Big Striper Hearing This Coming Wednesday Evening, 9/17, 6 p.m. in Narragansett

Big Striper Hearing This Coming Wednesday Evening, 9/17, 6 p.m. in Narragansett

As we move closer—for better or for worse—to watching the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) plan out the next steps in its handling of the intensifying troubles facing the striped bass stocks, various “user groups” (i.e. charter captains, surfcasters, private boat fishermen, and commercials) are showing their true colors as they take formal positions on a suite of proposed management options at public hearings currently underway across the Northeast. While Connecticut has already held its hearing, and Mass is in the middle of several sessions, Rhode Island DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife will be holding its session to discuss six possible options and to accept public feedback from concerned fishermen around the state. The hearing will be held this coming Wednesday evening, September 17, from 6 to 8 p.m.—though we suspect the subject matter will likely go on well past the latter time. Like most fisheries public hearings, the striper meeting will be held at the infamous Corliss Auditorium on the grounds of URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus off South Ferry Road in the northern reaches of Narragansett, RI. You can view the lengthy public hearing document at Be warned that due to the sheer number of moving parts involved in any course of regulatory action at this point, the only thing that could make the document less clear would translating it into ancient Sanskrit or some other dead language.

To give a slightly clearer idea of what’s happening, the legally required result of any of the management options is to deliver a cut of at least 25% against current total (i.e. recreational and commercial) landings, and with the exception of “status quo,” all the options on the table should, if the math is reliable, meet that criteria. Several of the options maintain the current two-fish possession (bag) limit but raise the minimum size by various increments. One maintains the current 28-inch minimum size, but drops the bag to one fish, while other options increase minimum size and decrease the bag limit to one fish, or propose various types of slot limits.

Naturally, there are all kinds of sentiments ricocheting around the docks and the internet at this point. Some old-guard charter boat operators have insisted that they need the current two-fish bag limit to stay in business, but are open to increases in minimum size. Other captains—along with the majority of recreational fishermen I’ve consulted on the subject—don’t seem to have any major objections to dropping back to a single bass. For what it’s worth, if you’re in that latter camp (in favor of halving the current two-fish bag limit, consider maintaining the current 28-inch minimum length, rather than a big increase in minimum size. While at first blush raising the size limit seems a natural way to protect our breeding stock, one chronic problem with high minimum lengths is the spike it creates in mortality among sub-legal-sized fish after release. There is also, naturally, the issue of giving shorebound anglers hoping to take home dinner a reasonable shot at catching a keeper. Regardless of the regulations that come out the other end of this process, know that if you want to make a personal stand for conservation, you might join countless others who are taking the 1@32 Pledge.
No matter what, if you’re concerned about the long-range health of our striper fishery, it is imperative that you make time to get to Corliss Auditorium this coming Wednesday evening to make your thoughts part of the public record. The hearing starts at 6 p.m. If you’re unable to attend, you can submit your comments in writing to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; you may also fax them to 703.842.0741 or e-mail them to (if you opt to e-mail, be sure to type “Draft Addendum IV” in the subject line). For further details, check out, or call DEM’s Marine Fisheries HQ at 401.423.1940.


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters reported a pop of striper activity around the Watch Hill Reefs, at least some of it linked to the sudden influx of fishing talent back at it with a will with the mid-week opener of commercial stripers—the quota remainder session that typically lasts a day or two each September. One of the local sharpies soaked bunker he’d rounded up in the mighty River Pawcatuck (a place that has held a bumper crop of full-size pogies most of this season) for a catch of bass that included a fat 44-pound slob. Most of the recent striper action in the Watch Hill-Fishers area have fallen to live bait—eels or pogies—fished on night tides. There have been blues scattered up and down the line, but the Weekapaug area has served up loads of little ones with the occasional 7- or 9-pounder. A few guys connected with green bonito right out in front of Watch Hill Light in their kayaks early-week, and others found a mix of false albacore and blues a bit further south and also eastward. The most recent reports from a couple days ago confirmed that the Fishtails is still alive with quality yellows and all manner of other fast-swimming, oversized mystery meat. Some of Wade’s bottom fanatics continue to trek across to the south side of Block where the fluke and sea bass fishing has bounced right back after a brief down spell.


Capt. Chris Willi at Block Island Fishworks said the word of the day—the last few days, in fact—was wind. Lots and lots of wind, easterlies, then southwest, and probably northerly for at least the first half of the coming weekend. Contrary to other reports I’ve received of some modest gains in the striper department around the deeper reaches off the SW Corner, Willi, whose September clientele is overwhelming fly- and albie-minded, noted the recent striper action in the upper reaches of the water column tighter to the Island has been awful. There have been steady shots, though, at some solid tunoid action both in- and outside the Great Salt Pond. For those with craft up to the rigors of fall in the canyons, the day/night chunk bite in the ‘Tails has remained pretty much lights-out despite occasional nights when the place has looked like the parking lot outside a Grateful Dead show. A few of his friends came back from an early-week mission with a full boat of yellows between 50 and 80 pounds, that excursion knocked out in a swift 18 hours dock-to-dock.


Matt at Snug Harbor Marina announced that on Wednesday morning and again all day on Thursday, the false albacore and some bluefish went more or less ballistic in the stretch between the West Wall and roughly Carpenters Bar in Matunuck—some boats sticking as many as 10 or 15 in their cast-crank-and-chase sessions over the two days. These albies were mostly run-of-the-mill 4- to 8-pounders—nothing big enough to trigger a rash of liquefied drag washers—but certainly a welcome alternative to most of the other recent inshore opportunities. At several points, pods of albies blasted right through the West Gap, offering even shorebound casters some good shots at hook-ups. Matt thought that there was nothing in the immediate forecast to change things too dramatically, and suspects this albie bonanza might spill over into the weekend. The last batch of boats that ventured edgeward came back with loads of nice yellows and some bigeyes caught trolling as well as chunking—the latter a solid option both day and night. Given that the fleet has exceeded 200 boats in the Fishtails several times in the last few weeks, a mind-boggling amount of chum has splashed down in that area, and there’s good reason to think the large bodies of yellows and other life will stay right there with the gravy train barring any major, sustained weather mishaps—at least for the moment. Back inside, the Mud Hole and surrounding areas have failed to surrender giant bluefin one despite all the right signs of life, both natural and man-made (in the form of dragger discard “floaters”). A few boats have had school tuna burn through their slicks, fuelling modest hopes for that fall option. The fluking south of the Island in 75-plus feet came up a few pegs after a lull, but a massive abundance of suspended weed put the kibash on the East Grounds. Cod have been reasonably cooperative for the last few boats that took the ride down to the SE Corner of Coxes, and there are scup and black sea bass everywhere.


Sam Toland of Sam’s Bait and Tackle got out to the ‘Tails for a quick rock-‘em-sock-‘em chunking session on yellows—15 in total, the plugs weighing somewhere between 50 and 58 pounds. The pick the night he and crew were there—one night before a 200-plus-boat carnival of nautical misery—was steady, a fish about every 45 minutes straight through. There’s been a scary amount of meat in the water there, and all hopes are that the yellows will stay put for the duration. Back home, a few of the guys who know the grounds where fluke tend to pile up before they beat it southward are still getting some solid slabs in the middle to lower Bay. Blues, bunker, and a couple of times through the week, albies, popped up along the Newport oceanfront anywhere from Brenton Point to Sachuest. Asked about sea bass, Toland pondered briefly, then offered this: “those pesky, overfished black sea bass still seem, surprisingly enough, to be hanging around….Hard to believe, but if you manage to put your hooks in saltwater, they still seem to be homing right in on your baits….”