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49°, 52°, 55°, even 57° in shallows where the sun shines just right. It’s easy to complain about lingering chilly weather but go easy because waters are easing into the fifties, which means squid, tautog, stripers and spawning largemouth. Those numbers are sweet spots for movement, feeding and flirting so it’s time to get tight with Spring fish in fresh and salt waters. And now that new stripers are on the scene, our options are expanding daily.

Expel the mice, tip over your favorite squid bucket, it’s 51° near the Newport Bridge. We see two species of tentacled cephalopods in Rhode Island: Loligo and Illex. We see two species of squid anglers here: casual and fanatics. Some catch squid for supper, some to fill a freezer with shark and tuna bait. Some gather on Newport piers while others take to Narragansett wharves to set up shop and lights. Some just want to bend a rod and be home by ten, some will be out all night in ink-stained coats burning Camels and halogens.

Welcome to New England, grab a bucket.

It’s time to jig up dinner and bait

Loligo squid are moving in under docks and bridges

Squid are remarkable creatures. Cephalopods freckled with chromatophores, tiny organelles in their skin cells containing pigments which reflect light, they might change colors or become nearly invisible when threatened. They expel ink through sacs located near their gills to confuse hungry predators and hungry fishermen, the latter being delirious from jigging and sipping old coffee or budget beer for countless hours. This ink, composed mainly of melanin, can be ejected in a cloud cover to facilitate escape but also in smaller, more gelatinous shapes roughly mimicking the squid itself, thereby confusing its prey into attacking it while the real squid escapes. Regardless of its shape or consistency, the resulting stain on your clothing and footwear will serve as permanent reminders of how much smarter a mollusk with three hearts can be than us, even as we whip it around the dock attempting to land it in a pickle bucket. Preferences abound but I like those Yamashita’s and Yo-Zuri Ultra Bait Aurora. Pinks, yellow, bones, all will work most nights. You can use that old trout rod if necessary but having something with a stout tip will keep the pressure on the way up. Whatever your intentions, you do need a saltwater license and hold off on washing them before freezing.

Greg Vespe with a tourney winning tautog

One of the best squid fishermen anywhere just won the Crafty One Customs Spring Tog Tournament. Greg Vespe, the RI Saltwater Anglers Association’s Executive Director, took center podium with two other RISAA anglers: life Member Ryan Pimental, who finished second and third place finisher, Dave Dube, who hosted the trio on his restored 1986 Chris Craft Scorpion.

Dave Dube hoists a trophy ‘tog

Thanks in part to RISAA efforts, ‘tog rules have changed for the better, especially with the one over 21” trophy fish rule so conservation wins a trophy and you should check in with RIDEM before hooking up that first green crab. Congratulations to everyone and cheers to those new regulations meant to protect a healthy fishery.

Big White Chinner

Chris Gomes gets tight with Spring fish

Speaking of winners, Ocean State Kayak Bassin’ returned in force with a tourney stop at South Kingstown’s 54° Indian Lake. From a 25 angler field, Chris Gomes was ready to get tight with spring fish and landed the most largemouth by weight to win the day from his Feelfree kayak. A member of the Baystate Attack, Kayak Bass Fishing Team, Chris struggled some because river herring are returning to the man-made lake, making it tricky to convince bass to hit an imitation. Before you plan some old school bait snagging, buckies have been protected in RI since 2006.

Chris Gomes measures his way to a tourney win

“Yea, caught them off of a weedless Ned rig made by Hijacked Jigs and Z-Man Fishing Products Jackhammers with Xzone swimmers,” Chris said.

Z-Man Jackhammer

Chris Gomes for the win

“Conditions were pretty windy and bites were hard to come by. Males were up tight in the shallows and females were staged in about 6’-8’ off water; just couldn’t get any to commit and bite.” If ever there was a right time to call interference, it would be when an abundance of fish interferes with catching an abundance of fish. “Yeah, I bet the herring had something to do with the bite there because I always put big numbers at Indian and that was the worse bite I’ve ever experienced there,” Chris said.

Congratulations Chris.

Gomes win another largemouth from his Feelfree kayak

With fresh Spring water temperatures inching upwards ever so slowly, it’s been a slog to convince largemouth to commit. Highliners like Bob Buscher, Matt Thayer, Jason Anctil and Bobby Stahowiak have had to work for their catches, even in established waters which should be producing better numbers.

Live Target Sunfish

Bob and I had some luck this week with ½ oz. Live Target Pumpkinseed crankbaits, Zoom Flukes and classic Al’s Goldfish for trout, chain pickerel, yellow perch and thankfully, a few nice largemouth but nothing came easy.

Als’ Goldfish produce fish coast to coast

Full disclosure, Bob caught the most fish, although he let me be a highliner for while, then turned on the juice and cleaned house. Such are the rights of Spring.

Bob Bushcher, a real highliner in any season

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