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.
Topwater Albie Photo Courtesy of AweStruck Charters
Hardtails (Check local regulations for species-specific regs)
It’s that time of year again when more than half the saltwater fishermen in the Northeast lose their collective minds over a little green tuna with a tribal tattoo on each shoulder. In case you haven’t heard, the albies are in and the full-on mania is about to begin. So far the albie action in Rhode Island has been better to the west, with the Narragansett shoreline and the SoCo Beaches playing host to the most consistent albie fishing in our little state. A lot of hype has been made about the Vineyard Sound bite which has been fueled by small peanuts, resulting in a finicky bite. The best catches have been recorded on 1-ounce Exo Jigs and the smallest sizes of the Crippled Herring – but a battalion of boats pursuing in run-and-gun fashion has made for many, many skunkings there. Over here in Rhody much of the action has been centered around larger baitfish—snapper blues and halfbeaks. We’ve heard about some really great days leading up to the remnants of Ida coming through and most of the action has been along the shoreline from the Narrow River to Watch Hill. Popular lures have been Jumpin Minnows, the lighter Zakana Jigs, Exo Jigs in the 3-inch size, Coltsniper Stickbaits, Albie Snax, and 5-1/8 inch SP Minnows. This is not to say that all of the albies are on larger baits though, there are plenty of schools of silversides, peanuts and anchovies around fueling pickier bites on smaller lures. The best advice is to observe, watch the baitfish leaping away from the slashing albies and try to match your offering up accordingly. For these smaller baits try the Hogy Heavy Jigs, Exo Jigs in the 3/4-ounce size and the smallest Ron-Z’s too. For fly guys try to keep a diverse arsenal that covers a wide array of sizes, some of our favorites are Bonito Bunnies, Poor Man’s Albie Whores, Surf Candies, EP Perfect Minnows and Mikkelson’s Epoxy Baitfish… among many others. For spin fishers, don’t leave home without your Casting Eggs, sometimes these fish will only hit a fly-sized offering.
Albies aren’t the only hardtails in residence either, bonito have made a strong showing this year with some really nice fish taken in the last few weeks. It seems like their numbers have dwindled a bit since Henri blew through, but they are still around. And now Spanish Macks have started showing in places like the West Wall and some really nice ones have been logged over the past few days. If you’re still holding out for news that the hardtail bite is on fire, let this report ignite that fire. And for those of you that enjoy some good competition, the Albie Shootout is running from September 9th to October 2nd. Tournament details announced next Tuesday
If you want to commit to a dedicated albie set up our recent Gear Review: How to Choose an Albie Setupshould be helpful
Predictions: There is some uncertainty in this forecast because we have a fairly powerful storm affecting local waters right now. Strong winds and waves pushing to 7 feet are in the forecast and will almost certainly change things up a bit. But there’s nothing saying that these changes won’t be for the better. Look for the albie bite to intensify after the water cleans up—sometimes these fish will feed right through the slop too so don’t sit on your hands for too long. These next two weeks have a very real possibility of being the best two weeks of the hardtail season—you gotta keep that right foot on the gas!
Image Courtesy of On The Rocks Charters
Striped Bass(Open all year, 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches per angler, per day)
Striper fishing has been a little tougher over the past few weeks, we’re seeing plenty of smaller fish with a good dose of slot fish, but those larger fish, 20 to 40 pounds, have been much tougher to come by than we usually expect at this time of year. Surfcasters are finding lots of 20- to 30-inch stripers in the Aquidneck Island suds with the very occasional 20-pounder in the mix. The most popular lures have been jigs like 3/4- to 1-1/2-ounce bucktails and things like Super Snaxon Magictail Killshotsor Zman Swimmerz on Headlockz Jigheads. But on the rougher days Super Strike Bottle Plugs are catching, and Super Strike Dartersare getting it done in sweeping currents. Mullet will be joining the party soon as well, so stock up now on your favorite plastic swimmers like Red Fins and Hydro Minnows , along with Super Strike Bulletsand Albie Snax, so you’re ready when then come out of the backwaters and meet the bass.
Boat anglers have been finding some pretty good feeds in daylight with bass up to the top of the slot crushing peanuts, halfbeaks and snapper blues. A good place to keep an eye on for larger bass would be that same stretch that’s seeing the increased albie action, with all the larger bait in that area, it’s just a matter of time before some larger bass find it. The topwater action has been very good for guys throwing Jumpin’ Minnows with hooks upgraded to VMC’sand split rings from Spro. Some of the larger fish have fallen for the 7- and 9-inch Doc along with the Shimano SplashWalk. Unweighted soft plastics like Slug-Go’s and Fin-S Fish on Owner Beast Hookshave worked well when the topwater bite went cold.
Predictions: The striper fishing is due to perk back up any day now, and with the new moon fast approaching it would seem that now would be the time. Look for larger bass to show as the currents pick up and the tides get bigger. The larger tides and stronger currents also mean more bait being pulled from the estuaries and it might just mean the beginning of the mullet run. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the relative lack of smaller fish, some big ones aren’t far away.
Bluefish(Open all year, 3 fish per angler, per day, no minimum size)
There has been an increase in big bluefish in local waters over the past 10 days or so, but nearly all of the reports we heard told of a ‘few’ big blues mixing in with larger schools of medium bass. What’s worse is that they came from all over the place, so making a forecast prediction is – more or less – impossible. 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 or VMC ILS
Snapper blues seem to be having a banner year with lots of snappers in the backwaters of Narragansett Bay ranging from 2 to 8 inches, and averaging around 4 inches in most places. These pint-sized choppers with a bad attitude can be caught using tiny Kastmasters, live shiners and snapper poppers. But the reason we love them so much is that everything eats them—albies, stripers, fluke, bonito, even larger bluefish—they all love them. Keep an eye on those spots with tons of snapper action; something big may be lurking nearby.
Predictions:As more bait dumps out of the estuaries and Narragansett Bay we will see more blues inshore. Lately we have been hearing about two classes—fish in the 3- to 5-pound class and bruisers in the 10- to 13-pound class. Your best bet is to fish around schools of bait or look for blitzes and see what’s joining in on the fray.
Fluke(Open May 4 to December 31, 5 fish per angler, per day at a minimum size of 19 inches)
Between the beating Henri threw local waters and the influx of albies, fluke reports have been few and far between lately. Nearly all of the reports we are hearing are coming from Block Island and the best catches are coming from guys making focused drifts over prime stretches of sticky bottom. Closer to home it’s been nearly all short fish. Bucktails like the Berkley Fusions and Spro Primes are all catching well. Tip them with our mind-numbing selection of Gulp shapes and colors or go old school and throw a strip of bluefish belly on there and start bouncing. As is to be expected, there are way more shorts than keepers. Some fluke sharpies recommend culling the little ones by using bigger baits. We’re also seeing a noticeable increase in the use of the M3 Jigging Spoons which offer a different look and a more angler-engaging way to hook up. Some of the best hardcore guys recommend fishing larger baits to cull out the smalls.
Predictions:We are getting closer to the end of a viable fluke season in Rhode Island, the fish will begin migrating offshore in the coming weeks. For now, focus on structure around Block Island for your best shot at a big one. Don’t overlook the possibility that the abundant snapper blues might pull some doormats in close around the breachways either.
Black Sea Bass (current season 9/1 to 12/31 7 fish per angler at a minimum size of 15 inches)
Sea bass catches continue to impress anyone that drops a jig or bait to the bottom in waters deeper than 10 feet. Shorts are far more common than keepers but, if you’re hooking tons of shorts move and you may find that pile of knotheads you’re looking for. Many of the better limits we’re hearing about are coming from smaller, isolated structures that aren’t seeing as much pressure as the more popular spots. Block Island, Point Judith, Beavertail and the West Passage are all producing fish. Diamond Jigs, Flat-Fall Jigs, the larger Exo Jigs.
Predictions: Great sea bass fishing usually continues well into October so there’s no reason to worry about the bite cooling down. We’ve heard of surfcasters catching them on eels and jigs, and even surface blitzes of sea bass over the last week. This fishery should on improve throughout September.
Saltwater Edge Master Electrician Dave Loren
Tuna Species (check your local regulations for size and bag limits)
Bluefin action continues south and east of Block Island, but it has become a lot tougher to nail down. There have been reports of bluefins up to 60 pounds within sight of Block Island while other anglers are reporting logging 20 to 40 miles to hook up. Henri threw a wrench into the works and Ida’s remnants will complicate the issue even further. But now is the time to put in the hours on the water, more bluefins should be migrating through this month and you might have a shot at a yellowfin as well. Jigs like Big Game Ron-Z’s or Flat-Fallsfrom Shimano have been the ticket over the past two weeks but topwaters like the Shimano Splash Walk or the Hogy Charter Grade Sliderswill also draw strikes from the right schools. 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: With another storm bearing down on the offshore waters as I type, I’m reluctant to make any kind of a prediction for tuna. The one thing I will say is that this bite is far from over, September is often of the best months of the season for bluefin tunas in local waters.