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 upon us and striper action, while it is not always red hot, when you find the fish, the bite is usually very good. Surfcasters have seemed to have the upper hand over the last week or two, probably because of the storms and waves which have invited the stripers in tight to take advantage of the pounding surf and abundant baitfish. It’s been a banner year for peanut bunker and many of the best hits have been fueled by these tightly-schooling mini-menhaden. We also have mullet and snapper blues showing in good numbers which the bass are also more than happy to dine upon when the opportunity presents itself. Daytime blitzes have been tougher to come by this year than what we typically expect for mid-September, but when the fish show they have shown a preference for smaller offerings like Jumpin’ Minnows¸ Shimano Walk High Pitch, Hogy Sliders, 1-ounce Little Neck Poppersand the Hogy Charter Grade Poppers.At night the bites have been much more reliable and sometimes prolific; popular baits have been Super Strike 1-1/2-ounce Needles,or when the surf is really up, Super Strike 2-3/8-ounce Needles.The smaller profile of the mid-sizzed needles seems to be earning more attention from nighttime stripers that are probably keyed in on smaller baits. Bucktails are also getting it done, shop favorited made by Jeck’sare catching plenty in both light and dark colors. Swimming plugs are also getting readily eaten; SP Minnows, Red Finsand Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnowsare finding plenty of fish in the shallow spots, don’t be without a package of 6-inch Tsunami Swim Shadseither for those times when you might need to probe the deep. The breachways have had good and bad nights over the first half of the month, but history tells us that the bite should intensify as we draw closer to October—Super Strike Dartersand NorthBar Bottle Dartersare king there. We have been hearing about fish coming from the entire south shore of Aquidneck Island and along the entire Narragansett Shoreline as well.
Boaters have had a rough go of it lately wit sporadic shots of fish out front with the best action seeming to coincide with the roughest days. Much of the rough water action has been happening inside the east and west passages with the fish taking small to medium topwaters like Jumpin’ Minnows, Shimano Splash Walks, Charter Grade Sliders and the 7-inch Doc. There is also a bite starting to fire up inside Mount Hope Bay, from the Power Plant across to Spar Island. This bite has been mostly comprised of 20- to 30-inch stripers with some blues to 10 pounds mixed in. Those looking for big stripers should head for the southeast and southwest sides of Block Island where anglers bouncing rubber—like Z-Man Heroz and Super Snax on Z-Man HeadlockZ HD or Magictail Killshot or leadheads or live eels are hooking some fish from 20 to over 40 pounds.
Predictions: There’s no turning back now, the fall run has begun and these fish are migrating. If history is an indicator, we should see some of the strongest runs of striped bass as the full moon approaches. Let’s hope for a rest from tropical influences, but the forecast certainly makes no promises. I expect surfcasters to continue to hold the upper hand for the next couple weeks, but some steadier weather could swing the needle in the other direction. Hopefully we will also see more bigger bass for the second half of the month.
Photo Courtesy of AweStruck Fishing
Hardtails(Check local regulations for species-specific size and bag limits)
It sure has been a tumultuous hardtail season so far! As Milli Vanilli once lip-synched back in the early-90’s, you can blame it on the rain (and wind and waves and dirty water). The endless line of socially-distanced storms has made certain the albies and other hardtail species have not been able to get settled and this has made for a pretty weak showing in most places, especially Buzzards Bay and eastern Rhode Island. But things have started to chill out a little and we’ve seen a pretty reliable bite gathering around the breachways and Watch Hill. There have been sporadic shots of fish at the West Wall and Point Judith proper, and a few rumors of fish up as far as Dutch Island in the west passage, but heading east from there is going to find you a whole lot of nothing—as it stands at the time of this writing. The other place with reliable albie and bonito fishing is most of Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds, with an emphasis on the stretch from Waquoit to Tarpaulin Cove.
For those fishing Rhode Island waters, the fish have been feeding mostly on peanut bunker which have been averaging in that 2- to 3-inch size, about the size of teaspoon. If you stop 50 albie-chasers and look at what’s on the end of their line, you’re going to find a 1-ounce Exo Jig in ‘silver’ color on 45 of them. Another popular lure has been the two smallest sizes of Crippled Herring, along with Hogy Epoxy Jigs, and Fish Snax Peanut Jigs . When the fish won’t cooperate try a 4-inch Ron-Z or the ubiquitous Albie Snax, both in white.
You may have seen the New Colorfrom Albie Snax as well which is sure to be a killer when the fish are on sand eels or large spearing.
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Predictions:Where’s my crystal ball? If the weather doesn’t continue to sucker-punch the entire Northeast, I think we’ll see the albies filling into their traditional spots. Concentrate your efforts on places where you know there are good concentrations of bait and on those snottier days with hard southwest winds—it’s those conditions that seem to really turn on the tunoids.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
Most of the blues we’re hearing about are either up in the bay—try Colt State Park, the Mount Hope Bridge area or Spar Island—or they’re harassing the peanut schools outside the breachways. The larger fish are up in Mount Hope Bay, down by the breachways you’ll find an average size of 4 to 5 pounds and lots of snappers as well. Find some bigger bait and you never know what you might find. We recommend keeping things on the inexpensive side with things like Cotton 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 Zo-Wire Inlines. The shop is also well stocked with Steel Leadersand affordable pliers like the Danco Admirals.
Predictions:The blues will do what they always do, stick with the bait. If you’re looking for bluefish, try running the south shore with eye open for birds and bait balls. If you’re going out this weekend, try Mount Hope Bay. As more bait exits the bay and the estuaries, we should see more and more blues showing up to our local fall run party.
Black Sea Bass (current season 6/24 to 8/31 3 fish per angler at a minimum size of 15 inches)
Sea bass are the not so new fad fish to chase when you’re waiting for the albies to regroup and pop somewhere else. And right now it seems like they are everywhere. Depths can range from 15 to 100 feet, but places like Nebraska Shoal and some of the humps outside the breachways are producing well. So are many of the larger submerged boulders up inside the west passage and the ledges in the east passage. Sea bass are aggressive and not very selective most of the time, the only downside is the insane numbers of shorts you’ll find on most spots. Diamond Jigs, Flat-Fall Jigs, the larger Daiwa Zakana Jigs and Bucktails with Gulp are all catching fish. The main thing is just being able to keep your jig on the bottom, so the largest Hogy Heavy Jigs may work well at times.
Predictions: I don’t expect to hear about a slowdown in sea bass catches for at least a month. The best advice is to be mobile, if you’re only hooking shorts, move to a new piece or move deeper. The sea bass bite should remain very good across all of Rhode Island for the next two weeks, just remember that the season is closed in Massachusetts right now.
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Fluke catches have fallen off precipitously since the start of September and, while there’s always a chance at catching one in late-September, the likelihood drops with each passing minute. If fluke is your obsession and you just HAVE TO catch one more fluke, head for Block Island. The migration of these fish has them steaming offshore for very deep water, but they have to pass by Block Island and Coxes to get there.
Predictions:By the next time we put the report out, the fluke fishery will be just about over. Any consistent catches will come from Block Island, with a slightly elevated chance around the breachways—fluke love snapper blues.
Bluefins (check NOAA website for current regulations and open seasons)
It has been an amazing season for bluefin tuna and it keeps on getting more and more interesting. Over the past 10 or so days the lid has blown off a budding giant bite 1 to 2 miles off if Scarborough Beach in Narragansett. Absolute monster fish, some over 110 inches, have been landed by commercial anglers swimming live bluefish in that area. Don’t even try this if you don’t have an HMS Permit, don’t even try this if you don’t have the gear or the experience. There have also been rumors of pods of smaller bluefins inshore as well, sightings of fish in the 40- to 100-pound class have been reported inside of one mile from the rocks, but no one has caught one yet—so for now it’s just a rumor. But with all the bunker around, and dolphins and other ‘life’ it’s certainly not out of the question. Making the ride to fish just outside the windmills has paid off for many tuna chasers too, but that bite seems to be less reliable now, the same could be said for the Gully and Tuna Ridge. Some say the tuna season is winding down, others say it’s just about to begin. The smaller fish that have been caught locally have come from south of Block and have been caught on topwaters like the Shimano Splash Walk or the Hogy Tuna Grade Slider, but they are also been taken dropping jigs like swing-hook Ron-Z’s Big Game , Magictail Slim Vertical Jigs or Flat-Falls from Shimano. Make sure to have some smaller tins rigged on a spinning rod in case you find a high-flyer or weedline loaded with mahi.
Predictions: For the next two weeks, I think the tuna bite and the buzz surrounding it should remain alive and well. And let’s all try to focus our collective positive vibes on the idea that some of these 40- to 100-pound class fish show up definitively inshore and start eating plugs. That would be a lot of fun.