Saturday June 14 is the RI Salt Water Anglers Take A Kid Fishing Day. With a spirit that seeing and learning on the water builds strong backs and balanced minds, this is all about giving young people a day off from everything else with a casual starter course about fish and all that they mean to us. Spending a day on the water is fun for some, work for others; both rely on the same skill set to tie up at the end of the trip.
Certain skills help us catch more fish while others help us when we’re ashore. Some hear water against the hull but we listen for the live well’s low hum and when it stops. Knowing how long a south east blow will last helps us decide when to leave the dock. When that angry mako comes over the rail mid-swell in The Mud Hole, there is no time to be tripping over loose lines. Knowing to slice the tail on a squid strip for some extra swagger can make all the difference when the wind is against the tide. Sea knowledge is cumulative, built on years of instruction, practice, mistakes and self-correction.
On June 14, those kids will benefit from learning basic fish handling. Bluegills, which can tolerate water as warm as 95 degrees, have spiny dorsal fins with a frosting of bacteria to easily prick a finger, leaving a nasty red spot reminder. Bluefish have veracious appetites and with just one row of sharp teeth on each jaw, continue to chomp away while on deck, even with a gut full of mushy sand eels. Mako sharks will leap thirty feet out of the water and do not appreciate being hooked. Fish Handling 101 will teach them not to reach the wrong way.
Even more so for the few who choose a career on commercial boats, common sense and a focus on safety are pieces of life’s puzzle we will forever carry. As Walter Scott, told us way back in 1816, “It’s not fish ye’re buying, it’s men’s lives.” Commercial boats are models of efficiency and rhythm. Good fishermen quickly learn everything has a place and there is a reason for that place. Depending who you work for, you may have also learn that you damned well better put it back in that place. A week in the canyons can be a hard spot to learn lessons like where to step, how to bend at the knees and how to fall asleep fast.
A few nice bass came off the beaches near Monahan’s last week. The classic wooden egg with a bucktail teaser seems to be working, along with local favorite, the jig head tipped small a Sluggo or Zoom fluke.
Fluke are all over the south side of Montauk. Some reported catches have approached the double digit weight mark but the majority seems to be large’s and shorts, which is 18 inches for us. Where waters have warmed into the relatively balmy high fifties and depending on weather conditions and the tide almighty, some days they’re biting in 30 feet off our own south facing beaches, some days they are in 40-50 feet. Fishing Montauk can make for a good day trip in your center console, a fun overnighter in your cuddy cabin or a romantic/serious fishing adventure if you brave the permanent construction experiment that is Connecticut’s Rt. 95.
Some large scup in the 14” range have been hitting ½ ounce white jig heads tailed with Berkely Jerk Shad when bounced over rock piles. Tom Porier and Paul Harrison fished around Prudence Island with White Ghost Charters, landing some schoolies, sea bass, fluke and scup. Sea bass and sea robins have been mixed in with the flatfish catches, along with a few small bluefish on the head boats out of Pt. Judith It was just a few years ago we could look across the bay to see multiple schools of blues to target with speckled poppers or shiny metals. Not so much the last few years.
Peruvian silversides seem to be working well as bait for fluke. Silversides, Odonteshes regia, also called pejerrey, are found in the estuaries and coastlines of Chile and Peru. Their shiny scales and yellow-tipped tales may be what make them so attractive to flatfish even after being frozen for Lord knows how long. Apparently they also make for a wonderful ceviche if the fishing is slow. You can pack lots of colored beads and fancy red this or that but if the drift is quick with tide, someone else’s plain fresh squid strip just might win the pool.
With the on-shore winds, some beaches have been thick with green lettuce, Ulva lactuca. Annoying to some as it envelops every cast, it is quite a delicious treat when dried, even more so when fresh. Rich in magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium, Nature here provides a good shot of vitamin B-12, something which vegetarian surfcasters may lack. Who knew? Weedless-rigged Sluggo’s tied directly to the leader will help reduce the harvest. Greenwich Cove has been full of small stripers sipping shrimp in front of McKinley’s and some decent bass have shown up near the Ninigret and the Charlestown Breachway. Bunker seems to be the ticket for the large bass. For those fishing from a boat, it’s worth a swing towards the mouth of the Providence River near nun 22 to find schools of pogies to snag for bait.
Lots of places still remain hit or miss so having a well-stocked tackle bag and a full tank of fuel are key. Blues are reappearing and while it remains to be seen if they are here in truly big numbers, they are in the bay and around South County. All those lucky kids who RISAA members take fishing, will leave with big smiles and loads of knowledge. After that long day on the water, they may see some things differently, learn about wind and tide and you can bet they will fall asleep fast.