The Spring striper migration has begun and from the doldrums of winter we quickly move to a packed spring calendar. Bass are really feeding in the salt ponds and rivers as water temperatures begin to march upwards. Avid fisherman Greg Sansone was in Maryland for a baseball game and when the weather postponed the match, he went fishing. Our last late-season snowstorm had cooled the waters by three degrees, cooling off the fishing as well. Then the high pressure system moved in on its heels the next day, brought the surface temps up three and the fishing turned on. After just a few hours throwing neeedlefish and black swimmers, they had boated forty bass. Amazing what a few degrees can do. Now it seems many of those bass are headed here.
Many fishermen know how many bass hold over in the salt pond and rivers. With a forecast of sun and longer days, those fish will begin to head back to deeper waters, feeding on silversides and river herring as they go. White bucktails, shrimp teasers, Cocahoe minnows and small Kastmasters are all good bets. Peter at The Saltwater Edge recommends the Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow after you replace the unnecessary treble hooks. All those sharp barbed hooks can severely damage a schoolie’s mouth or sides so they recommend swapping them for single hooks in the 1/0 size range. An easy way to tell if you have caught a fish fresh from migration, is the presence of sea lice, those small copepods, Caligus elongatus, which cling to many species of marine fish where they feed on exterior tissue and fluids. They don’t affect humans but are another sure sign of spring. This time of year does require some searching to see where they are feeding and how deep they are hanging, but that’s part of the fun.
Most guys haven’t put their outboards in yet, making this a perfect time to ply salt ponds and rivers from a kayak. The Ocean State Kayak Fishing group, who were instrumental in getting the kayak division started in the Fluke ‘Til You Puke tournament down in Snug Harbor, has a schedule of tournaments with a clear emphasis on fun. Isn’t that the point of being in a fishing club in the first place? Their year-long striper tournament has already started, this being April and all, and runs until November. Their tautog tournament starts on Sunday and goes until April 30. To get registered, you just need to purchase one of their decals for a few dollars so that when you take a picture with your fish, they can tell you are legit. They have some great prizes from generous sponsors and promote friendly competition. You can learn more about them at http://oceanstatekayakfishing.com.
The State is already working on fishing and hunting regulations for 2017-2018. On May 17, RIDEM will hold a public hearing to discuss the proposed rules at 7pm at the Warwick Police Department. The building is at 99 Veteran’s Memorial Highway and you have until noon that same day to submit comments to the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 277 Great Neck Road in West Kingston. One item to note is an enforcement change to fishing groups who hold tournaments in RI waters. They are proposing that event sponsors, regardless of whether the event is “open” or “closed”, submit very detailed paperwork about all fish landed, to RIDEM, within 5 days. This data includes “the number of hours fished, the numbers of boats, numbers of participants, and as applicable, the total number of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass caught as well as the total weights of all largemouth bass and all smallmouth bass processed at the weigh-in”. If the group does not submit, they will forfeit all current and future permits for one year. That’s something to consider for small fishing clubs who have limited resources, no real staff, outdated websites and an overall focus on fishing for laughs and a few trophies.
RIDEM has biologists like Phil Edwards and Patrick McGee who can dump this type of information into spreadsheets and glean some really valuable data about state waters. The other side of the sword is that now the Sword of Damocles hangs above your head if you have to go back to work on Monday and take the kids to baseball on Tuesday and Wednesday is spaghetti day and… The point is, if your club might fall under this dark umbrella of data collection, this is a meeting you should attend and be prepared to speak. At a minimum, thoughts pro and against should be submitted in writing. Many ponds are under state control and regulation but at the end of the day, we are The State and those ponds belong to all of us.
Bill McWha and his band of volunteers were back on the Saugatucket Sunday last to move some cagey river herring who hadn’t the wherewithal to summit the newly redesigned fish ladder at the Palisades Mill. By the start of the third lift, 4500 fish had been moved, with the assistance of Bill’s core group of regulars, students from Bill Gordon’s URI classes, a few early birds to Whalers Brewery next door and a handful of good folks pulled from the streets.
Thousands of herring were stuck below the ladder, although there were dozens working their way up as we netted more up and over. It can not be understated how fantastic it is to see so many people take time from all our daily distractions and duties to stand in cold river water swiping and swinging left them right, hauling nets heavy with anxious river herring. Richie Clough was again the pivot man, which means each and every haul of herring passed through his hands, as they have for years. How amazing is that? He works for free, knowing he will leave soaking wet and cold, without any real thanks except for knowing 4500 fish now have the chance to rest, spawn, feed and outmigrate back to a hard life in the open sea. Richie is The Man.
Considering the ospreys and swallows overhead, the cold water and warm winds, Spring is upon us, the doldrums have no place now and the reports will be improving by the day.