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)** These regulations are expected to change officially very soon.
This new moon has the potential to be the most important one of the entire striped bass season in Rhode Island. That’s leaving aside the special hits of summer giants and Block Island, but if you consider all of Rhode Island (and really all of southern New England from Long Island Sound to the Canal), These next two weeks hold a ton of promise for hardcore striper hunters. With that said, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, a major piece of striped bass news has been delivered since our last forecast. The ASMFC took emergency action on stripers, citing an increase in the recreational harvest and discards in 2022 as the main reason. Using their fisheries models the harvest levels seen in 2022, if sustained, would almost certainly make reaching their goal of rebuilding the striped bass stock to historic levels by 2029 impossible. So, they tightened the slot limit down to ‘1 fish between 28 and 31 inches’. This was done in an effort to protect the 2015 year class, the best recruitment year we have in the pipeline. No New England states have made the new regulations into law just yet. But you’ll want to keep your eye on the rules if you plan to harvest striped bass this month.
The striper fishing overall has spread out a bit since our last forecast. The crazy hit up in Providence has cooled down some as more fish and baitfish have entered the bay and we’re seeing lots of action all over New England’s largest estuary. There have been good reports coming from the Taunton River and around the Bristol/Warren area, bunker, herring and squid are drawing the attention of hungry stripers. Many of these fish are being caught in daylight on topwater plugs. The Doc, the 9-incher in particular is – predictably – leading the charge on that front, but other large spooks like the Splash Walk from Shimano are also getting crushed. Large metal lipped surface swimmers are also hooking fish, particularly around first or last light, a large Gibbs Danny is a good choice at this time. But it’s not all large plugs that are getting hit, there are numbers of 26- to 36-inch bass up in the Bay as well and plugs like the Yo-Zuri Top-Knock, Gibbs Pencil Poppers and 7-inch Doc are getting a lot of play from those fish. Of course, live-lining live bunker on a circle hook is another very effective way to hook a monster at this time of year, check out our selection of circle hooks and make sure you get the biggest ones for fishing bunker 7/0 to 9/0 are preferred. Another method that has been crushing it this year is fishing the Flutter Spoonsboth Ben Parkerand Tsunami. Anglers are looking for bunker on their fishfinders and when they find a school being shadowed by bass, they drop the spoons to the bottom and begin a long-stroke jigging motion, which has been deadly. The area around the Mount Hope Bridge and the north end of Prudence has been producing well.
Surfcasters seem to be having better success out front, although there has been a bit of a lull for many over the past 5 to 7 days. Most of the largest surf-caught stripers we’re hearing about have been in the 20-pound class, but a few over 30 pounds have been reported and the breachways have been the most consistent producers or larger bass so far this season. Anglers there are doing well with Super Strike Darters, Super Strike Little Neck Swimmers and North Bar Bottle Darters, colors have not seemed to matter much but yellow, black and white have been popular. In the boulder fields, bucktails, Hydro Minnows and needlefish have been popular, you can cover most of you bases with Super Strike Needles for rougher surf and deeper water and the Gibbs Needlefish for shallower waters or slower, calmer conditions.
Surfcasters should be transitioning out of the estuaries now and hunting for bigger fish. With the strong tides associated with this moon, bodies of fish will be on the move and opening themselves up to being caught from the surf. These next two weeks mark a time when you should log as many hours in the surf – day or night – as you possibly can.
Predictions: Narragansett Bay will explode within the next 5 to 7 days and stay hot until the water temps push the fish out. I expect to hear about many 40-pounders and at least a few 50s between now and our next forecast. Surfcasters will see some of the best fishing of the season—this is a big moment in the 2023 striper season, don’t let it pass you by.
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.)
Tog results have been a little mixed over the past week or so, but anglers are still hooking up. If history is any kind of an indicator, we should see that bite kick back in with stronger tides this week. This is a time when moving around might work best, try fishing up inside the approaches to the bay and if that doesn’t pan out, move outside to a deeper reef off of Newport, Beavertail or Point Jude—the name of the game is finding a bite and moving around gives you the best shot at doing it. We have all the hooks, leader material and sinkers you’ll need. Or, if you’d rather stick with the jigs, check out our Blackfish Jig Page.
Predictions: The spring season tends to close strong and I think we’ll see that happening again this year. The fish typically stay relatively shallow, say 10 to 30 feet, so focus there until the fish tell you otherwise.
Don't leave home without synthetic flies and bite tippets
Bluefish (Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Bluefish and remained relatively scarce again for this report period, the most consistent catches have been coming from the Breachways and anywhere there’s been concentrated bait up in the bay—Apponaug Cove, Providence River and the Taunton River have all featured some recent bluefish action. 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 Tidal Pro iPopfrom 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 Leaders and affordable pliers like the Admiral model 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.
Predictions: Bluefish have been very hard to predict over the last decade or so and that hasn’t changed. The precursor to finding bluefish is to find bait, especially when they’re scarce. I think we’ll hear more about breachway blues and some serious gators around the bunker schools in Narragansett Bay, but overall, I think they will continue to be tough to find.
Fluke (Open May 3 to December 31, 4 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 18 inches)
Fluke catches are just starting to percolate as the ink dries on this report. So far, the fluke catches have been running a little below average for the South County beaches, but Block is seeing some good-sized fish to start the season, the largest we’ve heard of so far was a 26-inch flattie. Block Island often presents the best choice for hooking those first few doormats of the season and looks like that’s going to be the case again in 2023. Also, don’t neglect those big tracts of sand outside the Sakonnet River and south of Elbow Ledge, they often hold some big early fluke as well. 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: Historically speaking, we’re likely to see a slower start to the fluke season, than we saw 10 or 15 years ago, but what we see will be driven by bait. Early on, many hardcore fluke guys fish around the big schools or ‘clouds’ of squid and they do quite well. South County has a history of good squidding and productive fluking, so that’s likely to be the best place to begin your 2023 quest for fluke, unless you want to head out to Block.