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 Fishing Forecast
Chris Lawton with a Rhody cow. (@lawton85)
If you’re a surfcaster, the 2020 season may hinge upon how you take advantage of this early October dark moon. Over the past six, or so, years, the late October and November striper fishery has changed dramatically. We used to be able to rely on pushes of bass of various sizes up to Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, and I’m not talking about schoolies, I’m talking about fish well into the 40-pound class. Those late runs of fish have become fewer and farther between. I’m not saying the season ends here, I’m just saying this moon may represent a point of change when the bass action might peak and then begin to slow down. And weather has not been our friend this year either; as seems to have been the case all fall, I’m writing this with howling winds outside, big seas and—this time—a bonus power outage in my neighborhood. And this means that all of the reports we have been hearing are subject to change, but fishing reports are always subject to change, so let’s see where we land with this.
Surf catches have been strangely divided over the past week or so, Aquidneck Island proper has been in a bit of a lull. That’s not to say it’s been dead, it just hasn’t been consistent. There were some notable catches including one rumor mill fish that might have eclipsed the magic number—I know more details, but I’ve been forbidden from sharing them. A lot of the nighttime catches have been off though with mostly smaller fish and more skunk nights than you might expect during the change from September to October. Early morning has offered the most consistent action and the best shot at a fish over 20 pounds. Pencil Poppers have been the lure of choice at first light and the results have been impressive with a high percentage of the larger fish we have heard about on the island falling to the classic Pencil. We saw fish taken on the larger Gibbs, the North Bar Flying Squid and the mid-sized Outcast Pencils as well. Schoolie action has been pretty good around the island with the action flaring up any time the surf builds, smaller pencils like the 1-ounce Gibbs and Cotton Cordells of the same size have scored well. The most popular plugs though, have been the Jumpin’ Minnow and the Shimano Walk 130. When the surf builds into widespread seas of white water, there has been a strong lean toward 2-ounce and below bucktails, to the point that favorites like those made by Jecks and Magic Tail have been selling out faster than we can restock them.
So where has the night bite been? It’s been to the south and west where dumping inlets have been producing some very large fish for those casting from the rocks. There have been talks of mullet schools exiting the ponds and vast schools of adult bunker along the beaches between Point Judith and the Thames River. The favorite lure for the majority of the guys swinging plugs in the tide has been the North Bar Bottle Darter. We have heard about standout catches on a wide variety of colors so, there hasn’t been one hot hue. Other plugs taking fish in the outflows have been Super Strike Little Neck Swimmers, Super Strike Darters and the larger (floating) Sebile Stick Shadds. These beaches have also been seeing regular daytime action for bass between 20 and 34 inches, with a few larger fish mixed in. We’ll see how this bog blow changes things.
Boat anglers have been lamenting the weather and the constant distractions from false albacore schools, but bass action has been pretty good for the boat crowd over the past few weeks, when the wind allows. We haven’t heard any reports from boaters fishing after dark, but drifting the deep drops with a GT Eel should be a great way to score a big one in the dark from the boat or yak. It seems that most of the anglers are double-dipping so they don’t miss out on the albies. Daytime fishers have been doing well on small and medium stripers throwing many of the same topwaters the surf guys have been throwing—but walk-the-dog-style plugs dominate the boat-casters arsenal, Jumpin’ Minnows, Shimano Walks and the Doc. But we’ve also seen an uptick in tube-trolling with most of the boat bass 40-inches and above, falling for the tube and worm or a live eel. The hot zone seems to be Brenton Point over to Beavertail with some good reports coming from Narragansett and SoCo as well. There have also been acres of bass up in the bay from Prudence north to Greenwich Cove and north of the Braga Bridge as well.
Predictions: I think this high-impact wind event will take a few days to recover from. But I won’t be surprised if someone lands on an insane bite somewhere. When a storm passes I set my priorities on clean water unless I find a pile of large bait somewhere. I think this moon is going to be a good one across the region. There are tons of bass out on the Cape right now and they still have to filter through, there were some reports of good fish in the Canal last week and those fish will trickle through as well. My money is always going to be on fishing after dark with larger plugs, soft plastics and live or rigged eels. For the boat guys I think the eventual exit of the albies will be a good thing for those that usually focus on striped bass. The massive numbers of stripers still in the pipeline to our north and east will set the stage for some huge schools of migrating fish to pass through over the next two weeks. All too often these biomass schools just cruise through a few miles out but if you’re out there with the binoculars, you just might land yourself on the blitz of the year. This is the time of year when you just have to stay on it, a dead sea today means nothing when weighing the prospects for tomorrow, it’s a migration and their goal is to eat as much as possible, keep that brick on the gas pedal.
Bonito and Albie Fishing Forecast
Mario Santos with a kayak albie from last week (@the.supermario)
We got lucky, Teddy came and went, the water temps dropped and recovered, the water clarity tanked and recovered and the albies came back. It started with some intense action in the breachways and around Watch Hill, but then it backfilled into Point Judith, then Narragansett had a couple banner days at the Avenues, then Sakonnet had a day, then we had anotherblow. The fishing recovered quicker the second time and the fish piled in around Brenton Point where we heard reports of double-digit catches for boat and kayak casters as recently as this past Sunday. After Sunday, things went downhill again with many boaters burning serious fuel and seeing no albies at all. We saw some more very large ones over the last week or so with a few over 10 pounds landed locally from shore and boat. Several anglers reported seeing them on large bait, I personally found some big ones pushing 5-inch herring. And, as you might expect, several anglers have reported good catches on larger baits like the 1.25- and 2-ounce Hogy Epoxy Jigs, the 1.5-ounce Exo Jigs and the largest sizes of the Daiwa Zakana Jig. And with big baitfish around, it should come as no surprise that the champion of the 2020 albie season, the Albie Snax, have continued their dominance as a must have bait for false albacore.
I have been surprised to hear almost no reports of bonito from Rhode Island waters, I think I only heard of one caught from Charlestown Breachway last week. But we have seen a reload of chub macks, not in huge numbers, but they are around again. These fish will take small jigs like the 3/8-ounce Epoxy Jig, the Fish Snax Peanut Jig and the 1/2-ounce Hogy Heavy Jig, they will also eat tiny flies.
Predictions: I’m kind of on a roll of making the wrong call when trying to predict these, nearly unpredictable, fish. I’m going to be optimistic and say that we haven’t seen the last of them yet for 2020 but I do think we’re on the other side of the best albie fishing for the year. The marine forecast looks terrible through the weekend and all that mixing of the water brought on by big seas is going to lower the water temps again. To me, this should translate to a much more random fishery for the next few weeks before—barring a stretch of unseasonably warm and calm weather—they depart for good. However, if 2019 is any kind of an indicator, we still have a good shot at seeing more bonito and some big ones as well, even as we pass Halloween and turn the page into November. Start your days targeting something else, but always have a rod ready for the albies.
Blackfish Fishing Forecast
Well we’ve seen some big ones now, including a mammoth 19.88-pounder that was entered into a local tog contest run by Crafty One Customs. The fish have been in the shallows and biting well on rigs and jigs. Shore guys should look for spots with current and wave action as this seems to really get the tog chewing. Boaters have the advantage of mobility, blackfish are territorial and sometimes it takes a few moves to find a piece of bottom with active fish on it. We have a wide selection of tog jigs that feature nuances in color, hook style, head style and how they sit on the bottom. The two frontrunners seem to be Jeck’s SUPA Beasts and Magic Tail, but the Asylum Jigs are gaining a quick following and there’s no denying the effectiveness of the classic Tidal Tail jig. Color is hotly debated among tog gurus, while there is no defined consensus, most hardcores like to offset colors with something light and dark or bright and dark; so white, black, green crab and something bright like orange or chartreuse covers the bases well enough to give them confidence and it should for you as well.
Predictions: We are in the midst of primetime for shallow water togging and I think the waters off Aquidneck Island and Jamestown will reflect that. Many of the fish are up shallow right now, but you may find some big ones on deeper structure, so don’t be afraid to prospect in waters between 8 and 40 feet. As the waters cool, the fish tend to transition into deeper spots, so make sure you have a wide variety of jig weights so that you can fish effectively, no matter how deep the fish are.
Bluefish Fishing Forecast
Once again this week, the bulk of the blues we’re hearing about are small, I’m talking 3 pounds and under. Another oddity is that they have been relatively absent from the oceanfront and mostly hanging around in Narragansett Bay. These fish will crush any topwater or shred any plastic, but the best lures for the job are inexpensive ones like the Jumpin’ Minnow with one 4/0 inline single hook on the back end. Tins like the Point Jude Mulletor the Deadly Dick are also a good bet for smaller blues. If you want to hunt for bigger blues, try fishing Diamond Jigs, Flat-Falls or the new Po-Jee’s with tubes attached in deep rips where some really big ones will sometimes hold deep.
Predicitons: It’s October, so anything could happen. Bluefish are eating machines so your best bet for finding them is always going to be to look for bait. I think we’ll see more larger blues at the breachways over the next few weeks as the mullet get larger and attract the attention of some gator blues. The smaller blues in the bay should stick around, just look for the birds and cash in when you see them.
Sea Bass Fishing Forecast
Sea bass action has been awesome so far in October and there’s no reason to think that will change. There has been an increase in catches by albie hunters passing the time between blitzes by sending an epoxy jig to the bottom and catching some sea bass. I’ve even seen a few 20-plus inchers landed from the rocks recently using this method from shore. 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
Scup fishing is starting to slow down a little now and the average size has dropped a few inches. It’s not over, it’s just starting to slow down. Shore casters will find that the number of shorts required to hook a keeper will increase exponentially over the next few weeks. Boaters will find themselves fishing deeper and deeper. Live or dead bait is always the best option, but 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: We’ll be on the downward trend now with smaller fish across the board and the fish moving deeper. If you’re trying to top of the freezer, get out there soon, because it’s only going to get tougher from here.