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.
Louis Schlaker (@rhodysurfcasting) with a chunky November bass caught this week.
Striped Bass Fishing Forecast
Since our last forecast we have had snow, rain, a hard frost, record high temperatures, flat-calm-conditions, gale force winds and the largest earthquake in Rhode Island history. Water temps are very high for the second week of November, hovering right around 58 degrees for the last two days—that’s July water in Maine for crying out loud and, in the springtime, 58 is the number I personally look for as a signal that primetime for large stripers has begun. But does that translate to big bass water in November? My experience over the last 20 years has proven that big stripers hang around well into the eleventh month in Rhode Island waters, but most anglers go soft on fishing before the bass actually move on.
November though, is a shore fisherman’s game as the bulk of the boat guys have pulled their vessels by now and those that haven’t tend to be laser-focused on tog. The general feeling among those that stick with it seems to be that striper fishing is a slog in November and any fish you catch should be considered a bonus. I don’t agree with that. Fishing in November can be a slog for those that only fish when they see hard evidence of feeding fish, but if you don’t change your methodology and stick with what has been working for the rest of the migration, your odds will be a lot better.
Bunker have been around in huge numbers from central Buzzards Bay all the way to the Connecticut River. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because there’s bait. It’s bad because there’s so much of it, meaning that the fish have no reason to concentrate on any one school. Nighttime is the best time to find the biggest fish, although daytime blitzes are still popping up here and there, most of them are comprised of much smaller fish. The plugs that have been working best lately have been slow surface swimmers like the Gibbs Danny Plugsand the Outcast Lures Surfster, adding an eelskin to a surface swimmer is a great way to draw attention when the bunker are around. For me, needles are the best late-season weapon after dark. I have been finding good results in shallow water this week on larger wooden needles like Flat-Glides, Wadds and Gibbs Needles, fished e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y over shallow humps and bars. If you’re going to concentrate on deeper water, make sure you’re fishing an area that has the drawing power to concentrate fish. This means finding areas where the power of the tide is augmented by the geography of the spot; points, inlets, narrows, islands and places where two large bodies of water exchange current. I still lean heavily on needles in these situations but I generally fish the 1-3/4 ounce Super Strikes, some of them loaded by 15 or 30 grams to deal with the tide. Of course I’m not leaving the house without a few Super Strike Darters and plastic swimmers like the loaded Red Fin, the SP Minnow or the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow either. The last absolute must have is a 9-inch Slug-Go rigged on a 10/0 Owner Beast Hook.
Daytime fishing is now dominated by schoolies, which is kind of sad, given how good the daytime bite was for most of October. But downsizing your gear is a great way to get the most out of a situation that is giving up mostly smaller fish. For me, I drop down to a 7-foot rod rated somewhere between 3/8 and 2 ounces and pair it with a 4000 size reel. Mine is a Lamiglas Black Inshore B7320S paired with a Van Staal VR50. But there are other choices like the new Mojo Inshores from St. Croix, both the JIS76MHF and the JIS76HF will serve you well depending on the sizes of the lures you intend to throw. Or if you want to really Cadillac it, try the Century Weapon Junior ISS845FTSWS. For reels you can go crazy or keep it civil; you could throw a Shimano Stella 4000 on it if you want to go all in, go with the amazingly smooth Daiwa Certate 4000 for a few hundred less, a Van Staal VR50 for toughness, go reliable with a Stradic 5K or keep it economical with a Daiwa BG4000. The lures that have been working well for the daytime crew have been Jumpin’ Minnows in almost any color, 1-ounce floating Super Strike Poppers, light bucktails and 1-ounce Cotton Cordell Pencils.
Predictions: Reports are still coming in from as far north as Plum Island in Massachusetts that tell of reliable schoolie fishing and larger fish have been reported from the Canal as recently as Sunday, so I’m confident that there are plenty of stripers still heading our way. Night fishing will represent your best chance to hook up with fish over 30 inches but you’re going to have to be willing to endure some tough nights if you want to pull one or two more good ones before Santa comes. Daytime fishing will continue to please, especially for those fishing the South County beaches, but if you commute to the shop in the next two weeks, don’t leave without taking a look at The Drive, you never know what you might find. The last prediction is a tough one, I think this will be my last fully optimistic striper report of 2020. But maybe I’ll prove myself wrong. This is your last new moon of 2020... let that sink in.
Bonito and Albie Fishing Forecast
Albies are gone, with just a few final hookups along the north shore of Long Island. Bonito have been caught sporadically by deep trollers looking for blues and bass off South County, but I don’t think it’s worth your time and effort to target them.
Predictions: You will catch your next albie in September 2021.
Capt. Rob Taylor or Newport Sportfishing Charters showing his real secret to catching the big ones.
Blackfish Fishing Forecast
Blackfish action remains on fire in Rhody waters, you just have to adjust your depth. Most of the legal tog have exited the shallow inshore waters and moved off into depths of 40 to 90 feet. The bite has been good in 40 to 50 feet but the more reliable fishing for larger fish has been out in 75 to 85 feet. There have been a lot of double-digit tautog taken over the past week or so and the fish don’t seem to be showing a preference for jigs or rigs. One savvy angler suggested that the deeper bite has been better on white legger crabs while the green crabs are preferred on the shallower piles. Glow jigs have been more and more popular as the fish move deeper and deeper, I will remind our readers once again that some anglers have suggested that charging the glowing jigs with an iPhone flashlight has helped them up their game, I have not tried this, I’m only passing on the info. We have glow jigs from Jeck’s, Backwater Customs and Magic Tail—new to the glow battlefield too is the blue glow jigs from Magic Tail, they’re pretty cool. If you’re heading out for tog don’t forget your leader materialand your hooks.
Blue Glow from Magic Tail, pretty cool...
Predictions: History has shown that primetime continues for tog through the second half of November, all you have to do is move deeper. It’s a tougher time of year to fish with unpredictable weather, cooling water, hard winds and deep drifts, but the fishing can be outstanding. I see no reason why turkey and tog wouldn’t be an option for you this year.
Bluefish Fishing Forecast
I am always reluctant to say that bluefish are gone for the season because I have been surprised by them too many times. With that said, we have not heard much about bluefish at all lately, the only catches I have heard about have been small blues in the afternoons at Charlestown Breachway last week.
Predicitons: They are on their way out, but not gone yet. If you want to hook a bluefish, concentrate on inlets, the warmer waters and abundant baitfish make them a magnet for late-season blues.
Sea Bass Fishing Forecast
Sea bass are still around but they are definitely slowing down fast. Your best bet if you really need to get a few more is to head out south of Block Island where they are still plentiful and mixing with codfish. Closer to home they are becoming tougher to target and most of those being taken locally have been caught by accident.
Predictions: I expect a rapid decline in sea bass catches before Thanksgiving.
Chad Ketch with a nice inshore cod.
Cod fishing has been really hot at Block Island over the past two weeks and there is no reason to believe it won’t stay hot. These fish are being caught on jigs and bait. There have also been pods of large bluefins between Point Judith and Block. I can’t even begin predict what might happen next with either of these species, but the facts are the facts, these fish are around and it might be worth it to take a ride to try and catch them.