POST CARD FROM THE LEDGE
The pre-dawn commute to Block Island has been heavy with calm seas and favorable winds, drawing fishermen state-wide with hopes of securing a parking spot over the boulders and holes by sun-up. As first light made her first appearance, a steady stream of center consoles appeared on the new horizon, bouncing and revving over swells from distant ships and steaming lobster boats, all ahead full for the best spot. This has been an exceptional year for fishing from a boat and for the last few months, waters beneath the cliffs have looked like a swath of Outside White paint from Whale Rock to Montauk.
On the ledge, traffic was bumper to bumper board all along the peanut. Some boats have been fixed above favorite grounds; others appeared to be endlessly searching for that big mark on the sounder. By eight am, solar glare was a factor with the new day bouncing off so many windshields and windows. Tanner Littlefield trolled up some big sea-run bluefish on umbrella rigs behind Alex Hoxsie’s meticulous Contender, boating plenty despite his irritable case of Catch-And-Release-Too-Early Syndrome. Working around the boulders there were plenty more blues but no striped bass to be found. As night crept in they jigged eels on three ways but despite all best efforts, it was all bluefish all night. In winter, the Submarine buoy swings alone, save for the occasional dragger or lost sailor (thank you Robert Hunter) but in August, it’s a border for a moving, floating city unto itself. On a clear summer night, the image of hundreds of mast lights above moorings in New Harbor is a sight to be seen but pales in comparison to seeing a piece of ocean illuminated with the bright lights of captains and crews, working for fish, 4 miles off the island.
This week an incoming full moon drew waters quickly over kettles and bowls surrounding the island and there were hundreds of anglers in an almost cartoonish image, throwing eels and plastics over wrecks and barges. Some fishermen cast around Whale Rock, where divers towing white flags atop red floats were reporting small schools of decent sized bass with the occasional monster, which seemed to race by before they had a chance to sling a shot. Under the Southeast Light, there are stretches of waved sand between boulders where keeper sized fluke have been firing up at bluefish strips and even a Swedish Pimple tipped with red pork rind. Dog fish were all around the corner from the rusting Green Arrow to the first stretch headed west.
Waters around the south side have also been rich with translucent salps, free-swimming tunicates which can foul fishing nets and run afoul of anglers when they become snagged on treble hooks. Salps push water through their bodies, providing simultaneous feeding and movement. When banded together in long chains, they coordinate their movements to ride sea currents, devouring massive quantities of plankton.
Around Black Rock, where tide and current do not always agree, there were dozens of boats jigging and casting. All the while a sun faded, sluggish seventies-era cuddy cabin trolled through the fleet, picking out scup like nobody’s business. 3 guys cleaning up on scup is a tough image to have stuck in your head after 5 hours on the water with nothing but a sore casting arm, a snapped swivel and a brand new bucktail your young son left on the bottom to show for it. Such is fishing, I guess, but it still hurts.
Folks casting into the New Harbor channel reported slow goings with the occasional bass or blue cruising through. It always seems to be just as you have had enough and are ready to call it a night that the rod takes that quick bend; just enough to keep you on the hook for another twenty minutes. A young fisherman named Ryan, who was targeting swordfish in the channel, recommended using squid when fishing the cut. Apparently he outmaneuvered his parents, managing to cast before the beach chairs were unpacked then landed nice striped bass on his first toss. It’s a good life, even if you don’t catch a swordfish and you use half of the afternoon’s bait on that first fish.
Just like on the mainland, island-bound largemouth have moved out of the shallows and are hanging on shaded edges. Most guys are having their best luck with rubber worms jigged over the end of those edges with the wacky-rigged style being especially effective. Seneca Swamp has succumbed to a carpet of Lilly pads but still holds big bass and pickerel. Don’t overlook the pond where Cooneymus meets West Side Road or the Duck Pond just north of the painted rock. There are fish to be caught in many local ponds, many of which are roadside and easily accessible.
Sunrise is a great time to make your approach to the island, giving you ample time to choose left or right as you near the North Rip. One side offers a chance at a major striper, based on a long fabulous summer of consistent big bass and more bluefish than you can smoke. The other side offers the invaluable offering of less boats, less crowds, plenty of structure and a short afternoon commute to Ballard’s for a quick thirst quencher. As you see the North Light dead ahead, don’t wait long to flip your coin because the sand comes up fast and that dark outline on the point is a surfcaster who dipped his first lure an hour before you left the dock.