Matthew Garstka of Central Falls weighed in this 13.44 pound fluke caught off Block Island at Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle.
Mike thinks like a fish
What time do you fish? Where are you fishing this this week? Are you leaving the dock at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m.? These are the questions Mike Swain of Coventry hears often as angler acquaintances try to figure out what he is doing right to catch such large striped bass, summer flounder and other species.
Mike works at Electric Boat, Quonset Point, but fishing is his passion. It is in his genes. His Dad fished commercially and recreationally for years and he learned a lot from him.
To catch fish consistently in Narragansett Bay and along coastal shores, you have to learn from your experiences, the patterns fish have followed over the years and start to think like a fish. Mike Swain has done this.
To think like a fish you have to consider a lot of variables including the forage fish stripers eat. What brings the type of food striped bass eat (and the striped bass) to a particular spot includes variables such as the spawning season of forage fish, water temperature and depth, current and tide and time of day. Mike combines these factors with his historical fishing experiences to think like a fish. He shows up waiting for the striped bass with the type of bait or food they are eating.
Mike then puts in the time to catch fish. “We fished all day for two fish.” said Mike as we talked about striped bass fishing in the upper Bay a couple of weeks ago. The fish caught were in the high twenty pound range, which for some are lifetime trophy fish and/or their personal best.
Mike and his fishing partner Jay Anctil (also of Coventry) have caught dozens of striped bass many in the 15, 20 and 30 pound range this season with one of his largest being caught last week topping 36 pounds. These are large fish for the Bay and he has caught fish like this year after year.
Two years ago I had the privilege of fishing with Mike. We fished on his boat his way… with the freshest bait possible, moving from place to place fishing where the bass have appeared in the past… trying to think like a fish and being patient waiting for them to bite.
Atlantic menhaden, either live lining them or fishing with cut-up chunks, is his bait of choice this time of year for striped bass. This Saturday Mike called me while on the water, “Hey Dave I am fishing just north of you (in the East passage) and can’t revive a fish. He came to the boat and we chatted. He and his fishing partner Jay had caught two fish in the 25 to 30 pound range.
Mike has a nose for bass, a nose for fish in general. Once the bass fishing slows in the upper Bay he moves to the mid and lower Bay fishing favorite spots around Prudence Island, Hope Island and Jamestown. He then puts his summer flounder (fluke) game face on and finds them wherever they are including Warwick, North Kingstown, Jamestown, Newport, Narragansett and more.
“You just have to put the time in.” said Mike. And yes, think like a fish to find and catch striped bass and other fish consistently.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass fishing remained good in the Bay but anglers have to first find the fish and work to catch them. On Block Island the bass bite dramatically improved last week. Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters, Pt. Judith said, “We are starting to catch some nice fish at Block Island both at the North Rip and Southwest Ledge area. There seem to be a lot of small scup in the water so we have been using silver spoons with success.” With high winds anglers have not been able to get out the past couple of days but shore anglers are doing well. Christian Silvia of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly said, “There is a good bass bite all along the southern coastal shore. Anglers are catching fish in the 30” range at the mouth of the Pawcatuck River and at Napatree Point. Fishing up the River has slowed.” Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Anglers had a slow day or two but the bass bite overall has been tremendous with anglers catching fish all along the coast in the East passage from shore and from boats. This week we weighed in a 32 pound fish caught off Colt State Park.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “Molly Romanco was fishing with boyfriend Cody Trostel and caught a 30 pound striped bass using live pogies and anglers in the Pawtucket Division Street and Parent’s Marina area are catching large bass too.” Bass fishing expert Mike Swain of Coventry said, “We caught striped bass to 27 pounds in the upper Providence River last week and this weekend we landed multiple fish in the mid thirty pound range, our largest was 45” (about 36 pounds) in the East Passage. We were spotting some very large fish. It was a great week for striped bass fishing in the Bay and River.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle Riverside said, “Things slowed in the upper Rivers this week with a lot of activity moving further south to Nayatt Point, Rocky Point and Colt State Park. One customer caught a 36 inch fish from Sabin Point. It was a short fish, but it was very fat, it must have had 15 pogies in its belly.”
Summer flounder (fluke). Jim Pontarelli of Narragansett (and his son Will) fished with brother-in-law Paul Bertelli for fluke off Matunuck this weekend. Jim said, “We got several around 20 inches but had many just under the limit. A lot of throw backs.” Mike Bestwick of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle said “Customer Matt Garstka of Central Falls weighed in a 13.4 pound, 29.5” fluke Saturday that he caught while fishing off Block Island.” Bruce Lawing reports on the RISAA blog a good fluke bite on the west side of Block Island. Mike said, “We fished four hours and had a 50/50 short to keeper ratio with our largest fish just over four pounds.” Angler Rick Sustello and his wife fished off the southern coastal shore in a couple of favorite spots from 40 to 60 feet of water. Rick said, “We returned with eight keeper fluke with five of them between 22 and 24 inches and two slab scup about 15”. “Capt. B.J. Silvia of Flippin’ Out Charters is reporting a good fluke bite around Jamestown and Newport.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Quite a few big fish this past week. Biggest fish of the week was an 11 pound fish caught last Thursday along with other fish in the 6-8 pound range. There seems to be respectable amounts of fluke just about everywhere but the amount of bait around is staggering and the fluke seem well fed which can lead to them being wary about taking an angler's offerings. It is more of a finesse fishery lately.”
Freshwater fishing is still very good. Trout are being caught in ponds restocked by the State of RI (visit www.dem.ri.gov for a complete list). A variety of other species are also being caught by anglers. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Freshwater bass fishing is excellent and are being landed on heavy medium shiners. Stump Pond and Turner Reservoir have been good. Trout fishing has been good at Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods.”