The main fish on most people’s radar right now is striped bass and with good reason, if you ask me, this is the best time of year to chase down a fish over 40 pounds. Narragansett Bay is loaded with bunker and packs of large stripers—we’re hearing about fish throughout the entire bay, Providence, Prudence, Jamestown, Fall River, Bristol, Common Fence Point, the East, and West Passages also have fish. The fish are ranging from 15 to 50 pounds, with most of them between 20 and 35. The pressure is immense though, a calm day will bring out dozens and dozens of anglers, just this past Friday I saw more than 30 boats set up drifting bunker off Common Fence Point. The key to the bite is a moving tide and the best anglers are setting up in areas where the tide is accentuated by the geography of the shoreline or bottom—any rips, draws, narrows, jetties… they all offer a better shot at hooking up. The other factor is bait. The Bay is loaded with bunker and as you get closer to the ocean, you’ll find squid and some sand eels in the mix as well. The key is to keep moving around until you find a school of bass that’s actively feeding.
We’ve been enjoying great weather lately, lots of beautiful, warm days which is bringing local water temps, which have been lagging, up fast. Sometime in the next week or two, (maybe on the coming new moon) expect those schools of big bass to start moving south and exiting the bay. This should set up some great bass fishing for shore and boat anglers all along the oceanfront. In fact, the trickle seems to have already begun as Capt. Rob Taylor of Newport Sport Fishing Chartersput his clients on some nice fish late last week out front, including a 55-pounder taken from 9-feet of water. Watch those water temps in Narragansett Bay, 70 degrees is usually the magic number that signals striper movement out of a river or bay. And with good numbers of big bass moving through Long Island Sound right now, we may be in for a perfect storm of big bass between Point Judith and the Canal over the next 2 to 4 weeks.
Don’t forget that it’s now the law that anyone targeting striped bass with live or dead bait must use an in-line circle hook—that means eels, bunker, squid or anything else that is (or was) alive. This also means that snag-and-drop fishing is no longer legal; a snagged bunker must be brought to the boat (or shore) and re-hooked on a circle hook. The dominant plug right now is the 9-inch Doc in bone color, but the 6.5-inch ‘heavy shads’ from Tsunami are also pulling some nice bass out of the deeper, faster-moving sections of the bay. As the bass drop out and into the ocean nighttime surfcasters should look to plugs like the Super Strike Darter, Gibbs Needlefish, and large (9-10 inch) soft plastics like Slug-Go’s, Super Snax or Z-Man StreakZ to do their bidding. In the deeper waters, like some sections of the Cliffwalk, heavy Super Strike needlefish will help pull fish out of the depths.
Predictions: The Bay will reach 70 degrees within the scope of this forecast and the bulk of the bass in the bay will drop out. As the new moon approaches more fish will arrive along the ocean-facing shorelines of Aquidneck Island. These next two weeks will offer a great opportunity to hook a large striper in Rhode Island waters. And with the first reports of larger bass hitting the Ledge off Block, look for some big fish to be caught and released before the end of the month out there as well.
Over the past four or five years, bluefish have become a lot tougher to rely on and just last year, fisheries managers declared the species overfished. What we’ve seen so far this season is that there seem to be two classes of bluefish present in Rhody waters, very small and very large. The smaller blues are in that cocktail to tailor size, 1 to 3 pounds and the large ones are double-digit monsters that can remove and swallow half an adult bunker in one chop, say, 12 pounds plus. Most of the ones we’re hearing about being caught are the smaller variety while we hear lots of stories of bunker bitten clean in half up in the Bay. These smaller bluefish are the perfect eating size, and when bled immediately, they are great for the smoker or grill. If you want to target these look for visible signs of baitfish and throw small topwater plugs like the Jumpin’ Minnow or Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper or try something like a Point Jude Sea Scallop or Po-Jee. If you want to target the big ones, your best bet is probably to chunk with fresh bunker on a large circle hook.
Predictions:Bluefish will remain fairly unpredictable as far as where and when they will show in a given place. One thing I can guarantee is that the best way to find them is to throw something they can ruin like a rigged eel or a soft plastic.
Fluke reports have been hard to come by so far this season, but we did speak with one of our local fluke fanatics and he said the season seems to be way behind last year. He told us that he’s boated fewer than 10 fish this season while last year at this time he had more than 50 already. But the news is not all bad news as the Misquamicut Beaches started to give up better catches last week and there have been good reports from Nantucket and Buzzards Bay as well. There have been a few reports from local diehard flukers, these guys have been catching in very deep water for June, 50 feet, or more and they’re working hard for the few bites they’re getting. When any kind of fishing gets tough, a good bet is to find the food, and the predators will be nearby. By all accounts, 2020 has been an exceptional year for squid and fluke adore squid. Find the clouds of squid on your screen and send a jig and teaser down there, the Spro Prime Bucktail is always a good bet and check out the new Poison Tail Jigs from Backwater Customs—killer hooks on these or the Tsunami Glass Minnow to run as a teaser above the bucktail.
Predictions:Fluking will find its groove sometime in the next few weeks, all local fisheries seem to be behind ‘normal’ this year. With Misquamicut seeing some fish now it will be only a matter of time before Point Judith lights up and then Newport is next. Squid and sand eels figure to play a big part in the local fluke fishing as big schools of squid have been easy to find from Marthas Vineyard clear to the Hudson River and shoals of large sand eels have been reported from the three-mile line south of Aquidneck Island this week.
Black sea bass is due to open up on June 24th with a summer limit of three fish per angler per day at a minimum size of 15 inches. Reports from Massachusetts and central Long Island Sound have been very good with insane numbers coming from the eastern reaches of Buzzards Bay. With fish coming at us from practically every direction, it’s hard not to think the Rhode Island sea bass fishery will not hit the ground running.
Believe it or not, we’ve already seen the first bonito of 2020 taken from Rhode Island waters and that fish came a week after three were caught along the north side of the Vineyard! If 2020 is going to be anything like 2019 their numbers will only increase through July and August and anyone with a high-speed spinning reel and some tins will have a legit shot at some fresh sashimi all summer long, be it from a center console, a kayak or the rocks. These fish love to set up camp in places with a heavy exchange of tide, fast water, lots of bait. Late morning often seems to offer the best fishing. I’m not sure it’s time to go full bore just yet, but it’s definitely time to pack a few small tins in case you see them. Last year we saw great catches on the pink Exo Jigs from Game On! Lures, another bait that took more than a few bones was the 7/8-ounce SP Minnow, the hot color was Laser Green Shiner. I’m guessing that we won’t hear about many more bonito until at least July 1, but there are a few around, so it’s wise to be prepared.
So that wraps up our June new moon period fishing forecast, we’ll see you at the end of the month as the first full moon in July approaches.