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 new moon, coming on Memorial Day has all the makings of a memorable striper moon. With fish well into the 40-pound class already in residence from the Upper Bay to the Canal, and many more fish to come from the south and west, all signs point to the striper bite achieving a new level of excellence in the next 5 to 10 days.
So far, bunker schools haven’t been as thick as they were last year at this time, but it does seem like they have been building over the last week. The bulk of the local striper action has been taking place in an area stretching from the rip at Hope Island over to Allen Harbor and then heading north to Apponaug Cove, over to the tip of Prudence and then up to the waters east of Conimicut Point. But look for the stripers to spread out now, we’re already hearing good reports from the north end of Jamestown and a glut of 20-plus pounders was also moving into Mt. Hope Bay as of last weekend. There have also been some good reports of slot stripers holding along the Bristol shoreline. But don’t be fooled into believing that all the bass are up in the Bay, surfcasters have been hooking into some solid fish out front, mostly targeting shallower waters after dark andneedlefish plugs have been the top choice with swimmers likeRed Fins andSP Minnows taking up the second spot, and large unweighted soft plastics like9-inch Slug-Go’s or Z-Man Heroz taking the three-spot on calm nights. For those fishing in the Bay, you’ll want to have9-inch Docs and Shimano Splash Walkson hand, and theBen Parker Flutter Spoons are gaining in popularity now in the Bay as well.
Something else to keep an eye on is the Canal. The tides from Monday through Thursday are prime and with the Canal already giving up fish into the 40-pound range last week and awesome reports coming from the boats out in Buzzards Bay, this could be one of those weeks that everyone talks about for a long time. There are still herring in the run and the mackerel are starting to show as well; there have been some reports of bunker in the Ditch too. This is when you’ll want to stock up on yourSavage Sand Eels, Magic Swimmers, Super Strike Poppersand Pencil Poppers.
Predictions: This will be the big moon of the spring (and possibly the whole season). We should see numbers of 40-plus pound bass in the Bay with 50’s a very real possibility. The same can be said for the Canal area and the Canal itself. Look for the fishing ‘out front’ to become much more consistent now too with a more diverse spread of sizes and great opportunities to hook big fish from the surf, boat or kayak.
Blackfish: (Current season ends 5/31, 3 fish at 16 inches or greater, per person per day and only one fish per limit may exceed 21 inches, 10 fish maximum per vessel.)
Spring togging is set to wrap up as of June 1, so you’ll have to get on it if you want to get a few more for the freezer. Reports have been steady with fish in the 4- to 7-pound class being pretty common. The fish are still staying relatively shallow, between 10 and 30 feet for the most part, making them ripe for the jigging. Just remember that the limits have changed this year and anglers may only keep one ‘trophy’ tog (larger than 21 inches) per trip. We have all thehooks,leader material andsinkers you’ll need. Or, if you’d rather stick with the jigs, check out ourBlackfish Jig Page.
Predictions:Togging will produce solid catches right up to the impending closure of the spring season.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
So far, bluefish have been showing up, but not in great numbers and they don’t seem to be congregating in any one place either. There are good numbers of squid gathering off South County and there have been shots of big blues there and in the East Passage, below the Newport Bridge. Other bluefish reports have been more random, but we’ve heard of fish up the Bay all the way to Providence and some bruisers cruising the coves of Buzzards Bay as well. There haven’t been any reports of small blues recently. We recommend keeping things one the inexpensive side for blues with things likeCotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures, Zakana Casting Jigs and Charter Grade Popperfrom Hogy. And if you’re really smart, you’ll swap out any treble hooks for Zo-Wire Inlines. The shop is also well stocked withSteel Leadersand affordable pliers like the Shimano Needle Nose Pliers and AdmiralTournament Pliersfrom Danco. There’s no telling how long this will last, so if blues are your thing, your time is now.
Predictions:Chances are things will stay about the same, with small schools of big blues popping up throughout the region. But there is always the chance that we’ll see an explosion like we did last spring along the breachways, when we had weeks of teen-sized blues pinning squid on the beaches and breachways with a few fish topping 20 pounds reported.
Fluke(Open May 3 to December 31, 4 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 18 inches)
Take note of the fact that the fluke regulations have changed, the limit has been reduced to four fish and the minimum length has been reduced to 18 inches. We think that this is good news, fluking has been tough over the last three years and reducing the bag limit makes it a littler easier to feel good about it and reducing the minimum size makes catching keepers easier as well. So far, the best fluking has been taking place out around Block Island, but with the squid piling up off the SoCo beaches, more and better reports are coming in by the day. When the fluking is slow in the spring, using your electronics to find clouds of squid is often a great way to find a bite. If you don’t want to travel to SoCo or Block, try the sandy patches south of Sachuest, those transitions from sand to rock out there can hold some fish. Check out our selection of Fluke Rigs, Gulp and Z-man Doormatadors.
Predictions:It’s a tough call, but in the interest of saving precious fuel, stick close to home and have a plan B. There will be fish to catch along the beaches, south of Point Jude and outside the Sakonnet River. If the fluke bite turns out to be weak, you can always switch to sea bass.
Weakfish(1 fish at 16 inches or greater, open all year)
Once again, it appears that we are looking at another above average weakfish year. Most of the catches are coming from inside the Bay, but some have also been reported from the sand beaches. While everyone keeps their personal hotspots close to the vest, the best course of action is to fish areas where the tide speeds up around a point or as it passes through narrows. The most popular plug for weakfish is the smallerMag Darter.Soft plastics though are the – far and away – most popular bait. Most hardcores recommend having split tail and paddletail options, and using them interchangeably until you figure out what they want. That meansFin-S Fish, Zoom Flukes, Bass Assassins andTsunami Tidal Mullets, with heads ranging from 3/8 to 1-1/2 ounces. We like Magictail Jr Killshots and Berkley Fusion Swim Bait Jig Heads Popular colors are orange, white, chartreuse and pink.
Predictions:Tough to make a call here. Weakfish have proven to be predictably unpredictable, so the best advice is to get out there as soon as possible, before they decided to leave the bay and end up becoming random bycatch on the fluke grounds.