Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fishing will be mixed bag in 2019

 Capt. Mike Littlefield of Archangel Charters, Portsmouth, with a 15 pound tautog he caught off Jamestown, RI using a tautog jig and green crabs.  The tautog bite was on in 2018.

 This 24.5 inch black sea bass was caught off Newport using a pink buck tail on a three-way swivel.  The black sea bass are expected to be plentiful (and large) in 2019 in Buzzards Bay and off RI.

 Ed Doherty of Mattapoisett (East End Eddie) with a 27 pound striped bass he caught on the Cape Cod Canal.  Fishing was good in July of 2018 with Doherty catching a 25, 27 and 31 pound fish on consecutive days.

Lucy Churchill and fiancĂ© Chris Monti of Providence with the 24” summer flounder she caught at Austin Hollow, Jamestown in August.  Fluke fishing was difficult in 2018 but some large fish were caught in lower Narragansett Bay.
Fishing will be mixed bag in 2019

The 2018 season

If you worked hard, you caught fish in 2018.  Maybe not what you wanted to catch, but there were fish to catch.

The school striped bass fishing was awesome with a number of large fish taken at the Cape Cod Canal, at the Southwest Ledge Block Island, and with shore anglers catching keepers in the 30” range mixed in with all those smaller bass.  However, the bass bite compared to recent years was way off the mark for most shore, Bay and ocean anglers.

The tautog season was great with anglers catching their limit and a number of larger fish, many over 15 pounds, being caught throughout the fall season.  And, once again this year we filled out our fishing with large scup, a great black sea bass bite (particularly in spring at Buzzards Bay, off Newport and Block Island) and sea robins (which more and more anglers are keeping, cleaning and eating).

Other species such as summer flounder (fluke) fishing, large striped bass fishing in general, the false albacore run in the fall were not as robust as we would have liked to see.  Offshore we fell short on the bluefin and yellowfin tuna bite but had an abundance of sharks offshore.

What’s in store for 2019?

Striped bass. Even though a new striped bass stock assessment is done data from it will not be used for management decisions until 2020.  So for 2019 striped bass regulations are expected to be the same as this year… one fish 28” or larger/person/day. The striped bass fishing for keeper sized bass will hopefully improve in 2019 with some of the small school size fish we have been catching in abundance maturing to keeper sized fish. 

However, the stock assessment, is not good.  With the biological reference points we now have, specifically the Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB), the amount of spawning fish needed in the water to insure sustainable stock levels, is showing that striped bass are overfished and overfishing is occurring. 

However some fish mangers and policy makers, being pressured to keep people fishing for striped bass, are thinking about lowering the amount of spawning stock biomass needed in the water to insure a sustainable fishing.  This is troubling and equated by many to lowering the basketball rim to eight feet because at ten feet it is too hard to get a basket.

Data presented to anglers at a December 19, 2018 Rhode Island DEM public workshop on striped bass clearly shows show fewer and fewer keeper striped bass have been caught in Rhode Island and Massachusetts over the past four years.  Lowering our SSB goal to take more fish is being frowned upon by most conservation minded anglers. 

Additionally, the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), the way fish mangers measure recreational fishing harvest, has recalibrated its data due to enhanced data collection strategies.  The new recalibrated data shows that over the years, anglers have been catching more fish than originally thought.  In the case of striped bass, the data is showing anglers have been catching more than twice the amount of striped bass than originally thought. 

So next year we will be status quo on striped bass, and the prediction is that the striped bass fishing for smaller fish will be good, but the bite for the 30, 40 and 50 pound fish will continue to decline in 2019.  How fish mangers decide to use new stock assessment data will be determined at the February, 2019 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting. We may have an indication of the 2020 season after that meeting.

The black sea bass bite will be enhanced in 2019.  But the summer flounder bite will likely remain spotty.  The black sea bass bite is expected to get better with large fish being caught in 2019. Some monster fish were caught in 2018 (like the 24.5 inch fish caught off Newport on my boat last year… the State of Rhode Island and U.S. record is 26 inches.)

Summer flounder (fluke) is experiencing overfishing and with a reduced bite this year, the bite is expected to be the same in 2019… spotty.

Tautog fishing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will likely be status quo next year which is a minimum size of 16”.  In Rhode Island there is a split season with three fish allowed in early spring, no fishing during the spawning months of June and July.  The season opens again in August with three fish and then jumps to five fish/person/day in mid-October.  A ten fish boat maximum is still in place for all seasons.


Where’s the bite?

Cod and haddock fishing were strong again this week when boats were able to get out.  Party boats from Rhode Island sailing for cod this time of year include the Frances Fleet at , the Seven B’s at, and the Island Current at .

Fishing law revised in 2018

This past year the fishing law of this nation, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), was revised focusing on recreational provisions to the law.

Two bill versions of what was commonly called the Modern Fish Act, one in the U.S. House (H.R. 2023) and a different second version in the Senate (S. 1520) were introduced. Additionally, H.R.200, which included pieces of the Modern Fish Act was introduced as well. 

The good news is that H.R. 200, which passed the House on mostly party lines, did not gain any traction in the Senate.  The bill contained many harmful provisions to fish conservation which would have made it harder to grow fish to abundance so there are more in the water for all to catch and eat.

Additionally, at the end of the Senate session, as the Senate was considering their version of the Modern Fish Act (S.1520), our Senators in New England working with Senators across the country had most of the anti-conservation provisions contained in the bill removed before its passage.

Although the Senate bill S. 1520 is not perfect, and some smaller issues still remain, the bill was significantly changed to remove the most objectionable provisions that were originally in the bill at introduction.  This was done through bipartisan discussion to advocate for a bill that aimed to preserve conservation provisions that have proven to grow fish to abundance.

In particular, the bill removed language that would have required a mandatory allocation review process for the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic councils that would have been overly burdensome and prevented the Councils from attending to other important conservation and management issues.

Harmful provisions deleted from S. 1520 have allowed important conservation provisions to prevail in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  Annual catch limit requirements are still in place, conservation measures needed to regulate overfished species are still in place, we will continue to have a balanced process to address reallocation of catch from sectors moving forward, and fishers will still have the ability to utilize Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) as a way to explore new and innovative management tools.

Meredith Moore, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation program, said, “When first introduced, we had real concerns that this bill would hamstring efforts to sustainably manage fisheries, including the recreational fisheries it intended to help. Thanks to the leadership of a bipartisan group of Senators willing to work cooperatively across the aisle, these harmful provisions have been removed from S. 1520. We look forward to working with these Senators next year to ensure we have healthy fisheries that can support fishing businesses, our ocean ecosystems, and access to our natural resources for future generations.”

Advocates for the Modern Fish Act, seemed to be please about the bills bipartisan passage as well. 

Gary Zurn, senior vice president at Big Rock Sports and chairman of the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) Government Affairs Committee said, “Through passage of the Modern Fish Act, Congress is providing direction to NOAA Fisheries on a variety of policies that will ultimately lead to more stable fishing regulations, and better management and conservation of our marine fisheries.”

In a press release last month the ASA said, “The bill still helps to address many of top priorities for improving federal marine fisheries management”. 

ASA said Bill provisions include clarifying the authority of NOAA Fisheries to apply management approaches more appropriate for recreational fishing; improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore additional data sources to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic recording; requiring a study on how mixed-use fishery allocations can and should be periodically reviewed by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils; and a study on limited access privilege programs including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the programs. 

This win for fish conservation would not have been possible without the tremendous effort of conservation-minded Senators in New England and the nation. Our sustainable fisheries champions in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have done tremendous work over the past two years to negotiate language changes, doing a great job to ensure a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act.

This is not the last we will hear of bills that make changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  In 2019, we are hopeful for more bipartisan cooperation in the name of sustainable fishing. If and when reauthorization comes up in 2019, we are in good hands with our federally-elected representatives here in New England.

In 2018 bipartisan collaboration paid off for the fish and fishermen throughout the United States of America.  We just need to keep this bipartisan approach moving forward.

Value of fishing up in MA and RI

John Migliori with a largemouth bass he caught Saturday on an Aquidneck Island pond.  Freshwater fishing has been good when anglers have been able to fish with warmer weather and no ice on the edges of ponds. 

Value of fishing up in MA and RI

Last week the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their Fisheries Economics of the United States 2016 report. Both recreational and commercial fishing in the nation and in Rhode Island saw gains since the last 2015 Report.

In 2016, commercial and recreational fisheries throughout the United States generated approximately 1.7 million jobs in the U.S. economy. In addition, commercial and recreational fishing together generated $212.2 billion in sales impacts, $64.2 billion in income impacts, and $99.5 billion in value-added impacts throughout the economy.

In Massachsetts NOAA said recreational fishing had $1,070-billion in sales, $495-million in income, $716-million in value added to the economy, and the industry supports 9,957 jobs. But the commercial seafood industry is MA generates a greater value to the economy creating $2,318-billion in sales, $851-million in income, $1,161-billion in value added to the economy, and the industry supports 55,384 jobs without imports.

In Rhode Island recreational fishing led the way with $412-million in sales, $176-million in income, $270-million in value added to the economy, and the industry supports 4,173 jobs. The commercial seafood industry is also very valuable in Rhode Island, creating $333-million in sales, $120-million in income, $169-million in value added to the economy, and the industry supports 5,193 jobs without imports.

A copy of the report, NOAA’s Fisheries Economics of the U.S. 2016, can be found at:

Senators advocate for fishermen with BOEM

Last week Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Jack Reed (D-RI), sent a letter advocating for fishermen to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).  The letter urged the agency to continue to adopt policies for the offshore wind leasing and permitting process that bring fishermen and other marine stakeholders into the conversation early.  The Senators said that early stakeholder involvement will help minimize spatial conflicts and reduce the risk of economic harm to the fishing industry.

As wind developers lease areas in federal waters for the first time, the Senators contend that existing stakeholders must be thoroughly consulted both before and after leases are granted.

In their letter, the Senators pointed to Rhode Island’s success fostering collaborative and meaningful engagement on the Block Island Wind Farm, proving that offshore wind and other marine industries can operate in harmony.  

The Senators note that while BOEM has tried to improve communication between the fishing industry and wind developers, many of their constituents consider the existing efforts to be ineffective.  For a copy of the letter click HERE or visit .

Quahogs still king in my house

This time of year… the quahog is still king in my house. Last Saturday I had the chance to dig a few quahogs in Narragansett Bay and host a linguini and quahog dinner for my brother-in-law’s sixtieth birthday.

Quahog shell fishing can be cold this time of year, the water temperature was in the high 40 degree area. So anglers must layer up.   My two pairs of wool socks, two pairs of pants and rubber waders with build-in boots kept my submerged body parts warm.  I also wore thin cotton gloves under shoulder to fingertip large rubber gloves.  It was great to get out and shellfish.  Here’s my linguini with white quahog sauce recipe.


½ cup virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic thinly sliced (or 4 teaspoons chopped garlic from jar)

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley (plus four to five good pinches)

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup lemon juice

Red pepper to taste

3 dozen (scrubbed) littleneck quahogs (1 ½ to 2 inches)

Meat of 6 to 8 large quahogs cut-up and cleaned (optional)

1 pound linguini pasta

Scrub littleneck quahog shells thoroughly and put them aside.  Cook linguine while making recipe. Heat extra virgin olive oil in heavy pasta pan over medium heat, cook garlic in oil until golden brown (about one minute).  Add and stir in 1/3 cup chopped parsley and all the unopened little necks, let simmer for two minutes.  Add wine and let simmer for one minute.  Add lemon and the meat of six to eight large quahogs cut up and cleaned (extra quahog meat is optional; if I catch them I put them in).  Add red pepper to taste.  Cook for eight to ten minutes or until all quahogs are open. Discard quahogs that are not open.  Lower heat and put in one pound of cooked linguini and toss the entire mixture, put into large pasta bowl, then garnish with four pinches of fresh parsley. (This recipe is a variation of one I first saw in the May, 2002 issue of Bon AppĂ©tit magazine by Lori Demori).

Where’s the bite?

Cod and haddock fishing were strong this week.  Capt. Chris Cullen of the Island Current III, Snug Harbor, RI said, “Saturday anglers enjoyed steady action throughout the day with black sea bass, cod, haddock and jumbo porgies.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We are still finding a good amount of haddock on the grounds as well. We really thought this was just a fluke a few weeks ago, but it seems like they are sticking around. Friday did have the best action on the cod fish with high hook catching five keepers. Between the cod, haddock, cunner, ling and sea bass there was always a fish coming over the rails.”

Party boats sailing for cod this time of year include the Frances Fleet at , the Seven B’s at, and the Island Current at .

Monday, October 9, 2017

DEM stocking local waters with trout

Matt Weckbacher holds up the replica mount of his 69-pound striped bass that took first place in Striperfest, a season-long striped bass tournament sponsored by On-the-Water magazine.

DEM stocking local waters with trout

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is stocking ponds across Rhode Island with 10,000 trout in advance of Columbus Day weekend. A select number of waterways will be stocked given current drought conditions and as conditions improve, additional stocking will take place.

As part of a new initiative aimed at making larger, trophy-sized, hatchery-raised brown trout available to anglers, 400 brood stock brown trout with an average weight of 4 to 6 pounds will be stocked at Carbuncle Pond in Coventry beginning this fall.

The following waters will be stocked: Carbuncle Pond, Coventry; Olney Pond, Lincoln; Silver Spring Pond, North Kingstown; Barber Pond, South Kingstown; Round Top Ponds, Burrillville; Meadowbrook Pond, Cronan Landing, Lower Shannock Fishing Area, and Beaver River (Rt. 138), Richmond; Ponagansett Fishing Area, Foster; Wallum Lake, Burrillville; Wood River, Dow Field, Mechanic Street, Barberville, Wyoming Pond, and the Pawcatuck River, Hopkinton; and Potter Hill Landing, Westerly.

A current fishing license and a Trout Conservation Stamp are required to keep or possess a trout or to fish in a catch-and-release or fly-fishing only area. A trout stamp is not required for persons possessing trout taken from a lake or pond that shares a border with Rhode Island.

For stocking information and freshwater fishing regulations visit

ASMFC garners angler input on Atlantic menhaden

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) hosted an Atlantic menhaden public hearing at the URI Bay Campus Wednesday night.  About fourty anglers, environmentalist and DEM fish mangers attended.
One of the key issues discussed was establishing Ecological Reference Points (ERP) for the species in Amendment 3 to modify the Atlantic menhaden Fishery Management Plan.  Overwhelming with a 23 to 2 vote those in attendance supported an option that suggested a 75% target for biomass of Atlantic Menhaden to be left in the water as forage fish and ecological purposes. 
Atlantic menhaden serve as a food source for striped bass, bluefish, whales, osprey and other species.  They also serve an ecological purpose.  Atlantic menhaden are filter feeders helping to reduce nutrient levels in the Bay and Ocean.

The second key issue discussed was the reallocation of quota to coastal states.  Virginia’s quota has historically hovered around 85% (with one fish processor Omega Protein landing most of that), New Jersey has been at about 11% and the remaining quota split among all other east coast states (Rhode Island’s quota is 0.02%).

Once again overwhelming (23 to 1) those in attendance supported allocating a minimum of 3% to Rhode Island and other states that have small quotas at this time. 

The rational put forward was that historically states other than Virginia and New Jersey also had active fisheries but they closed due to a lock of fish.  Now that the species is doing well and more fish are in northern waters quota should be reallocated to these states.

Amendment 3 will now go before the ASMFC Atlantic menhaden advisory panel for discussion and then the Atlantic menhaden board for decision and a vote in November.
For information about Atlantic menhaden Amendment 3 visit .

Central Falls and DEM host family fishing day at Lincoln Woods

DEM in partnership with the City of Central Falls and Progreso Latino, will host a family fishing event at Lincoln Woods State Park on Saturday, October 7, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The event is part of DEM’s ongoing efforts to promote outdoor recreation and environmental education in communities across the state.

As part of the festivities, instructors from DEM’s Aquatic Resource Education (ARE) program will teach participants how to catch and clean trout. DEM teamed up with the City and Progreso Latino this summer to host a saltwater fishing excursion for residents of the Central Falls community; as part of this earlier event, some 50 people enjoyed a day on Narragansett Bay aboard the Francis Fleet Charter from Galilee, learning about the diversity and abundance of marine life in the Bay.

Where’s the bite

Tautog fishing started to explode this week with fish being caught in the Bay and along the coastal shore.  Angler Richard Reich said, “We caught tautog to our limit off the center wall of the Harbor of Refuge earlier this week but went back the next day and caught one.” “Customers are catching fish but the short to keeper ratio is not very good. One customer fishing in the Ohio Ledge and Rumstick Point areas caught 30 shorts and two keepers and another angler at the Wharf Tavern caught 15 shorts to 1 keeper.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside. Lorraine Dante of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Tautog fishing was good in the Bay this weekend with customers landing keepers at Stone Bridge, the Mt. Hope Bridge Lighthouse, even at Colt State Park.  Green crabs worked well, Asian crabs are just starting to become available after the tropical storms and high seas that we had.”  I fished off Beavertail this weekend and did pretty good catching eight shorts and two keepers.  Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “Tautog fishing is just starting to pick up we had customers catching keepers at Hope Island, the Codding Cove Jetty and the humps off Beavertail.”

Striped bass,bluefish and false albacore. Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly, said, “It’s like National Geographic out here. We have whales feeding on mature Atlantic menhaden with striped bass, bluefish and large false albacore right behind them close to the beaches. On an outgoing tide the place to be is at the mouth of the Breachways and at high tide they are around Watch Hill Light.”  Bluefish were surfacing in the Bay briefly and then going back down quickly once the bait moved.  No prolonged surface action in the upper and middle Bay.  Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait said, “Striped bass are being caught out in front off Beavertail and Newport with bluefish surfacing in the Bay.”  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait said, “Small striped bass are being caught at Rumstick Point, off Barrington Beach and in the Warren River.  Only one report of a 29” keeper bass being caught a Sabin Point by a customer that was bottom fishing for other species.”

The scup bite has been very good in the Bay.  John Littlefield said, “Customers are catching very large scup in the bay once again and some are limiting out.  Angler had said the fish were getting smaller by this week they have been large.  They are catching scup at Colt State Park and Sabin Point.”

Cod fishing. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We found a pick of nice green cod to about 15 pounds Saturday. Hi hook boxed four good cod. Fishers also had some big ocean perch, huge sea flounder to four plus pounds, quite a few good size scup and a bluefish. Monday's run way offshore did produce a handful of nice green cod fish to twenty pounds but there was not enough of them and not much else to go with them.”

Fly fishing. Noted local fishing guide and fly fisherman Ed Lombardo said, “The Narrow River has been fishing very good on both the outing and incoming tides. Lots of shad, we believe American shad (18” to 20”). Both the Hickory Shad and American Shad have been very prolific for the past 8 to 10 weeks. Two of the best flies I like using for the shad are tied on a size #1 hook and a simple black over white deer tail streamer with a body of Bill’s body braid. The other fly that always works well is a hot pink streamer tied with hot pink craft fur for a wing with body braid as well. We are getting only a few bass at this time hopefully this October will see more bass.”

Capt. Donilon keeps innovating

 Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters in front of one of his shark diving cages.
 Mates Katie Viducic, Claire Hodson and Lauren Benoit of Snappa Charters.
Mate Laruen Benoit prepares the vessel and gear for a day of fishing on Snappa Charters.

Capt. Donilon keeps innovating

Early on a Saturday morning Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters and mate Lauren Benoit picked up nine passengers in Newport. It was a foggy morning with big rollers from an ocean storm pushing the boat forward through the East Passage in front of Castle Hill Light and into Newport Harbor. I was along for the ride to meet Lauren, her fellow mates and experience another Capt. Charlie Donilon first.

Capt. Donilon is an industry innovator.  He was the first charter captain in the area to have a shark diving cage in the 70’s, one of the first to start tagging rather than taking sharks, one of the few with an inspected vessel for eighteen rather than six passengers, the first to run a mate school and now the first to have a crew of oceanographers, environmental and fisheries graduates that happen to be all female.

Female mates in the charter industry are an anomaly. I was on board to meet and interview mates Laruen Benoit, Katie Viducic and Claire Hodson.

I met Katie three years ago at Capt. Donilon’ s mate school.  She was an instructor and Capt. Donilon’ s first female mate.  She helped to attract Lauren and Claire to serve as they are or were all University of Rhode Island graduate students.

We pulled out of Newport Harbor as Charlie explained the sites to his customers.  “The granite walls of Ft. Adams are three to four feet thick to repel cannon fire.” “That’s Ida Lewis Yacht Club, she saved 18 people as a light house keeper. Many of them were a bit tipsy when returning to their vessels from town”  “Did you know a million pounds of TNT was stored on Rose Island during the war.”

Laruen, a West Greenwich resident, has a master’s degree in Oceanography and works doing research for NOAA. I asked why she wanted to be a mate. “I have a broad skill set but never knew how to fish. So learning to fish was important and above all I wanted to learn more about sharks.  I wanted to catch, tag and release sharks and Charlie Donilon is a pioneer and expert in this area. Sharks were my specialty in graduate school.” said Lauren.

Customer John Cinti who organized the charter was getting married last weekend at the Inn at Castle Hill. He asked about job demands.  Lauren said, “I work, go home, eat and sleep and do the same thing the next day.  It’s a demanding job so I try to stay in shape and workout at the gym.”
Cinti said, “I like the idea of female mates, they are easy to talk to and Lauren’s fisheries expertise helped inform me and my friends about the fishery here in Rhode Island.”

Mate Claire Hodson of West Harford greeted us at the dock as we returned from Newport.  She was taking the next charter as the Charter Vessel Snappa often does two trips a day.  Capt. Donilon said, “I need to do 120 trips a year just to break even with the fuel, bait, insurance and boat payment costs.” So he expanded his business to do ash burials at sea, shark cage diving, photography, harbor, lighthouse and windmill tours.

Hodson said, “I wanted to be a mate on a charter boat to experience people interacting with the environment and be part of that … I also like going fishing and not knowing what you are going to catch.”

Capt. Donilon’ s new innovation… a crew of female master degreed mates sure seems to be working.

Note: Capt. Donilon is an advocate and big supporter of sustainable fisheries and all the good the Magnuson-Stevens Act has done to rebuild fisheries.  “One might think that I’m in the wrong business.  I hate to kill fish.” said Capt. Donilon. “But some customers want to take the fish to eat and I totally understand this.  Last year we had about 300 shark contacts and we tagged about 143 of them. I say “contact” because we did not kill one shark and this included nine mako sharks.”  

Fishing after storms can be tricky

Noah Brunelli of Wakefield (13 years old) with the 4.9 pound largemouth bass he caught on the Saugatucket River with worms he dug from the woods next to his home.

Fishing after storms can be tricky

Many of us may have a touch of cabin fever after being waylaid by the remains of Jose.  Freshwater fishing is a good bet after a storm as the water is not as turbid and conditions are usually more tolerable with no high ocean surf.

As the weather clears here are some ‘fishing after storms’ thoughts and tips.

Be safe. Winds and rain create fast moving water on river banks and the coastal shoreline.  Stay away from this water as you can get washed in particularly from high ocean surf.

A storm like the one we had this week can change fishing a lot.  Some species like summer flounder (fluke) may leave the area totally.  Yet others species just won’t bite.  They may not bite because the water is dirty with sand that irritates the gills of fish so they stop moving around and feeding or they simply cannot see your bait in murky, cloudy water. 

Storms can also create fishing opportunities with reefs, clam and mussel beds that get torn up with broken shells providing a feeding ground for many of the fish we target. 

Additionally, a good storm this time of year often provides a cleansing and transition time for anglers suggesting it is time to target fall species like tautog, migrating striped bass, surface feeding bluefish, cod and false albacore.

Sea run trout seminar

The Narragansett Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU225) will host its monthly membership meeting on Wednesday, September 27th, 2017, 6:30 p.m. at the Coventry/West Greenwich Elks Lodge, 42 Nooseneck Hill Road (Rte. 3, Exit 6 off of Rte. 95), West Greenwich, R.I.

After a short chapter meeting, Ron Lasko will give a presentation titled ‘Beyond a tale of two rivers – a future for sea run brook trout’.  Lasko is the author of ‘A tale of two rivers’ which is the ecological, and historical story of Cape Cod’s sea run brook trout.  For additional information contact Glenn Place at 1-401-225-7712 or at .   

Where’s the bite

False albacore (albies) and bonito fishing was very good this week as false albacore and some bonito were running along our coastline from Watch Hill to the Sakonnet River with reports from the East Fishing Grounds and other areas lighting up too.  The most intense contact was around Pt. Judith both toward Westerly and north to Narragansett Beach.  Angler Adam Maziarz said on the RISAA blog he landed a nice bonito off Scarborough Beach Saturday.  Maziarz said, “They put on a quite a show, occasionally getting completely airborne. I managed to catch a bonito on a pink Hogy epoxy jig, which made the trip worthwhile. They seemed fairly picky; I tried many colors of epoxy jigs attempting to match the hatch but the pink did the trick.”  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “Albies and bonito were thick, acres of them from Pt. Judith to Block Island feeding on peanut bunker. Popular places to land them from shore include the West Wall at the Harbor of Refuge, Fort Getty, Jamestown and Sakonnet Point.”  Dimitri Mancini of Continental Bait & Tackle, Cranston said, “Diego Vargas, one of our good customers and an outstanding fisherman, fished the East Fishing Grounds Saturday and landed false albacore and his party limited out on extra-large black sea bass underneath.  Large bluefish were on the surface too.”

Tautog fishing is spotty.  Some anglers landing fish in the upper Bay but the best bite has been in the lower Bay with some tautog anglers landing fish to ten pounds.  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “Customers are trying to hook up with tautog from shore but are not having much luck at places such as Wharf Tavern.  But, I did hear the bite at Castle Hill, Newport was good.”  Charlie and Carole Prisco of Warwick caught keeper tautog in the upper Bay last week, the fish were there with small ones too but as Charlie said, “The tautog bite is on.”

Striped bass fishing is the Bay is not good however the bluefish bite exploded this week in the east passage and south of Conimicut Light.  “The bluefish bite off Barrington Beach and south of Conimicut Point was good this weekend.  The blues were feeding on schools of peanut bunker.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle.  The bass bite at Block Island was on and off last week.  “The bite has been early in the morning.  We have been leaving the dock at Pt. Judith at 5:00 a.m.” said Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters.  Some days you arrive at the Island and the bite is on other days the fish are just not there.  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “The striped bass bite at the Cape Cod Canal continues to be outstanding.  Anglers are landing pass in the 40 pound range from shore.  The ‘Whip it Fish’ by Al Gag’s, a soft plastic lure, is working very well for Canal fishermen. Dimitri Mancini of Continental Bait & Tackle said, “The striped bass bite for customers fishing the Cape Cod Canal has been staggering.  Better than it has ever been.  Hogy soft plastic lures are working well. It has been a very successful lure for our customers fishing the Canal and comes in a variety of colors with white and pink working the best lately.”

Black sea bass, scup and summer flounder.  Anglers are reminded that the black sea bass season in Rhode Island and Federal waters is closed this Friday, September 22 to October 21.  The season opens again on October 22 with a seven fish/person/day limit.  The closure in the fall was a tradeoff for the season staring a month earlier in June this year.  “The scup bite is strong at Sabin Point and Colt State Park with anglers often reaching their 30 fish limit.  They are also catching a lot of northern kingfish.”  said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait.  This weekend anglers fishing my dock and the Town Dock in Wickford were landing scup, northern kingfish, skipjack bluefish and an occasional summer flounder.   I fished off Beavertail Point this weekend with my brother Henry, Mike and friend Kevin.  They landed summer flounder, black sea bass and scup with a slow pick of keepers.  

Cod fishing is starting to pick-up with anglers targeting them at the East Grounds and Cox’s Ledge. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Hi hook this Saturday was four cod with a decent number of fishers having two apiece. There were some large sea flounder to over four pounds and a few big fluke to 11 pounds along with a nice assortment of ling including some real "baseball" bat size specimens. Both jigs and bait produced on the cod fish.”

Freshwater fishing continues to be good in area lakes and ponds.  “The largemouth bass bite is good in ponds at Rehoboth, MA and at the Brickyard Pond in Barrington where one of my customers caught a six pound catfish this week.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle.  “The largemouth bass bite is very solid with three and four pound fish being landed fairly common in places like Meshanticut Lake and Randall Pond in Cranston.” said Dimitri Mancini of Continental Bait.  Noah Brunelli (13 years old) and his brother Zach Brunelli found a good largemouth bass bite to 4.9 pounds on the Saugatucket River.  They caught multiple bass using worms dug from the woods near their home in Wakefield, RI.

Learn from tautog experts

 Carole Prisco of Warwick caught these keeper tautog in upper Narragansett Bay Monday.
Capt. Joe Bleczinski, who caught this 18.9 pound tautog off Narragansett in 2015 said, “I knew it was a big fish when the boat stared to move sideways.”  He will be a RISAA tautog panelist on Sept. 25th.
 Kyle Dawson of Wakefield took first place in the 2nd Annual Snug Harbor Billy Carr Midnight Madness Striper Tournament this weekend with this 49.88 pound striped bass. 
Mike Gallanti with a false albacore he caught this week on the West Wall of the Harbor of Refuge, South Kingstown.

Learn from tautog experts

“In the fall you can fish for striped bass, tuna, bonito and false albacore, black sea bass, scup, cod, tautog and more.  Fall is arguably the greatest time of year to fish.” said Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA).

With the summer flounder season winding down anglers are starting to focus their attention on tautog. If you ever wanted to fish for tautog, now is the time to learn and fish for them.  The bite is on with anglers catching keeper sized fish in our Bays and along the coastal shore.  And, starting October 15th the limit jumps from three fish to six fish/angler/day with a ten fish per boat maximum (does not apply to charter or party boats).

Here are two great ways to learn how to tautog fish.    Attend a ‘Tautog Experts’ seminar at the West Warwick Elks held by RI Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) Monday, September 25, 7:00 p.m. or visit the RI Party & Charter Boat Association website at for a list of charter and party boats with boat photos and rates that can take you on a learn how to tautog fishing charter. 
On September 25 join Travis Barao, a RISAA board member who has fished for tautog in the Fall River, Newport and Sakonnet River areas; Capt. Joseph Bleczinski who caught a 16 pound tautog at Whale Rock, Narragansett two years ago; and Richard Reich noted shore and boat angler (Richard took 2nd place shore division in the Snug Harbor Billy Carr Midnight Madness Striper Tournament last week, see below story). Learn tautog tips, tactics, gear, rigs, baits and where to fish for them during this panel style seminar. Visit for details.

Non-member admission is a $10 donation to the RISAA Scholarship Fund, RISAA members attend free. Dinner served at 5:30 p.m. provided by the Elks for a separate fee.  The presentation starts at 7:00 p.m.

Snug Harbor tournament big success

Kyle Dawson of Wakefield took first place in the 2nd Annual Snug Harbor Billy Carr Midnight Madness Striper Tournament this weekend with a 49.88 pound striped bass.   Scott Carleston of Warren took second place with at 42.58 pound fish and Howard Eman of Narragansett took third place with a 40.9 pound fish.

Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, ”We had a 10% increase in anglers this year and will donate over $4,000 to the Point Judith Fisherman’s Foundation in the name of Billy Carr. We had 20 surf and 52 boat anglers participate.”

First place in the surf division went to Ron Rego of Providence with a 27.9 pound fish, and second place went to Rich Reich with a 26.02 pound fish.  Brett Carr (Billy Carr’s nephew) won the Junior Division with a 27.44 pound striped bass.  Visit for details.

Where’s the bite

Freshwater fishing. “The bass bite at Brickyard Pond in Barrington has been pretty good.  I had two Dads come back for more shiners as they fished with their sons and ran out.  Night crawlers are selling fairly well too.” said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren.

Tautog fishing is just starting to get active.  Anglers fishing last week were catching keepers but they were small. Carole Prisco of Warwick caught two nice keeper tautog when fishing with her husband Charlie this past Monday on a rock pile in the upper Bay.  Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly said, “Tautog are in shallow water areas but most keepers caught are on the small side.  We have not had a lot of anglers targeting tautog yet.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “Customers were catching fish off Brenton Reef Newport and around Hope Island in the Bay but they were all just over size 16”.”  Manny Macedo of Lucky bait said, “Customers are catching tautog at Colt State Park and in Tiverton but they are barely keepers.”

Striped bass and bluefish.  I fished southeast of Beavertail Light Sunday and there was about a half square mile of bluefish feeding on sand eels.  The fish finder would light up with school of bait from surface to bottom.  The black sea bass and scup bite was excellent there as well.  Did not have a chance to see if there were striped bass under the bluefish.  Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait said, “The Bay is loaded with bluefish with schools popping up everywhere.”  Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said “One of our customers landed a 32” striped bass a Popasquash Point, Bristol last week.  So the bass are starting to pop up again, some fish are being caught off Newport too.”  Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters said, “The bass bite at Block Island has been good with fish still feeding mackerel.  Fishing is better closer to shore in places like Black Rock.”

Summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass and scup.  Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Due to big seas we were only able to get out Monday and Saturday last week.  Monday did produce some nice fish both fluke and black sea bass with a behemoth 13 pound fluke caught by a customer from CT. That fish is one of the biggest of the year. Top fish caught Saturday was around ten pounds. Some scup, an occasional cod fish and or ocean perch were mixed in.”  The black sea bass bite was consistent Sunday and Tuesday off Beavertail. Sunday I caught about 20 fish in two hours, 25% of them were keepers with the largest fish topping out at 22 inches.  Large scup to 16” caught on the drift there as well.  The action was much the same on Tuesday when we fished about a mile southeast of Beavertail. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “Large scup are being caught from the Warren River to Popasquash Point, Bristol.  Customer said the largest ones were a black color which is a bit unusual.”

From the shore.  Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters said, “The striped bass bite with blue fish mixed in has been very good from the shore for the past two weeks.  Quonnie, Weekapaug and East Beach have all been very good with fish averaging about 36” and blue fish in the two to ten pound range.  We also have a good scup and tautog bite from Watch Hill Light and from the breachways.”

False albacore are out in front along the coast.  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “False albacore are west wall and all along the coast to Little Compton and Westport.”