Fish have us surrounded. There are fluke to the south and east, blue dogs in the dump, pogeys at the mouth, bass on the ledge, largemouth on their beds and blues all around. If you have any personal days left, this is the time to cash them in. If you have any sick days left, this is the time to have that hangnail looked at or to maybe develop a cough. Local waters have finally warmed, ranging from 60 around Block Island to some warm spots near Conimicut Light where the water is pushing 66. Small eels have been spotted working against the odds in Indian Run Reservoir and one dedicated Vermonter, working the banks of Thirty Acre Pond, noted only live bait was working on largemouth tucked in tight through the weeds.
The big stripers we love seem to be holding to the northern part of Narragansett Bay. Boats are cruising around the IWAY bridge and Collier Point Park all the way to the mouth of the river, landing plenty of just-shy fish and strong numbers of keepers. Around the Sakonnet River, some nice bass are being caught on pogey chunks and even fluke rigs, which tells you they are nosing the bottom looking for squid or maybe some other easy shellfish. If you have the ability to snag menhaden, schools seem to be hanging near the mouth of the Providence River. Pogey’s are members of the Clupiedae family, along with our local favorites, river herring and shad. Native Americans knew them as ‘munnawhatteaug’, meaning fertilizer, planting them alongside the corn. Their high fat content made them a preferred dinner a few generations ago and they are still in demand for their Omega-3 content. Heads tails or bodies all seem to work on a circle hook, which will help with a safe release of whatever you catch.
Black sea bass are everywhere and their season opens back up on June 29, running until August 29 with a 3 fish per day limit. On September 1 the limit goes to 7 fish per day until things close on December 31. The Frances Fleet has been seeing plenty of them as have boats throughout the bay. Bluefish are in heavy from north to south putting the test to wire leaders and chomping teeth marks into blue and white poppers. Packing a Kastmaster will not only help target blues in a pogey feeding frenzy but will also get you below the bait schools to reach lazy, wide mouthed stripers waiting for a food delivery.
Fluke are in thick now with majority sitting in 30-50’ range although some are being landed in deep water up to 100 feet. Bucktails have been a top pick for when the drift is slow. Fresh whole or strips of squid are always a winner but when the black sea bass are biting, lots of that bait just goes to feed the fish. Green seems to be the color these last few days but everything is subject to change and every fisherman has their go-to guaranteed-to-catch color pattern. Often we think about sweet spots and deep holes but since fluke camo themselves in the sand, sometimes it is a flat sandy reach where bait-rich tide rolls over just right that holds the doormats. In the words of the great poet, Robert Hunter, “it goes to show you don’t ever know”.
The Block Island Sharkfest, an annual tournament organized by JB Tackle, is on for today and Saturday. This time of year there certainly will be blue sharks around the island, feeding on schools of squid, cuttlefish and herring. With a preference for waters in the sixty degree range, this is a great time to target them before water temps get too high and they return to deep canyon waters. Sport fishermen typically prefer hunting mako sharks, which will show in big numbers as the bluefish move in, as they are the major portion of their diets, along with swordfish and other sharks. Most common in our waters are the short fin makos, with an average size of around ten feet and weighing from 100 to 300 pounds. When feeding they are known to swim in a figure eight pattern with their mouths open, ready to bite, something to consider before taking a transom leap when south of the island. Thresher sharks will also migrate to our offshore waters in search of meals of menhaden, bluefish and butterfish. With long caudal fins, they can stun prey like fish or birds with their tails, making for epic battles from the deck if hooked in the fin. Entry fee is $600.00 with a calcutta payout.
Speaking of the island, sand eels have migrated in great numbers, drawing in schools of bluefish and stripers. While it seems the really big bass she occasionally gives up have not arrived just yet, there are plenty of bass to be had trolling tubes or eels around the church and southwest ledge. The North Rip is also productive these weeks along the steep sandy drops. It’s a special place to be in a wash of setting sun colors trolling umbrella rigs down low and throwing poppers for last minute light bass up top. Fishing is still good from the top of Point Judith Pond down to the commercial docks in Galilee with plenty of drops, pilings and structure to work. Surface plugs in the early morning or a nice white Sluggo might be the ticket.
On a regulatory note, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council has announced a 60 per cent reduction in the amount of river herring and shad bycatch allowed. The total amount will be 89 metric tons, which still appears like a staggering amount of potential damage to the populations of these important forage fish. This ruling covers the area from North Carolina to New York and hopefully will increase the amount of alewives returning to our local rivers, with bass and osprey hot on their tails, when sea temps start their long-anticipated rise and the new Main Street fish ladder sits waiting to come alive.