Fall Fling at the “Block”

By Tom Schlicter

False albacore run big at Block Island. Quite a few push the 10-pound mark. Photo by Chris Willi.

While Cape Cod and Montauk headline the fall run every year, there’s another spot where the fishing is as good or better on a daily basis that mostly flies under the radar: Block Island, RI. The fishing here is spectacular for migrating stripers, blues and false albacore – and it o en settles into predictable patterns a little sooner than some of the more famous fall run hot spots.

In fact, I like September as my starting point for fall fishing here. As nighttime temperatures begin to decline and inshore waters start to cool, game fish species begin to take up positions not only in the rocky areas in which the summer feeders are found, but at the mouth to New Harbor, and in the many rips that can be found encircling the Island. In early September, a mix of bonito and false albacore are often the first to begin showing on a reliable basis, with the schools growing from pods and packs to full- edged mayhem patrols by month’s end. Blue sh, too, are o en abundant, as are stripers of the biggest profile.

It would be no stretch of the imagination to call the Block Island area some of the most productive fishing water in the entire northeast and, indeed, charter and party boat skippers from New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island all head here on a regular basis each fall to join the small fleet that calls these waters home. Add into the mix that fishing licenses from NY, CT and RI are reciprocal – meaning you don’t have to buy a Rhode Island fishing license to sh here if you already possess a fishing license from either of these states – and there isn’t even any red tape to cut through before wetting a line.

Positioned just 17 miles from Montauk and 13 miles off the Rhody coast, “The Block” covers a scant 10-square miles. Hilly and rocky with scattered sandy beaches, it boasts only a single town, New Shoreham, which has the distinction of being the smallest town in the smallest state in the USA. Beautiful and quite laid back during the falls season, Block Island offers a year-round fishery but it’s during the fall season, which at this location starts right now, that anglers find the most reliable success. September opens with false albacores and bonito showing regularly in local rips and along the beach near the Coast Guard Station at the entrance to New Harbor.

“Our average false albacore are pretty big,” says Chris Willi at Block Island Fish Works (www.sandypointco.com) where you can catch the latest fishing reports, pick up bait and gear, or connect with a charter boat skipper. “We see a lot of 10-pound fish, and you can bet that makes for plenty of excitement with light-tackle enthusiasts.”

Willi suggests tossing, a 3⁄4-ounce Deadly Dick for the albies, which will hit on any moving water. If you want to work with something lighter, Cape Cod Sand Eel jigs are a good bet.

Live eels are always a good choice for tempting stripers in the rips around Block Island. Photo by Tom Schlichter.

While boaters have the opportunity to chase down the Alberts, shore-based anglers will be better off checking out a couple of beaches and then making their stand based on what they see. In addition to the Coast Guard Station, Charleston Beach, Dories Cove and Grace’s Cove on the west side of the Island are good bets when the wind blows from the west. On the Southeast side, the most dependable spot for bass, blues, bonito and false albacore is the big rip at Southwest Point. Mohegan Bluffs is also worth a look.

One rule of thumb that sharpies use at these locations is to try the pick a beach where the wind is blowing into your face. That means the bait sh are being pushed toward shore, which increases the likelihood that game sh species will slide into the surf.

If working from a boat, your best bet to tangle with Block Island’s albies, blues and bass is to run along the south side of the island. Black Rock is a great starting place if drifting live eels for stripers, as is the Hooter Buoy.

That’s not to say you can’t catch albies, bonito, bass and blues anywhere else around the island, just that the south side is your logical starting place.

“Block Island is such a fish magnet that it’s hard to go wrong around here,” explains Willi. “On light-tackle and fly-fishing trips aboard my charter boat Jessica K (401-466-5392), for example, we’ll circle the entire island in the course of about four hours. That’s because the stripers, in particular, can be found off any point and they do move around quite a bit. Yesterday, we had them at Whale Rock but today Black Rock was the hot spot. You can catch them on your own here, of course, but taking a charter boat will probably get you on the fish a lot faster.”

Willie and his patrons love tempting the ravenous bass with 3/0 Striper Dragon flies or a Musky Mania 9-inch Doc surface lure originally designed to raise the ire of the toothy freshwater trophies. Meanwhile, I’ve scored well with linesiders here using pencil poppers.

One other activity you might want to try if you are staying on Block Island for a couple of days is squid fishing. The action with the eight-armed cephalopods starts each year in June and runs right through November. September is peak season.

“All you need to get in on that action is a couple of squid jigs,” says Willi. “ There’s plenty of squid off just about every dock in both New Harbor and Great Salt Pond. We catch them both day and night.”

For more information on a Block Island visit, check out the Block Island Tourism Board website (www.blockislandinfo.com).

By Tom Schlicter