Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tug of war season on with tautog

First tautog: Josh McElwee of Boston, MA caught this 19 ½” tautog, his first ever, using a single hook rig with egg sinker on top.  He used green crabs and was at General Rock, North Kingstown.

Big striped bass:  Russ Weymouth of Charlton, MA caught this 48 lbs., 49” striped bass while drifting eels in the morning on the southwest side of Block Island.  The fall run/migration of striped bass has started.

Tournament winners:

  on the beach in front of the Ocean Mist in South Kingstown, RI are winners of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Tournament that attended the awards ceremony Saturday.

Sharking experience:  Ken Montigny (Fairhaven, MA), John Starakas (Wakefield, RI) and Jeff Montigny (Fall River, MA) landed this 500 pound mako shark when fishing at the Mudhole (15 miles east of Block Island) last past Friday.

Tug of war season on with tautog


The fall tug of war season with tautog is on.  Tautog (or blackfish) is a great eating fish with a white dense meat.  Their bulldog like fight (similar to grouper) is very exciting and much like a tug of war between you and the tautog.  Once a tautog is hooked it will try to bulldog its way back down into rock or structure.  So when the fish bites, it becomes the angler’s job not to let it bury itself in the structure. 

From shore or boat

Tautog can be fished from shore or boat.  The common thread is structure.  From shore it is a matter of trial and error to find a sweet spot or hole that holds big fish.  You want to be near, next to or over structure. 

 From a boat locate the structure you want to fish (on sonar if you have it).   Estimate wind and current and then anchor up current so that as the anchor line pays out the vessel is over structure or slightly before it.  Tie off the anchor line and fish.  Tautog is very territorial so it is important to fish all sides of the boat, even cast a bit covering as much area as you can from different positions in the boat.  If still no bites pay out a little more anchor line to reposition the boat, repeat the process until you are totally off the structure and if still no bites it is time to move to another spot.

Rigs and Bait

Tautog rigs should be kept simple.  My favorite rig is homemade. I use one tautog hook connected to a swivel with a two or three once egg sinker on top sliding on a small three to four inch piece of monofilament line.  Another swivel above the egg sinker connects the monofilament and the braid line (30 lbs.) coming from the rod/reel. Since I have started using this rig bottom hook ups have been cut in half. Braid line does not stretch, so this is my preference, whereas monofilament line may stretch allowing the tautog to reach structure.

 I use green crabs and Asian crabs (when available).  When using green crabs, break off claws and legs and cut the crab in half.  Hook the crab though one leg socket and out another.  This exposes most of the crab and makes it easy for the tautog to put its mouth on the bait.

Standard premade tautog rigs usually have two hooks and a loop below to tie on a bank sinker.  I usually cut the upper hook off. Captain John Rainone of L’il Toot Charters said, “One hook saves rigs and fish… waiting for another fish to jump on makes no sense… I tie rigs with a lighter sinker line so it breaks and hook/fish is retrieved.” The idea is to have less on the rig to get tied up in structure.

 Pabst Blue Ribbon tournament winners
The 2012 second annual Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) striped bass and fluke tournament concluded this past Sunday, September 22 with an awards ceremony at the Ocean Mist in South Kingstown, RI.  The tournament is one of the largest bass and fluke tournaments in the Northeast. 
This year the $10,000 first place striped bass boat division prize went to Jeff Thibodeau of Wallingford, CT with a 60 lbs. 11 oz. fish.  Robert Ferraro of Narragansett, RI took second place ($5,000) with a 58 lbs. 8 oz. striper; and third place ($3,000) went to Joseph Bartnicki of Hackettstown, NJ for a 54 lbs 9 oz. fish.
Shore division striped bass fist place winner was Michael Coppola of New York, NY; John Hanecak of Rock Hill, CT second place; and Thomas McGuire of Narragansett, RI was third place shore division winner with a 34 lbs. 7 oz. striper.
The first place summer flounder (fluke) prize ($5,000) went to Samuel Dibner of Woodbury, CT for an 11 lbs. fluke; second place ($3,000) went to Joseph Giuliano, Niantic, CT; and third place fluke price ($2,000) went to Matt McDermott of Plainview, NY.
 Junior winners include Andrew McGarry, Block Island, RI (bass winner) and Fin Howat, Southport, CT (fluke winner).
The PBR tournament ran from June 1st to September 15th and took place in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Visit for photos.
Where’s the bite

Tautog. John Wunner of John’s Bait and Tackle, North Kingstown said, “Tautog fishing is just starting to pick up with anglers now catching keepers.” Angler Dave Fewster said, “I tried for an hour last Sunday and got a bunch of shorts, one keeper tog…it will get better every day with lower temps and shorter days.” I fished with Joshua McElwee Saturday and he caught his first tautog (and keeper sized fish over 16”) at General Rock, North Kingstown, RI.  Mike Cardinal of Cardinal Bait & Tackle, Westerly said, “Anglers are catching tautog at Watch Hill reef and Ragged Ledge.  Most are using green crabs.”

Striped bass.  Russ Weymouth fished the southwest side of Block Island Thursday and said, “Drifting slightly north from the Peanut, (we) caught the biggest fish on my boat One Iota… a  49" striped bass at 48 pounds (using eels).  We continued to repeat the drift and caught as many keeper stripers as we had eels…” John Wunner of John’s Bait said, “I had three customers leave Allen’s Harbor, North Kingstown at 6:00 p.m. Friday night for Block Island and returned at 1:00 a.m. Saturday.  They left with 40 eels and could have caught as many bass, all were in 30 to 40 pound range.”  Mike Cardinal of Cardinal Bait, Westerly, said, “Fishing improved Tuesday night with anglers catching keeper bass mixed in with a lot of school size bass fishing from shore at Misquamicut and Charlestown beaches.” No reports of a strong bass or blue fish bite starting yet in Narragansett Bay.


Shore fishing picked up but is still slow as anglers are having difficulty hooking up with fish consistently.  Dave Pickering, noted local shore angler authority and author said, “Today (Saturday) I went down and checked out places that had been producing earlier in the week.  I found no bait, no birds diving, no fish and no fishermen. I fished a lot of white water and rocky drop-offs today but could not even find a schoolie or a bluefish…”  Visit Dave’s striper blog at


Offshore. John Starakas of Wakefield, RI, said, “(I) took two friends, Jeff Montigny of Fall River, and Ken Montigny of Fairhaven, MA on their first shark fishing trip Friday.  Fished the Mudhole (about 15 miles east of Block Island) all day, no luck trolling for tuna, after chumming for sharks for almost four hours… (we) landed a large mako,  8’ 10” fork length which makes it approximately 500 lbs.”  Jeff was on the rod and fought the fish, Ken wired the fish and John ran the boat and harpooned the shark.

Fresh water fishing.  Dave Pickering fished for carp at night this weekend in the Blackstone River. Dave said, “I noticed a fish grubbing at night right in front of me in about a foot of water.  From experience I know that carp will come in very close to feed under cover of darkness.  So, I put out a flip cast of about 10-15 feet with both outfits.  That did it as the alarm went off about 10 minutes later.  A good fight ensued in total darkness and soon I flipped on my headlight to see a big mirror carp at my feet. Yes, they do hit at night.”  Visit


Fishermen vocal on two key issues

New England Boating TV show: Co-host Parker Kelly caught this 24” fluke at Austin Hollow, Jamestown last week fishing with Capt. Dave Monti.  Kelly and her co-host Tom Richardson were shooting a Wickford, RI episode that will air on the New England Sports Network. 

Restoration perfectionists:  Michael Borrelli of Metan Marine restores vintage boats.  Seen here this past weekend at the Newport Boat Show with a 21 foot 1969 Boston Whaler Sakonnet.
Fish of a lifetime:  Bret Bokelkamp (in photo) of Marion, MA and Bill Dzilenski of Warwick, RI caught this seven foot white marlin west of the Acid Barge in view of Block Island.  Bill said, “The hook-up was followed by an extended series of leaps and bounds by the fish.” 

Capt. Dave Monti and co-hosts Tom Richardson and Parker Kelly fished for summer flounder off Jamestown. They filmed a Wickford, RI episode of New England Boating to air in October on NESN.
Fishermen vocal on two key issues
Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) members at the September 9, 2013 meeting voiced concern about Atlantic Menhaden quotas and minimum sizes on commercial ground fish regulations being reduced on haddock, yellowtail flounder, witch flounder and American Plaice.
Mark Gibson, Deputy Chief of the Marine Fisheries Division of DEM, commented on the minimum sizes being reduced.  He said, “The Division recommends adoption of these measures as the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) has requested that states complement federal (commercial) groundfish management actions which have reduced minimum sizes on these species in hopes of reducing discard rates.”
 Discards are fish thrown back in the water as they are below the minimum size allowed; they often die due to the trauma of being dragged in a net and brought up on deck. Changing RI regulations to dovetail with federal regulation would avoid enforcement challenges when fishermen travel in state waters with smaller fish.   Mark Gibson said that Rhode Island NEFMC participants will monitor developments regarding discard minimization and recommended a one-year sunset provision so minimum sizes can be reevaluated next year.
Minimum sizes were established on these species based on best available science i.e. establishing sizes that would allow female fish to mature and reproduce.  Members argued that moving minimum sizes below current levels goes against the science ie.. taking female fish before they spawn which could eventually lead to a fisheries failure.
Council members argued that the solution to reducing discard rates is not to take smaller fish but to make the webbing in fishing nets larger so small fish can escape.  Most agreed, however, the majority felt with no time to change net regulations, the Council should recommend to Director Janet Coit that she approve the new minimum sizes.
Where’s the bite
Summer flounder (fluke) fishing is surprisingly good.  Normally, at this time of year they move offshore. Matt Conti of Sung Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, said “Charter boats are still hitting fluke just south of the southeast corner off Block Island.  And, fishing east of Point Judith is pretty good too.”  Last Wednesday I fished with Parker Kelly and Tom Richardson at Austin Hollow, Jamestown.  The duo caught fluke to 24”, they are co-hosts of the television show New England Boating and were shooting an episode in Wickford, RI that will air in October on NESN. 
Tautog fishing is just starting to pick up.  Tautog minimum size is 16”, three fish/person/day with a boat limit of ten fish.  Limit increases to six/person/day on October 19 through December 15 but the ten fish boat limit still in effect.  Charter and party boats not subject to ten fish boat limit.
Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “This is the first weekend that customers are landing keepers.  Most Bay fish are short, but out in front… off Beavertail, Narragansett and Brenton Reef (and around other rock clusters) customers are catching keepers.”  I was at Seal Ledge off Newport Sunday and twenty boats were southwest of the Ledge and ten boats north of the Seal Ledge bell, all were tautog and catching tautog. “Anglers are landing keeper tautog at the Breachway in Charlestown.” said Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait & Tackle.  Tautog fishing has been good in the Sakonnet too, Kurt Rivard landed a nine pound tautog this weekend as part of the Aquidneck Island Striper Team’s Sergeant Christopher Potts Tournament .” 
Striped bass fishing slowed this week.  David Sanford of East Greenwich fished in the Lumbermen Striped Bass Tournament out of Champlin Marina, Block Island and said, “Fishing was slow.  We managed to land two bass, in two days.  The winning tournament fish was 38 pounds.”  Dave Henault of Ocean Sate Tackle said, “Pogies are moving into the Providence and Seekonk River and customers are catching blues and striped bass.”  Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait & Tackle said, “Anglers are catching 15” to 33” bass off the wall with eels at night and sliver baits like Deadly Dicks during the day.  The fish are larger out in front with boat anglers landing bass to 35 pounds.”    Matt Conti of Sung Harbor said, “Fishing was slow this week at Block Island with a lot of bluefish.” Matt’s father Al said, “Those getting to the Southwest side (of Block Island) before 10 a.m. are catching bass.  We also had a school of stripers come to the surface off the West Wall (at the Harbor of Refuge) both Sunday and Monday, the fish were not very large but were a lot of fun for anglers.” Manny Sousa of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Customers have caught striped bass off Bullock’s Point, East Providence.  There have been keepers but nothing big yet… my son caught a 29” and 32” fish using clam tongues.”  “We fished from 2:00 a.m. until about 10:00 a.m. Saturday and couldn’t hook up with striped bass.  We were using both eels and chucked menhaden fishing the Hope and Gould Island areas.” said angler Mike Swain of Coventry.
Scup anglers continue to catch large scup along coastal shores and in Narragansett Bay having no trouble landing keepers (10 inch minimum).
Offshore fishing slowed last week. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina said, “Shark fishing is still good.  Three were caught this weekend, we weighed in a 149 pound Mako Sunday but few tuna are being caught.” Bret Bokelkamp of Marion, MA and Bill Dzilenski of Warwick, RI caught a seven foot white marlin west of the Acid Barge in view of Block Island last week.  Bill said, “The hook-up was followed by an extended series of leaps and bounds by the fish. We came up empty on tuna, but were grinning ear-to ear and we still are.” 

Galilee Tournament of Hope and Seafood Festival

Big striped bass:  Fred Lewie of Bolton, CT took the Galilee Fishing for Hope Tournament striped bass boat division with this 44.85 pound fish.
  Nice weakfish:  Kevin Pellegrino with the 24” weakfish (squeteague) he caught while anchored off Hog Island scup fishing Saturday.

Top bluefish and scup:  Nathaniel Ambrad of Wakefield, RI with the bluefish and scup that took first place in the Junior Boat Division at the Galilee Fishing Tournament of Hope this weekend.
Galilee Tournament of Hope and Seafood Festival
The Galilee Fishing Tournament of Hope and Seafood Festival were a big success this weekend.  The top striped bass landed in the boat division by Fred Lewie of Bolton, CT weighted in at a whopping 44.85 pounds.  This topped last years’ big fish by about seven and a half pounds. 
Adult anglers competed in boat and shore divisions for the striped bass, summer flounder (fluke) and bluefish.  In addition to these species, the Junior Division anglers fished for black sea bass and scup.  Steve Anderson took first place in the adult fluke division with a 4.55 pound fish and Kathy Hardy of Warwick took the Junior Boat division with a 3.60 pound fluke.  See complete listing of winners below.
The Seafood Festival was a huge hit too with over 65 venders (last year about 22 exhibitors participated).  Director Janet Coit of the Department of Environmental Management, co-sponsors of the event said, “It was very exciting walking the exhibits, children got to walk through a fishing net that was on display, tour a fishing boat, fish on the dock and much more.  Our staff did a great job working the event.” 
Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA), said, “Traffic both Saturday and Sunday were excellent.  We estimate that several thousand people attended.”  Medeiros continued, “We had bad sea conditions Saturday.  Many anglers said they had to deal with five to six foot seas coming into the Port of Galilee.  But overall it was a very good event.”
Tournament proceeds will go to the Narragansett Parks & Recreation Financial Aid Program, the Pt. Judith Fisherman’s Memorial Scholarship Fund and the RI Saltwater Anglers Foundation.  RISAA took a leading role organizing the tournament and Seafood Festival.  Photos of tournament winners can be seen at .
Galilee Fishing for Hope Tournament winners
Black sea bass (Juniors only) Junior Boat Division winners were 1st place Kathryn Hardy (3.25 lbs.), 2nd Nathaniel Ambrad and 3rd Jillian LeBlanc.
Bluefish Junior Boat Division winner was 1st Nathaniel Ambrad. Junior Shore Division winners were Sophia Garzoli (.39 lbs.), 2nd Alex Greenberg and 3rd Michael Cohen. Adult Boat Division winners were 1st place Glen Corsetti (11.90 lbs.), 2nd Donald Smith and 3rd Peter Vican.  Bluefish Adult Shore Division 1st place winner was Thomas McGuire (5.25 lbs), 2nd Rick Boyd and 3rd Rich Clarke.
Fluke Junior Boat Division winners Kathryn Hardy (3.60 lbs.), 2nd Noah Roebuck. Adult Boat Division winners were 1st place Steve Anderson (4.55 lbs.), 2nd Travis Barao and 3rd Gilbert Barao.  Fluke Shore Division 1st place Priscilla Bogdan (2.20 lbs.).
Scup (Juniors only) Junior Boat Division winners were 1st Nate Ambrad (2.05 lbs.), 2nd Joey Scrofani, 3rd Robinson Hoopes.  Junior Shore Division 1st place Alex Greenberg (.90 lbs.), 2nd Sophia Garzoli.
Striped bass Adult Boat Division winners were 1st place Fred Lewie (44.85 lbs), 2nd Corey Smith (36.70 lbs.) and 3rd Rich Carroll (35.80 lbs.).  Adult Shore Division 1st place Kevin Brignole (17.80 lbs.), 2nd Rick Boyd and 3rd Rich Clarke.
Newport International Boat Show
So you want to buy a boat. You are in luck.  It is the perfect time of year as sellers of both new and used boats are anxious to sell.  And, this is the perfect week to look at a lot of boats, all at one time, at the 43rd Annual Newport International Boat Show Thursday, September 12th through Sunday, September 15th .The show features boats of all types from 15 to 85 feet and it takes place on the Newport waterfront along American’s Cup Avenue.  Show hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Visit for details.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass fishing continued to be slow from shore and boats.  Mike Gill of Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown, said, “Shore anglers are tossing eels and all types of artificial baits with very few bumps.”  I fished the Pine Hill Prudence Island area Saturday and managed to catch three small school bass.  Mike Wake of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly, said, “Bass are being picked up with both small and large baits along Watch Hill reef but shore anglers are having a very tough time landing fish.”  Sam Busenbark of Bucko’s Tackle & Bait, Fall River, MA said the striped bass have just not arrived yet in our bays.”
Summer flounder (fluke) bite is still good at Block Island and fair in other places said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters.  Angler John Graydon of Warwick and his party managed to land some nice keeper fluke fishing around Block Island Saturday.  “Fluke seem to have moved to deeper water in the fifty foot range.” said Mike Gill of Quaker Lane.  Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said, “Our full day boat had the best week of the entire season...with a tremendous amount of anglers limiting out…our biggest fish of the week was taken by … Connie Tu of Warwick, RI who boated a 10.8 pound fluke.”
Weakfish and Northern Kingfish continue to make their presence known in our waters.  Sam Busenbark of Bucko’s Tackle said, “Customers have been hitting some good sized Kingfish and in good numbers near the battleship on the river in Fall River.  Kevin Pellegrino caught a 24" weakfish Saturday while anchored at Hog Island scup fishing with a jig tipped with squid. Kevin said, “It was a beautiful fish.”.
Scup has been good all summer, however, this week it slowed a bit with anglers still catching large fish but in fewer numbers. Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said porgy (scup) fishing was only fair this week.
Tautog fishing is still slow, however, Sam Busenbark of Bucko’s Tackle said, “Anglers are landing keeper tautog in the 16 to 18” range in good number from the Sakonnet River to off Brenton Reef, Newport.”
Black sea bass fishing has been good, however, a lot of shorts are being caught.  Angler Rick Sustello fished the Clay Head Block Island area Saturday and said, “We worked … our way south (of the red can) in about 35 to 70 feet of water… We continued repeating the drift… As the wind speed picked up, so did the action… We caught countess shorts and two short fluke but limited out on black sea.”
Offshore fishing was slow this week with the Frances Fleet they reported catching a mix of yellow fine tuna and albacore, a Wahoo and a few Mahi.