Talk around the docks this week has been all about sunset. These new days of a waning summer seem to have made the fish a bit uninterested once the sun sets, even when they were actively feeding. This temporarily flies in the face of something we know best, that predatory fish like stripers become emboldened by darkness, moving into shallow waters they would not consider on a sunny day. For the last week or so, it also seems the local population has also been on the small side, with only the occasional keeper. Mike Yarworth, local fisher and old school rocker, had a keeper on, a real fish, a serious fish, a possible wall hanger, as the sun hit the bricks, only to have everything go limp with no explanation or sighting of the big bass. He did manage to retrieve his un-named lure, possibly an orange and red Sluggo, which was of little consolation.
To be clear, sunset is defined in four stages: sunset, civil, nautical and astronomical dusk. These stages all relate to the number of degrees the sun is below the earth’s horizon, leaving us with decreasing amounts and often increasing clarity, of light. Mariners favored the nautical period, when the sun was 12 degrees below the horizon, as this was a perfect time for taking bearing from known stars before deep darkness obscured the light of smaller stars. For those inclined to take pictures of our shorelines and catches, those last few minutes are what many call the “magic hour”, due to the clarity of available light and little creep of man-made light pollution. So after all that, somehow the fish know what’s happening above and once the sun is done, so is the fishing; at least for now.
East facing beaches and bony spots like Monahan’s, where the water temperatures are still holding around 68º, have been loaded with cookie-cutter 20” stripers gorging themselves on silversides and anchovies. The Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia, are quite common in our salt or brackish estuaries and river mouths, wearing colors of greens and greys on top and, as is the case with much of Nature’s attention to camouflage, light colors below, helping to make them less visible to predators.
Often they can be heard or seen getting pounded up against the muddy shoulders of rivers near the eel grass and that’s where you may find one of the several fly fishermen who have been lined up just east of Sprague Bridge. Fly casting regular and serious old school fish guy, Guy Ippolito, landed a nice striper sort of near there, just shy of legal keeping, on the fly. This year, a 26” bass is almost a trophy at the tail end of a long and often very slow beach season. The good news is the light tackle action has been just great. Small Rapala BX’s, trusty Bomber’s, white or green/white needlefish and soft baits like Storm Shads and Sluggos will serve you well; basically anything with a little wiggle and mimicking colors. There is also a new lure just hitting the shelves from Live Target called the Yearling. These folks have created images of schooling baitfish on the side of several different patterns of salt and freshwater lures, which might do very well attracting schoolies. Cocahoe minnows also work well in these shallow waters. Even if you bump up to a 30# braid, like PowerPro, you still get the back and forth sensitivity of a light to medium rod with a little security that if the one you’ve been casting for all summer happens to take the bait, you will have at least a fighting chance of getting it to the beach.
Understanding that our migratory bass and blues will be loading up on calories before heading south for the winter, we can target areas where silversides and other traditional bait live as a way of finding the bigger fish. Outflows like the Charlestown breachway are starting to show some life with bluefish and fair-sized stripers being caught on a long-overdue regular schedule. If you want to fish here, you need to hustle out to the bitter end and may be subject to the expected and strange regimen of circle casting; rotating your way around the end of the wall with several other night owls, protest huffing at the time you are taking to cast then exhaling stale Marlboro’s to give the sweet salt night air that special twinge of cancer. If rotation is not your thing, fish can be found in the corner, where sand meets stone and farther to the east, where there are a few fishy holes and bumps.
On the freshwater side, local pond temperatures are still in the seventies on average and the fishing is good. Spinner baits and shallow diving minnow imitations with a bit of rattle will encourage lazy bass to get out of the weeds and strike, as will a nice 5 or 6” rubber worm, like a Finesse. To date, we should have received approximately thirty-four inches of precipitation, which includes rain and snowfall but we are about eight inches shy. Several local ponds, like Tuckers and Indian Lake, are in low water states while water just barely trickles over, if at all, dams like Asa, California Jim’s and Old Mountain Field, or Creamery Pond to the older readers. A tip of the camo hat to the guys from South Kingstown’s Highway Department, who spent a few hot days last week clearing brush, trash, trees and deadwood from our dams. If you have time to walk the dog or cast for some trout, you will see they really look great.
For the fly fishing folks, the Narragansett Chapter of Trout Unlimited is celebrating the fishing family on Saturday, October 4 over at the Arcadia Management Area on Route 165. From 10am to 4pm, you can fish, get some help to improve your cast and feast on burgers and dogs with the kids. Sounds like a great day on the water in the woods and a chance to see what TU is all about. Please don’t forget about the DRAFT ADDENDUM IV TO AMENDMENT 6 TO THE ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS INTERSTATE FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLAN meeting at URI’s Bay Campus Corless Auditorium on September 17. Since sunset will be at 6:51 and nautical twilight at 7:51, you will have plenty of daylight to get there by the 6pm start.