Sunday, June 23, 2013

Research to identify mercury levels in scup

Scup fishing outstanding.  Scup is a small, l mild tasting fish that is a culinary delight. Our scup fishery has been rebuilt for four years.  Anglers of all ages are caching large scup for fun and food. 
Mid-Bay hot with striped bass action like these two 16 pound striped bass caught by Kevin Pellegrino off Poppasquash Point, Bristol.

Research to identify mercury levels in scup

The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation has awarded a $12,166 grant to Roger Williams University to drive new research that will measure mercury levels in scup, a native fish frequently fished and consumed by Rhode Island recreational fishermen. The research will assist the Rhode Island Department of Health in establishing new guidelines for safely eating scup, which account for 23 percent of the total recreational catch in Rhode Island.

Over the next year, Roger Williams University Associate Professor of Biology David Taylor and marine biology student Sean Maiorano ’ 14 (from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.) will analyze mercury levels of scup to enable the Department of Health to update fish consumption advisories, should a change in mercury risk be identified. The effort is aimed at encouraging safe, healthy consumption of scup, a fish that Taylor anticipates will measure low in mercury levels. 

Dr. Taylor has conducted a lot of research in this area. To determine how much fish and what species area residents are consuming, Taylor surveyed eating habits of 280 local fisherman and their families and found that they eat 80 percent more fish relative to the national average.  Further, approximately 29 percent of those surveyed reported eating scup on a regular basis. Taylor has performed comprehensive research on mercury contamination in striped bass, bluefish, tautog, black sea bass, summer flounder and winter flounder from Narragansett Bay. When the analysis on mercury in scup and other species concludes, consumption advisories will be updated.

Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation said, “We are very pleased to offer this grant in support of Taylor’s  important research into mercury levels in our local scup. This is an important fish caught by local anglers and consumed by thousands of people.  Our Foundation believes that this research will aid everyone to determine if consumption of scup could lead to exposure to mercury. We are sure that this work will help improve the overall recreational fishing experience and we are pleased that such fine research will be conducted at a local University.”

For additional information about research and news from the University’s marine and natural sciences programs, visit

The scoop on scup

Scup (or porgy) are plentiful in local waters as the stock was officially declared rebuilt in 2009 as it increased 30-fold from 1997 to 2008 largely due to conservation measures. 

Scup are a small, mild tasting fish. Locally, they are fished for by anglers for food and not just sport.  Scup has been cited as an underutilized fish species. NOAA says on their website in taste tests participants discovered the lesser known scup has a subtle, delicious flavor and is an excellent alternative to more popular white fish.

Scup facts
·         Scup can grow as large as 18” and three pounds and can live for over twenty years 
·         Scup migrate north and inshore to spawn in the spring, then migrate south and offshore in autumn as the water cools/
·         The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council jointly develop management measures for the scup, however, individual states may set different regulations for the scup
·         In Rhode Island the scup shore and private angler minimum size is 10”, 30 fish/person/day from May 1 to August 31 and from November 1 to December 31; and 45 fish/person/day from September 1 to October 31.  However, Rhode Island has a special area provision… while fishing from shore at India Point Park, Providence; Conimicut Park, Warwick; or at Stone Bridge, Tiverton, RI anglers may poses up to 30 scup nine inches or greater in length from May 1 through  December 31. Party and charter boat regulations are slightly different.

Operation dry water
Safe boating patrols will be stepped up June 28 to June 30 in a joint operation conducted by the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Law Enforcement and US Coast Guard Units from Castle Hill and Point Judith.  The effort is part of Operation Dry Water, a coordinated national weekend of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) detection and enforcement. It is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol-related and drug-related accidents and fatalities, and making recreational boaters aware of the dangers of alcohol and drug use on the water. 

Recreational fishing guide
The Department of Environmental Management announces the publication of the first annual Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing Guide, which is now available at bait and tackle shops, marine supply stores, town halls, chambers of commerce, and other locations throughout the state. The guide is also available online at The guide features boat ramp locations RI saltwater fishing regulations (minimum sizes, fishing season, catch limits) features written by area experts on how and where to catch certain species and a host of other information. The guide is funded entirely through excise taxes that fishermen pay on tackle, fishing equipment and fuel through the federal Sportfish Restoration Program, and licensing fees through the RI Recreational Saltwater License Program.

Where’s the bite

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing is good in the lower Bay around both the Newport and Jamestown Bridges with anglers fishing these areas talking their limit (eight fish/angler, 18” or larger). Larry Norin launched at Wilson Park, North Kingstown this Friday at 4:30 p.m. and was done by 8:30 p.m.  He fished south of the Jamestown Bridge.  Norin said, “We were drifting north at over 2 knots.  I needed 12 ounces to hold bottom…we started to catch fish.  As we made shorter drifts we found the fish concentrated in one area so we just kept making shorts drifts over and over again… all fish kept were in the 20” to 22” range.”  John Owens reports on the RISAA blog that he limited out in just four hours fishing north of Dutch Island to just north of the Jamestown Bridge this past Friday with fluke to 24”.  He also landed two nice keeper sized black sea bass. Fluke fishing is still good off Warwick Neck said John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown.  Wunner said, “We have guys catching their limit frequently.  So it has been a good year for fluke so far.”

Striped bass fishing is still good in the upper Bay in the Providence River.  Capt. Fred’s Charters reported “I had James Elkins charter, his father and son on leave from his Sub based in Pearl Harbor out Friday morning for stripers.”  They landed two keeper striped bass 29” and 37” using orange Hogy tubes with worms when trolling the Providence River.  John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown said, “Fishing hasn’t been this good in ten years.  The bass have sea lice which would indicate they have just arrived in the Bay from the ocean. It seems like the middle of the Bay is getting a lot of actions now with anglers catching bass all around Prudence Island and Hope Island.”  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle , East Providence said the bass bite has been very good between Nayatt Point, Barrington Beach and Rumstick Point.  I weighted in a 29 pound bass this week caught off Rumstick Point.  They seem to be going for chucked Menhaden.”  Action out at Block Island has been consistently good with smaller fish, larger fish are now becoming more prevalent.

Squeteague (weak fish) continue to make their presence know with fish landings in the 23” range both at Warwick Neck and off the Southern tip of Prudence Island.

Scup fishing continues to explode with large fish being caught at Colt State Park and at the Mt. Hope, Jamestown and Newport Bridges.  “I weighed in several scup in the one pound twelve once range.” said John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle.

Take-a-Kid Fishing big success

 Take-a-Kid fishing big success: Taina and Zhiayre, both of Providence, RI with a blue fish they caught while fishing with Peter Sousa (left) of Warwick and Capt. Dave Monti during Saturday’s Take-a-Kid fishing day sponsored by the RI Saltwater Anglers Association. This year 215 children participated.
Huge bass from lower Bay: Greg Vespe of Tiverton, RI landed this 40 pound bass just before midnight using an eel.

Take-a-Kid Fishing big success

The annual Take-a-Kid Fishing event sponsored by the Rhode Island Saltwater Angler’s Association (RISAA) was a big success this Saturday with eighty boats and 250 volunteers working the event. Steve Medeiros, RISAA president said, “This has been another great year with 215 children participating from youth groups and organizations throughout the State. We thank our sponsors and Brewer’s Greenwich Bay Marina for hosting us again this year. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to hold the event.”  This year, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse volunteered as a mate aboard RISAA vice president Rich Hittinger’s boat.  Senator Whitehouse said, “This is a great event.  They (RISAA) do a wonderful job with it each year.  It’s a great organization.”

Atlantic Menhaden commercial bait fishery opens
The Division of Fish & Wildlife of DEM opened the commercial bait fishery for Menhaden in Narragansett Bay Menhaden Management Areas on Monday, June 17.  DEM does weekly aerial monitoring of the fishery, it closes and opens commercial Menhaden fishing based on these weekly stock assessments.

RIPCBA tournament in full swing
The Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA) fishing tournament is in full swing and runs from May 1 to December 31, 2013.  The Tournament is open to all patrons fishing aboard RIPCBA vessels.  The purpose is to recognize the largest fish of each species caught during the fishing season.  Over thirteen species including black sea bass, striped bass, fluke, tautog, etc. are included in the tournament with minimum sizes noted on entry forms. Entry forms are at official Tournament weigh-in stations including Galilee Bait & Tackle, Narragansett; Ray's Bait & Tackle, Warwick; Erickson's Bait & Tackle, Warwick; Snug Harbor Marina, Wakefield; Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown; Block Island Fish Works, Block Island, Captain's Tackle, Narragansett; and Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly. Completed forms must be given by the captain to a tournament committee member…  Ken Court, Norm Bardell or Paul Johnson.

DEM to hold “Women’s Day at the Range”
The Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish & Wildlife will offer the second annual “Women’s Day at the Range” on Saturday, June 22 at the Great Swamp Shooting Range in West Kingston.  The free event is designed to introduce women to the world of shooting sports. 
DEM Director Janet Coit said, “This fun-filled and educational program promises to be a great way for participants to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends and hone their skills on the target range.” Director Coit noted that last year’s event was extremely popular, with 162 participants of all age and skill levels taking part. 

The Great Swamp Shooting Range is located at 277 Great Neck Road in West Kingston.  Participants can shoot any time between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  A rain date has been set for Sunday, June 23. For more information, call DEM’s hunter education office at 539-0019.

Where’s the bite

Striped bass fishing continued to improve this week.  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “The bass have left the Seekonk River and are in the upper Providence River with anglers catching fish on menhaden either chucked or live lining them. Fishing has been good at India Point Park, Save the Bay and in the Gaspee Point area.”  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, East Providence, said, “Customers are catching nice bass all over the East Bay with one customer catching seven nice fish in the 20 pound range at Poppasquash Point, Bristol this past weekend.”  Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait & Tackle, Charlestown said, “Bass are being caught at the Breachway with large fish being landed at night with eels, Slug-gos and Bomber plugs.  Fish in the 20 pound range are fairly consistent.”  Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “Striped bass fishing from Prudence Island to Conimicut Point is good with anglers using pogies chunked or whole… and tube and worm is working really well too.”

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing is good in the Bay. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle said fluking has been good at Warwick Neck to Conimicut Point with a few anglers working the channel pads in the East Passage with success.”  Fishing along the southern coastal shore has been excellent too with anglers catching their limit (eight fish, eighteen inches or longer).  “Fish are in 30 to 50 feet of water depending on location from Scarborough Beach to Westerly.” said Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait & Tackle. Fluke fishing around the Newport and Jamestown bridges has been a bit slower, however, with fishing so good in the Bay and along southern coastal shores not as many anglers have been targeting these areas.

Bluefish appeared more often this week with fish being caught mixed in with striped bass in the Bay and offshore. Reports of some schools of small fish in the three to four pound range have been spotted along the southern coastal shore.  Small (and some large) fish have been caught in Greenwich Bay; however, this Saturday they were in short supply during the Take-a-Kid fishing event sponsored by the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association.  The eighty or so boats (and over two hundred children) that participated were landing two to three fish whereas in the past they were more plentiful.

Striped bass taste good… and have good taste

 “Big largemouth holding off the outside edges of weed lines”, said Kim Bissonnette.  He is holding a  largemouth bass he caught while fishing  in South County.

Barrington Beach striped bass:  Rich Henkel of East Providence landed this 46” striped bass while trolling pearl shad umbrellas off of Barrington beach.

Striped bass taste good… and have good taste

If you are a striped bass fan, and like to catch or eat them, you will be happy to know they have good taste too.  They enjoy eating just about any bottom crustation or fish that presents itself as easy prey. However, they particularly like to eat lobster.

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation on striped bass to the Jamestown Striper Club and played video clips of striped bass experts relating tips on how to catch them.   One of the video clips was of Greg Myerson (YouTube ), who holds the world record for striped bass… an 81.8 pound monster he caught off the Connecticut coast when fishing among lobster pots at slack tide. 

Greg said, “These big fish are lazy.  They do not want to chase bait around in a lot of current but would rather feed on lobster at slack tide.  You only have about a 30 minute window to catch them.  I fish for them with a three way swivel with the largest eels I can find and send them down among the lobster pots. I make noise on the bottom to try to mimic a lobster (or crab) scratching along the bottom, this attracts the striped bass, they see my eel and go for it.”  Greg said he first developed this technique when fishing with friends, “If four of us were fishing, each with equally enticing eels over the side… what was going to attached the bass to my eel.”  Greg now sells a bait rig called the Myerson RattleSinker, it mimics the sound of a lobster.  You can find them at

After recounting Greg’s interview I came across and article in the June 2013 issue of OnTheWater magazine by photographer Ethan Gordon  ( titled “The secret life of stripers”. The article first published in the February 1998 issue and was reprinted this month in a special striped bass issue.  Ethan has taken some great striped bass photos and relates his underwater encounters with striped bass..
Gordon said, “ might be wondering how striped bass can eat lobster.  I have seen them swallow lobster whole, tail first. I have also witnessed one or more stripers attacking a lobster out in the open, first removing its claws, then breaking it in half, fighting for the pieces.  A live lobster doesn’t seem to intimidate a striper either; an adult striper can swallow a one-pound lobster whole.”

I then came across and article from Landings magazine that first published in the MLA Newsletter in October 2011 by Melissa Waterman that relates the link between striped bass and lobster.  Erin Wilkinson, then a graduate student at the University of New England studied this relationship examining the stomach contents of 35 striped bass caught in the Casco Bay Maine area.   Wilkinson said, “I have seen lobster in quite a few stomachs… one (striped bass) had five juvenile lobsters in there.”

And, one might ask what lobstermen think… they do not like striped bass, they find them in their pots, they eat their lobsters.  A dock mate of mine who is a recreational lobsterman related, “Please, no striped bass racks in by bait box… one year we baited the pots with striped bass and did not catch a single lobster.”  Striped bass show up and lobsters run for cover.

So this is good enough for me… a lobsterman… a scientist… an underwater photographer… and then the striped bass world record holder… all say striped bass eat lobsters.  So keep this is mind when fishing for big bass… fish among the lobster pots and if you are serious about catching a monster striped bass mimic the sounds of a lobster like Greg Myerson does.

Now I know… striped bass… have good taste too.

Atlantic Menhaden commercial fishing closed

The Division of Fish & Wildlife of DEM closed the commercial possession limit for Menhaden in Narragansett Bay Menhaden Management Areas on Monday, June 10.  DEM does weekly aerial monitoring of the fishery, it closes and opens commercial Menhaden fishing based on these weekly stock assessments.

Where’s the bite

Fresh water.  Kim Bissonnette and Dayton Martin of South County continue to find largemouth bass in local ponds and lakes.  Kim Bissonnette said, “…it seems most fish have gotten over the post spawn funk.  Smaller fish are holding under floating areas of vegetation, and still tighter to shorelines, with bites being plentiful using baits typically suited for this type of cover.  Weedless frogs and other soft plastics (lizards work really well for this technique) retrieved slowly over the vegetation (with pauses around openings) has the potential to trigger abundant strikes. 

Bigger fish are holding off the outside edges of weed lines, with a productive approach being long casts to vegetation edges and a slow, varied retrieve back to the boat.  Results have been really positive with the boat positioned in water depths between 6 and 14 feet.  Stick baits are a great choice for this approach, and many strikes occur as the bait falls, so exercise patience and let the bait drop towards the bottom.  With this technique, be prepared, as most strikes will occur fairly early in the retrieve.  Colors often depend on water clarity, with natural colors working in clear water, and baits with brighter features and color contrasts better suited for stained water.”

Striped bass fishing mixed this past week.  Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, “We had fish at the North Rip for three weeks but it shut down before and after the storm… so we were happy when big fish started to appear at the Southwest Ledge…customer Glen Corsetti of Wakefield caught a 40 pound striped bass Sunday at the Ledge.” Bay fishing for bass was on and off last week.  Fish taken in Providence River and off Prudence Island under Menhaden schools and fish taken close to shore in low water around Prudence Island using soft plastics.  Lorraine Danti of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Customers continue to find bass and extra large bluefish in the Mt. Hope Bridge area using Menhaden chucks.”

Fluke fishing was off after the storm as water was turbid and dirty making it difficult for fish to see baits.  I caught two fish Sunday off Warrick Light, using white squid rigs tipped with squid and fresh water minnows (find them meatier than silversides and their silver scales flake off nicely when in the water).   Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor said, “Fluke fishing slowed after the storm along southern coastal shores (from Pt. Judith to Watch Hill).  Fluke fishing around Block Island was fair.”  Anglers continue to find black sea bass as they fish for fluke.

Black sea bass season opens June 15, 13” minimum size, three fish/person/day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fluke tips and where the catch them

Fluke tips and where the catch them

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing continued to be extremely strong this week along coastal shores, out at Block Island and in Narragansett Bay.  John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown said, “Fluke fishing has exploded in Narragansett Bay with fish being caught in the upper bay… in places like Greenwich Bay… which hasn’t been the case for years. I have had a number of customers catch their limit (eight fish, over 18”).” This weekend, Brian Hehir of Burlington, VT caught two fluke, a 20 “ and a 22” fish in a matter of thirty minutes off Warwick Neck Light after striped bass fishing in the east passage. Hehir said, “I bounced the fluke rig off the bottom a bit and it would elicit a strike.”  Hehir was using a white squid fluke rig tipped with squid made by Capt. BJ Silvia.

Here is what some of the experts have to say about fluke fishing.

Capt. George Cioe, Patricia Anne, Pt. Judith. “I use squid strips with a sand…put the hook thru the squid once.  I split the trailing edge of the squid to give it some action as it moves thru the water. We often use fluke belly, especially if there is other bothersome species hitting the bait.  Fluke belly is more durable and you’ll get more bottom time with the bait.  There is an issue though.  Because it will not tear off like squid, it is possible to pull the fluke up to the surface, even though he is not hooked, only to watch the fish let go of the bait and swim away.  When you fish with belly – let the fish keep the bait a little longer before you pull him up.”

Capt. Jim White, White Ghost Charters, author and lecturer.  “I use fresh native squid to fish for fluke attached to a buck tail jig and often use a second bait… a fly I tied and attach to a 36” trailer.  The best type of bottom is irregular, that is where the bit fish are… I also like to keep the jig as vertical as possible.”

Capt. Rich Hittinger, RI Marine Fisheries Council and Vice President of the Rhode Saltwater Anglers Association.  “I find the best fluking spots are where there is a change of depth and you are on the edge of a rock pile.  I use a buck tail with a long trailer… about 36” long.”

Capt. Charlie Donilon, Snappa Charters, Point Judith.  “I like to jig for fluke and use a buck tail tipped with squid and a three foot trailer with spinner.  My favorite places to go include the North Rip at Block Island drifting into Cow Cove and the State Beach on the east side. The south side is good too…. later in the season I often fish off Narragansett.”

Favorite places to catch fluke

Look for drop- offs, structure, the banks of channels, and deep water particularly in the warm weather, in spring time they tend to be in lower depths.  Favorite places to catch fluke include:
       channel breaks in and around Warwick Neck light
       channel breaks on the northeast side of the Jamestown bridge
       areas off the north west corner of Dutch Island
       underwater valley off the southeast side of Dutch Island
       areas off URI’s Bay Campus
       Austin’s Hollow (an underwater valley) off the west side of Jamestown
       Beavertail in deep water off the west side
       Off southern Rhode Island coastal beaches… Watch Hill, Charlestown, in front of the five cottages, etc. 
       Off the center wall of the Harbor of Refuge
       Off Newport at any number of deep water brakes
       At the mouth of Hull and Mackerel Coves off Jamestown at the drop-offs
       Off Block Island… the North Rip, Cow Cove on the north end, along the State beach on the east side

Your help and boat are needed at Take-a-Kid fishing
Boaters are urged to volunteer their vessel for the 16th Annual Take-A-Kid Fishing Day, Saturday, June 15 at Brewer Greenwich Bay Marina in Warwick.  The event is sponsored by the RI Saltwater Anglers Association.  Over 300 children from various youth organizations go blue fishing in Greenwich Bay from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon.  The morning of fishing is followed by a cookout. If you can volunteer and/or volunteer your boat please contact Steve Medeiros, RISAA president, at .

DEM to hold freshwater fly-fishing workshop Saturday
The Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Division of Fish and Wildlife will hold an introduction to freshwater fly-fishing program this Saturday, June 8 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The workshop, hosted by the Division's Aquatic Resource Education (ARE) program, will be held at the Addieville East Game Farm in Mapleville, RI.

Whether you are a beginner or need a refresher course, this workshop will cover all the basics on freshwater fly- fishing. Top Rhode Island fly-fishing instructors will teach casting techniques, fly-tying, tackle needs, and knot-tying. Participants will also put their skills to work on the water. The workshop is open to everyone 10 years of age and older. All materials and equipment are included with the $35 per-person registration fee. Lunch is not included, so participants should pack a lunch.
For additional information and for registration materials, contact Kimberly Sullivan at 539-0037 or via e-mail at or

Where’s the bite

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing has been great in the Bay and off coastal shores.  Dick Pengri reports from the RISAA blog, “Found good size fish directly north of Dutch Island in 35 to 60 feet of water. Chartreuse squids with fresh squid initially then squid strips.”  Noted local anglers Don Smith and Peter Vican reported limiting out with fluke on Saturday south of the Jamestown Bridge. Don said, ”We limited out with the smallest keeper measuring 20.5" and the largest fluke was 26.5" and weighed in at 7.56 lbs. We only had four shorts for the whole trip which was a lot different from a lot of reports I had heard last week. We used fluke balls and green plastic squid for the teaser. Green seemed to be the preferred color over white and pink.” Fishing in Greenwich Bay and in the crossover to the East Bay in front of Patience Island, Brian Hehir caught two nice keepers using squid gigs tipped with squid strips.  John Wunner of Ray’s Bait & Tackle said, “Fluke fishing has never been this good for my customers, it’s like the old days.” Francis Fleet vessels are reporting good fluke fishing along southern RI coastal shores with keepers, shorts and even several jumbos mixed in.  The fluke are spitting up squid, which certainly is an indication the squid are here.

Striped bass fishing continues to be good in the Bay and off Block Island.  Worm hatches in a number of covers and rivers lead to a great bass fishing week.  Anglers catching them both with live Atlantic Menhaden and chunks as well as tube and worm (seems to work particularly well in worm hatch areas.  Jim Levy said, “Got out yesterday with Capt. Jerry Sparks of Northeast Boat and Kayak Charters. We fished in Point Judith Pond in flat calm conditions (during a worm hatch) and the two of us caught some skinny water bass on surface plugs. Largest fish went about 15 pounds.” On the RISAA blog, Tony Lombardo said, “Fished between Prudence Island and Poppasquash Point (Friday) between 6:45 a.m. and noon. Caught three stripers 29, 32 and 36 inches... all caught on black tube and worm”.

Fluke facts and tips from experts

 Power drifting can yield big fluke:  Capt. Monti landed this fluke power drifting (putting the vessel in and out of gear) at Austin’s Hollow last year.
 Fluke fishing fun for families: Steve Smith (left) and his daughter Rayell of Waterbury, CT with two of the twelve fluke (summer flounder) they caught last year at the Newport Bridge fishing channel edges.
Big bass caught drifting live Atlantic Menhaden:  Kevin Bettencourt of East Providence landed this 31.8 pound bass in the upper bay.  The fish was 42 inches long and had a 25 inch girth.

Fluke facts and tips from experts

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing is starting to crank up nicely with good size fluke being caught off southern coastal shores, off Newport and in the lower Bay.  Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters said, “We have been taking anglers striped bass fishing around Block Island and then targeting fluke. Fishing for both has been very good.” In Narragansett Bay, Tautog fishing and striped bass fishing has been the focus and not fluke fishing.

Our fluke fishery is in good shape as RI has under fished its recreational quota for the past couple of years.  Fish managers lowered the minimum size this year to 18 inches and have established an eight fish/angler/day bag limit with a fluke season running from May 1 to December 31.
Will follow this month with a column on where to find fluke as the fluke season is expected to heat up soon.  Also visit No Fluke next week for news on an experimental recreational fluke cooperative that is testing an innovative fishing approach to improve accountability and conservation of the fluke population while increasing flexibility and stability for the Rhode Island charter boat industry.

 Fluke facts
  • In May, fluke move in shore from deep Continental Shelf waters where they spend the winter.  They stay inland until October and then move back to the deep water.
  • Fluke return to the same areas, Bays, etc. year after year
  • Fluke are a flat fish with two eyes on the same side of the fish.  They are bottom fish that do not look aggressive, but they will chase bait aggressively and eat the same bait that bluefish and striped bass eat.  The difference is that they feed off the bottom.
  • They can be caught from a boat (usually while drifting) or from shore with little knowledge, so they are an ideal catch for beginners and children
·         Fluke are chameleons, they change color to blend with the bottom.

·         Largest fluke on record is 26.6 lbs. and 36” long

Fluke tips from the experts

Capt. John Rainone, Li’l Toot Charters, Pt. Judith.  “Now that we have larger sizes of Fluke to be legal, I have switched to a larger wide gap hook 3/0 instead of the old J style hook.  It is easier to release a short fish without hurting it due to the style of the hook.  Like a circle hook, it is usually hooked right in the corner of the mouth.  We also have started to use bigger baits, and sometimes even a stinger hook with a very large bait.  When the mate fillets a bluefish, he saves a nice long strip of the belly or underside of the bluefish for baits.  Whole squids work well too, or larger strip baits of squid, instead of the old 3” strip of squid.  You can also save some fluke belly or striped bass belly from your fillets to use on your next trip.  Just put them in some salted water and keep cold.”

Capt.  Robb Roach, Kettlebottom Outfitters, Jamestown, RI.  “Wind and tide in line otherwise stem it.  Bigger fish are on sharper edges… meaning a steeper drop off will hold the bigger fish.  Don’t forget to fish in the vicinity of wrecks.  Live bait works best and snapper blues are THE BEST Fluke bait.  Clean the skin off of the squid when baiting”

Capt. Rick Bellavance, Priority Too Charters, Pt. Judith, RI.  “When I fluke fish with charter clients, I typically use a large style pre-rigged fluke rig which I purchase from a local bait shop. We try to use a piece of fresh bait such as the belly meat of a bluefish to act as an attractant. We use a 3-way snap swivel with a large snap to facilitate changing sinkers (which the mate does often). I believe the smallest weight that will hold bottom is best. Much of our fishing effort takes place around Block Island and just about any piece of shoreline will hold summer flounder and we always drift, usually picking the side of the island with the strongest tide or wind.  When we start catching, I record the depth and I also make note of specific depths where bigger fish may be congregating…”

Additional fluke tips
·         If possible, fish when the tide/current and wind are going in the same direction

·         Fluke face into the current to feed, so you want to drag your bait over them, drifting with the tide and wind when in a boat or slowing pulling your bait over the bottom when on land

·         When fishing slack or flood tide with no water movement try trolling perpendicular so no matter what way the fish are facing you are passing them at least on a right angle

·         When it comes to fluking, squid is the bait of choice.  Some anglers cut it in very fine strips to mimic sand eels, others cut it into an inch thick strip and still others like to use the whole squid.

·         One of my favorite fluke baits is what I call a fluke cocktail.  The recipe… a fluorescent green or white plastic squid rig, baited with a horizontally hooked minnow or silverside (a tip from Gary Leatherberry of Erickson’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick), a squid strip and topped off with a strip of fluke belly.  This arrangement doubled my keeper ratio. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon Tournament
The second annual Pabst Blue Ribbon striped bass and fluke Tourney (for RI, CT and Long Island) will take place June 1 through September 15 with weekly, monthly and overall tournament prizes in boat, shore and junior categories.  RI striped bass record holder Peter Vican said, “It is going to be another great tournament this year with a $10,000 top price for bass (boat division) and $5,000 from shore.” The top fluke prize is $5,000. “Funds raised from the tournament will be donated to the Arthritis Foundation.” said Peter Vican. Visit for information and registration.

Where’s the bite
Striped bass.  Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, “The bass at Block Island are still small with the largest about 20 pounds… but the fishing is good.  The North Rip and the south side are hot with anglers using Diamond Jigs and trolling umbrella rigs.” With warm weather worm hatches in South County ponds are expected this week.  “Fishing along the southern coastal shore is still good… customer John Hooper of Wakefield weighted in a 30 pound bass that he caught from shore.” said Elisa Martin.  We found bass on my boat in Greenwich Bay near Sally Rock and at Sandy Point Prudence Island this week.  Bass at Sandy Point were hooked using jigs tipped with squid. Patti Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “ Customer Kyle Armstrong of Warwick landed a 27 pound bass in the Providence River live lining Atlantic Menhaden”.  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Bass fishing is good in the Providence, Tauton and Seekonk Rivers with some good sized fish mixed being caught along with bluefish.”

Fluke fishing continues to improve along the southern coastal shore from the Block Island Ferry Lane to the Watch Hill area in 25 to 50 feet of water.  Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor said. “Fluke fishing gets better every day… the fish keep getting larger.” No reports of fluke being caught in the upper part of Narragansett Bay.  The Frances Fleet reported a slow fluke day Monday, however, the fish are getting larger and they are coming up with squid in the bellies which hopefully means that we may have a squid run.

Scup.  “Scup have arrived and anglers are landing them in Bristol, Wickford and in Greenwich Bay.”, said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence.

Favorite ways to catch striped bass

 Bass plentiful in Bay:  Angler Joe Daniels of Warwick with a 12 pound stripper he caught last week at the Hurricane Barrier live lining Atlantic Menhaden.
Fluke fishing is good:  Cote Laflamme of Smithfield with some of the fluke (summer flounder) he and a friend caught while fishing aboard a Frances Fleet party boat. Cote caught eight keepers and then later in week landed an eight pound fluke of the center wall of the Harbor of Refuge, Narragansett.

Favorite ways to catch striped bass

We have a lot of bait in the Bay… Atlantic Menhaden, silversides and last week many coves and rivers in the Bay experienced a worm hatch.  This all translated into a great week of striped bass (and blue fish) fishing. See “Where’s the bite” feature below for details.
With all this bait and action why is it that some days, you just cannot get a bite… you scour waters trolling lures and tube & worm, cast in the shallows and around structure with soft plastics, hard plastics and surface poppers.  You hit all your favorites spots, where you have caught fish and where others have caught fish… and still… no bass.
Do not lose faith.  It’s a matter of persistence, mixing it up, paying attention to water movement (tide and current) and yes trying to match what the striped bass are eating (or would like to eat).  Here are my top ten ways to catch striped bass… I used five of them this week to mimic the bait in the water… casting swimming lures and plastics to mimic silversides and worms; using live and chucked Atlantic Menhaden; and trolling with tube and worm) to catch nine striped bass.

Ten favorite ways to catch striped bass

10.       Trolling with umbrella rigs.  Like to use this technique trolling in deeper parts of Narragansett Bay, off Newport or Block Island with a variety of squid, shad, worm or eel umbrella rigs.  Hook two fish at the same time and you will experience a great fight.
9.         Casting soft plastics, various bait types and weights to fish different depths.  Many anglers love this technique and use it successfully in the spring.  Make sure the plastic baits are scented if they are not add some scent. Who wants to eat plastic?
8.         Buck tail jigs with pork rind squid strips.  Have had success with this method to get under schools of blue fish and to the striped bass on the bottom.
7.         Live eels.  Used by shore and boat anglers, some fishing guides use this as their primary method to catch killer stripers.  Hook the eel through the mouth and out one eye.  Going between the eyes usually kills the bait.  I use circle hooks because bass (small and keeper size) tend to swallow the bait whole and often get hooked low.  Circle hooks generally slide out of the fish and hook it on the corner of their mouth on the way out allowing you to release the fish you are not keeping… and release them alive and well.
6.         Live menhaden.  Snag the live bait with a weighted treble hook or net them.  Hook the bait through the bridge of the nose, find a pod of fish and put the live menhaden into the pod of bait and let it swim. Used when menhaden are running strong, particularly up the Providence River in early spring.
5.         Chunking fresh or frozen menhaden.  You can anchor (and chum); drift fish or fish the moving bait pods with chunks.  Some anglers use a weight slide to get the bait down to the striped bass.
4.         Surface plugs.  Have caught hundreds of school bass in the spring using surface plugs of all types. 
3.         Swimming lures.  Great way to catch fish in coves, on rivers, etc.  My favorite is a grey Yozuri Crystal Minnow.
2.         Parachute squid jigs.  Often used in ocean water (or where there are squid).  Anglers successfully use this method off Newport, Narragansett and Block Island.
1.         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 (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 been a successful technique for the Southwest side of Block Island using 300 ft. of wire line out in 35 to 45 feet of water, amber colored tubes seem to work best there.

Where’s the bite

Striped bass. Steve McKenna, noted shore angler and author said, “Striped bass fishing this month is outstanding… the best ever.  In April I landed one bass in twelve trips… so far in May I have landed 162 striped bass with some keepers mixed in.  I have also heard and confirmed a 25 pound fish was caught last week from shore and rumors of a 50 pounder being caught too.  This is quite early to be catching fish this size from the beach.”  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait, East Providence said. “Striped bass fishing for customers have been very good, many have been using clam tongues and clam worms.  Customers Albert and Kevin Bettencourt of East Providence fished the Rumstick Point area and landed three bass in the 13 to 17 pound range.” Mary Dangelo of Maridee Bait and Canvas, Narragansett said, “There was a striped bass blitz in Wickford Cove last Thursday and customers are reporting good fishing off the shore at George’s Restaurant in Galilee for both striped bass and blues.”  Captain Andy Dangelo of the charter boat Maridee II caught his limit of striped bass when fishing off Block Island and then took his party fluke fishing.  This week we had a lot of bait in the Bay.  Angler Joe Daniels of Warwick said, “(I was) snagging pogies … near the hurricane barrier and then live-lining for stripers.” Joe caught bass to 32” and 12 pounds using this method last week. In addition to plentiful Atlantic Menhaden (pogies) in the Bay, a worm hatch occurred in coves and rivers this past week as noted above. Captain BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters said, “Fishing for bass and blues off the Southern end of Prudence Island was outstanding Saturday… all the striped bass and blues you wanted.”  Merrill True, Sr. a RI Saltwater Angler Association (RISAA) blogger said Sunday, “We snagged some Menhaden and left them on the snagging hook to swim. My son Jamie had a striper on in about ten min. In a few min. a 33 in striper was in the boat.”

Blue fish.  Blue fish have infiltrated the Bay and are being caught from the Hurricane Barrier in Providence to Jamestown, Newport and Narragansett.  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait said, “Sabin Point has been hot for blue fish.”

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing has been great too with some anglers reaching their limit (18” minimum size, seven fish/person/day) which was not the case for the past three to four years.   Cote Laflamme of Smithfield, RI said he caught an eight pound fluke just off the center wall of the Harbor of Refuge, Narragansett.  He also caught eight nice keeper fluke when fishing with the Frances Fleet (Galilee party boat) .  His favorite rig is a three way swivel with a teaser tipped with native squid and fluke belly.  RISAA blogger John S. said Sunday, “… I put four keeper fluke in the box to 4.5 lbs along with about eight shorts, two sea robins and a skate. Most were caught just west of Green Hill Beach in 40+ feet of water.”

Fishing tournament for visually impaired adults

 Last year’s VIP winners:  Winners of last year’s RI Lions Sight Foundation Visually Impaired Persons fishing tournament for the blind are first place Louis Musco Jr., second place Elliott Mitchell and third place winner Janice Musco.
Rocky Point proposal: Kevin and Meghan Costice got engaged at the entrance of Rocky Point Park on February 29, 2012.  This was just one of the many memories shared by attendees at the Rocky Point Foundation.  Shown here with their baby boy Travis. 

Fishing tournament for visually impaired adults

The RI Lions Sight Foundation (RILSF) will host their 6th Annual VIP Fishing Tournament for Visually Impaired Persons (VIP’s) of Rhode Island on June 23, 2013.  The tournament will take place on a chartered party boat out of Galilee RI.
The Tournament is sponsored and organized by the RILSF and is supported through donations from RI Lions Clubs and individuals. The event includes breakfast and a half-day of summer flounder or fluke fishing, followed by a luncheon and awards presentation at a local restaurant. The event is free of charge to all VIP’s and their guides.  

The only requirements for eligibility are:  must be Legally Blind, at least 17 years old,  are physically able to fish from a party boat, must be accompanied by a guide, transportation and/or guides will be provided if needed.

In addition to competing for trophies in the RI Tournament, three of the top winners will be eligible to represent Rhode Island at the 2013 National VIP Fishing Tournament to be held in October on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This Tournament will also include competing in the 4th Annual New England Lions Tourney where participants compete against VIP’s from the other participating New England states.  Rhode Island has won two out of three New England Tournaments and two of five national tournaments.

The trip to North Carolina for Tournament winners is dependent upon the availability of funding for transportation.  Donations in any amount are welcome and will cover cost of the event.  However donations for participants are voluntary.

Rhody Fly Fodders set summer fishing scheduled
Rhody Fly Rodders have announced their summer meeting fishing schedule and according to Pete Nilsen members will meet around 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and fish until dark.  Members and non-members are invited to attend.  Participants are urged to bring hot dogs or burgers and a chair.  The club will provide the grille, chips and water.  Event dates and times are: Thursday, May 23, Bristol Narrows (in-coming) – High tide – approx 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, June 18 – Goddard Park (boat ramp) (out-going) – High tide – approx 3:50 p.m.;  Thursday, July 18 –– Sepowet Marsh (out-going) – High tide – approx 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, August 15 –– Quonochontaug (boat ramp) (out-going) – High tide – approx 3:00 p.m.; Thursday, September 26 –– Narrow River (Sprague Bridge) (out-going) – High tide – approx 1:30 p.m.

Erickson Bait & Tackle not for sale
Craig Castro of Erickson Bait & Tackle, 1257 Greenwich Avenue, Warwick, said, “The bait shop is not for sale, we are open welcoming all customers. The “For Sale” sign in front of our shop is the landlords, he is selling the building. We are open for business as usual.” Compete for Prizes at the 6th Annual Great 

Outdoors Pursuit
On Sunday, May 19 at Lincoln Woods State Park, the Departments of Environmental Management and Health will launch the 2013 Great Outdoors Pursuit, a summer-long program and game designed to help children, families and individuals enjoy the recreational resources Rhode Island state parks have to offer to encourage more physical activity by trying new outdoor activities. The event will run from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The game will take Rhode Islanders to seven different state parks and forests over a 13-week period. Teams can register for the game at: Teams of children and adults will be challenged to visit different facilities and take part in outdoor adventures and learn about environmental and health issues.

Rocky Point Foundation casts a big net
Last week the Rocky Point Foundation held a public hearing on the future of Rocky Point Park at Rhodes on the Pawtucket in Cranston and hundreds of Rhode Islanders attended sharing their ideas about possible Park uses.  In March of 2013, the sale of the remaining 82 acres of the former amusement park was conveyed to the state of Rhode Island and plans call for it to be converted into a State Park.  Suggestions at the hearing were far reaching including a camp ground, beach cabanas, a public venue for concerts, a fishing pier, a dock for recreational boating,  a water taxi service to other State Parks and a host of other ideas.  Visit for information on how to make a donation or how to get active in the Foundation.

Where’s the bite
Tautog fishing remains good with anglers often catching there limit (three fish/person/day) when fishing in popular Bay and near coastal waters including Conimicut Light, Ohio Ledge, Rocky Point, General Rock, off Narragansett and other popular tautog fishing spots.  Make sure the tide is moving when fishing.  They are biting on green crabs, Asian crabs, worms and one angler reports catching his limit using quahogs. Last week Dan O’Hara of Cranston reported caching there boat limit at Plum Lighthouse next to the Jamestown Bridge, “I went Saturday to the lighthouse next to the Jamestown bridge. We caught 20, 10 were keeper size. We started at 10:30 a.m. at dead low tide and the action picked up soon after on the incoming. Used green crabs, 4 oz sinker.”  Craig Castro of Erickson’s Bait & tackle said tautog fishing has been excellent all over the Bay with customers catching them on green crabs and worms.

Striped bass fishing remains good from shore and from boats.  Al Johnson of Warwick said, “I started fishing at 4 p.m. Sunday and caught three nice keeper striped bass, the largest being in the mid-thirty inch range when fishing from shore at Conimicut Point.” The Providence River is thick with Atlantic Menhaden. Adam Maziarz reports on the RI Saltwater Anglers Association blog Sunday, “Providence River from the Squantum Club to Bold Point was so full of pogies…that no one was catching any bass.
I went south to Prudence Island and caught a few keepers and some shorts off the north point. We even caught some 5-7 lb blues. Bass were everywhere for a few hours, busting all over the surface chasing silver sides.”  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Striped bass fishing has been hot along the East Bay Bike Path and at Sabin Point with bass up to 44"s taking clam tongues, sea worms and pogey chunks. Bridge fishing on the bike path in Barrington and Warren has been active with a lot of schoolie bass and small tautog but persistent fishermen are rewarded with occasional keepers of both blackfish and striped bass.”
Squeteague. “Domenic Petraca caught three 10 pound weakfish (squeteague)… off Prudence Island's Mount Tom.”, said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle.