This piece originally ran in the Southern RI Newspapers on June 11.
So where are all the big striped bass? Well into our almost summer season and still reports of keeper sized fish were pretty slim. A few cowboys bragged about big bass early on but those stories evaporated like Spring fog, leaving us with a school of fish that was much shorter than our expectations. On top of that, Matunuck is losing, for now, access to its shoreline at Seaweed Cove.
It’s important to first mention there is pure joy in landing schoolie sized fish on a June afternoon but the wise will notice patterns are changing. Rene Letourneau of On the Rocks Charters, 2020’s Orvis Saltwater Guide of the Year, has been putting sports on plenty of fish around Newport but they’re small. So where are all the big fish? Kayak fisherman Brian Hall hoped the big girls, like the 30”-45” breeders, were just a few weeks late. That was four weeks ago. My fishing log has notes of semi-big bass by now which clearly isn’t Gospel but it’s not fake news either.
“I’m catching some of the smallest stripers I’ve seen around Boston. There are good numbers of real micros, under 14″ but it’s nowhere near the number of micros that we saw in the late 90’s,” said Eric Harrison, fishing team member for both Hobie kayaks and Hogy lures. Eric said, “The distribution of fish sizes isn’t there this year; it’s been mostly sub-legal or micros, but not the usual 28″ to 34″ fish. The lack of midsize fish doesn’t bode well for the big fish showing up soon. The big fish typically show in numbers after the mediums come in.” So clearly something is off and the regulations are a few years too late. “I’m nervous,” Eric added, “about the lack of distribution of sizes around now. The big bass we have now are aging out of the population and there’s not a dominant year class that will follow and provide good numbers of large bass.” Eric knows his fish and there’s a message here: release those large female bass for the benefit of the population and the sport which relies on their abundance.
“With the water temps the way they are, I’m not so sure we are going to be seeing any large stripers,” said kayak angler Thom Houde, adding, “Slot stripers are proving to be elusive as well.” Consider that for a moment. It’s not an absolute but Thom is as experienced as Eric. All that changed in just a few weeks.
Then Mike Littlefield of ArchAngel Charters took young Jordyn striper fishing for her birthday. “Ralph (Craft, of Crafty One Customs) and I decided to go out and try our luck. We marked fish all morning but couldn’t get a tight line, I finally told Jordyn to grab the rod and catch a fish and literally two minutes later she was right to a 38 pound bass and landed it on her own.” See that? There’s always hope, even if it’s just for one fish.
Over on Matunuck’s Water Street, the “keep out” sign is up for now. Minutes from the May seventh Waterfront Advisory Commission meeting at which Terry Murphy said the, “Water Street access to the pond was discussed,” will be available at their June meeting but there is no Commission agenda mentioning the closing of access to the shoreline dating back to May of 2019. We reached out to two property owners abutting the private road. Neither responded.
Alternative access to the water is challenging at best. On the Pt. Jude side, there’s a ramp at Gooseberry Road but no parking, rendering it pretty useless unless you have a guy. Who planned that decision? There’s legal access at the end of Washington Street but it’s an Everest-worthy decline to the water with parking for one truck. Personal experience has been that as soon as you pull in, homeowners come out to ask your intentions, which is not the intention of public access.
There’s a rough ramp at Lake Street but locals and summer folk annually abuse a common privilege by storing kayaks, rotten canoes and crippled jon boats, which are not allowed by statute. By the time a summer forest of bamboo has overtaken them all, there’s barely enough room to back in a Tacoma to unload a kayak. There is access at Park Street but mysteriously, access signs seem to throw themselves into the bushes as soon as yellow and blue license plates return. Information on the closing of Water Street has been slow coming, but we’ll keep digging.
Finally, a reminder that seven years ago, Army SSG Michael H. Simpson of C Company, 4th BN, 1st Special Forces Group, Airborne, gave his life to protect ours.
When his short life came to close, his widow Krista was left to regroup with two young children, who fortunately have the strength and wits of solid fishermen. They have close family in Snug Harbor so SSG Simpson’s sons are in able hands all around now and when not pursuing their dreams and education, the two are catching fish in Point Judith Pond and outside the west wall. When the bite is slow or your honey hole offers you no fish, you’re best bet may be to ask what his sons Gabriel and Michael Simpson are up to. They’ll catch and release the biggest fish around and skip the bragging.
Yeah, they’re that good and yes, there’s always hope.