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)
I lied. In our last forecast I said that the October full moon period might mark the end of the most reliable striper fishing for 2021, but new information has come to light and now I think the coming new moon has the potential to be one of the best for the entire season. The pipeline is still loaded with stripers, reports have been coming in from as far north as southern Maine of sizeable schools of stripers from 20 inches to 20 pounds, come a little further south to Plum Island and there are 30-pounders in the mix, by the time you get to Plymouth Rock, 40-pounders are in play. Closer to the shop we’re seeing a broad mix of sizes and good numbers throughout Rhode Island. Surfcasters seem to be leading the way again—no one seems to be boat fishing after dark. But the night crew surf guys are doing very well from Newport to Narragansett to Napatree with great reports of fish that are mostly slot-size and above.
It needs to be said that the nor’easter that just blew through is going to have an effect; for starters the water temps dipped two degrees in some places, overnight. But what’s more troubling if you’re a hardcore striper guy that’s been on a pile of fish, is that your fish are going to be gone and you’re going to have to find a new pile to work on. But there are ways to increase your odds in the wake of a high-magnitude storm, concentrate on places that will concentrate fish; the tips of large obstacles of land, the mouths of inlets and bays—or you can use daylight to your advantage and find bait and bass with your eyeballs and fish that area when darkness falls.
Speaking of daylight, there has been a rapid improvement in daytime fishing for stripers over the last 10 days or so with regular blitzes erupting throughout local waters, with the breachways and adjacent beaches seeing the most reliable action. We’ve heard of all sizes of fish being taken from schoolies and slots all the way up to a 47-pounder taken from the rocks in the advent of the storm. All styles of topwater plugs are taking fish—Gibbs Pencil Poppers, Super Strike Poppers and Tsunami Talk’n Poppers too. It’s no secret how effective and popular spook-style lures have become and, lately, anything with that walk-the-dog action is leading the pack. In 2021, we all assume it must be the Big Doc when we talk about walking the dog and that 47-pounder was taken on the 7-inch Lil’ Doc, but every walker has been crushing lately from the Jumpin’ Minnowand High Pitch Walk, to both sizes of the Yo-Zuri Top Knock to the Shimano SplashWalk, spooks are getting it done at an eye-popping rate. When the wind howls and the surf builds, tie on a bucktail to stay in the fish.
For the night crews, not much has changed, it’s a search and rescue mission until you find fish and then it’s a game of staying on them. There have been good numbers of 15- to 30-pound fish being taken from the nighttime surf and needlefish have been the leader for most guys not fishing an inlet or breachway. You’ll need to tailor your choice based on the conditions, but having both ‘red eye’ and ‘yellow eye’ version of the large and medium size Super Strike Needles will help you deal with varied surf conditions and matching the silhouette if you find finicky fish. And don’t neglect the old school Gibbs Needlefish, it doesn’t get a lot of press but it slays fish in calm surf and shallow water. Something that has emerged more recently is that bioluminescence has been a big factor this fall and, if you’re fishing a dark night, you may need to have some special pitches to throw. The absence of movement is often a good look to show to finicky fish in the fire, but we don’t have many suspending options for saltwater—this is where the Shimano Coltsniper Jerkbaits can really prove their worth. Cast them in calm/moderate seas and inch them alongwith short bursts and long pauses—if there are fish around, they will find and punish a statuesque swimmer.
Most of the boat striper reports we’re hearing are coming from inside the bay where slot bass can be found blitzing on various baits. Right now is probably a great time to go look actually, because storms often send bodies of fish into the bay until the silt clears. The same walk-the-dog lures mentioned above have been doing the damage for the bay boaters too. But don’t be lulled into thinking the best boat option is only the bay. If the surfcasters are blitzing bass on the beaches, you can do the same, just make sure to give the beach guys their space or risk a fresh chip the gelcoat from a spiteful Hopkinsor Kastmaster.
Predictions: This new moon has all the makings of something special—plenty of fish in the pipeline, above-average water temps, and a diversity of sizes of fish already in local waters. I’m cautiously feeling like we might see some of the best bass fishing of the season over these next two weeks. Trick or treat!
One of the best toggers around Captain BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters
Blackfish (5 fish per person per day at a minimum size of 16 inches 10 fish max per vessel)
The once ‘lowly’ blackfish is now one of the kings of the New England inshore fishery. Revered for their mild, white flesh, the tautog is also a powerful adversary that will win more than its share of the battles in the rocks. This season—so far—has been nothing short of fantastic with more double-digit fish per capita than anywhere else… probably on the Eastern Seaboard. We’ve seen lots of 10- to 14-pounders this season and most of these dinosaurs come from the waters between the Cliff Walk and Point Jude. We are still seeing plenty of solid fish being taken from shore, but the best fishing is definitely transitioning deeper now with depths of 20 to 40 feet giving up the most reliable action. Tog jigs have become the big thing in this segment of northeast inshore fishing and this has switched many hardcore toggers from pool cues and conventional reels to lighter spinning outfits. We carry an array of tog jigs including; MagicTail, Backwater Customs, Jeck’s Supa-Beast, Tidal Tailsand Tsunami Tog Treats, all of these jigs will get the job done. For a great overview of how to chose a blackfish jig check out Toby Lapinski's most recent contribution to our blog. If you’re looking for an outfit for tog-jigging look at the Century Weapon Junior Mag, Shimano Trevala PX, Centaur Light Jigging. For reels look at Daiwa BG 3000/4000, Stradic 4000/5000 or TwinPower FD; if you want to go conventional, try the Daiwa Saltist 15H.
Predictions:November doesn’t mean you should stop togging, if anything, it means you should up your intensity. Many local captains swear by November to produce their biggest snaggletooths of the year. With such a great start, there should be no reason why the fishing won’t continue in impressive fashion. Move around at different depths until you find where they’re holding. As November progresses, you may have to fish as deep as 70 or even 90 feet, but the fish are still there. For the next two weeks, I expect the togging to remain strong. And be prepared for codfish too, they’re mixing in with increasing regularity.
Check out The Saltwater Edge Podcast: Talking Tog with Captain BJ Silvia
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Bluefish remain sporadic. There are some schools of big blues around, but I don’t think anyone can tell you where they might pop up next. The best places to find bluefish are the places where you find a lot of bait. There have been huge bunker schools a few miles off Newport and Point Jude with big blues and some stripers hanging around them. Inshore, it’s Russian Roulette, keep moving until you find them—the good thing is, big blues are become more and more common as the season draws closer to its end. If blues are your main target, we recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with things like Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Hopkins Lures,and the 5.5-inch 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 with Steel Leadersand affordable pliers like the Admiral model from Danco.
Predictions:I think the bluefish bite will continue as a hard thing to nail down—as it has almost all year long. The one thing you can’t rule out in October is a huge blitz of gators making showing somewhere randomly. I found myself in the middle of a blitz of lifetime proportions at Third Beach many years ago, I landed blues from 12 to 21 pounds for hours on pencils and poppers. But that was once in my life… be persistent and you may get yours.
Black Sea Bass (current season 9/1 to 12/31, 7 fish per angler at a minimum size of 15 inches)
The local sea bass population seems to be moving in two directions as the water cools. We’re seeing more and more keeper fish coming from shallower water lately—some big ones have even been taken from shore over the last week or so. Any wreck, ledge or rock pile has sea bass potential—I would still concentrate on 40- to 80-feet of water, but they are inshore as well. The sea bass bite on the ledges and piles around Block Island has been awesome over the past two weeks with many 5-pounders reported. The East Grounds, the Windmills and Southwest Ledge are all producing fish. Diamond Jigs, Shimano Flat-Fall Jigs, the larger Exo Jigs and Fusion Bucktails with Gulp are all catching fish, but anything you can drop to the bottom that flutters will get eaten.
Predictions: There is no reason to think the sea bass fishing will grind to a halt any time soon. The mobile angler is going to make the most of his or her time on the water. Fish various depths and types of structure to have your best shot at finding a limit of bumpheads. Block Island is still going to be the sea bass Mecca of Rhody, but staying inshore and probing local ledges will produce plenty of action as well. And once again, be prepared for codfish.
Hardtails (Check local regulations for size and bag limits)
What a whacky year. We did see a final push of albies about a week or so back, but hardly anyone noticed because it wasn’t much of a push. For the most part, the albies have stayed west of Point Judith all season and now it seems like most of them are gone. There will still be a few rogue schools around, but I’d be reluctant to hang my hat on that. The best fishing for albies is either going to be in Long Island Sound from the Connecticut River to New Haven or Montauk. If you’re planning one last albie mission be sure to stock up on the ubiquitous Hogy Epoxy Jigs and Exo Jigs and, of course, Albie Snax(don’t forget your hooks)are also must-haves. Bonito have been very scarce, but we often see a late run of big ones, so make sure you’re ready for that.
Predictions:I’m calling it over. But if you want to burn the gas, making a run to Montauk would seem like your best bet. As mentioned above, we often see a run of bonito sometime in the next couple weeks, so be prepared but don’t count on it.