Cow Bass Parade Continues at Block Island—But No 100-Pounders…

Rhode Island Fishing Report

I’ve been around this racket long enough to have learned the hard way not to dismiss even the most seemingly asinine rumor. The fact is, people catch obscenely huge fish of all species at the strangest of times in the strangest of places, year after year after year. Just when, some years back, I’d decided I was the greatest mind in Rhode Island fishing—when I’d dismissed some rumored catch with a particularly snide remark and utmost self-assurance—I’d learn that the catch in question was real, confirmed, totally legit. Ahhhh, the delightfully subtle flavor of shoe leather (open mouth, insert foot) with mild notes of crow: Nothing cures smug like all-you-can-eat crow, ideally in front of a live public audience.

Where is all this going? Well, on Wednesday afternoon, I caught wind of some gossip about an alleged 100-pound bass landed, rumor had it, at Block Island. My BS Detection System triggered a deafening sequence of alarms in my skull, but I fought back the impulse to berate and belittle anyone associated with the rumor. Instead, I picked up the phone and made three phone calls—my own personal Big Three Calls, my trained first response to the whiff of piscatorial horse puckey. The three folks who answered—guys whose jobs give them clear views of RI’s foremost fishing hubs, guys with access to staggering volumes of reliable, up-to-the-second fishing intelligence, guys with bloodhound-grade noses for bullshit—confirmed my suspicions. I am willing to go on record that no one caught a rod-and-reel bass weighing 100 pounds at Block Island this week, and that I’m 99.9% sure no one using any type of fishing gear caught a 100 or a 110-pound bass.

There are big fish at Block—really big fish in really huge numbers—and I’m sure there are currently striped bass of world record proportions swimming around within earshot of the Island. You really should get out there by any means necessary to witness this fishing. When you go, do reserve a few seconds at least to consider the longer-range implications of this all-big-bass-all-the-time fishery, a scenario the old timers will tell you they saw once before, a year or two, or just after, the moratorium came down in the early 1980s to avert total collapse. It’s not a short-range boom-then-bust thing: It’s a long, tricky downward coast that ends with a collapsed resource, the big fish going away by diminishing returns season after season over a few years. Then, one year, no fish—the reality of failed spawning in the Chesapeake over many seasons years prior. Let’s keep that idea top-of-mind as we live out this lock-and-load parade of big girls, and let’s try to get the sport out of it without the whole thing going down as one of the all-time great striper slaughters.

Now get going. It’s not going to get much better than this again in this state in your lifetime.


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters noted that, with the exception of a shot of microdinks—footlongs to 24-inchers—off Weekapaug, the striper catching has been just about as dismal locally as the trophy hunting has been red-hot over at Block Island. The aforementioned schoolies have been pinned up inside a roving, chomping apocalypse of big bluefish in slightly deeper water around spots like Old and Ragged Reefs, and outside the Overlook in Weekapaug. The same general area has also been holding quite a bit of bait, loads of jumbo scup, some substantial slabs, and black sea bass to north of the 5-pound mark. Some folks are zeroing in on the blues dragging frames on wire line in 25 to 40 feet of water and coming up with some true slammers into the low to middle teens. The Reefs out front are pretty darned quiet with scattered handfuls of 29- to 35-inch keepers that seem to have settled in as residents, but no real bonanza fishing in some weeks now. The fluke fishing is quite good off Misquamicut Beach in 40 to 60 feet of water. There are rumors of some big sea bass on some of the tideswept rockpiles (like Race Rock) in the Race, but striper reports have been nil from that vicinity—another historical summer striper hotbed gone striperless. There have been scattered school bluefin tuna reports from south of Montauk—the Horns, etc.—eastward to south of the Vineyard and Nantucket (the Fingers, the Dump, the Claw, etc.) Canyon intel has been lean since the blow, but there have been decent shots of small yellowfins (30 to 50 pounds, give or take) from various points along the Edge, most recently from Veatch eastward.


The word from Fishworks was of unprecedented, wide-open big-bass fishing all around the Island straight through the last week, with numerous fifties decked by island and mainland boats all around the horn. Per tradition, while mainlands boats have concentrated efforts off the SW Corner and in the North Rip, most of the Islanders have been logging long hours drifting and trolling around high spots outside SE Light or slinging eels into the stones from, say, Snake Hole on the south side eastward and northward around to Old Harbor Point and some of the rockpiles off Crescent Beach. Tradition notwithstanding, there are big bass just about everywhere around Block as this heads out the door; eels have been doing most of the damage, but some of the plastic specialists have been taking heavies on various soft-plastic offers like Hogys, Tsunami’s Holographic Eels, and Slug-go’s, among others. The fluking is world-class off SE Light and westward past Black Rock to Southwest Point. Anywhere from 25 feet out past 45 where you can get a reasonably quick drift over cobble to rocky bottom, you’ll find some quality slabs; during periods of weak tide, you can expect dogfish problems out in the deeper water. There are school tuna from the Gully down toward Coxes, the Fingers, The Dump, and the Claw, and to the west down in the Horns. These fish comprise a mix of year classes, with fish from 30 pounds past 100 trolled up over the last seven days. Sea bass are huge and abundant, and if things hold together, this could be a fall of epic sinker-bouncing. Despite a veritable seizure of activity at the old Rumor Factory over the last few days, no one could substantiate the bizarre rumors of a mysterious 100- or 110-pound striper that was allegedly landed at the Island on Wednesday. Repeat: There was no 100-plus-pound bass landed by anyone fishing Block Island this week. One more time: 100-pound bass? Not even close….


Elisa Jackman at Snug Harbor had all kinds of news this week, thanks to the shop’s shark tournament last weekend, an event that sent a fair-sized fleet out to all the various far-flung corners of the mid-range offshore grounds and parts of the edge. The tournament turned up some quality sharks, but also served to paint a rough picture of what has wound up where as we head into the second half of July, and the heart of offshore season. The largest shark overall was a 295 thresher brought to gaff by angler Adam Littlefield and the crew of Striker. In the mako category, a 251 by Bill Ward and the crew of Bilda filled the top slot, and second went to Matt Caruso and the crew of Reel Magic for a 160-pounder. Second-largest thresher was a fine 204-pounder caught by Jim DeVecchis and the crew of Skinny T. Team tagging award went to the crew of Knot Reel Teeth, who put streamers in 14 toothy critters, while individual tagging honors went to Don Medeiros of the Jessica Lee. Quite a few boats turned up school bluefin from small school (keeper) size to around 100 pounds, estimated; what fish were landed were taken on the troll in the vicinity of, among other places and in no particular order, the Horns, the Dump, the Fingers, the Gully, and the Claw.

It was a big week of fluking as well, said Jackman, who weighed in a pair of doormats last Friday a short while after the last report went up: Chippy Chappell stuck an 11.8, and Bob Sangster had an 11.99-pounder—both of those fish from various spots off the south side of Block Island. That area has been the place in recent weeks, though the guys catching bigger slabs consistently are also the guys working that zone day after day through the lulls, the big chews, the slow picks, and the doormat bonanza trips. In other words, south side fluking is not an overnight study, but it’s a great place to find a monster slab if you’re willing to put in your time. Not surprisingly, those same grounds are turning out some sizeable black sea bass, while other folks are finding some impressive humpheads drifting around the tougher bottom out by the “Hang” and the Hooter south and east of Point Jude Light, out in front of the Center Wall, and in the rockier patches of Nebraska Shoals. Striper fishing went wild last weekend and is showing big promise as this report heads out the door. A whole host of stripermen drifting eels on the night tides tallied numbers of bass from 35 to 45 pounds and several I heard about north of the 50-pound mark. The crew of the Big Game had a limit of heavies (smallest fish north of 40 pounds) that included a 51-and-change and then a 53-inch slob that was released to fight another tide—all on a trip last Thursday night. Wednesday night (earlier this week), boats had fish up to a high of 55 pounds, and expectations are of continued action heading into the weekend. Interestingly, the action has not been limited to the usual spots off the SW Corner, but has extended to the North Rip and at points, certain pieces off the SE corner.


Kenny Landry of Ray’s Bait in Apponaug Cove was just backing his boat into the driveway after a long mission across to Block Island when I caught him early Thursday evening. He and friend, Rich Solgott, teamed up for a load of nice fish, 15 pounds up into the low and mid-40s, drifting eels off the SW Corner. They started out on a nugget of hard bottom just inside the Fence, then worked north and east along the high ground as the flood tide progressed, eventually finding a thick knot of quality fish stacked up in the vicinity of the area the charter guys call the Boulders. They had a couple hours of fast action that eventually fizzled out with the arrival of an invasion force of 5- to 7-pound blues that liquefied a dozen or so eels and soon sent the duo packing for home. Up in the Bay, the best of the fluking has been down around the bridges, where folks have been finding a good mix of keeper slabs, scup, sea bass, along with the occasional blue or bass. One of Landry’s regular sources has been scaring up consistent catches of jumbo fluke with a tolerable ratio of throwbacks and a steady supply of big sea bass, drifting out in front of Newport, from Brenton Reef eastward. No one Kenny knows has been targeting scup exclusively—just catching a few jumbos as fluke bycatch. There are still pogies, small blues and bass of various proportions in the upper Bay, notably up inside the Hurricane Barrier in the Providence River; the particulars of that fishery remain vague and dominated by the rumor mill. There are nervous schools of silversides in the coves around the West Bay, but Kenny has yet to see anyone actually catching snapper bluefish.


Sam Toland at Sam’s Bait and Tackle in Middletown noted there were some solid bass taken since the storm along the Newport oceanfront, including some fish from 25 pounds on up taken by guys chunking (and chumming) from various rocks along Ocean Drive. Some of the boat guys with a solid handle on the lesser-known hangs and high spots from Brenton Reef past Sachuest have taken cow bass, though that fish is not a slam dunk at this point. The fluking is either tough going or very good out front, depending who you ask. Some of my own sources noted the drifts south of the Lighthouse and around Elisha Ledge outside the mouth of the Sakonnet River cooled off quite a bit after some very good fluking and big sea bass from late June through the beginning of this month. Others have continued to pick through the broken bottom outside Baileys, Second, and Third Beaches, and off Sachuest, for some quality slabs in the 7- to 10-plus-pound bracket—but not every tide. Fluking in the lower reaches of the East Bay down to the East Passage has remained pretty solid, with a better ratio of keepers to throwbacks outside Fort Adams, Goat Island, and beneath the Newport Bridge than in many other parts of the state. There are some whopper sea bass around, though most of the joes are being landed incidentally by fluke drifters.