mid-month, the fishing should light up from Point Jude to Sakonnet as well. Block Island will feature the best bite throughout that time period though, with the windmills giving up the most consistent action.
Photo Courtesy of Kai's Dad
Weakfish(1 fish at 16 inches or greater, open all year)
It’s too early to say anything definitive, but there has been a flurry of weakfish reports coming from the bay and some of the tidal estuaries. Most of the fish have been either just over or just under the 16-inch minimum size, the largest we’ve heard of have been around 20 inches. Small paddletail soft plastics like Bass Assassins or Cocahoes have been hooking the fish on light jigheads. White and pink have been the two most popular colors.
Predicitons:It’s anyone’s guess as to what the next two weeks hold for the weakfish in Rhode Island. They have been the most unpredictable species in New England for the last 20 years or more. If you want to catch one, fish deep and slow with small baits in the tidal estuaries that spill off into the bay and don’t set the hook too hard!