Striped bass, fluke, tuna and shark fishing are all getting better, much better. Along South West Ledge and the island’s south side, the bite continues to improve with plenty of bait to be found. Sand eels have been seen along the Narragansett shoreline with lots of small blues in close chasing them towards the beach. Brenden McGonagle and the crew of Patriot Six continue to find tuna in 67-68º water, including a beautiful 64”, 155 pound bluefin. Trolling a zucchini green spreader bar at 6.7 knots near The Fingers, he and his Dad, Steve, hooked into fish after just ten minutes on the grounds. Steve provided a pretty fantastic blow by blow of the catch, from the hook up to the back and forth to seeing the Dacron backing show on the reel to finally Brenden throwing the harpoon, a perfect shot, no less. He added that the day was, “As good as life gets”. What’s more cool than fishing with your Dad? Nothing.
Shark Fishing is also strong, really strong. This past weekend was the 34th Annual Snug Harbor Shark Tournament, with proceeds being donated to Recreational Fishing Alliance and our own RI Salt Water Anglers Association. 51 boats and 200 anglers from RI to Pennsylvania competed for prize money and bragging rights. Saturday afternoon, boats were lined up waiting to weigh in, while the boys on the DEEP Contender in their matching shirts weighed in a 156 pound mako just after a 196 was hoisted. The day prior, Tony Guarino and Booked Off charters had weighed in a 503 pound mako caught on the East Grounds, before the tournament even started. What luck.
After two gorgeous days offshore, the Grand Prize went to Todd Stevenson’s boat, the “Skinny T”, who along with with Jim Devecchi boated a 351 pound thresher, which earned them a $4000 savings bond. Second prize was awarded to the pretty Blackfin, “Sea Son Ticket”, with a 191 pounder. First prize for a mako went to Chris Guyette on the “Release Me” for a 261 pounder, with second prize going to Mitch Wnek on the “Dusky” with one at 199 pounds .
It’s important to note that in an age of political correctness and fisheries conservation, this tournament allowed only makos and threshers, both of which are edible, so nothing goes to waste. Tagging and releasing was encouraged. NOAA even had some folks there to cut away skin sections, teeth, stomach contents (we say no metal cans or Louisiana license plates fall out) and spinal cord sections for analysis. Maybe one day there will be no more contests ending with a standard photo op and a big dead shark dumped in a Dumpster. Well done Elisa and Matt; well done.
The real star of the weekend might have been the Draggin’ Anchor who was not even registered in this tournament. With all the competing boats circling, Captains Mike Smith and Chris Lundine in a 20’ WellCraft waited patiently to weigh their massive thresher shark caught near Coxe’s Ledge, just to know her weight. It was a real beauty, draped across the stern in front of an old 150hp two stroke, with its tail flopped up on the dock. There is some serious money in boats and gear in these tourneys and it was great to see and older boat with two decent guys land a big fish on a 30. Matt Conti was unable to get them weighed, with all the other registered boats waiting but man, what a shark. In the profound words of Bartholomew Quint, “Well, nothin’s easy, is it?” A tip of the camo hat to Chris and Mike.
A reminder to fishermen of all kinds, construction of Deep Water Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm project has begun and this means a restriction of where we can fish. No fishing of any kind is allowed within the work area between July 17 and September 11, 2015. Commercial guys need to have all gear removed by the first date and recreational guys need to avoid the area. There are maps available of the work zone; any questions should be directed to the project liaison, Elizabeth Marchetti, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our local jelly expert James Corbett reported that Green Hill Pond is full of Stinging Sea Nettle, comb jellies and small bait fish. And yes, the nettles do have, “a very painful sting”, according to James. Ninigret Pond has had a bloom of comb, moon and Beroe jellies and small bait fish. It’s a challenge to tie the presence of jellies to bait and therefore, possibly to larger species, like bass or blues, which is what I pressed him to do. James cautioned that while similar environmental factors associated with drawing in jellies might be the same as with some bait fish, there is no proven association. As the jellies are much easier to see, fishermen would do well to keep an eye out for the former which may be comingling with the latter which may mean a chance to catch a bass or blue. My words, not his. He continues to collect data from his Collector app, which can be found at the Apple app store, and is eager to hear from all fishermen whenever they see jellies in shore or off.
Over on Block Island, there is a belief that islanders die in three’s. We lost the venerable South County character Spud Mack just a few weeks ago and on July 5, Ron Mouchon, alias, “Captain Ron”, passed away on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Owner of Breachway Bait and Tackle and captain of the “Baitrunner”, Ron will be sorely missed by his many friends and the customers who passed through his shop. Some knew him as the “Mayor of Charlestown”, others knew him as the guy behind the counter with the sharp wit and a quick tease. His cousin, charter boat captain Thom Pelletier, remembered that, “when you went into the store, you knew you were in for an ordeal…” Some bait and tackle stores sell just that. It’s the good ones who have loyal patrons, knowledge to share and always time to tell a story or tease a customer. Especially tease a customer. But behind the quick wit was a good man. “He was generous, just like his father before him”, Thom offered.
As a fisherman, Thom said, “he had all the patience in the world for striper fishing” but very little when fishing for fluke. And he knew where the bass were. “He scratched up a lot of fish along the shore”, catching hickory shad before sunrise and being in the right spot at the right time. That’s what makes some fishermen, like Ron, great fishermen.
It’s the characters we remember most over time. They are the people who tell us the way things used to be or should be, who tease us or just plain set us straight. This past winter, after having a deer butchered by Spud Mack and his son Dwayne, Spud told me that if I ever drove by and saw saw trucks in the driveway, to stop in. He didn’t offer an invitation; he just told me to, because he was a no-nonsense man and a genuine character. Ron Mouchon was a one of those characters and will be missed for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that he left us far too soon, was generous, comical, loving, kind and a lot of fun. I hope the Islanders belief is dead wrong.