Friday, June 10, 2016

Mike thinks like a fish

 Mike Swain with one of the many striped bass he has caught in the Conimicut Light area this year.
 Fish in the box: Paul Bertelli took brother-in-law Jim Pontarelli and nephew Will (both of Narragansett) fishing this weekend and hooked them up with these summer flounder off Matunuck.
Matthew Garstka of Central Falls weighed in this 13.44 pound fluke caught off Block Island at Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle. 

Mike thinks like a fish

What time do you fish?  Where are you fishing this this week? Are you leaving the dock at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m.?  These are the questions Mike Swain of Coventry hears often as angler acquaintances try to figure out what he is doing right to catch such large striped bass, summer flounder and other species. 

Mike works at Electric Boat, Quonset Point, but fishing is his passion.  It is in his genes.  His Dad fished commercially and recreationally for years and he learned a lot from him.
To catch fish consistently in Narragansett Bay and along coastal shores, you have to learn from your experiences, the patterns fish have followed over the years and start to think like a fish.  Mike Swain has done this.

To think like a fish you have to consider a lot of variables including the forage fish stripers eat.  What brings the type of food striped bass eat (and the striped bass) to a particular spot includes variables such as the spawning season of forage fish, water temperature and depth, current and tide and time of day.  Mike combines these factors with his historical fishing experiences to think like a fish.  He shows up waiting for the striped bass with the type of bait or food they are eating.

Mike then puts in the time to catch fish. “We fished all day for two fish.” said Mike as we talked about striped bass fishing in the upper Bay a couple of weeks ago.  The fish caught were in the high twenty pound range, which for some are lifetime trophy fish and/or their personal best. 

Mike and his fishing partner Jay Anctil (also of Coventry) have caught dozens of striped bass many in the 15, 20 and 30 pound range this season with one of his largest being caught last week topping 36 pounds. These are large fish for the Bay and he has caught fish like this year after year. 
Two years ago I had the privilege of fishing with Mike.  We fished on his boat his way… with the freshest bait possible,  moving from place to place fishing where the bass have appeared in the past… trying to think like a fish and being patient waiting for them to bite.

Atlantic menhaden, either live lining them or fishing with cut-up chunks, is his bait of choice this time of year for striped bass.  This Saturday Mike called me while on the water, “Hey Dave I am fishing just north of you (in the East passage) and can’t revive a fish.  He came to the boat and we chatted.  He and his fishing partner Jay had caught two fish in the 25 to 30 pound range.

Mike has a nose for bass, a nose for fish in general.  Once the bass fishing slows in the upper Bay he moves to the mid and lower Bay fishing favorite spots around Prudence Island, Hope Island and Jamestown.  He then puts his summer flounder (fluke) game face on and finds them wherever they are including Warwick, North Kingstown, Jamestown, Newport, Narragansett and more.  

“You just have to put the time in.” said Mike.  And yes, think like a fish to find and catch striped bass and other fish consistently.

Where’s the bite

Striped bass fishing remained good in the Bay but anglers have to first find the fish and work to catch them.  On Block Island the bass bite dramatically improved last week.  Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters, Pt. Judith said, “We are starting to catch some nice fish at Block Island both at the North Rip and Southwest Ledge area.  There seem to be a lot of small scup in the water so we have been using silver spoons with success.”  With high winds anglers have not been able to get out the past couple of days but shore anglers are doing well.  Christian Silvia of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly said, “There is a good bass bite all along the southern coastal shore.  Anglers are catching fish in the 30” range at the mouth of the Pawcatuck River and at Napatree Point.  Fishing up the River has slowed.” Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Anglers had a slow day or two but the bass bite overall has been tremendous with anglers catching fish all along the coast in the East passage from shore and from boats.  This week we weighed in a 32 pound fish caught off Colt State Park.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “Molly Romanco was fishing with boyfriend Cody Trostel and caught a 30 pound striped bass using live pogies and anglers in the Pawtucket Division Street and Parent’s Marina area are catching large bass too.” Bass fishing expert Mike Swain of Coventry said, “We caught striped bass to 27 pounds in the upper Providence River last week and this weekend we landed multiple fish in the mid thirty pound range, our largest was 45” (about 36 pounds) in the East Passage.  We were spotting some very large fish. It was a great week for striped bass fishing in the Bay and River.”   John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle Riverside said, “Things slowed in the upper Rivers this week with a lot of activity moving further south to Nayatt Point, Rocky Point and Colt State Park.  One customer caught a 36 inch fish from Sabin Point.  It was a short fish, but it was very fat, it must have had 15 pogies in its belly.”

Summer flounder (fluke).  Jim Pontarelli of Narragansett (and his son Will) fished with brother-in-law Paul Bertelli for fluke off Matunuck this weekend.  Jim said, “We got several around 20 inches but had many just under the limit. A lot of throw backs.”  Mike Bestwick of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle said “Customer Matt Garstka of Central Falls weighed in a 13.4 pound, 29.5” fluke Saturday that he caught while fishing off Block Island.”  Bruce Lawing reports on the RISAA blog a good fluke bite on the west side of Block Island.  Mike said, “We fished four hours and had a 50/50 short to keeper ratio with our largest fish just over four pounds.”  Angler Rick Sustello and his wife fished off the southern coastal shore in a couple of favorite spots from 40 to 60 feet of water.  Rick said, “We returned with eight keeper fluke with five of them between 22 and 24 inches and two slab scup about 15”.   “Capt. B.J. Silvia of Flippin’ Out Charters is reporting a good fluke bite around Jamestown and Newport.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Quite a few big fish this past week. Biggest fish of the week was an 11 pound fish caught last Thursday along with other fish in the 6-8 pound range. There seems to be respectable amounts of fluke just about everywhere but the amount of bait around is staggering and the fluke seem well fed which can lead to them being wary about taking an angler's offerings. It is more of a finesse fishery lately.”

Freshwater fishing is still very good.  Trout are being caught in ponds restocked by the State of RI (visit for a complete list).  A variety of other species are also being caught by anglers.  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Freshwater bass fishing is excellent and are being landed on heavy medium shiners.  Stump Pond and Turner Reservoir have been good. Trout fishing has been good at Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods.”

Fishing tournament for visually impaired

 Barry Gootkind of Narragansett with the 11.1 pound summer flounder he caught on the Seven B’s last Friday.
 Brandon Hagopian caught this 43 pound, 47” striped bass this week as fishing intensified in the upper Bay.
 Ken Blanchard and family fished the Providence River with Capt. Jack Sprengel of East Coast Charters and landed this bass on a live pogie last week.

Dawn McWilliams of Ithaca, NY caught her first Narragansett Bay striped bass last week, shown with Capt. Dave Monti.

Fishing tournament for visually impaired

The RI Lions Sight Foundation (RILSF) will be hosting their 9th Annual Fishing Tournament for Visually Impaired Persons (VIPs) on June 26th aboard the Frances Fleet party boat in Galilee, RI.
The half-day tournament is free to the VIP’s and their guides and includes gifts, breakfast and the half-day of fishing from 8:00 a.m. to noon.  The fishing tournament will be followed by lunch and an awards ceremony at the Hanks’ Down South restaurant.  The three top winners will be eligible to represent Rhode Island at the Lions National VIP Fishing Tournament held on the Outerbanks of North Carolina.

There are over 2,500 visually impaired persons in Rhode Island so organizers are urging readers to please pass along information on this opportunity. For information and forms visit or call Ken Barthelemy at 401.529.6173.

Striped bass fishing continues to improve

Live lining or fishing with chunks of Atlantic menhaden, day or night, has been the bait of choice for striped bass.
Angler Ken Blanchard Jr. said, ”We caught four nice stripers with Capt. Jack Sprengel of Warwick on East Coast Characters in the twenty pound range and one nearly thirty pounds fishing with my brothers and nephew last Friday.  We left Greenwich Marina at 5:30 a.m. and went up the Providence River.  We located the bait, snagged Atlantic menhaden and then live lined them.  We had our limit by 8:30 a.m.”

Angler Mike Swain of Coventry said, “We caught striped bass to 27 pounds in the upper Providence River this weekend and did well on Monday.” Patti Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Striper fishing is very good.  This weekend customers were catching stripers with chucks of Atlantic menhaden off Prudence Island at Providence Point.”  The East Passage of the Bay has been where all the action has been.  Additionally, fishing in the Mt. Hope Bay has been good.  Angler Travis Barao of East Providence said this weekend, “We left the Mt. Hope Bay area and saw over twenty boats fishing for striped bass at the Bridge.”

One of the largest fish this week was caught by Brandon Hagopian which was a 43 pound, 47” striped bass.

Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters, Pt. Judith said, “We are starting to catch some nice fish at Block Island both at the North Rip and Southwest Ledge area.  There seem to be a lot of small scup in the water so we have been using silver spoons with success.”

Noted local fly fisherman, Ed Lombardo said, “We have been fishing the Barrington River for the last week and a half and there are plenty of striped bass but they are small fish but are a lot of fun on a 6 wt. or 7wtl fly rod. Dark olive and black flies work very well because the number of mummichogs in the River. One bass was a nice 19” fish, big for what we have been getting at the Narrow River, Barrington and other rivers.  My records show that this month, June things should change the larger fish should be entering these River systems.”

Fly fish Aquidneck Island by train

On Saturday, June 4th, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the Fly Fishing Express take anglers to fish on Aquidneck Island. The train will leave from 710 Anthony Road, Portsmouth and head toward Newport stopping at hard to get to places to fish.  The train stops for lunch and then more fly fishing in the afternoon.  The cost is $15.  Register with Kim Sullivan at 401-539-0037 or email her at

National Seminar Series moves to Taunton

This season’s 30th Annual Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series in New England will be held in Taunton, Massachusetts.  The Seminar Series brings decades of experience and expertise to eight of the most active and engaged fishing communities in the country and this year the Taunton area will be one of them.

As the nation’s longest-running educational program on recreational marine fishing tactics, the series covers the how-tos and where-tos of catching gamefish. Every seminar is hosted by George Poveromo, host of “World of Saltwater Fishing” on NBC Sports, with the help of local fishing experts and captains.

Each seminar is five hours and covers a variety of tailored topics relevant to the regional fishing environment, including weather conditions, controlled-depth fishing, tools and technology, and the effects of tides and temperature on fish. The series employs a team-teaching concept, where four experts take the stage for each session.
The first seminar is scheduled for January 7 in Fort Myers, Florida and the session in our region is scheduled for March 4 in Tauton, Massachusetts.

Where’s the bite

Striped bass fishing remains strong in the Bay with fish getting larger.  Bass bite is starting on Block Island and fish continue to be landed along the southern coastal shore. See above column.

Fluke fishing was mixed last week with rough seas and turbid water.  As the water clears and warms the bite is expected to improve and move closer to shore.  The Frances Fleet reported a fair fluke bite last week.  Capt. Frank Blount said, “Fishing OK for this time of year considering that water temperatures are still not ideal due to the cool spring weather.” Fish being caught are close to shore along the coastal shore where the water is lower and warmer.  Patti Ferrara of Ray’s Bait said, “Fluke are being caught in the Jamestown Bridge area this weekend.”  I made a test run for fluke off Newport, Jamestown and the Newport Bridge area and did not hook up early this week but did manage to catch and release some nice black sea bass in the process.  Eric Duda reported on the RISAA blogg that he fished the Sakonnet River this weekend for fluke.  Duda said, “ We caught four fluke… a 17.5”, 18” and two 19” fish along with six keeper seabass were released because they are out of season and scup to nearly two pounds.  Most fish were caught in 20 to 30 feet of water.”

Squid fishing last week was slow with dirty water but reports over the weekend were expected to improve and they did as the water cleared and warmed up a bit.  I fished the Frances Fleet for squid with the RI Saltwater Anglers group Saturday night and caught about 12 squid which was about the average on the boat with some angler catching a lot more and some less.

Freshwater fishing improved over the weekend at waterways restocked with trout by the Department of Environmental Management.  Visit for a list of ponds that have been restocked. Angler Harold Hemberger said, “I fished the Curran Reservoir off Seven Mile Road in Cranston on Saturday. I caught seven largemouth bass - all on top water lures.  I saw several people fishing from shore doing well catching some fairly large trout.”  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Camp aims to hook kids on fishing

 Noted carp expert Dave Pickering and the 32 pound carp he caught last week using a combination of maize and a pink artificial piece of corn.
 Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin’ Out Charters with the 36 pound striped bass he caught when fishing with live pogies in the East Passage.
 Jay Anctil of Coventry caught striped bass to 25 pounds with his fishing partner Mike Swain in the Conimicut Light, Warwick area this weekend.
 Angler Mike Swain of Coventry with the striped bass he caught using live pogies this weekend.
 Diane Valerien of Coventry (7.3 pound fluke) and Barry Gootkind of Narragansett (6.3 pound fluke) caught last week on the Seven B's party boat.
RISAA aims to hook kids on fishing with their new pilot project... a youth fishing camp.

Camp aims to hook kids on fishing

OK, so there are all types of camps, sports, dance, even cooking camps and now there is a fishing camp in Rhode Island.  The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) is holding a pilot fishing camp at Rocky Point Park, Warwick, Tuesday, June 28 to Thursday, June 30 for children 7 to 14 years old. 

A lot goes on when you fish.  It appeals to our sense of adventure and teaches us patience, it is one of those activities where science and art converge, it teaches us to be good stewards of the environment and it allows us to build a lifetime of memories and friendships with those we fish with.

Steve Medeiros, RISAA president said, “The goal is to introduce youngsters to fishing. We find children of all backgrounds and cultures are attracted to fishing for all the right reasons and our aim is to give them a proper introduction to the sport.  Our hope is that we fine tune the program and are able to hold additional camps in the future.”

For now RISAA’s piolet fishing camp is taking 40 children on a first- come, first- served basis and developing a waiting list. Children will be split into two groups, 7 to 10 and  11 to 14 year old age groups. The same children attend all three days. 

There is no cost for children to participate, however, parents must complete and sign all participation forms, provide their child with proper attire for an outdoor fishing camp and weather conditions. Parents must provide transportation for children each day.

Topics to be covered over the three day camp include fish identification,  fishing laws, use of spinning and conventional tackle, basic marine biology, how and why to use different baits and lures, casting and fishing from shore as well as boating safety and fishing on a boat.

The fishing camp is sponsored by the RI Saltwater Anglers Foundation and partners include the RI Department of Environmental Management, the City of Warwick, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Brewers Marina.

There is limited space available, sign up this week by calling the RI Saltwater Anglers Association office at 401.826.2121.
Anglers catching large striped bass

The striped bass fishing season in underway and there are some large bass being caught in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. 

Expert angler Mike Swain of Coventry said he and his fishing partner Jay Anctil (also from Coventry) boated two bass in the 25 to 30 pound range Saturday while fishing with live pogies (Atlantic menhaden) around Conimicut Light on the channel edges.  Mike said, “We had to work all day for these two fish.  We had a couple of other bites but the bass would pick up the bait, run with it and then drop it.  We were pretty happy to catch these two fish.  They are mirror images of each other, almost twins.”

Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin’ Out Charters and his fishing friend Greg Vespe boated a 36 pound striped bass last week using live pogies in the East Passage.  Bass have been north of Popasquash Point, Bristol to Providence.  Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Customers have been catching bass at Conimicut Light. Last week the striped bass bite was concentrated in this area.  My son Ken (Landry) caught three nice keepers at the Light using live pogies.”

Striped bass have to be at least 28 inches to take them and the limit is one fish/person/day.

Three favorite ways to catch striped bass in the spring

Surface plugs or lures
My all-time favorite way to catch a striped bass is using a surface lure or plug.  There is nothing like seeing a striped bass explode on the surface to attack your plug.

This method is particularly good to use when conditions call for you to bring attention to the surface.  The plugs can be pulled, swayed and skipped across the water surface making a splash when they move and a wake (in V form) much like a boat.  Some lures add additional sound by making the lure rattle as it is pulled across the surface.

I have found this method to work particularly well in the spring and fall when the water is warmer on the surface and the bass are feeding in the upper portions of the water column and they are not down deep where the water tends to be cooler.

Atlantic menhaden (or pogies)
Fishing with live (known as live-lining) or dead cut up Atlantic menhaden (known as chunking) is most definitely a fun way to fish for striped bass.

Anglers chunk with fresh or frozen menhaden.  You can anchor (and chum), drift fish or fish the moving bait schools with chunks.  Some anglers like to use a weight (often with a sliding clip on their line) to get the bait down when the striped bass are feeding at the bottom.

Many anglers catch their bait by snagging the live Atlantic menhaden with a weighted treble hook and others net them.  To live-line menhaden, hook the live bait through the bridge of their nose, find a school of fish and put the live menhaden into the school or near it and let it swim.  This method is used most often when the Atlantic menhaden are running strong, particularly in the middle and upper portions of East Passage of the Bay.

The shipping channel in the East Passage of the Bay acts as a fish highway carrying bait and striped bass all the way through Providence to Pawtucket.

Trolling with tube and worm
I have had great success in the Bay using lead line weighted with two or three ounces of lead between the line and a five foot fluorocarbon leader.  I find that bubblegum or red colored tubes work best in the spring (the tube hook is tipped with clam worm).   The idea of added weight is to get the line down to where the fish are.

Tube and worm trolling has also been a successful technique for fishing the ocean, particularly the Southwest side of Block Island, using 300 ft. of wire line in 35 to 45 feet of water, amber colored tubes seem to work best there.

Where’s the bite

Fresh water fishing is still good.  Expert carp angler and author Dave Pickering reports a great carp bite. Dave landed a 32 pound carp last week with many other anglers landing fish in the high teens up to 30 pounds.  For more info, check out Dave’s carp fishing blog at  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “The bass are starting to move as the water warms and anglers are catching them.  We sold a lot of shiners and night crawlers.  The shiners seem to be working as customers are catching not only bass but pickerel and perch as well.”

Summer flounder (fluke) fishing is really starting to pick up.  Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina said, “Fluke fishing is getting better every day with keeper fish (with a lot of shorts mixed in) being caught along the beaches in the Charlestown area but the best bite so far is on the West and Southwest sides of Block Island.”  Diane Valerien of Coventry and Barry Gootkind of Narragansett caught fluke to over seven pounds fishing the Seven B's party boat last Friday. The Frances Fleet reports a good fluke bite with one customer limiting out last Friday and others returning home with three to five fish.

Striped bass fishing in the East Passage is good with anglers catching bass to 30 pounds using live Atlantic menhaden (pogies) as bait.  See East Passage striper fishing story above.  Matt Conti of Snug Harbor said, “School bass are plentiful in South County with keepers mixed (particularly at night) and I am willing to bet that there are some keeper bass on the north end of Block Island in the 30 inch range as they usually are this time of year. Worm hatches have occurred at Ninigret Pond but not at Potter and Salt Pond yet.  With low tide mid-day this week the mud will likely not warm enough for a hatch in these ponds until next week.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “Anglers are catching bass from Sabin Point with a keeper or two being caught right from the Barrington Bridge.  A customer caught a 27” bluefish this week right at the Hurricane Barrier in Providence.  Between the bass and bluefish eating the pogies and a good numbers of anglers snagging them, it has been hard for find Atlantic menhaden out there.”

Squid fishing has been good in Narragansett, Jamestown and Newport but it is hit or miss on any given day (or night).  Matt Conti said, “Customers caught large squid in good numbers at Nebraska Shoal this past week.”

The tautog bite continues to be good for a spring season, fishing is spotty but there are some big fish being caught.

Friday, May 6, 2016

New striped bass and black sea bass regulations, record 11.2 pound largemouth

 Night catch: Brandon Migliore and his 11.2 pound largemouth bass.  If the state certifies the catch it will be a new Rhode Island record.
 All smiles: Brandon Migliore with his 11.2 pound record largemouth bass as his friend and fishing partner Matthew Sheldon looks on.
Capt. BJ Silvia with an 11.5 pound tautog caught Sunday.

New regulations for striped bass and black sea bass

On Tuesday the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) enacted a new regulation to help prevent the illegal harvest and sale of Atlantic striped bass.  The new rule requires recreational anglers to clip the right pectoral fin of striped bass 34 inches or larger at the time of harvest.

The new regulation was adopted with considerable public input to help prevent “stockpiling” – which occurs when fish are harvested on a day closed to commercial fishing and then offered for sale on an open day; they also address fish being illegally transported and sold in neighboring states.

“Our local harvest supports the health of our families, economy and way of life.  And protecting the viability of our stock and ensuring fish are legally harvested and sold are responsibilities we take very seriously.  These new regulations are critical to supporting the continued vibrancy of the striped bass fishery, and I thank the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council for its leadership in engaging the public around this important topic and working to protect our state’s marine resources.” said DEM Director Janet Coit.

Black sea bass

Many recreational anglers are not happy with black sea bass total allowable catch limits, however, many are praising what will likely be the new recreational regulation here in RI this year.  The minimum size will now be 15” with a three fish/person/day limit between June 15 and August 31, and a seven fish/person/day catch limit between September 1 and December 31. 
Both the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association agreed on this option at the last public hearing and it was recommended by the RI Marine Fisheries Council at their last meeting.

“I knew if I let up the fish would be gone”

“This bass hit when I had about 75% of my cast retrieved.  I waited a bit before setting the hook as I have been setting it too early.  I waited until I felt the weight, the rod bend and then set the hook.  I just kept the pressure on the fish because I knew that if I let up the fish would be gone. It took about two minutes to land.” said Brandon Migliore of Sterling, CT (formerly of Coventry) about the record 11.2 pound largemouth bass he caught this weekend at Johnson’s Pond, Rhode Island.

Migliore said, “My fishing partner and friend Mathew Sheldon and I have been fishing this area for over fifteen years in hunt for a record breaking largemouth… week after week, month after month, year after year.  It’s hard to believe we did it.  I give a lot of credit to Mathew; he is a great fisherman and has taught me a lot.  Just minutes before I landed this fish, Mathew caught an eight pound largemouth.  And, when my fish came close to shore the rod was bend in half, Mathew was on his toes and rushed to lip the fish.”

Brandon was using 30 pound braid line and a St. Croix fishing rod. Dave Mooney of Sandy Bottom Bait & Tackle, Coventry where Migliore weighed in his fish said Sunday, “The fish just left here.  We had kept it alive for a while in our tank and then it just rolled on its side and gave up.  Brandon was using a Magnum Jitterbug top water lure he bought here.”

The 11.2 pound largemouth bass will be a new state record if the catch is certified and approved by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM).  The 10.6 pound largemouth bass holding the record was caught in 1991 at Carbuncle Pond.

NOAA releases recreational fishing plans

On a national level, NOAA’s Fisheries has been increasing efforts to better support saltwater recreational fishing and recreational fisheries issues.  In 2015, NOAA Fisheries published a National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy and a National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Implementation Plan.  The policy highlighted six key principles intended to guide NOAA in considering the development and promotion of sustainable high quality saltwater recreational fisheries.  Each region now has an implementation plan (visit for a link to the Greater Atlantic Regional Implementation Plan as well as national and other regional plans).

The recreational fisheries that NOAA manages include cod, haddock, many flounders, Atlantic bluefish, black sea bass, scup, striped bass, tautog, and weakfish. They also are responsible for the management of other recreationally caught and/or forage species such as Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish. These species provide an important food source for recreationally sought-after fishes such as striped bass, tuna, and sharks.

For more information, contact Moira Kelly, Greater Atlantic Regional Coordinator for recreational fisheries, at 978-281-9218 or email her at  

Where’s the bite

“Striped bass are everywhere.  Customers are catching school size bass in Warren, Providence, Barrington and Jamestown, all over the Bay.  The largest fish so far has been 32.” said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren.  Maridee Bait & Canvas of Narragansett reports that all the action this week has been at the West Wall (South Kingstown) for school striped bass and they have started to catch a few keepers. Noted local shore angler Steve McKenna said, “The striped bass bite is very, very good. I have been fishing in Narragansett and there are a lot of school bass around.  This is encouraging.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, said, “We weighed in a 32”, 34” and a 37” striped bass this weekend.  All were caught at Sabin Point, East Providence with anglers using menhaden chunks or clam worms.  Customer Albert Bettencourt said he has been catching 20 to 27 inch fish at the Squantum Club, East Providence and all around the upper portion of the Bay.”  Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, “The school bass are getting larger, almost keeper size (28”), and they are everywhere Matunuck, the Charlestown Breachway, the West Wall… everywhere.”

Freshwater fishing this week was topped-off with Brandon Migliore’s record 11.2 pound largemouth bass caught at Johnson’s Pond. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “The trout bite has been very, very good with night crawlers now the bait of choice.  Anglers are catching fish at Melville Pond and Olney Pond, Lincoln Woods.” “Freshwater anglers are targeting bass and trout.  I have sold about 20 dozen shiners toady and it’s only 10:30 a.m.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle.

Tautog fishing is just starting to heat up with anglers catching shorts with some keepers mixed in.  No major reports of people limiting out with their three fish, however, keeper fish are being caught.  Many Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “It’s rocks and docks for tautog and customers are catching them at the Stone Bridge, Tiverton and Ohio Ledge in the East Passage of the Bay.  Anglers are using worms, Asian and green crabs with some old timers using quahogs with success.”  Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, “The commercial rod and reel fishermen are limiting out on tautog (ten fish) fishing in shallow water along the southern coastal shore using green crabs.” Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin’ Out Charters landed an 11.5 pound tautog Sunday and said, “I let her go so you can catch her when she is 15 pounds.” “It’s hit or miss with tautog. One day the bite was good at Conimicut Light and the next the bite was off.  They were catching a lot of small fish at the Wharf Tavern, Warren but they were at 6 to 8 inches.” said Littlefield of Archie’s Bait. 

Cod fishing was off this week compared to others.  Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet, Narragansett said, “Cod fish were moving around an awful lot and they are scattered into smaller groups now that spawning is over. Each trip this week produced some fish but there was no sustained bite. Still it has been several years since we consistently caught cod fish all through the month of April.  There were a handful of the cod that came over the rails that tipped the scales in the mid to upper teens this week.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Capt. Blount… servant to fish and fishermen

 Capt. Frank Blount at a New England Fishery Management Council meeting. His term expires this year. Photo courtesy of Fishermen’s Voice.

 Capt. Dave Monti and Steve Brustein used sea clams to catch cod last fall off Block Island.
28 pound cod landed on the Frances Fleet this past weekend.

Capt. Blount… servant to fish and fishermen

Capt. Frank Blount, owner of the Frances Fleet, Narragansett, will be leaving the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) this year after multiple terms of service as a councilperson. 
John Bullard, chief administrator of NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, said, “Frank has chaired the Ground Fish committee for years.  It’s a committee that has seen a lot of controversy due to the poor status of ground fish (particularly cod fish) in New England and Frank has done an outstanding job.  He will be missed.”

At last week’s NEFMC meeting in Mystic, CT Capt. Blount made a motion that was approved  by the council.  The motion was toMove to request that the NEFMC ask the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) to provide information on the level of compliance with ground fish catch reporting by reconciling Vessel Trip Reports (VTRs) vs. SAFIS (fish dealer) reports.”  In other words does harvester and dealer reports match, if they do not match there is non-compliance and there may be something afoot.

The VTR and SAFIS reports were established as a check and balance to make sure fish processors and fishermen are reporting landings factually. 

I heard Frank make the motion and was overcome with a sense of pride to have such a great fisherman from Rhode Island represent us on the Council.

Capt. Blount has also been an advocate for fishermen on the subject of cod fish being caught in local waters.  He has claimed that VTR logbook data from fishermen indicates that there are far more cod fish in the waters south of Massachusetts compared to the official stock assessments coming from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Recent recreational fishing activity and data reports off Rhode Island over the past two years seem support this position.

Congratulations Frank! You have done a great job serving Rhode Island, New England and the fish working on the New England Council.
Cod fishing tips from the pros
“A couple of years ago we wouldn’t be having this seminar on small boat cod fishing close to shore because there were no cod.” said Capt. BJ Silvia  of Flippin’ Out Charters at a RI Saltwater Anglers Association seminar he and fishing partner Greg Vespe gave Monday night. 
The commercial cod fishery in New England has suffered major blows with recreational fishing north of Rhode Island being off too.  In fact for a couple of years you could not take any cod from the Gulf of Maine, and this year recreational anglers are allowed to take one fish.
However, in Rhode Island we have quite a different story (10 fish/person/day with a 22” minimum size) with anglers catching multiple cod while tautog fishing this fall with some early reports that cod fish are mixed in with the tautog this spring too.
The fall bite was so good that some were targeting cod close to shore off Newport and very close to Block Island at the East Fishing Grounds in addition to fishing in and around Cox’s Ledge.  By no means do we have a robust recreational cod fishery, however, it does seem to be rebuilding here off Rhode Island.
Some cod fishing tips from Capt. Silvia and Greg Vespe:
Cod fish for the past couple of years have been small, so no need for heavy rigs, Capt. Silvia said, “For cod, we have been using the rigs we use to fish for summer flounder.”
To avoid tangles and absorb shock when using braid line Greg Vespe suggests using a 20 foot, 50 pound monofilament leader.
Avoid dog fish (sand sharks) by moving, sometimes just a bit further up on a ledge or a different spot entirely and switch to jigs rather than using bait.
Bring plenty of bait sea clams, crabs as well as squid so you can take advantage of scup, black sea bass, cod and tautog that may be in the area. “We have been on top of some huge black sea bass when fishing for tautog or cod but the bite only picks up when we put on some squid.” said Silvia.

Target structure… ledges, mussel beds etc., however some of our best cod fishing has occurred where dolphins and whales are feeding.

‘Spring Aboard’ campaign promotes boating education

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is teaming up with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) to promote boating education.  

An informed and knowledgeable boat operator is much more likely to recognize hazardous conditions on the water and avoid a mishap. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, only 12 percent of deaths occurred on vessels operated by those with a boating education certificate; 77 percent of boating deaths occurred on vessels where the boat operator never received boating education instruction.

Remaining boating courses include ‘About Boating Safety’ being offered on May 14, Cross Mills Public Library, 4417 Old Post Road, Charlestown and on June 18 at the Neighborhood Guild, 325 Columbia Street, Peacedale, RI.  To register call (401) 789-9301, or for more information contact David Johnson at  or call (401) 783-1170.

DEM also offers an online boater education course. Participants must pass a proctored exam to receive certification. For more information on Rhode Island boating laws and boating education courses, visit .

Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels. In Rhode Island, successful completion of a boating safety course is required for all boaters born after January 1, 1986 who operate a boat with a motor greater than 10 horsepower; and for all operators, regardless of age, of personal watercraft.

Newport Boat Show call for entries
Newport Exhibition Group, owners and producers of the Newport International Boat Show, are accepting applications for the 2016 Newport For New Products (NFNP) Awards.
Judged by a team of marine-industry experts, NFNP winners for best new powerboat, sailboat and multihull, best new navigation product, and best new product for boat operation, maintenance, and safety will be announced on Friday, September 16th at the Industry Awards/Press Breakfast.
In addition, attendees present on opening day will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite new boat as part of the ‘People’s Choice Award’. 
The Newport International Boat Show will take place September 15-18, 2016 on the Newport Waterfront, America’s Cup Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. The Show is one of the largest in-water shows in the country and with an assortment of boats of every type and style, plus a variety of accessories, equipment, electronics, gear and services for boaters.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit
 Where’s the bite
Cod fishing is down from what it was a month ago but some boats are still fishing and doing OK.  Cod fishing usually declines in April, some years very little fishing occurs in April.  However, last week some larger fish were taken.  Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “This weekend we boated a 28 pound cod and the top angler took home a total of eight cod.  Other days this past week were good too.”
Striped bass fishing is exploding. “Customers are catching fish in the 30” to 40” range this week.  It started last Thursday when a large amount of Atlantic menhaden arrived in the Pawcatuck River. Anglers are live lining and using chucked Atlantic menhaden as bait along with eels.” said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly.  Noted striper fly fisherman Ed Lombardo said, “We got into stripers last Thursday at Narrow River. The school of bass where small but still a lot of fun and so nice to feel that strike after a long winter! The tide was outgoing and at 5:30 p.m. and then changed to incoming. Small white over purple flies and all pink tide with craft fur worked well, size 1/0 .”  Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “School size bass are being caught in Greenwich Bay and in our coves. “  “We have a huge volume (1,000 of fish) of small school size striped bass in the six to twelve inch range at the Hurricane Barrier in the Providence River this week.  One of my employees caught two 20 inch fish there this week. I predict we will have keepers in the Bay next week.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence.
Tautog fishing really has not picked up in Rhode Island yet.  The spring season started April 15th with a 3 fish/person/day, 10 fish per boat limit. Mike Wade of Watch Hill said, “This weekend a fifteen pound tautog was weighed in at River End in Old Saybrook, CT.  And actually that is where the fish are being caught.  Rhode Island waters are still just a little cold for the tautog but in Connecticut it is a bit warmer and the tautog bite is strong.”  Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait said, “Ken Landry gave tautog fishing a shot off Narragansett Saturday and did pretty good and then fished for school striped bass in the Bay on the way back. They caught keeper cod while targeting tautog.”
“The squid are in and a customer caught fifteen pounds of squid this past weekend.”, said Dave Henault of Ocean Stare Tackle.  Newport, Jamestown and the Sakonnet area all had large amounts of squid this weekend.”

Freshwater fishing is excellent.  Rhode Island DEM has restocked trout a second time in some locations.  For a list of stocked and restocked water ways visit .  “The State of RI did an outstanding job stocking ponds this year as all fishermen seem to be very happy. We have some customers that have been fishing Carolina Trout Pond and have done well.  Anglers are starting to switch from hatchery bait types to natural baits such as night crawlers and spinner baits.” said Mike Wade of Watch Hill. Trout is not the only freshwater fish biting… “I have already weighed in more five plus pound bass than I did all of last year.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fisheries celebration in D.C.

Advocating for the fish: Meghan Jeans of the New England Aquarium and Patrick Paquette, a recreational fisheries representative from Hyannis, MA, take a break in the U.S. Senate cafeteria.

Nice brace of trout: Billy Enright of Cranston holds a nice brace of trout the he and friends Autumn Mitchell and Mike Manco (also of Cranston) caught by 6:30 a.m. on Opening Day.
Keeper bass in Bay: Brandon Hagopian of Cranston with a keeper striped bass he caught last week in the upper Bay.  No lice on the fish indicate that it was likely a hold-over bass and not a migrating fish.
First Opening Day trout: Liam Farrell (age 13) proudly displays his first trout with Uncle Sean FitzGerald (both of Jamestown) as they fished with Alex (age 9) and Steve Greenberg of Narragansett.
Fisheries celebration in DC

What a celebration I attended this week.  April 13th was the 40th Anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the fishing law of this Nation.  The celebration was held in Washington, D.C. sponsored by six conservation groups lead by The PEW Trusts.

Like all anniversaries it was a time for reflection.  To reflect on how successful the act has been and how it needs to be adjusted in the future.  The MSA and its reauthorizations provided the teeth needed to set firm allowable catch limits (ACL) which directly lead to 39 fish stocks being rebuilt today. So we need to keep this law strong, and make sure it continues to eliminate wiggle room so fishermen and fish managers have firm catch limits to continue to rebuild fish stocks.

Additionally, moving forward MSA needs to be adjusted to include things like enhanced forage fish protections, stronger by-catch provisions and most important a big-picture eco-system based management planning strategy.  We need an eco-system based management strategy because climate change and warming water has forced some fish out of our waters and forced other species (like black sea bass and summer flounder) into our area in greater numbers and present fisheries management strategies are not handling these changes.  Climate change, forage fish, stronger bycatch provisions are not consistently incorporated into a big picture management strategy and plan. 

The 40th Anniversary celebration of the MSA in Washington this week included informational meetings with members of congress and their staff.  Our Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut congressional delegations and staff members met with representatives from the commercial and recreational fishing community, the New England Aquarium as well as a number of conservation groups in New England to reflect on MSA successes and future adjustments needed.

So happy 40th Anniversary to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  You have served the fish well.

Opening Day big success

The Opening Day of trout season this past Saturday was a big success.

“I got one” said Liam Farrell (13 years old) from Jamestown as his uncle Sean FitzGerald looked on with pride.  It was Liam’s first Opening Day fishing experience.  “It was tough getting up early but well worth it.” said Liam. Billy Enright of Cranston said, “We have been coming here for ten years.  We haven’t missed a year.  The three of us have about a dozen fish so far.”  It was 6:30 a.m. and they had been fishing for about 30 minutes.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) did an outstanding job stocking ponds with 80,000 hatchery raised brook, brown and rainbow trout this year.  Over 100 waterways have been stocked and this year three new locations were stocked on the Ten Mile River, marked by white trout fishing signs, include the intersection of 114A and Hunts Mill Road and just below the John Hunt House at 65 Hunts Mill Road. Visit for a complete list of stocked ponds.

Proposed BIWF and sea2shore safety zones clarified

The scope of the draft Safety Area (a 500 yard safety zone) that the USCG has published in the Federal Register pertaining to the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) and the sea2shore cable run was clarified last week by Ed Leblanc (USCG).  In a note to Elizabeth Marchetti, fisheries liaison, from Mr. Leblanc said "The Coast Guard's intent with respect to the proposed safety zones is to enforce each individual safety zone only when construction vessels are on-scene at an individual turbine.  As discussed in the proposal regulation, the Coast Guard intends to create individual, 500-yard radius, safety zones around each turbine. In essence, five safety zones, one for each turbine.

Vessels (other than BIWF construction vessels) will be precluded from entering safety zone only when construction vessels are on scene.  So, for example, if there are construction vessels working on turbine #3, but no work vessels at any of the other turbines, mariners must stay at least 500 yards away from turbine #3, but are free to approach as close as they want to turbines #1, 2, 4, and 5 (consistent with prudent and safe navigation, of course).

If there are work vessels at both turbines #1 and #2, mariners must remain clear of those two turbines but have full access to waters around the other three, and so on."

A copy of the Federal Register Notice and the place to submit comments on the proposed regulation by April 17th is!documentDetail;D=USCG-2016-0026-0012.

Captains donate food and cash to Jonnycake Center
The Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA) held their annual captain’s banquet at Spain Restaurant in Narragansett, RI with their favorite charity being recognized with donations.  John Rainone, RIPCBA past president and donation coordinator said, “Captains and their guests attending the event donated 242 pounds of food and $130 in cash to the Jonnycake Center in Peace Dale.  The Association has done this for the past several years and we were happy to do it once again this year. Great Job all.”

Roddy Fly Rodders to Meet April 19th

The Rhody Fly Rodders will hold their annual cookout get-together on Tuesday, April 19th at 6:00 p.m. Members, guests and new comers are welcome to attend, enjoy the food and talk about the upcoming fishing season.  A short film about fly fishing adventures will be shown, followed by a brief presentation by Mike Bucko who heads of DEM’s new department administering the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS). The meeting will take place at the Riverside Sportsman’s Association, 19 Mohawk Drive, East Providence.  Contact president Peter Nilsen with questions at

Where’s the bite

Freshwater fishing was hot this week with many bait & tackle shops reporting brisk sales.  Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle said, “Customers did very well at Willet Avenue Pond, East Providence but found the Brickyard Pond, Barrington was not yielding the fish it had in the past.  Many had seen cormorants and other birds working the pond and leaving with a lot of fish so many anglers didn’t even fish there.  Popular baits this year included scented Power Baits such as chunky cheese and other scented flavors.  These worked well in MA but in some Rhode Island ponds like Willett Avenue the fish were biting just about anything anglers put in the water.  In addition to the Power Baits a variety of small silver lures were working well as well as spinner baits of all types.”  Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box, Warwick said “We sold out of just about all trout baits this weekend including trout worms and meal worms and had to replenish our inventory in a hurry.” 

Spirited bass migration continues to move north.  On-the Water’s Striper Migration map ( ) indicates that the school bass are in southern Connecticut.  However, there have been some reports of migrating school bass being caught in the Pawcatuck River in Westerly.  Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly said, “There have been migrating bass caught right here in downtown Westerly at the bridge (crossing the Pawcatuck River).”  Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “I checked with the On-the-Water migration map, it was pretty reliable last year but also believe that we can have some advanced schools of bass and it is very possible they are in southern Rhode Island now.”
Cod fishing remains good in local waters offshore.  Boats did not sail often last week due to bad weather, but when they fished boats had fair trips, with lots of bait and cod on fish finders. With improved weather all hope the good cod bite continues.