By Dave Anderson
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 Forecast
Chris Lawton Photo @lawton85
Okay, well Hurricane Teddy has thrown us an outside slider here and things are in a state of uncertainty as I sit down to write this forecast. The mullet run was in full swing before the storm swell began battering our shores on Friday night. Mullet are a surfcaster’s best friends during the fall because they are a large baitfish, that schools tightly and prefers to stay in close to the beach. There was news of mullet bites firing up all along the RI shoreline from Sachuest Point right around the whole island, down through Narragansett and then throughout South County. I didn’t hear about any giants but fish well into the 20-pound class were not uncommon and I heard about a few pushing a pound or two past 30. Still, the bulk of the fish were in that dominant 2020 size, 25 to 33 inches, and when you landed in the right place, there were loads of them. We also got a supporting shot of some large baitfish that almost looked like baby barracuda from shop employee, Mario Santos, some research revealed that they were northern sennet, these cousins of the barracuda were also moving in tight schools and being crushed by stripers. Needlefish were a popular choice throughout the week leading up to the storm, Gibbs Needles were great in the shallow spots where they could be drifted in the sweep. When the surf began to build a switch to Super Strike Needles, ‘yellow eye’ models in the moderate waves and the heavy ‘red eyed’ versions when the surf kicked up into a maelstrom. Mullet are an acrobatic baitfish and they are fast too, I talked to a couple guys at the shop that had been doing very well on the Shimano Walk 130’s in the dark, working them hard, a pitch I wouldn’t have considered, but I will now. We also heard of some good hits on Darters and Bottle Darters as well. Perhaps the most productive lures of the week were soft plastics on a leadhead, something like the 7-inch Savage Sand Eel, or the 9.5-inch GT Eels threaded onto the new Bullet Barbed Jigheads from Jeck’s. Oddly enough there wasn’t much news of striper action in daylight, maybe because anglers have been devoting all their daytime hours to chasing albies. As the storm surf subsides through the end of the weekend, surfcasters should not discount the likelihood of a first or last light explosion on a large topwater plug like the Big Doc or the Northbar Flying Squid.
Northern sennet, Mario Santon Photo
Striper reports from boaters have been few and far between over the past couple weeks, probably due to the widespread outbreak of albie fever that has had a stranglehold on the region. Most of the catches we have heard about have been in that same 25- to 36-inch range and many of them have been taken up shallow, probably on schools of mullet. Light tackle kayakers or center console guys should have a ball with plugs like the Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencilor the Shimano Walk 130, the mullet have been around that 5- to 6-inch size lately and these spooks are a perfect replica. Those looking for bigger fish should consider reef hopping and casting larger plugs into the washes, the Big Doc, maybe a Jeck’s Daytime Special bucktail or a 7-inch Tsunami Shad. As you may have guessed many boaters were tethered to the dock for the latter half of last week and into this week, a few guys headed north up into the Bay and found lots of school stripers with some keeper fish mixed in. We heard about some fish along the north side of Jamestown, some around the southwest side of Prudence and even a couple good concentrations of these same classes of fish up in the Providence and Taunton Rivers. Unweighted soft plastics like the 7.5-inch Slug-Go or Albie Snax rigged on an unweighted swimbait hook have been the go-to up there, but as the sun dips smaller swimmers like the SP Minnow and the Mag Darter have been doing some damage as well.
Predictions: I have only heard two striper reports since the swell started to lay down, one was a surf report where sublegal stripers were pinning bait in tight to a prominent point and the other was a boat report that found piles of stripers to 34 inches in the bottoms of several coves. I think the striper fishing will fire right back up this week, the hotspots may change as the water temps have dropped and the deck has been thoroughly reshuffled, but I actually think the bass bite might be even better. Surfcasters should fish hard this week while we have still have some darkness at night, and if you can, fish the graveyard shift after the moon goes down. My approach is going to be to keep fishing as though the mullet are still there and then change things up after the fish tell me I’m wrong. If I am proven wrong, I will lean heavily on plugs I can fish slowly like Super Strike Darters and Needlefish—Gibbs and Super Strike will be high on the list. As the moon grows larger and more intense, I will try to fish deeper, using leadheads and deep-running swimmers. If you really want to increase your full moon odds, fish live eels. If there are any stormy days and you have the time, get out there with a big topwater or surface metal lip. For the boat and kayak guys, as I suggested in the report above, reef hop in daylight and spend the most time at the reefs with the most break—switch things up so you can cover the whole water column, and don’t overlook the effectiveness of a huge soft plastic like a 12-inch Slug-Go in these situations, sometimes they’ll hit them when they won’t even look at anything else. After dark, take advantage of your mobility and drift deep edges with bucktails, shads or the 14-inch GT Eels on a leadhead.
Bones and Albie Fishing Forecast
Todd Treonze Photo
Man, we really had a good thing going and then this storm swell came in and messed things up royally. The biggest question on the minds of the panicked albie faithful is whether or not they’ll still be around when the seas subside. The water temps took a nosedive after days of big waves mixing surface water with the cooler waters beneath it and, as my albie expert friend Andrew told me, a drastic drop in water temperature is never a good thing for any pelagic species. For the record, he also thinks the albies will still be around when the water cleans up—but wouldn’t go so far as to say that he thinks it will return to what it was. In years past, the albies have pushed up into the bay when the water ‘out front’ got crazy, we haven’t seen much evidence of this so far this year. I heard about a single pod popping up about 4 miles up the Sakonnet River, a few fish taken inside the West Wall and a few fish slashing through bait at Fort Adams on Wednesday. I feel like the fish have moved, so the spots that were red hot may not catch fire again. We had news from one of the sharpest charter captains in Buzzards Bay on Tuesday saying he fished six hours and didn’t see a single albie between Mattapoisett and Dartmouth. If you want to get back on the albie train, I think you may need to head west. The best bait on the planet this season has been the white-colored Albie Snax rigged either with an unweighted swimbait hook or on a light jighead. The second best has been the Exo Jig in either 3/4 or 1 ounce. As the storm drew closer we were seeing more and more bay anchovies which is the bait that has the power to keep them around for a long time. In just a few days, we’ll have a much better handle on what the situation really is.
As for the other exotic species, we might just have a shot at a bonito encore now. I saw a beaut’ caught last week on a small Stick Shadd from the Aquidneck Island rocks, the fish was all of 8 pounds. If last year is any kind of an indicator, the bonito thrive when the albie schools are lean. This year has been a good one for big bones, so if you’re tuna-crazy maybe switch your focus to them for a bit. Bonito are surprisingly aggressive, my buddy John Lee caught an 8-pounder last fall that had an 8-inch mackerel in it’s gut. I have seen evidence time and time again that larger baits can help you target bonito. So maybe add a few of the 2-ounce Hogy Epoxy Jigs to your bag, I know the Shimano Coltsniper Stickbaits crush bones, I’d put some money on the Yo-Zuri Twitchbaitand I know that they love the small SP Minnowand the Crystal Minnow also.
Predictions: If I could get away with it, I’d put ‘decision pending’ here and leave it at that. I like catching albies, but I have not poured my soul into understanding them. If I had to guess, I’d say that the best is behind us, I think Teddy dope-slapped us right when things were shaping up. (For the record, I hope I’m wrong about this). I would focus on heading west, whether it’s west to Newport from where you usually fish or west to Westerly, my gut is telling me that this is the direction that most of the action will move. The other option is to go north, head up the bay and fish places with concentrated bait schools or areas where the current is drawn through a narrow or around a point. Last year the albies went as far as Providence and there were schools popping up around the Braga Bridge as well. Bonito seem to require some luck, although, with my limited observations I’d say look for larger peanut bunker or mullet running a deep edge and throw larger baits.
Saltwater Edge Albie Shootout
Friday, September 11th (1 pm est) to Saturday, October 3rd (12 am est)
We have a few years of running this event under our belt now and we’ve come to realize that a weekend really isn’t enough time to run a tournament that centers around a very mobile species that is heavily affected by the weather. So we’ve decided to change the format for 2020 and stretch the ‘season’ out to three weeks. We’ve also decided to make it a cumulative score of three albies instead of just one.
So here’s how it works
Michael Hachey Photo
It’s finally that time again, when the tog fishing starts to get really good. This is a special time of year, because the fish move in close enough to be targeted from shore. What used to be a game of stout rods and beefy conventional reels has now been turned on its head by the use of the Blackfish Jig. Now medium/heavy spinning tackle can be used and there is no rig, the jig basically acts as a bank sinker with a hook molded into it. The jig is an effective way to target tog but it also appeals to the average modern angler because there are colors, weights, styles and hooks to consider—suddenly bait fishing feels a lot more like picking a plug or an Epoxy Jig. The reports over the past few weeks have been very good with keeper fish being pulled from depths of 15 to 40 feet. We haven’t heard of any 10-pounders yet, but fish to 8 pounds have been reported from several locations from Beavertail to Point Judith to some of the reefs near the Charlestown Breachway.
Predictions: If you’re a shore guy the next three to four weeks is your time to shine. I have learned from some really good toggers and they say to target shoreline ledges that drop straight down into 20 feet or more. They also say that the bite gets better with some heave on. But as any hardcore blackfisherman will tell you, these days of fairweather togging are few and far between and things get real in a hurry when October really sinks its teeth in. The fishing should be hot from now well into November, fish shallow now and prepare to fish deep later—the fall is a great time of year for togging.
Bluefish Fishing Forecast
In a break from the norm, the bluefish seem to have gotten smaller since the last report. Most of the blues we heard about over the past week were tiny little smoker blues, under a pound. These little snack-sized bluefish love to destroy Albie Snax and other soft plastics and they run in schools of roughly 8 billion. Larger blues seemed to occur at random with steadier reports coming from two locations, the waters off of Third Beach in Middletown and around the Center Wall in Point Judith, both of these locations were said to have some bigger blues, but no true gators as of this writing. As I said in the last forecast blues like splashy or flashy so try something like the timeless Hopkins Lure or the Point Jude Sea Scallop, or if you’re thirsting for that big topwater strike, maybe try a 2-ounce Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper with a single 7/0 Owner Inline Hook on the rear—one hook makes dealing with angry teeth a lot easier. And whatever you do, don’t forget your pliers (check out Danco for an array of plier choices that will fit most budgets.)
Predictions: There’s plenty of bait around so I don’t expect the bluefishing to change too much over the next couple weeks. Over the past several years, blues have become less reliable and more random, so there’s a chance to find big blues any time you go out and small blues are a virtual guarantee in the daytime, particularly for boat anglers that keep a good pair of binoculars under the console… find the birds, make a cast and see what comes back.
Sea Bass Fishing Forecast
Not much has changed in the sea bass fishery, other than the fact that they’re likely to be a little deeper now. Pretty much everyone that’s heading out for them is catching but the ratio of shorts to keepers is moving in the wrong direction as the popular spots have been hammered for five months straight at this point and there aren’t many keepers left on those pieces. The best advice I can offer is to move around and use your charts to find humps and bumps that don’t have 47 anchors pinned to them by the 7 a.m. every day. The routine is the same and so are the pitfalls, I don’t think I could say it better than I did in the last forecast: Sea bass are not exactly finicky and certainly wouldn’t win any awards for their smarts, so if you’re trying to catch them and you’re not hooking up then it’s something you’re doing (or not doing) that’s the problem. A common issue is using a jig that’s too light. When you drop something to the bottom of the ocean with a string attached to it, you have to consider that the water is almost always moving. If your jig is too light, it’s going to be pushed or pulled away from where you might think it’s going by the current. This why we recommend carrying a variety of jig styles and weights—you have to adjust as the conditions change. Your timing may also be an issue, if you’re trying to fish a ledge in 60-feet of water at full current one day before the moon, not only will you have trouble tending bottom, but the fish are also much less likely to feed as they hang close to structure waiting for the current to subside. Target slower tidal periods for easier fishing and more bites. The Shimano Flat-Falls and various weights of Hogy Heavy and Daiwa Zakana Jigs are great choices for anyone in a boat or yak, but don’t be afraid to go old school with a Spro Prime Bucktails tipped with Gulp , Fat Cow Jig Strips or squid strips will catch fish and are available in enough weights to cover any tidal stage.
Predictions: Early October is often thought of as prime time for sea biscuits here in Rhody. I would set my sights on the southern shores of Jamestown, from Fort Wetherill to Beavertail. Get on your chart app the night before and pick out four or five unnamed ledges or humps and see what you can find, target depths of 30 to 100 feet. If you do that, I predict a full cooler is in your immediate future.
Scup Fishing Forecast
The news remains unchanged for scup. Shore, boat and kayak anglers are having no trouble hooking up on any rock pile from 3 feet to 50 feet the fish are there. If you want a challenge, try catching them on artificials, small jigs like Hogy Heavies in the smallest sizes work well, tip them with a Gulp Sandworm for a little extra enticement. If a challenge is not what you’re looking for, grab some squid strips or some sandworms, thread them onto a small Gamakatsu Octopus Hook and have at it.
Predictions: The scup fishing should build to a crescendo somewhere between the end of September and early October. There’s no reason to think this fishery will slow down over the next two weeks.