Heavy Saturday morning fog enveloped Narragansett Bay, erasing her upper reaches. An hour before sunrise, Bold Point Park’s swampy parking area was full, its boat ramp buzzing with people launching small boats and kayaks. In a red and White Hogy hat, Randy Degrace stood in some very early light, handing out raffle tickets while wishing several dozen kayak fishermen good luck. This day was all about finding stripers and friends with OSKF, despite pea soup visibility.
Randy Degrace & Jimmy Chappell helped us find stripers & friends with OSKF
His 1600 member strong Ocean State Kayak Fishing group was gathering for their second annual striped bass outing and to maybe win something but everyone knew the real prize was finally being on the water with friends.
More than thirty kayak anglers launched over a trash strewn weed line and off a cement ramp to peddle, paddle and cast for striped bass. Norm Czech drove down from Massachusetts to head up the Seekonk River with hopes of finding bigger fish and maybe some blues, knowing that series of bridges can produce throughout the summer. Jeff Amberson went north as well, letting his giant perfect mustache lead the way through easing fog.
Most went south into The Bay proper, using an ebbing tide to help them along shorelines and a busy bike path. In the midst of fast center consoles and slow circling blades, the bay became dotted with kayaks of all colors under orange flags. Jimmy Chappel, one of OSKF’s founders, was early to launch, peddling even further south in hopes of discovering schools of menhaden and stripers feeding on them. Like most, he found plenty of the former.
Jose Vinas-Vasques found a winning striper
“This is my first time in the kayak,” said Jose Agustin Vinas-Vasquez, who proved to be the tournament’s real star. Standing proudly alongside his blue 13’5” Feel Free, Jose spoke about being new to kayak fishing with a sense of purpose and genuine confidence. There was something about the way he said hello, announcing his virgin voyage into pea soup fog, clearly thoroughly excited about his chances. After more than a year being hesitant to even shake hands, people were people again, introducing themselves to strangers, chatting like the old days.
With everyone ready to find stripers with OSKF, competition was in the air. Cigarette smoke mingled with smells of sticky recycled asphalt and distinctive scents of urban rivers at low tide, all smudged with rust drifting from giant cranes swinging magnets across the bay. It can be tricky anytime gaining intel about who’s using what lures, especially with excellent prizes on the line but at Bold Point Park, you just need to look down when hopscotching over parking lot trash and dock discards where people feel empowered to toss empty packaging. In an odd way, it was good to see local lure company Joe Baggs Lures represented along with Daiwa SP Minnows.
Staring at a somewhat welcoming sign, it was unclear which company sponsored the post-apocalyptic mud bog entrance to Bold Point Park but clearly Providence is ignoring such an important water access. After arriving in the dark for the first time, my first impression is that my truck will need its first front end alignment. Two kayakers skipped the tournament altogether, opting instead to paddle through a series of cavernous connected driveway puddles, fishing for catfish and fallen car parts. Perhaps Mayor Elorza should visit Bold Point Park on a clear day to see how it’s fallen off his radar.
Fish were hard to find. The upper bay is a dynamic area, especially after a rain as striped bass will come and go based on forage and water clarity and this day, waters were green and stained. Some anglers fooled schoolies with top water plugs or small swimmers but the bite seemed to sink as the sun rose. Those who went north found only a few fish here or there but really no one discerned where the big bass were holding, although there was talk of Randy landing a beast on a Hogy plastic. At 33”, the winning bass exploded on a Shimano Coltsniper Splash Walk topwater lure in 9’ of water. The 29”second place fish also fell for a top water plug cast from newcomer Jose’s kayak. This will not be the last big fish story we tell of Jose Vinas-Vasquez.
As the wind came up, kayaks were loaded back into trucks and thoughts turned to lunch, Randy, Jimmy and Tom Lopardo called ticket numbers so winners could clean up piles of tackle and clothing courtesy of many generous companies. After a day finding stripers & friends with OSKF, there were donations from Hogy, Alan’s Custom, Bill Hurley, Big Fish Bait, Al Gags and Daddy Mac Lures, Back River Customs, Joe Baggs Outdoors, Joe Gugino of Costa Sunglasses and Why Knot Fishing fame, Cotes Fly Shop, Skips Marine and others who all helped anglers enjoy the rewards of fishing together with the bonus of taking home some really valuable prizes.
What a treat to stand by the water on a bluebird day with friends and talk fishing after such a long time away from something as simple as friendly competition.
Cheers to Randy Degrace and Ocean State Kayak Fishing for organizing a fun day on the water and for making it all seem so easy. And thank you to Jose Vinas-Vasquez for renewing our faith in that old school excitement of catching fish with new friends and for beaming a bright smile you could see clear through a foggy day on Narragansett Bay.