Block Island is awash in south side weed, sand eels, wandering tourists and a decent crop of honeysuckle a few weeks out. Wild roses have blossomed bright in outside white with blackberries soon to follow. Fluke are thick from the upper bay to the center wall to Pots and Kettles. Thankfully, sea bass season opens on Sunday, much to the delight of the fluke fleet whose squid strip bait has been hijacked for these few weeks in between seasons. RIDEM will be out in force enforcing Operation Dry Water, looking for boaters over the alcohol limit of .08, something to keep in mind before Yuengling-ing your way to Old Harbor.
The newly christened Galilee boat ramp has had her ribbon cut and boat owners are welcomed to line up and argue over who goes in next, although now there are two clear, safe passages to the water. Town officials, members of RIDEM and plenty of eager anglers were on hand to see the gates open. Little comes so easily to some as complaining but with the caveat that seldom do things go as planned, the ramp looks strong, impressive and easy to navigate, even if its baptism was later than some might have hoped.
The Town of South Kingstown Highway Department has been busy repairing damage to the Snug Harbor boat ramp. Replacement of a roughly 10’x12’ pad required waiting for a proper low tide, which was accomplished last Friday. Generally more accustomed to trolling town roads patching potholes, plowing seas of snow or mowing down waves of poison ivy, the team did excellent work returning the ramp to full use. Although there is basically no parking, it is a popular entry way for lower salt ponds reaches. A tip of the camo hat to Mike Masson, Lucien Masson and Mike Lavomodier for making it all happen. There is an alternate ramp at the top of the pond, in Marina Park, however some say it’s a bit too steep for the inexperienced dipper.
The good folks and fishermen over at Kettlebottom, who produce hunting and fishing videos from all over everywhere with Jamestown’s Capt. Robb Roach and crew, hosted Flukefest 2014. These are the same people who shot video, scheduled to air soon on PBS, of volunteers humping herring over the Palisades Mill in an effort to increase spawning success once the fish were safely in the upper ponds.
At the big party at Conanicut Marina, 8 year old Brayden Dickenson swept the youth and adult classes for largest fluke, taking home 2 big cardboard checks. Nice work, Brayden. the state record still stands from 1962, when a 17lb 8oz. fluke was caught in the Narrow River. Those days certainly seem to be past.
Striped bass fishing has stayed steady in the upper bay with live lining pogies being the trick on most tides. Fishing has also begun to improve around Block Island, where trolling tubes and slinging eels is the quick key with a heavy dose of time. Island free-diver Chris Blansfield reported a very recent increase in bass bathed with sea lice. Those sand eels are great for bringing in fish but sure make it tough to get bites with artificials.
Dogfish continue to bite nearly everything near southwest ledge and the North Rip. Wire line will slow them in addition to using umbrella rigs or diamond jigs.
With the easy excuse of cold water washed away, there still seems to be a dearth of big fish or even big numbers of somewhat big fish. There are some decent almost-legal fish and a few real nice females over 20# still summering near the Providence River, feeding on squid and those fat-rich pogies. The Cape Cod Canal is waist deep in its annual striper run but there is little bragging so far. The Sakonnet is still producing, southwest ledge has some bass, The Race in on few but you get the picture.
There is no high science here, just a hunch and an X on the calendar that’s clearly close to July, with a very small pile of reports from people and places to which I turn to see the fishes I wish I had caught. Are we seeing the makings of a landings downturn or is this just one of those supernatural cycles that we haven’t decoded yet?
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has developed target limits for pretty much everything, including removals, which means both discarded dead fish and useable landings, female spawning stock biomass and the overall health of the striped bass population. Currently bass are listed as “not overfished or experiencing overfishing relative to the new reference points from the 2013 SAW/SARC57”. In the world of New England fisheries management, typically there are two ideas of stock numbers. One comes from government agencies, NGO’s, scientists, bean counters and those who enjoy comparing spread sheet red eye. The other comes from the watermen, who know what they know because they see it every day. Very often, the comparative numbers do not align very well. No offer is made here as to which is correct, given the inherent variances of species, locations, capture methods, etc. Point is, the white shirts tell us the stock is in good shape but something seems off.
So Spring was for pickup truckloads of lobster pots bound for the Point and fishing in thick daybreak fog, hoping to breakfast brag about the first keeper. Now summer is for finally clipping away wilted daffodils and waking up your better half at midnight for a nice bass photo op, the latter being something best attempted only once per year. Seasoned wood burners will have next winter’s chords all tuned up and stacked, with lupines growing all around. On the heels of July, James Russell Lowell gave us, “And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” With the water warm, bait in strong, the equinox passed and a sturdy new boat ramp, these are certainly perfect days for all things fishing.