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.
Mario Santos with a good one on a bucktail. (@the.supermario)
Striped Bass Fishing Forecast
The big push that I was hoping for and predicting for this new moon really never happened. The bulk of the striped bass being caught right now are just below slot size—say 24 to 27 inches. And it’s still been a much better daytime bite, even for larger fish. This has set up a great opportunity for anyone with friends that only fish passively or if you have a son, daughter, niece or nephew that you’re hoping to get interested in saltwater fishing. Daylight blitzes have been pretty common throughout Rhode Island. Bass have been popping up daily all along the South County beaches, throughout Narragansett, all along the shores of both Jamestown and Aquidneck Islands and all over Narragansett Bay as well. Early mornings have represented the best opportunities for prolonged action and larger fish but there really hasn’t been a bad time of day to go out for a look.
Surfcasters have still been finding the best catches of slot and larger fish to our south. The inlets have been puking baitfish and there have been huge schools of other baits paralleling the beaches, setting up a perfect storm of bait and bass (and blues, and albies and chubs). The best time to catch these inlet fish is on a dropping tide in the dark. The preferred plug has been the North Bar Bottle Darter darker colors have been popular, but white, bone and yellow have also done damage. The rest of the selection of inlet plugs has not changed, Super Strike Little Neck Swimmers, Super Strike Darters and the larger (floating) Sebile Stick Shadds, have all been doing well. Something that has been gaining popularity though is the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow in the larger size. Here on Aquidneck Island there have not been as many larger fish reported in recent weeks, bucktails and Super Strike Needles have been popular among the night casters and they have accounted for a few better fish, but not the numbers we’re used to seeing during an October dark moon. The local catches have been dominated by those 2015 stripers that tend to fall just below slot size. Local anglers have made the best of this by downsizing their gear and fishing during the daytime. Any place with moving water seems to be holding fish, and when it’s rough out front the whitewater washes have been red hot for schoolies with the occasional better fish mixed in, particularly in the morning. Super Strike Floating Poppers have been very popular lately. Andrus and Jecks bucktails between 3/4 and 1-1/2 ounces have been so popular that the pegs were bare this week, we have more on order and they should be back in stock any day now. Pencils are still crushing fish on a daily basis with smaller ones like the 1-ounce Gibbs and Cotton Cordells of the same size have been red hot for the smaller fish. But right at first light, especially on the rougher days, large pencils like the Gibbs, the North Bar Flying Squid and the mid-sized Outcast Pencils have been offering a good shot at hooking something between 30 inches and 35 pounds. Another great choice at that time is the Big Doc.There has been a lot of chatter about huge numbers of bass up in the Bay this week too, here again, it’s been mostly fish under 28 inches, but the numbers have been staggering and the action has been fast and furious. These fish will crush topwaters like the smaller pencils mentioned above or small spooks like the Jumpin’ Minnow and the Shimano Walk 130. These fish have been posted up at the mouths of smaller estuaries and along any tidal rips that form in the bay—it’s been a great place for shore and boat anglers to score big numbers.
Most of the boat reports have followed suit with the surf reports. The bulk of the fish are in that smaller size bracket with daytime blitzes commonplace throughout Rhode Island waters. Boaters have maximized their effectiveness by leapfrogging from one tiderip to the next, moving water has been the key to getting on these blowups of explosive surface action. One angler said he found the blitz of his lifetime at Elbow Ledge last week, but the fish were long gone by the next morning. That’s why boaters have such an advantage, following reports really doesn’t get you anywhere, the fish are migrating and sometimes only hang in one area for a single tide. One way that boaters (and a few lucky shore guys) have maximized their striper catches has been finding schools of adult bunker. We have heard about random pods of bunker popping up from the western reaches of Buzzards Bay all the way to Watch Hill, and almost without exception, these schools of bunker have had bass in the 20- to 40-pound class on them and they have been more than happy to take a Big Doc, Flying Squidor a snagged bunker. Other plugs that score well when bunker are around are both the Stick Shadd and Magic Swimmer from Sebile and the Mack AttackSwimmer from FishLab. Of course another route you can take is to troll a Magic Tail Mojo Rig.
Predictions: Knowing that there have been good reports of large bass from Marthas Vineyard, the Canal and even up as far as Cape Ann, I don’t think there’s any reason to give up on another push of big stripers. I have been saying all week long that we might be in store for an old school November, the kind I used to look forward to with several pushes of larger fish right up to and – sometimes – past Thanksgiving. Water temps are still quite warm for the end of October, hovering around 63 degrees when I looked the other day. The trend this year of daytime fishing being the best for large bass has extended all the way down to Long Island where I have been hearing some good reports of stripers into the 40-pound class readily taking topwater plugs. So I’m thinking that it might be a good time to put in a little more time in daylight. When its high migration time I like to focus on areas that concentrate migrations of fish, inlets, long points or long stretches of east-facing shoreline. Focusing on these types of areas will work from shore and boat and it’s something I have built great confidence in over the last 20 years fishing fall runs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Bonito and Albie Fishing Forecast
Capt. Christian Awe of Awestruck Charters took a quick photo of this bonito taken earlier this week before sending it back home to grow bigger. (@awestruckfishing)
The short story here is that the albies are still here, they’re a bit more scattered than what we might prefer, but people are catching them and we’re still hearing about some really nice ones. If I had to pick a spot where your chances are better than average for finding a few I’d say fish the East Passage from Brenton Reef up to the Navy Base. There have been fish reported all throughout that area with schools spotted inside Newport Harbor a few times last week. We have heard reports of albies popping up way up inside the Bay too, but the Sakonnet River has been inexplicably quiet. We have finally seen the return of bonito in more than just random numbers. There were some good feeds around Elbow Ledge early this week and a few pods blowing up inside Mackerel Cove as well. The lures that these fish are taking has not changed, 1-ounce Exo Jigshave probably been the most popular with Pink being the lead color, 7/8 and 5/8-ounce Hogy Epoxy Jigs have also been popular with natural colors like Silverside, Anchovy and Olive taking plenty of fish along with Pink and Electric Chicken. And of course, you should never leave the dock without at least a few colors of Albie Snax in your bag.
Predictions: the internet says that best water temp range for albies is 55 to 65 degrees and we’re still above the middle of that range. I have seen several other years where albies stuck around into November and, as it stands right now, I can’t see any reason why they won’t this year. That is, unless we descend into a vicious cold snap that rapidly decreases the water temps or we get hit with a major storm. With the schools being scattered and less predictable, I recommend fishing for bass or tog, but keeping a rod rigged for hardtails in case they blow up. If you’re a hardtail hardcore, then I’d say it’s a test of your stubbornness, staying in one place long enough to get what you came for. There are still good albie days ahead, but you’re going to have to work for them (or get lucky).
Blackfish Fishing Forecast
Capt. Rob Taylor of Newport Sportfishing Charters with a 'piggy on a jiggy', (@newportsportfishingcharters).
Togging is in full swing now with great catches from shore and boat. We’ve heard about great catches from the Tiverton Basin this week from shore, mostly on a simple one hook rig with a 2- to 4-ounce Bank Sinker and a 5/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook. But jigs are all the rage right now and everyone has their favorite style and color, popular colors this week have been white and glow—you can take your pick of styles on our Blackfish Jig Page. At this time of the season, blackfish can often be found as shallow as 5-feet of water, although most anglers would tell you to target depths of 15 to 30 feet. There are several locations where the shore angler can hit those depths on Aquidneck Island, Sachuest has some good holes, there are several good spots on the Cliff Walk and the East Passage has lots of deep water close to shore as well. Boaters, obviously, have a whole world of options, every reef and rock pile has tog potential. Shore anglers seem not to use jigs as often as boaters and yakkers, but they should, the jigs give the angler complete control over where their bait is and they keep it pinned right to the bottom where the strike zone is. We have seen fish to 15 pounds landed over the past week or so from shore and boat. This is peak season, if a cooler full of blackfish is your goal, you should be heading out ASAP.
Predictions: The tog fishing should be about as good as it can get from now through Halloween. I know there will be great catches made all around out little Island, all around Jamestown and up and down the Narragansett shoreline. By the time we drop the next forecast, I do expect that the shore togging will be less reliable as the fish transition to deeper water as it cools, make it count.
Lately, this would be considered a large blueifsh in Rhode Island, photo by Louis Schlaker (@rhodysurfcasting)
Bluefish Fishing Forecast
Bluefish catches have been noticeably absent from our reports these last two weeks. Most of the blues we have heard about have been random hookups in the middle of bass blitzes or encounters that leave the angler with a significantly shortened soft plastic.
Predictions: We will see more bluefish, but I think most of them will be small—under 5 pounds. I would look up in the bay around outflows or narrows where bait concentrations are high. Either that or just keep hunting for flocks of working birds, eventually there will be blues underneath them.
Sea Bass Fishing Forecast
It’s still a great time to catch sea bass although most of the sea bass landed at this time of the season are caught accidentally on crabs intended for tog. However, this can be a great way to hook up with some big humphead sea bass and that’s the kind of bycatch we can all get used to. If you’re targeting sea bass, now is a great time to fish deep and look for a big one, rig up a whole squid and try for a giant, you might even catch yourself a cod doing that!
Predictions: Largely unchanged, it’s still prime time for sea biscuits here in Rhody. I would set my sights on the southern shores of Jamestown, from Fort Wetherill to Beavertail and fish off the beaten path on unnamed structure. Try fishing large, whole baits to target a really big one.