Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good news for scup and fluke fishery

Chris Jalbert, shown with the False Albacore he caught off Block Island, said, “Hooked one on my favorite yo-zuri jig and my son reeled it in… the kids were impressed with its speed.” False Albacore runs are fast, up to 40 miles per hour.

Jim Malachowski of Cranston, RI with a monster bluefish (11 pounds) he caught off Block Island last weekend. Bluefish make for tasty table fare, see Captain Dave Novick’s smoked bluefish recipe in this week’s No Fluke column.

Good news for scup and fluke fishery
Last month there was good news for the scup and fluke (summer flounder) fishery. Regional fishery management council committees voted to recommend an increase in both fluke and scup quotas which may translate to an enhanced recreational and commercial catch limits here in Rhode Island for the 2012 fishing season.
In a joint meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and the Black Sea Bass,Scup and Summer Flounder Management Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) approval was given to recommend increases for the summer flounder quota (by 1.55 million pounds) and for the scup quota (by 21.43 million pounds) for the 2012 fishing season. Healthy stock assessments for both species led to the enhanced quota recommendations. In regard to summer flounder, the recreational fishery generally gets 40% of the total quota and the commercial fishery 60%.
When will we know for sure that quotas will increase? It is hoped that the MAFMC and the ASMFC will meet in December, 2011 to approve recommendations, if they do; it is likely that some form of quota enhancement will be sent to state fishery managers for regulatory consideration… minimum size, bag limit and season length enhancements.
Smoked bluefish recipe
Readers continue to request bluefish recipes. This one is from Captain Dave Novick of Sanctuary Ocean Adventures off the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) fishing blog.
· Make sure the fillets are boneless, leave the skin on - you can scale them if you wish - it prevents scales from getting on the flesh during brining
· With the fillet skin side down cut out the center dark strip by making a "v" shaped cut on either side of the lateral line down to but not thru the skin and pullout the dark meat and the few bones that hide there
· Rinse and try to get all the scales off the meat side if you didn't scale
· Lay out filets on a tray or drop in a bag and coat with a mix of brown sugar and kosher salt 2:1
· Let sit refrigerated for 2- 24 hours (longer is saltier)
· Smoke to desired dryness , 2-10 hours depending on outside heat and smoker
You can experiment with additions: hot pepper, Old bay, curry, herbs, etc.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass
fishing this week continued to be outstanding at Block Island. Erick Appolonia of North Kingstown, RI said, “I fished the southwest side of Block Island on Saturday with my son Alex and the striped bass bite was great. We caught bass up to the lower forty pound range and we were back at the dock in Point Judith by noon.” Al Conti of Sung Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, RI reported on his web site that the “South side and SW Ledge (of Block Island) is loaded with stripers. One boat landed 88 fish last night on live eels. Trolling wire is great during the day. North end has too many bluefish to get to the bass.” Striper fishing was slow on Narragansett Bay, Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, RI said, “Customers are catching black sea bass and tautog but striper fishing in the Bay is slow.” Saturday I fished in the lower Bay trying to find the fish for a Sunday fishing trip. I fished Newport and Middletown around Codington Cove with eels along the jetty as well as with tube and worm. Caught a 40 inch striped bass, two school bass and with three blue fish. Sunday, I fished the same way, in the same places, at the same time with Bob Matano of Warwick, RI and did not manage to land any striped bass. We saw Captain Jim White of White Ghost Charters, East Greenwich, RI Sunday morning on the water, he said, “This is the first time I have been our looking for bass in the Bay since the storm and there doesn’t seem to be much around.”
Bluefish bite in the Bay is spotty but with some nice fish being caught off Newport, Beavertail and the Narragansett areas. The bluefish bite around Block Island was good with striped bass anglers often finding it difficult to stay away from the blues.
Black sea bass fishing is strong off southern coastal shores, Narragansett, Jamestown and around Block Island with some nice fluke mixed in which is not always the case this time of year after a big storm. Francis Fleet party boats out of Galilee, RI reported a strong black sea bass bite this weekend, “Black Sea Bass were the stars of the day (Sunday); good-sized fish came aboard in droves, throughout the day. Some anglers nearly managed their limit of sea bass. A nine pound fluke took the pool, with quite a few other nice fluke to keep it company.”
Tuna fishing is starting to pick up with some of the first blue fin school tuna being jigged up this weekend at the Mud Hole with a lot of False Albacore being caught too reports Al Conti from Snug Harbor Marina. Chris Jalbert reports on the RISAA blog, “Went to New Harbor (Block Island) for lunch and saw a small school of albies (False Albacore) up and down. Hooked one on my favorite yo-zuri jig and my son reeled it in… the kids were impressed with its speed.” False Albacore is sought after as a sport fish due to its line stripping 40 miles per hour runs and hard fighting ability relates Wikipedia.
Tautog. Anglers just starting to turn their attention to tautog. Goods reports of keeper fish being caught off Wickford with a slow bite reported from anglers fishing off the Coddington Cove jetty in Middletown, RI.

Striped bass fishing outstanding around Block Island

Rick Sustello or North Kingstown, RI with the Bonito he caught Sunday off Scarborough Beach, Narragansett, RI.

Jim Malachowski of Cranston, RI (left) and Keith White (right) of Johnson, RI with the striped bass they caught this weekend. Captain Dave Monti fished with them on Keith White’s boat, the trio drifted eels at the North Rip off Block Island.

Striped bass fishing outstanding around Block Island
Striped bass fishing is outstanding. Big fish have been caught all summer long. Peter Vican of East Greenwich, RI caught a state record striped bass that weighted 77.40 pounds on June 19, 2011 off Block Island. This was one pound shy of the national record. The national record was then shattered on August 8, 2011 when North Bradford, CT resident Greg Myerson landed an 81.88 pound striped bass off the Connecticut shore (in both cases anglers were drifting eels). All summer long recreational anglers have been catching big fish in and around Block Island making it one of the hottest striped bass fishing spots in the Northeast. Striped bass often surfaced at the North Rip and fish at the Southwest Ledge have been consistently large.
How large is large?
I spoke with Captain Neil Vitullo of “Played for It Charters” from Warren, RI. I saw Neil with some monster striped bass at the State boat ramp dock in Galilee, RI when returning from a fishing trip this weekend. I called Neil the next day as he was “drifting eels” with his charter on the southwest side of Block Island, he said, “Fishing around Block Island has been outstanding. Out largest fish this week was 46 pounds and the largest fish today (so far) is 43 pounds”.
Al Conti of Sung Harbor Marina said, “Striped Bass fishing has been the best I have seen it in a while. Recreational anglers have been catching big fish all summer and today the commercial season started and I must have gotten twenty fish all over 40 pounds.”
Where do these big fish hang out and how do you catch them?
Big bass often live deep. Pods of bait will bring striped bass up to feed on the surface, to the shallow water or to the surf near coastal beaches. But seldom can you catch a monster striper on the surface. When fishing offshore or in Narragansett Bay, the largest bass are deep, close to the bottom and near structure (humps, holes, rocks, etc.). Not necessarily in deep water but deep in the water column because they wait to see what falls their way from fish feeding frenzies above. Striped bass also stage on the bottom near structure because it gives them cover so they can strike out at prey with little warning. The trick is getting your bait down low to elicit a strike.
How low are the striped bass?
From what I have experienced, read and heard the larger fish are very low in the water column. Often times when you take fish up quickly from the bottom off Block Island they will still have mud on their bellies from laying low on the bottom.
The largest fish I have caught (or witnessed being caught) all had one thing in common, they were on the bottom and the bait was presented to them low in the water column. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle (Warwick) has often said when trolling if you are not checking and picking weeds off your bait or losing gear every now and then due to bottom tie-ups you are likely not getting your bait down low enough in the water column.
So how do you get your bait low enough?
This year the bait of choice for the big striped bass has been eels. Eels allow anglers to get their bait low in the water column, one to three feet from the bottom by just lowering the eel and then once it touches bottom reeling up a couple of turns. Anglers spot bass on their fish finder usually at their favorite spots that usually hold bass such as the North Rip or Southwest Ledge off Block Island. Often anglers use two or four ounces of weight to get the eels down low quickly to avoid and prevent blue fish from stealing their bait as they generally feed higher in the water column.
Another popular way to catch big bass is trolling with tube and worm. Lead core line is generally used in low water 10 to 25 feet and wire line for deeper water. When trolling offshore with tube and worm with 65 lb test wire line and letting out 300 feet of line you are down thirty to thirty-five feet depending on your bait’s weight, leader length, current, boat speed, etc. But sometimes 30 to 35 feet is not enough. If you are in fifty-five feet of water and want to get down to forty-five to fifty feet, you just cannot get there with 300 feet of wire. So fishing in water low enough so you to get low in the water column is important.
Striper decline
Many anglers and striped bass advocates have expressed concern that striped bass are on the decline. Historically big fish (and fewer smaller fish) show up when a fishery is about to crash. State, regional and federal fish mangers are in the process of gathering new data to determine if striped bass are in decline and if they are regulations may be put in place to protect large egg bearing fish. We will have to wait and see what happens.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass
fishing has been outstanding around Block Island. Fish in the 30 and 40 pound range have been common. Bait of choice continues to be eels. Fish are being caught on jigs (underneath feeding birds) as well as with tube and worm. Striped bass fishing in the Narragansett Bay is still spotty.
Fluke fishing remains strong. Al Conti of Sung Harbor Marina said, “Often times when you get a big storm this time of year the fluke go away.” They start to migrate off shore. But that has not been the case. The southern coastal shoreline from Watch Hill to Galilee has been holding fluke after the storm. “Eric Taylor of Charlestown caught some great fish this weekend off Charlestown Beach”, said Conti.
Tuna fishing was slow after the storm so far. Reports of several anglers giving the Mud Hole a try with no luck.
Green Bonito. Rick Sustello from the RISAA blog said, “As we headed up the coast (from Pt. Judith to Narrow River), I immediately saw birds working in small groups. I figured they were blues, so we could have some great fun on light spinning gear. I got us up wind of the birds and drifted into them. I put on a 2 oz. Crippled Herring and started casting into the birds jigging with fast retrievals. On the second cast I hooked up with what I thought was a nice blue. After a great fight with several runs, it jumped about 20 ft. from the boat; Green Bonito! … In about an hour and a half, we landed two bonito, five 25” stripers and some blues.”
Bluefish off southern coastal shores, Newport and Block Island have been plentiful and large. When fishing with Keith White of Johnston, RI this weekend we caught two large blue fish in the 11 to 12 pound range. Some of the largest bluefish I have seen in a while.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fishing before and after storms

Tom Peters of Warwick, RI with the seven pound fluke he caught early last week under the Newport Bridge. Keeper fluke were hard to come by under the bridge, Tom caught this fish using a buck tail on a three way with a teaser tipped with squid strips. Fluke fishing along the southern coastal shores of RI continues to improve.

Safety should be your first concern when fishing before or after storms. Anglers often like fishing in favorite spots (like this one at Conimicut Point) before a storm as the barometric pressure drops fishing generally improves. Fishing after storms can be good too.

Fishing before and after storms

Many anglers believe the best time to fresh or saltwater fish is before a storm… before a cold front moves in. They believe the fish feel the difference in barometric pressure… the front moves in, the pressure drops and it triggers a feeding frenzy. I guess the fish sense bad weather so they eat while the eating is good. Many also believe that during and after a storm fishing is not good as the water is turbid and cloudy so fish cannot even see the most attractive bait.
However, this is not necessarily true. Sometimes fishing after a storm is good. Just like any other time, the right time to fish depends on a lot of variables… water temperature, oxygen level in the water, water movement, structure and most importantly bait in the area that fish can feed on. Safety is the most important thing to remember when fishing before and after storms. I head for shore if the weather is threatening, if on shore do not take any risks fishing near high surf that is unpredictable. Wait until things calm down.
Fishing after can be good after rain storms, tropical storms, even hurricanes… the quality of fishing depends on a lot of variables. For example, flooded areas create new fish habitats with a new food supply of insects, shrimp, shell fish and small fish that arrive with the water. These flooded areas and waters adjacent to them can become good fishing areas as the water starts to recede.
Fishing after storms has been good for shore, near coastal and Bay fishermen. Anytime you can get close to inlets, the shore or underwater structure you will do well. Fishing is good at inlets and outflows because water levels are high due to rain, abnormally high tides and heavy surf. Once water rushes out of rivers, bays, and inlets, bait that may have sought refuge up inlets gets tossed around as they leave for open water where larger fish are waiting.
Other contributing factors to good fishing after storms are geography and storm patterns. For example, with storm winds coming out of the southeast, south and southwest as Irene did earlier this week, bait, crabs, oysters, mussels, clams, etc. get crushed and pushed to the opposite shoreline or get hung up on ridges. These areas become prime feeding grounds for hungry fish. Good idea to try clams and split crabs as bait when fishing after a storm in these areas.
During the hurricane season last year I asked a couple of noted local anglers what they thought about fishing after storms. Here is what they had to say. Fish the opposite shoreline after a storm and you are more likely to catch fish because the bait is there said Steve McKenna of Cranston, an associate at Quaker Lane Outfitters in North Kingstown. Steve said, “I like to fish the fist clearing wind after a big storm once the sea settles down a bit… I caught my last three 40 lb. striped bass after storms.”
Captain Rich Hittinger said, “At the end of the season, storms have sometimes sent the fluke packing to deeper water with no significant bite until the following spring. It also can chase the giant tuna out of here for the season, but we can only wait and see what happens. In any case the scup, sea bass, and stripers will still be here after the storm, but it may take a few days before they settle back into a feed.”
Mark Pietros comments about cod fishing after a storm on the RISAA fishing blog last year, “I went out… a couple days after that rain and wind storm. It wasn't a hurricane but the seas were pretty bad a few days before. When we went out the "weathermen" were calling for a small craft warnings. The seas were actually one foot or less, it was a great day. We had all the cod action we could handle along with a few haddock, pollock and the biggest hake I have ever seen….I have been out several times after storms and have had good luck when fishing in deeper water.”
Two additional theories about fishing after storms: first, big storms do not necessarily bother fish in deep water, so bottom fishing offshore for fluke, tautog and other species may not be affected at all. Secondly, with fish not feeding much during a big blow they are very interested in eating as soon as things clear. Both fresh and saltwater anglers have related success using surface plugs once winds settle down as water throughout the water column may still be turbid and cloudy after a storm even though the seas have calmed. Surface plugs splashing around on the surface will likely get the attention of hungry fish.
Try some of these storm fishing tactics and let us know what works for you by e-mailing your comments to .

DEM announces grant program of boating infrastructure projects
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that proposals are being accepted until Wednesday, September 7 for boating infrastructure grants for facilities and associated infrastructure that provide stop-over/tie-up opportunities for transient recreational boats.The federal grants, which provide a 75 percent reimbursable match up to $1.5 million, are for the development or renovation of such facilities as mooring buoys, day docks, navigational aids, transient slips, safe harbors, floating docks and fixed piers, floating and fixed breakwaters, dinghy docks, restrooms and showers, retaining walls, and bulkheads. They can also be used for dockside utilities, pump out stations, recycling and trash receptacles, electric service, dockside water supplies, dockside pay telephones, debris deflection booms, marine fueling stations, and one-time dredging not to exceed 10 percent of the total project costs, including the match.
Any municipality or marina interested in submitting an application should contact Robert Ballou, Acting Chief, Division of Fish & Wildlife, at 423-1926. Proposals must be submitted to by September 7.

RISAA Bluefish Tournament postponed
Due to hurricane Irene, the RISAA Special Bluefish Tournament for members has been postponed. The tournament will now run from Friday, September 2 at 5:00 p.m. to Sunday, September 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Where’s the bite
Chris Catucci of Warwick reports that a, “Rhode Island Junior Bass master tournament was held last week. It was a difficult day to fish with keepers hard to come by. Nick Woodbine of Warwick, Rhode Island won the Tournament with around five pounds.”

Fluke fishing was difficult for most of the week due to high storm winds. However, fishing along the southern coastal shores of Rhode Island continues to improve. Eric Feroldi on the RISAA blog reports catching fluke at a 50/50 keeper to short radio early in the week off southern coastal shores. Many fish 20 inches and over with his largest weighing in at 7.42 pounds in about 57 feet of water. Fishing in the Newport area has slowed with the keeper to short ratio not very good. Tom Peters fished early last week under the Newport Bridge and had a twenty to one radio. High winds Thursday and over the weekend eliminated the possibility of most fluke fishing.

Striped bass fishing continued to be slow off coastal shores and Narragansett Bay last week, and good around Block Island.