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)
The Fall Run is on and if you’re not fishing right now, you might be missing some of the best of it. For the first time since the bass pushed out of the Bay in June, we have legitimate round-the-clock striper fishing going on from the surf. Don’t misread this as a guaranteed hookup on your lunch break, you still have to pick your days and get a little lucky too. But we just have so much bait in the surf and inshore waters right now, most of the bait is small though so the bulk of the fish eating them are on the smaller side too—somewhere between 18 and 30 inches. Daytime casters should be prepared to present to fish at your feet while also being ready to bomb a small offering to a blitz 100 yards off the beach. There are three plugs that stand out as must haves for the daytime surf guy (boaters should listen up here as well) for the closer-up stuff the Jumpin’ Minnow is killer, I like the chrome color on cloudy days and the bone when the sun is out. For fish that are a little further out or when the bait is a little bigger, try the Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil, colors follow suit with the Jumpin’ Minnow. If you need to really get one out there try the Left Hook Raptor in white, yellow or bunker pattern, also the 1-ounce Gibbs Pencil is a crusher when the bait is small, but you need to reach out a bit. The larger surf bass have been coming after dark, which I’m sure is a surprise to no one. The top lures have been the Super Strike Darter in a rainbow of colors, slow-sink Needlefish like those made by Gibbs, mid-sized swimmers, Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnowand the SP Minnow and the one that I know took some of the larger fish this week, the Super Strike Bullet Needlefish. The fish I have been seeing have ranged from 20 to 40 inches and that’s about the extent of what I have heard from other anglers fishing locally. For those looking for a place to start, Ocean Drive has been holding a pretty consistent bite all week. There have also been regular blitzes along the Portsmouth shoreline in the Sakonnet. Nighttime fishing has been best in the shallower, tide-swept boulder fields but there have been some larger schoolies and slot fish taken from some deep ledges with Tsunami Heavy Shads as well.
Boaters have been seeing the sizes of their stripers shrinking over the past couple weeks and this may have a lot to do with the fact that the chub mackerel have exited the area. Reports from Westport all the way to Westerly have been dominated by accounts of acres of schoolie bass rafting on the surface and crushing small topwaters like those mentioned in the surf portion of this report. Trolling tubes, like those made by Hogy and T-Man, is still producing well just with a smaller average size the routine is still all about running a paper route of known pieces of structure and trying to swing the tubes in tight to the reef. The Block Island news has been eerily quiet, there was a time that I’d assume that meant it was on fire, but in these days of ‘look at me’ fishing, I’d guess that means it’s fallen flat again… which might mean the big bite is over for this year, we’ll see. Back on the mainland, I have been hearing about some really nice bass being taken on the Big Doc by targeting large humps out in open water, places where a mound or reef rises out of 20-plus feet to 5 or 6 feet. Many of these spots are good for one or two big fish before the schoolies take over, so don’t be afraid to move around. Most of the night guys seem to be drifting eels right now.
Predictions: Surfcasters should stay the course over the next couple weeks, there’s enough bait around to keep a good number of the fish up shallow, even with the full moon coming in quick. Daytime anglers should put a high priority on safe release as most of the fish you’ll find will be 26 inches and under—crush your barbs or switch to inlines for faster release and less damage to the fish. Boat anglers should expect to see more and larger fish as the full moon comes and goes. If my memory serves, a good bite for large stripers lit up around Brenton Reef around this time last year—no reason it wouldn’t happen again. I think both of the striper hotspots that everyone loves have seen their best tides already this year. Southwest Ledge and the Canal seem like they might be doing the slow burn for 2020, maybe I’ll be wrong.
Bones & Albies: This may sound like a sales pitch but don’t say you weren’t warned… what we call the ‘albie wall’ is loaded to the point of overflow right now, but that’s not going to last. Albies have been caught at Marthas Vineyard, they have been caught south of Block and they are moving through Vineyard Sound now, en route to Buzzards Bay, the fever will be nearing pandemic proportions by the time we drop the next forecast. If the feng shui in your albie arsenal is thrown off by the lack of an Electric Chicken Exo Jig, now is the time to fill the void. Last year we saw the first albies hit Newport around August 25th, it’s probably going to be a few days later this year, but not by much. Catching that first albie wave is always the best way to put a crooked number on the board and start things off right. After they’ve been harassed for three weeks, they can get a little picky. Personally, I like to fish with heavier jigs at this time, something like the 1-1/4 ounce Hogy Heavy, Point Jude Po-Jee or the 35 gram Coltsniper Jig in Brown Aji. These jigs cast a mile and skip easily, I save the fancier jigs for later on. The chub mackerel have moved off, at least for now, and now the bonito are starting to come back. Right now, the bonito action in Rhode Island is spotty, but there are big numbers in eastern Buzzards Bay and the Canal. In fact, a friend of mine found himself in the middle of a two hour bonito blitz at the Canal last week that produced fish to 8 pounds! Those big bones are a blast and it’s no secret that they are coveted table fare. Pink is often the color that everyone leans on when chasing bonito, I have done very well on the 1-ounce Exo Jig in pink. But don’t forget that bonito love small swimming plugs like the 5-1/8 inch SP Minnow, they will also hit stick baits like the Shimano Colt Sniper Stick 120. Spanish mackerel also seem to be moving our way with many catches logged on the upper Cape this week, keep your eyes open for them in the coming weeks.
Predictions:At this point, the fuse is lit. We should see a rapid increase in bonito numbers over the next week and then the albies should file in not long after. Albies seem to show up slowly at first and then come on in a rush sometime during the first 10 days of September. If we’re not experiencing the first big wave of albies by the time the next forecast drops, we’ll be on the brink of full on fever. Spanish macks… your guess is as good as mine there.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Bluefish have slowed down a touch since our last report, but they’re far from out of the picture. Most of the action I have heard about has been in places with lots of moving water, Castle Hill, Brenton Point, Beavertail, Point Judith and the Breachways. If you spend your time looking for bait, you’re going to catch mostly smaller fish and therefore I would recommend using splashy or flashy lures with one hook, Hopkins, Point Jude Sea Scallop, GT Ice Cream. If you want to find big ones fish deep with Diamond Jigs, Point Jude Deep Force Jigs or Shimano Flat-Fall jigs. Either that or go looking for big bait and throw big plugs like the Big Doc or a Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser. They have not been super abundant, but they are out there if you look for them.
Predicitons:I think we’ll see more bluefish moving in as local crowds of baitfish grow a little larger. I would still concentrate my efforts around deep moving water but don’t neglect the mouths of any inlet, even tiny ones where young of the year baitfish may be swept out on a dropping tide.
Sea Bass: (Current season June 24 to August 31, 3 fish per angler per day, after September 1st it’s 7 fish per person at a minimum size of 15 inches)
The sea bass bite rages on throughout Rhody waters and not much has changed since the last report. One thing to note is that the daily limit increases to seven fish per person on September first. These fish are more than willing to hit a wide variety of artificial lures with the Shimano Flat-Fall being a favorite. But something that is not often talked about is that they are a great target from the kayak or boat while you’re waiting for false albacore or bonito to show up. Just drop your tin of choice to the bottom (Hogy Heavy, Daiwa Zakana, Exo Jig or Coltsniper) and jig it up and down, you’ll be amazed by how hard they hit it!
Predictions: I think the sea bass action will start to ramp up over the next two weeks, even though it’s hard to imagine it being better than it has been. As always, it’s a good idea to move around and try to fish spots that aren’t being hammered every day.
Fluke(Open May 3 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Fluke fishing just has not been good this year and that has not changed. There has been a slight uptick in activity, which has coincided with more snapper bluefish moving in—a favorite snack for fluke. But since the limits on bluefish are so low right now because of overfishing, it might be a better idea to catch a larger bluefish and tip your bucktail with some bluefish belly strips instead. This would be a great method below the Newport Bridge or the Jamestown Bridge. It will also work over any of your favorite secret fluke humps out front.
Predictions:I really don’t think the fluke fishing is going to finish strong, it’s been an off year from Nantucket to Montauk and beyond. I think the guys that have the best luck are going to do it by burning gas and that means either making the steam to Block Island (which hasn’t been great either) or by hitting a lot of spots. Weeding through shorts is always an issue, so I suggest going all or nothing and fishing with bit baits.
Scup:(Open through 12/31, 30 fish per person, per day at a minimum size of 9 inches)
Scup action remains red hot from the shores of Aquidneck Island and from boats fishing rocks anywhere in southern New England. These fish will readily eat any small live or dead bait and can be caught on almost any tackle. They’re great for introducing kids to the sport of fishing and they’re also great for the frying pan.
Predictions:This fishery should not slow down at all over the next two weeks, whether you’re dunking bait off the Cliff Walk or anchored up on some secret wreck, these fish should be abundant and hungry.
Sharks: Shark reports have gone down since things went crazy a few weeks ago. There was a shark sighting off of one of the swimming beaches last week, but that’s really the only thing we’ve heard.