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.
SWE Retail Associate Chris Holland
Striped Bass(Open all year, 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches per angler, per day)
This might just be the last stretch of reliable striper fishing we see in 2021. Don’t misunderstand me, there will be stripers around through most of November, but we seem to be sitting smack in the middle of the biggest movements of migrating stripers, right at this moment. The last two weeks have been awesome, with flashes of epicness. The only thing that’s been missing is numbers of fish over 25 pounds. They are being caught, but not in the numbers that history might make us believe we should be seeing right now. In fact, historically, the new moon that just passed should have been the time for us to see a push of cows on and around Aquidneck Island. Instead, we’ve seen great numbers of slot fish with a strong presence of fish in the 36- to 42-inch range, topping out around 30 pounds.
These slot fish have been showing up everywhere, it doesn’t matter if you’re fishing from shore or boat, day or night, if you hit a couple spots, you’re likely to find them. The guys having the most success are exploiting areas with increased current or visible evidence of bait. It seems to be an above average year for peanut bunker, it might be the best crop of young menhaden we’ve seen in a half a decade, maybe longer. This has translated to a much stronger inshore fishery than we’ve seen over the past few seasons. It’s also been a slightly above average year for mullet in Narragansett Bay and the breachways, providing a higher-calorie option for the larger fish that are showing inshore.
But here’s the X-factor: There seems to be a super school of stripers that has been staying in tight to shore, in fact there appears to be two. Over the last few weeks they have been terrorizing peanuts and mackerel on the beaches north and south of Boston, many of these fish were in excess of 40 pounds and several over 50 were landed. The first school is the one with the giants, the second seems to be comprised of smaller fish, but still lots of 20- to 30-pounders with some larger ones mixed in. At last check that school of unicorns was in the Canal which resulted in several new inductees to the 50-pounder club. When those fish leave the Ditch, we have to hope and pray that they stay tight to shore, because if they hit Newport and South County with all of the mullet and peanuts we have in place… it’s going to be gong show. This is far from a guarantee, these fish have fins and tails and minds all their own that we can’t even hope to understand or decode. What we have to do instead is stay the course, and be out there as often as possible to intercept them when and if they arrive.
Enough of this Nostradamus stuff, let’s concentrate on what’s going on right now. For boat anglers, there are great numbers of striped bass from 8 to 15 pounds up in Narragansett Bay and there are some bigger ones up there too. You can find them in the Providence River, you can find them in Mt. Hope Bay, you can find them around the Navy Base and up to the Newport Bridge as well. These fish are showing up regularly under clouds of gulls and can be taken on small to medium topwaters; popular plugs have been theShimano Splash Walk,Jumpin’ Minnows,Hogy Sliders,Hogy Charter Grade Poppers, Tsunami Talkin' PoppersandSuper Strike Floating Poppers. But don’t neglect the subsurface options either,SP Minnows, Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnows,Tsunami Shads, and Albie Snaxwill crush fish too, you may also want to tryKeitech Swing Impact Swimbaits onOwner Beast Hooks, available in sizes to match any hatch.
But the night belongs to the surfcasters, we are hearing very few nighttime reports from boaters right now. Needlefish, darters and soft plastics on leadheads have been the leading takers in the nighttime surf. This is where taking advantage of concentrated current is going to pay off. One other item of note is that many of the larger fish have been taken on smaller lures, I know of a 40-pounder landed within the last week in Rhode Island that was caught on a 5-inch custom darter. This could be due to the abundance of peanuts, mullet and an under-the-radar baitfish that’s been abundant this year, the snapper bluefish. While you can’t get a custom 5-inch darter in any shop, you can downsize some of your classic options. First, you should make sure to have aJunior Bottle Darter and a5-inch Yo-Zuri Mag Darter. Then get yourself a1-1/4-ounce Hydro Minnow, which have superior hardware to other options in that size. You can round out your undersized arsenal with various sizes of bucktails from our wide selection and the smaller sizes ofSuper Strike Needlefish.
But it hasn’t been all little plugs, the needles fromGibbs and the1-3/4 ounce Super Strike have been crushing fish when the waves kick up, black has been a very popular color, but all colors are working. Larger soft plastics likeZMan Heroz,Super Snax andHogys are crushing when paired with the appropriate weight leadhead, we really like theJeck’s Leadheads. The breachways and other inlets have also been pumping out nighttime surf bass, this is where theNorthBar Bottle Darter is crushing it, butSuper Strike Darters, Montauk Darters and larger swimmers like the6-3/4 inch SP Minnow,Red Fins and the1-3/4 ounce Hydro Minnow are also getting smashed in the inlet rips. We are enjoying a relatively placid October so far, with warmer-than-average temperatures, if the weather stays pretty stable, water temps should hold and that should mean that the migration continues to move at this slow pace. In any case, whether you’re boat, surf or kayak, now is not the time to take a break.
Predictions: I think the striper bite is going to be decent this week and get better and better as the full moon approaches with its bigger tides and stronger currents. With so much bait in place I see no reason to shake things up with regard to where to fish, target those areas with concentrations of current or bait. I don’t know what to expect with the super school of stripers, but I kind of think it will make landfall somewhere in Rhody over the next few weeks. But a prophet I am not, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Fun times at Crafty One Tog Classic!
Blackfish (3 fish per person per day at a minimum size of 16 inches 10 fish max per vessel, bag limit increases to 5 fish per person on October 15)
Blackfish have become one of the most popular fish for Northeast fishermen and their rise to stardom seems to be nowhere near it’s peak. If you follow one of the other shops on Aquidneck Island,Crafty One Customs, then you may have seen the results of the Rhode Island Tog Classic, but the well-attended event that raised money for charity had three fish over 11 pounds in the top three with the top fish going over 13.44! Needless to say, blackfishing is in full swing right now and great catches can be made in shallow water. Many keeper fish up to 7 pounds have been taken from shore over the last couple weeks and as long as the water temps don’t dip too far, they should remain available in depths of 5 to 25 feet. The giants tend to be a little deeper 35 to 55 feet, but these facts leave lots of options all around Aquidneck Island and throughout Rhody. Much like sea bass, the best catches often come from places where most people don’t fish, so do your off-the-water research and find some ledges and piles that aren’t covered up with boats and do some prospecting. 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, and Jeck’s, all of these jigs will get the job done. 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 atDaiwa BG 3000/4000,Stradic 4000/5000 orTwinPower FD; if you want to go conventional, try theDaiwa Saltist 15H.
Predictions:It is tog time and the bite is only going to get better. The extended forecast is calling for relatively stable temperatures, that could change of course, but, I think we’ll see a very good season and these next two weeks are likely to be some of the best of the year. Look for wrecks and piles in 25 to 60 feet for your shot at the biggest fish. If you just want a few keepers for the cooler, you can fish shallow and have a great shot at finding a limit. If we see a cold snap, concentrate on deeper water, but until we do, the fish should be available from a variety of depths.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Bluefish catches continue as random occurrences, the most consistent catches we’re hearing about are up in the Bay with the blitzing bass. They have made their presence known intermittently in the breachways and along the SoCo Beaches, but I would certainly shy away from saying that you could go anywhere and definitely catch one. Your best bet would probably be to fish around small inlets up inside the bay or the breachway ponds, looking for smaller blues if you just had to have one.Another place worth trying is North Rip at Block Island where Diamond Jigs and Shimano Flat-Falls can account from some true gators from now through Thanksgiving.
If blues are your main target, we recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with things likeCotton 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 singleSiwash orZo-Wire Inlines. The shop is also well stocked withSteel Leadersand affordable pliers like theAdmiral 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)
Sea bass fishing is transitioning right now as a portion of the fish begin to move out to deeper water. This has translated to flare up in action south and east of Block Island. It has also blown up into the best chance of the year to hook a big one, several 5-pound class sea biscuits have been boated through the first half of October. There are still plenty of fish closer to home as well, you just need to go a little deeper, hit drop-offs and wrecks starting in about 40 feet and don’t be afraid to go out to 80 or even more if you can’t find a bite. The other thing that may be of interest to anglers fishing Block is that you’re likely to find codfish up to 15 pounds and you might hook your last keeper fluke of the season as well, they are on their way out, but the areas around Block represent your best shot at hooking one.Diamond Jigs, Shimano Flat-Fall Jigs, the largerExo Jigs and Fusion Bucktailswith Gulp are all catching fish, but anything you can drop to the bottom that flutters will get eaten. If you’re really into sea bass fishing, give us a call and ask about the Slow Pitch options we have available like the Constellation Jigging Rods—these lightweight and parabolic rods add a whole new level to the sporty side of jigging sea bass.
Predictions: The sea bass transition is underway and most of the fish will have moved out to 50-plus feet of water by the time we ink our next forecast. There are two schools of thought right now, either hit every secondary rock pile and ledge you can find inshore, or point your bow at the Windmills and fish there, the East Ground and other rocky ledges at Block. The best fishing will be at Block, but the hardest-working anglers fishing on this side of Block Island Sound should do just fine.
Hardtails (Check local regulations for size and bag limits)
It’s been a strange season for albies, I don’t think anyone would refute that. And that really hasn’t changed. The albies never really showed east of Point Judith, at least not for more than a day or two at a time. No one can say why, my guess is the timing of the storms was just too perfect and it flushed those fish out before they could establish themselves. But even to the west, it’s been a pretty weak season. Your best bet was, and still is, to fish from Quonny to Watch Hill if you want your best shot at hooking an albie or bonito. Your second best bet is to fish around the Harbor of Refuge. Both of these picks assume that you want to stay in Rhode Island. If you’re of the ‘have epoxies will travel’ mindset, then I would trailer a boat to New Haven, CT and head for Middle Ground, there have been huge schools of albies traversing Long Island Sound’s largest sand/gravel bar and they have been eating like it’s the last supper. Hogy Epoxies and Fat Cow Fat Minnow Resin Jigs have been hooking plenty of fish, but these fish have been hot for topwaters too, soJumpin’ Minnows,Shimano Coltsniper Walk 130'sand, of course,Albie Snax(don’t forget yourhooks)are getting crushed as well. If you’d rather head in the other direction, Martha’s Vineyard still has a good crop of speedsters as well.
On the bonito front, it’s been fairly random if you’re looking for a big one, but most of the ones I’ve heard of have come from the West Wall. But out around the Connecticut border, there have been big numbers of little ‘wallet-sized’ bones that willeat tiny flies like those used for chub macks like Beech's Eye Candy and EP's Micro Minnowas well as Sabiki Rigs. But don’t get too caught up in hooking the little babies because there have been a few chaperones hanging with them and if you fish bigger baits you might go home with a football-sized armload of sashimi.
Predictions:If I’m being honest, I think the mediocre hardtail run in Rhody will wrap up within the next couple weeks, but there is that tiny shred of hope that still smolders based on the higher-than-normal water temps, we have seen them into November before, so maybe we will again. I think that bite in Long Island Sound will be the last buffalo herd for the 2021 season in New England, so take advantage if you can. Bonito are more of a wild card, we often see a second push of bonito around the Halloween that can last well into the first half of November, and these fish are often large. Let’s hope for that.
Leave a comment (all fields required)