It’s cold. It’s windy. It must be time to go cod fishing.
Block Island has long been a key place to start drifting given areas of hard bottom for tasty codfish. Like many New England fishing communities, the island had a history of reliance on the mighty Gadus. From rowed dories to simple gas powered fishing boats without benefit of radar or electronics, fishermen like Alan Hall and Spencer Smith used land bearings to set on rock piles. When that white trimmed house was to port side enough to make a tall pine line up with your bow and your depth was the right number, you were on the money. Clam chunks were hooked, dropped and fixed to holders on both rails.
Fish were landed hand over hand, often bent over open sterns, keeping steady pressure to account for cod’s loose lips. In hindsight, hand lining for cod in the shadow of Clay Head was a fantastic experience when fish were big and totes were filled in order.
Cod have taken a hit and not just in local waters but there are still fish to catch on bumps around the island and the East Grounds. Captain Rob Taylor of Newport Sport Fishing Charters knows that spot well and last week took Ocean State Tackle’s Dave Henault and his friends for a night full of black sea bass and cod.
We know conditions change by the day and tide, so while they packed a supply of bait clams, for this trip it was Berkely Gulp with a jig that fooled the fish. Dave noted the bass were fixed to hard bottom but they loved those soft baits. Having enjoyed striper fishing with him this fall, I know the man is a beast when it comes to finding and catching fish. After a few casts of a Hogy Epoxy Jig with no results off Newport, Dave flipped the bail, dropped it overboard and landed sea bass one after another. In fishing as in life, he makes the best out of any situation.
The state regulations for cod are ten fish per day with a twenty-two inch minimum.
There’s no closed season, Nature takes care of that. If you don’t have a boat to get on the cod, you do have options. The Frances Fleet will take you from Galilee for black sea bass are or you can do a deep water cod trip. Over in Snug Harbor, Elisa has the Island Current head boat at her docks. They make regular trips all winter for all the species.
Fishing side by each on an open deck is a different experience and like licorice or The Grateful Dead, you’ll likely either love it or hate it.
You might benefit from seeing what other guys are using or from what the crew recommends. You also might be lined up next to a guy in a dirty camo snowsuit who chain smokes Camel straights all day while coughing up stories of the eight pound ling cod he caught last winter. He might even have a picture of it in his wallet. Captains makes their living finding fish while the companies rise and fall based on fish reports so chances are good you’ll put something in your cooler.
When the weather’s fair, Snug Harbor Marina’s winter parking lot will be packed with out of state plates. A caravan of fishermen drive through the night to fish through the day to drive back through city traffic just to stand against the rails and jig and jig and jig. We’re talking eight or ten hours of driving for a day fishing for sea bass pollock and cod; that’s hardcore. You’ll seldom see such happy faces than those with a load of scup ready to drive home to the city.
If thinking about fishing, as opposed to actually going fishing when it’s ten degrees, is more your winter speed, the New England Fishing and Hunting Expo is slated for January 27, 28 and 29 in scenic Boxboro, Massachusetts. Nothing says “Let’s get outdoors!” like milling around a Holiday Inn, pointing at boats and lures and women in summer clothes selling boats and lures. There will have the obligatory trout pond, archery range and fried food. Bass University is returning this year with instructors like Ish Monroe, Mike Iaconelli and Jacob Wheeler. Icon Al “Gag” Gagliarducci will rehash some classic fishing tales and talk about his Whip-It lures and new Mambo Minnow Bluefish Bomb.
This month, the Narragansett Chapter of Trout Unlimited will host its final monthly membership meeting for 2016 on December 21 at the Coventry/West Greenwich Elks Lodge. The beauty of fishing clubs like TU is that they’re built on a shared motivation and power of their fishermen members. On the cusp of a new year, a TU meeting will help get you prepared for tying flies, spring trout fishing or some philanthropic outing to turn others onto fishing. You can contact the chapter through their website at www.http://narragansett.tu.org.
Before you put that calendar away, December 19 is a double header. The RI Saltwater Anglers Association will hold their monthly meeting at The Villa in West Warwick where Dave Morton of North Kingstown’s Beavertail Rod and Reel will speak about gear maintenance and repair. A machinist by trade, Dave is an excellent guy who can fix anything. While the rest of us search the interweb for a part, he’s of the mind to just make it. Fishermen are encouraged to attend a meeting as a guest of a member and for a small donation to their Marine Fisheries College Scholarship Fund, you can learn from Dave and even drop off a reel to be repaired.
Also that night, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will hold a public hearing on their Atlantic Menhaden Draft Amendment 3 at 7:00 PM in URI’s Corless Auditorium. This hearing is important because fisheries agencies are finally starting to consider the larger ecosystem as opposed to just a particular population or stock when writing regulations. Menhaden have a major place in that wheel of life so you need not be a commercial fishermen to be affected by fluctuations in their numbers. You can read the draft proposal on the ASMFC website.
It’s cold outside but the heat’s on in the Island Current’s cabin, Elk’s Lodges, meeting halls and Coreless Auditorium.