Bigeyes on the Prowl At Atlantis


I’m struggling to fight off the growing suspicion that this is going to be one of those seasons when things come crashing down much earlier than usual—and much earlier than many of us suspect. The fluke are already dumping out of the Bay, the bass fishing is slowing a bit for the eel guys at the Island, the bonito and false albacore have been one big no-show to date, and the black sea bass…Well…The black sea bass are still seemingly everywhere, they’re big, and if they get much thicker in RI waters, they’re going to start posing a serious threat to navigation. I am in full agreement with the widely-held and frequently uttered sentiment that this is one weird mummychucker of a year. One thing to ponder as we cross over the threshold into September: Whatever pet theory you’ve been nursing along about seasonal timing this year, realize that fish may be two weeks behind in May or June, July or August, but when you get to September, what’s coming is already here, what hasn’t arrived probably isn’t coming, and what fish we have are liable to bolt way too soon for anyone’s angling tastes. The big take-home concept here is that you’d better not sleep on the fish this season. Stay on it until it’s over for real.


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters relayed word that the bluefish were thick enough to put a total kibash on one striper mission he took to Block Island earlier in the week. There are still numbers of big bass off the SE and SW Corners, but you have to be on the ball with your tidal timing to run a bait past them when they’re feeding. Also: Quite a few boats have been soaking transplant pogies out there, a method that can disrupt all other normal striper strategies in a big way. There have been some quality bass on the deeper humps and bumps south of Sugar Reef and probably off Wicopesset, where snapping jigs on wire has been a good bet of late. Fluke are still piled up off Napatree Point, but you’ll have to weed through plenty of sub-legals to get keepers. Scup are still big and plentiful on broken bottom anywhere from Watch Hill to Point Judith. Bonito—what few of them were around—evaporated after the storm more than a week ago, but all hands are hoping for another shot before fall sets in.


Capt. Chris Willi at Block Island Fishworks said the bass fishing has cooled a bit, and mercifully, some of the worst offenders in the Mass commercial/black-market racket seem to have finally disappeared for the time being. The bonito have, for the most part, been a no-show to date, but there’s still plenty of time. Fluke are still cooperating in the deep water from 90 feet on out off Southeast Light and as far east as the East Grounds.


Bigeyes are the big news this week, according to Matt Conti at Snug Harbor Marina. He said the crew of Big Game had a pair of good ones—160 and 240 pounds—along with a mix of yellowfins and albacore along the edge at Atlantis last Sunday. The good news is that there still seem to be some fish in that general area, as evidenced by a good trolling bite there on Thursday (yesterday) morning that gave up another eyeball pushing 250 and yellows for one of the local sharpies fishing with a friend out of Montauk. The Shipping Lanes are still alive with numbers of wahoo, yellowfins, mahis, and longfins. The crew of Aerie One had a handful of yellows in the 30- to 40-pound range, then a much larger loner that bottomed out the boat’s 70-pound scale, earlier in the week. Folks trolling homeward from either the edge at atlantis or the Shipping Lanes have reported numbers of school bluefin tuna scattered across the Dump and points farther west from 40 fathoms on up. Quite a few boats have been finding small makos and bigger blue sharks in, among other places, the Mud Hole, the Gully, and around the Suffolk. There are quite a few guys gearing up to start targeting giant bluefins in/around the famed Mud Hole—a place that typically starts to show those fish around this very point in the season if the fish are coming at all.

The striped bass fishery over at Block Island has come down a few pegs over the last couple weeks for a number of reasons (many of them self-explanatory), including huge numbers of bluefish patrolling the Island grounds, weaker tides, a huge amount of bunker being live-lined or chunked by guys travelling distances to fish the SW Corner. No monsters weighed in this week, but there are still plenty of fish in the 30- to 40-pound range (along with the occasional 50) out there for the taking. Fluke are still reasonably cooperative off the lower east side of Block as far outside as the East Grounds, but that fishing has been abysmally slow on the mainland side of the pond—the only decent days the ones that serve up perfect drift conditions off Scarborough or out in the deeper water south or SE of Point Jude Light and the Center Wall. Folks are eager for the increase in sea bass bag limit, when it jumps to 7 fish in September, and by all rights this should be a very good fall for jumbo scup. The last word on bonito came from outside the mouth of the Narrow River in Gansett earlier in the week. Diver friends of mine have been seeing some huge tautog around, but no one on the rod-and-reel end has been all that motivated to start trying for them.


The one and only Sam Toland at Sam’s Bait and Tackle was a ray of conversational sunshine when I checked in Thursday afternoon and started to list all the fisheries currently in the biological or regulatory dumpsters. He said there’s a ton of bait in place all around Aquidneck Island, but not apparently a whole lot of life in it just yet. Toland noted the fluke are in the middle of a mass exodus out of the Bay, with most of the serious slab hunters working out in comically deep water well south of the Bay mouth—some guys drifting 4 or 5 miles outside at this point. The local striper sharpies have been marking fish on the reefs out front, sticking an occasional fish chunking or slow-trolling live bait, but struggling, for the most part, to get what fish are around to eat. Other shop regulars have been commuting to the Island—both corners of the south side—carrying wells of live bunker, and putting a hurt on heavyweight fish, including one specimen north of 50 in the last week. More likely than not, this is a function of timing—the fact that it’s August. Scup are cooperating for the shorebound guys, and sea bass are around in numbers no one can remember ever seeing before the last couple seasons—their unprecedented abundance presumably the reason NMFS won’t let us work on a reasonable number of them.