Friday, June 10, 2016

Mike thinks like a fish

 Mike Swain with one of the many striped bass he has caught in the Conimicut Light area this year.
 Fish in the box: Paul Bertelli took brother-in-law Jim Pontarelli and nephew Will (both of Narragansett) fishing this weekend and hooked them up with these summer flounder off Matunuck.
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 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.”

Fishing tournament for visually impaired

 Barry Gootkind of Narragansett with the 11.1 pound summer flounder he caught on the Seven B’s last Friday.
 Brandon Hagopian caught this 43 pound, 47” striped bass this week as fishing intensified in the upper Bay.
 Ken Blanchard and family fished the Providence River with Capt. Jack Sprengel of East Coast Charters and landed this bass on a live pogie last week.

Dawn McWilliams of Ithaca, NY caught her first Narragansett Bay striped bass last week, shown with Capt. Dave Monti.

Fishing tournament for visually impaired

The RI Lions Sight Foundation (RILSF) will be hosting their 9th Annual Fishing Tournament for Visually Impaired Persons (VIPs) on June 26th aboard the Frances Fleet party boat in Galilee, RI.
The half-day tournament is free to the VIP’s and their guides and includes gifts, breakfast and the half-day of fishing from 8:00 a.m. to noon.  The fishing tournament will be followed by lunch and an awards ceremony at the Hanks’ Down South restaurant.  The three top winners will be eligible to represent Rhode Island at the Lions National VIP Fishing Tournament held on the Outerbanks of North Carolina.

There are over 2,500 visually impaired persons in Rhode Island so organizers are urging readers to please pass along information on this opportunity. For information and forms visit or call Ken Barthelemy at 401.529.6173.

Striped bass fishing continues to improve

Live lining or fishing with chunks of Atlantic menhaden, day or night, has been the bait of choice for striped bass.
Angler Ken Blanchard Jr. said, ”We caught four nice stripers with Capt. Jack Sprengel of Warwick on East Coast Characters in the twenty pound range and one nearly thirty pounds fishing with my brothers and nephew last Friday.  We left Greenwich Marina at 5:30 a.m. and went up the Providence River.  We located the bait, snagged Atlantic menhaden and then live lined them.  We had our limit by 8:30 a.m.”

Angler Mike Swain of Coventry said, “We caught striped bass to 27 pounds in the upper Providence River this weekend and did well on Monday.” Patti Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Striper fishing is very good.  This weekend customers were catching stripers with chucks of Atlantic menhaden off Prudence Island at Providence Point.”  The East Passage of the Bay has been where all the action has been.  Additionally, fishing in the Mt. Hope Bay has been good.  Angler Travis Barao of East Providence said this weekend, “We left the Mt. Hope Bay area and saw over twenty boats fishing for striped bass at the Bridge.”

One of the largest fish this week was caught by Brandon Hagopian which was a 43 pound, 47” striped bass.

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.”

Noted local fly fisherman, Ed Lombardo said, “We have been fishing the Barrington River for the last week and a half and there are plenty of striped bass but they are small fish but are a lot of fun on a 6 wt. or 7wtl fly rod. Dark olive and black flies work very well because the number of mummichogs in the River. One bass was a nice 19” fish, big for what we have been getting at the Narrow River, Barrington and other rivers.  My records show that this month, June things should change the larger fish should be entering these River systems.”

Fly fish Aquidneck Island by train

On Saturday, June 4th, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the Fly Fishing Express take anglers to fish on Aquidneck Island. The train will leave from 710 Anthony Road, Portsmouth and head toward Newport stopping at hard to get to places to fish.  The train stops for lunch and then more fly fishing in the afternoon.  The cost is $15.  Register with Kim Sullivan at 401-539-0037 or email her at

National Seminar Series moves to Taunton

This season’s 30th Annual Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series in New England will be held in Taunton, Massachusetts.  The Seminar Series brings decades of experience and expertise to eight of the most active and engaged fishing communities in the country and this year the Taunton area will be one of them.

As the nation’s longest-running educational program on recreational marine fishing tactics, the series covers the how-tos and where-tos of catching gamefish. Every seminar is hosted by George Poveromo, host of “World of Saltwater Fishing” on NBC Sports, with the help of local fishing experts and captains.

Each seminar is five hours and covers a variety of tailored topics relevant to the regional fishing environment, including weather conditions, controlled-depth fishing, tools and technology, and the effects of tides and temperature on fish. The series employs a team-teaching concept, where four experts take the stage for each session.
The first seminar is scheduled for January 7 in Fort Myers, Florida and the session in our region is scheduled for March 4 in Tauton, Massachusetts.

Where’s the bite

Striped bass fishing remains strong in the Bay with fish getting larger.  Bass bite is starting on Block Island and fish continue to be landed along the southern coastal shore. See above column.

Fluke fishing was mixed last week with rough seas and turbid water.  As the water clears and warms the bite is expected to improve and move closer to shore.  The Frances Fleet reported a fair fluke bite last week.  Capt. Frank Blount said, “Fishing OK for this time of year considering that water temperatures are still not ideal due to the cool spring weather.” Fish being caught are close to shore along the coastal shore where the water is lower and warmer.  Patti Ferrara of Ray’s Bait said, “Fluke are being caught in the Jamestown Bridge area this weekend.”  I made a test run for fluke off Newport, Jamestown and the Newport Bridge area and did not hook up early this week but did manage to catch and release some nice black sea bass in the process.  Eric Duda reported on the RISAA blogg that he fished the Sakonnet River this weekend for fluke.  Duda said, “ We caught four fluke… a 17.5”, 18” and two 19” fish along with six keeper seabass were released because they are out of season and scup to nearly two pounds.  Most fish were caught in 20 to 30 feet of water.”

Squid fishing last week was slow with dirty water but reports over the weekend were expected to improve and they did as the water cleared and warmed up a bit.  I fished the Frances Fleet for squid with the RI Saltwater Anglers group Saturday night and caught about 12 squid which was about the average on the boat with some angler catching a lot more and some less.

Freshwater fishing improved over the weekend at waterways restocked with trout by the Department of Environmental Management.  Visit for a list of ponds that have been restocked. Angler Harold Hemberger said, “I fished the Curran Reservoir off Seven Mile Road in Cranston on Saturday. I caught seven largemouth bass - all on top water lures.  I saw several people fishing from shore doing well catching some fairly large trout.”