striped bass

wickford harbor & weakfish-narragansett times, 5/23/2014

Either drifting green crabs beneath a warm sun or casting the shoreline under the slim light of a waning crescent moon, all those magical colors of spring are really intensifying now. Fishing can often be best in those forty-five minute windows around the sun and moon’s rise and set and there is much to see as the lights change. Weakfish are due to make a return, their slender bodies painted dark greens and purples with spots of black and bronze, while bubblegum will win when trying to fool bass during a cinder worm hatch. Strangely, for some this season’s fashionable color just might be cement.

The new and improved boat ramp in Galilee is very near completion and very much on schedule. Andres Aveledo, Conservation Engineer at RIDEM, said, “The contractor is committed to getting the ramp done by the end of his contract (June 7th).” In an effort to accommodate early season anglers, the contractor has “agreed to partially open the ramp once he pulls the cofferdam. The partial opening will be limited to times when there is no work happening at the site.” Sounds like everyone is doing their best to have the whole deal ready for a new boating and fishing season and given the rough winter we just plowed through, a tip of the camo hat goes to all involved.

Water temps in the bay are holding around 52-56, making this very hospitable for fluke, bass, tautog and even blues. Reports from around the islands throughout the bay and our south shore are still all about schoolie-sized bass, with most being in the 20-24” range, tricked into taking everything from jig heads with curly pork rind tails to small poppers, which are useful until sunset. We surely know that with each up-tick of the thermometer, bigger bass get closer.

Squid are here in force, gathering up under the Newport causeway, around Fort Getty, all around Jamestown and Point Judith Harbor. Yo-Zuri jigs seem to remain the top pick.  Some fishermen believe that this time of year squid may be the preferred striper bait as they don’t have the prickly spines of some finned bait fish, like pogies, to get in the way of consumption. Truth or fiction, squid are available for short money and time and certainly work better than a commercially caught cut washed packed frozen manhandled west coast offering. Think local.

Stripers have been seen in Wickford Harbor, and there is great fishing in several spots. The northern flats of Fishing Cove can light up with the cinder worm hatch and is a perfect place to fish from a kayak or canoe. The channel is a classic place to snag some bait and send it right back for bass and blues on a strong flood or ebbing tide or use a blue or yellow popper on a slow retrieve. When bluefish force bait into the harbor, the fishing can be spectacular.

At the end of Main Street is the town pier on your right, which unless full of boats, is a wonderful place to cast into the channel. Just to the north is access to a small beach where you can put in your kayak to access the entire harbor. With all the dock pilings and moorings serving as cover, there are many places to cast throughout the harbor. On top of that, it makes for a wonderful early morning adventure to paddle her top to bottom, from the weedy salt marsh south of Loop Drive to where the clams live around Cornelius Island.

Fluke fishing has picked up with increasing water temps. Newport waters are finally in the 57 degree range with the Block Island Sound around 55. Charter boats from Galilee have had some decent days from the Pt. Judith Harbor to Block Island. Squid strips are still the favorite, tipped onto a variety of offerings but spearing does also seem to draw a bite. The minimum size is 18” with a maximum of 8 fish per day.

In recent years, our region of the North Atlantic has seen a small return of a once local favorite, the squeteague, Cynoscion regalis. Also called weakfish, they were once plentiful in our estuaries and around some parts of Block Island and Cape Cod. Members of the drum family of fishes, Mid Atlantic fishermen call them sea trout, although they are not related to the real sea trout, which are actually a member of the salmon family. Squeteague are Perciformes, meaning they are “perch-like” with their rayed find and bony bodies. With their sharp center of the mouth canines, they are a top carnivore, eating shrimp, menhaden, squid and a variety of smaller fish, including others of their own species. As the water warms, they head into our bays inlets and back waters searching the bottom for prey and places to spawn.

Historically, their appearance and abundance has been wildly cyclical and it would be difficult to prove whether Nature or being over served a cocktail of human interventions, resulted in their most recent population decline. If you decide to use artificials, soft baits in pinks and purples are recommended, best fished across the bottom. Due to their soft or weak mouths, they are best targeted with light tackle and despite the nickname, can put up a great fight. A slow retrieve on light tackle will be the most effective and fun.  If you are fortunate enough to catch one, the RI limit is one fish per day with a 16 inch minimum.

 

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