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
Surf guys have been telling a mix of stories over the past 10 days or so, there seem to be larger fish west of Aquidneck Island right now as anglers fishing ‘Gansett and South County are reporting larger fish. These fish have been taking small and medium sized plugs like the 1.7-ounce Super Strike Heavy Needle and the Super Strike Darter—color has not been an issue. Fish from 10 to 40 pounds have been reported from this area and it kind of just happened overnight. At the time I thought it was just one of those bites that lights up in a place for a handful of lucky anglers and then dissipates into memory. In retrospect, I’m not at all surprised it happened because it was only a day or two later that the daytime blitzes on halfbeaks lit up at the West Wall. Halfbeaks are typically an offshore bait species associated with tuna and marlin, but sometimes they come inshore and then our inshore species get on them and mayhem ensues. I have seen them several times in the Canal and the bite, for whatever reason, always seems to be intense, but sometimes the blitzes are crazy and the fish will not eat plugs! The things I have been successful with in these instances have been the Magic Swimmer 165, the Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil in and slow sinking needles in dark colors, like the Gibbs Needlefish—yes, even in daylight. From there it becomes a game of watch and imitate; look at how the bait is swimming, look at the direction they’re going and replicate it. As of Thursday morning there were reports of halfbeaks off Brenton Point and, with any luck, they will populate the rest of Aquidneck Island over the next week or so. When halfbeaks are not the main menu item, the bite has been better in the early part of the night as the moon is rising later and later each day now. Bucktails like the Jecks Nighttime Special and soft plastics like Slug-Go’s on light jigheads have been working very well. Pluggers have been doing well on mid-sized swimmers like Loaded Red Fins and Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnows, Super Strike Darters and NorthBar Bottle Darters. There seems to be a good amount of mid-sized bait around, larger peanuts, snapper bluefish, smaller scup and mullet should begin dropping out of the bay and local ponds as the new moon approaches. My best mullet hits have come during periods of heavy surf, which seems to keep the mullet pinned to the beach. Super Strike Bullets reeled ‘albie fast’ through the wash have been my best producers, followed by Hydro Pencils and Super Strike Darters in the dark. Most of the fish coming from the shore on Aquidneck Island are on the smaller side right now, but big fish are out there so don’t drop your hands.
Boaters have been finding a lot of the same class of fish as the surfcasters. Most of the bass are on the smaller side, ranging between 20 inches and 15 pounds. Light tackle has been the name of the game for most as plugs like the Jumpin’ Minnow and Yo-Zuri Top Knock Pencil have been popular and catching well around the reefs. Those looking to cull out the little ones in search of a few big fish have been throwing the Big Doc and finding a few bigger fish during low light conditions. Another route to a larger fish is to fish deep water with heavy stuff like Tsunami Deep Shads, GT Eels on Heavy Jigheads and Bucktails. We’ve been hearing about fish coming from Elbow Ledge and some of the steep drops around Castle Hill. Trolling tubes was popular all summer long, but most boaters are focusing on casting and jigging now. Some of the most popular spots for casting plugs have been the big reefs off the Cliff Walk, Gooseberry Island and any breaking reefs off Brenton.
Predictions: These next two weeks should pave the road to the kind of fall fishing that we all think of when someone mentions the ‘fall run’. And don’t be surprised if, when you look back over the fall of 2020, this stretch represents your best fishing of the entire fall. Nighttime will still be the best time for surfcasters looking for large in the suds. I’d recommend putting a lot of time in when the tides are big—say over 3.6 feet—this is when the most water moves and also when some of the largest fish will venture inshore. Boat anglers should focus on days with cloud cover (and rain). Fish large topwater plugs cast right into the wash of the rocks for a great chance at a big fish in daylight—early morning will always represent your best chance for a big one on top. By the time our next forecast drops, I expect there to be a much higher chance of catching a big bass, surf or boat.
Bones and Albie Fishing Forecast
As predicted the albies steamed into Rhody waters last week and quickly set the region ablaze with rapidly-spreading flames of green. They have been at places like Sakonnet and Sachuest, but the bite there has been weak compared to the stretch of water from Beavertail to Whale Rock and then around to the West Wall. The fish are on halfbeaks on that side and the schools have been thick, vast and widespread. Albies feeding on large bait is a special treat that means two things, 1; you can catch them on a variety of plugs (we heard that the Jumpin’ Minnow and Hydro Pencils have been crushing), and 2; that there are some big albies in the mix—we have heard of several that eclipsed the 30-inch mark over the past few days. The catch numbers have been insane in that area too, we’ve heard of several 20 and 30 fish days for anglers fishing from boats and kayaks and shore tallies numbering more than a dozen. These fish will feed any time of the day but your best bet, by far, is to fish from first light through mid-morning. You’ll definitely want to head out prepared with a bigger arsenal than maybe you’re used to carrying with you because these fish are pushing large bait. So you may want to add a few of the 1.25-ounce Hogy Epoxy Jigs to your lineup before heading out, I would say the 1.5-ounce Exo Jigs are must have tins, especially in ‘Electric Blue’ which is a pretty close mimic to a halfbeak and maybe a 42-gram Coltsniper Jig in ‘Real Iwashi’. But I also wouldn’t leave home without a few plugs either, Jumpin’ Minnows have been catching well in ‘bone’, ‘blue candy’ and ‘pilchard’, the 3/4-ounce Cotton Cordell Pencils should also catch well.
Bonito are still around and seem to be hanging mostly along the Portsmouth shoreline, but there have been some nice ones caught in that area. And there have been random bones taken in other locations, the East Passage has seen a few here and there. Spanish mackerel are also still around in good numbers although they seem to be more prominent well to the west, say Weekapaug over to Niantic, but they are around and giving anglers something else to think about. They will hit just about anything that an albie will hit, just go down a size or two. Or maybe use a Casting Egg and a Bonito Bunny.
Predictions:This week should be one of the best of the year for albies. It would seem that they will make a push into the Sakonnet and the East Passage this week making it possible to catch them from a variety of shore locations, while giving boat anglers fits about where they should settle for a days fishing. If this whole ‘halfbeak thing’ persists and then the mullet meet up with them, we just might see some of the best albie fishing in recent memory with some really big ones to make it really interesting! I’m no bonito expert, but I’m expecting them to disappear soon, unlike last year, we seem to have a massive push of albies on our hands and the bonito seem to get out of town when the albies move in with force. As far as Spanish mackerel go, I couldn’t even make an educated guess, but I’d say ‘catch them while you can’ because they could be gone at any moment.
Saltwater Edge Albie Shootout
Friday, September 11th (1 pm est) to Saturday, October 3rd (12 am est)
We have a few years of running this event under our belt now and we’ve come to realize that a weekend really isn’t enough time to run a tournament that centers around a very mobile species that is heavily affected by the weather. So we’ve decided to change the format for 2020 and stretch the ‘season’ out to three weeks. We’ve also decided to make it a cumulative score of three albies instead of just one.
So here’s how it works
Bluefish Fishing Forecast
Billy Mitchell of Seven Stripes Podcast
There have been lots of smaller blues popping up all around the island this week, mostly mixing in with striped bass or albies. These small blues (say 2 to 4 pounds) have a real knack for finding soft plastics or live eels. But we have been hearing more and more reports of larger blues showing up in the same places over and over—in other words, not just random catches. One place has been the west side of Beavertail where several anglers reported catching teen-sized blues mixed with the albies and dining on halfbeaks. There were also consistent bluefish reports along the western shore of the Sakonnet River—these fish were in the 8- to 12-pound class and were responsible for more than a handful of lost albie tins. Bluefish tend to be less picky than most other inshore species here in Rhode Island, so they are usually not too hard to get to hit a lure—they like splashy or flashy so try something like the timeless Hopkins Lure or the Point Jude Sea Scallop, or if you’re thirsting for that big topwater strike, maybe try a 2-ounce Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper with a single 7/0 Owner Inline Hook on the rear—one hook makes dealing with angry teeth a lot easier. And whatever you do, don’t forget your pliers (check out Danco for an array of plier choices that will fit most budgets.)
Predicitons:Mid-September is typically a great time of year for blues of all sizes. We have an established mega-pile of bait to our west and reports of that bait moving into local waters. I expect those big blues to stay on that bait and anyone with boat that can track those halfbeaks down should be able to hang some gators (along with large stripers and some corker albies as well.) By the time we ink the next report there should be mixed sizes of bluefish feeding on the dropping tides at Brenton, Fort Adams, Sachuest and anywhere else the ebb carries baitfish into the Atlantic.
Sea Bass Fishing Forecast
No one seems to be having trouble hooking sea bass right now. These fish love deep structure so any wrecks, humps or bumps should put you on the fish in depths ranging from 15 to 100 feet. 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 its 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. In addition to the Shimano Flat-Falls and various weights of Hogy Heavy and Daiwa Zakana Jigs we recommended in the last report, Spro Prime Bucktails tipped with Gulpor Fat Cow Jig Strips will catch fish and are available in enough weights to cover any tidal stage.
Predictions: Look for the sea bass bite to continue to heat up over the next couple weeks, but also look for the pressure on the fishery to increase as well. Sea bass are territorial and the popular pieces of bottom will get picked over as more anglers begin targeting sea bass. Those that spend some time with their charts, looking for ledges and bumps without names will catch more and bigger fish.
Fluke Fishing Forecast
Fluke fishing is going to start coming to an end really soon as the fish begin to migrate to their offshore wintering grounds. Deep water or places where you’re marking lots of bait are you best bets at this time of year. We really haven’t heard many fluke reports at all over the past couple weeks. If you’re dead set on icing a few more before they leave for good, head for the Windmills and pray the dogs don’t kill you. I would also recommend fishing larger baits, something like an M3Tackle Jigging Spoon or a Spro Bucktail tipped with a whole squid.
Predictions:As I said in our last forecast, the fluke season is just not going to finish strong. My true prediction is that we won’t hear many fluke reports in the shop over the next two weeks and the season will be effectively over by the time we publish the next forecast.
Scup Fishing Forecast
The news remains unchanged for scup. Shore, boat and kayak anglers are having no trouble hooking up on any rock pile from 3 feet to 50 feet the fish are there. 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:The scup fishing should build to a crescendo somewhere between the end of September and early October. There’s no reason to think this fishery will slow down over the next two weeks.
Sharks Fishing Forecast
We haven’t heard any shark reports in a couple weeks now.