Fishtails Chunk Bite–Day and Night–Yields Yellows, Longfins, Bigeyes, etc.

 This fat mako was fought to harpoon range by Dr. Martin Lederman on a full-day offshore run aboard the Galilee charter boat, C-Devil II, Capt. Kelly Smith at the helm, and mate, Pete Beuth, the deckape of record. The eye-popping tooth-missile, landed somewhere near Tuna Ridge south of Block Island, scaled an impressive 361 pounds when crew reached the dock scale at Snug Harbor Marina.

This fat mako was fought to harpoon range by Dr. Martin Lederman on a full-day offshore run aboard the Galilee charter boat, C-Devil II, Capt. Kelly Smith at the helm, and mate, Pete Beuth, the deckape of record. The eye-popping tooth-missile, landed somewhere near Tuna Ridge south of Block Island, scaled an impressive 361 pounds when crew reached the dock scale at Snug Harbor Marina.

Out in the throes of a serious procrastination jag Thursday night, I decided to run one of my time-honored routes along the South County beaches to get a feel for the surfcasting traffic on the cooler side of Labor Day. As luck had it, I ran into a guy just as I pulled up to the edge of the lot nearest Charlestown Breachway. One Chris Barker, age 25, and a URI student working toward a BS in Aquaculture and Fisheries Technology, was gracious enough to share his thoughts on the last five nights’ activity in/around Charlestown Breachway. He had fished the place the previous four nights, too for a mix of bass and blues, blues, and (I think) at least one skunking—the latter presumably tied to what he described as “tons of weeds” in circulation on moving tides to and from Ninigret Pond. That challenge, he noted, led him to focus his energies on the beginnings and ends of tidal flow, when he found he could keep a plug clean long enough to swing it in front of a handful of cooperative fish over the course of his five nights surveying the place. Barker noted he first fished the place with his dad years and years ago, after spending the early years of his angling career targeting L. bass in sweetwater. Interesting were his comments about the ways the dredging around the Breachway mouth early this spring affected the lay of the sand and stones out front—a problem, with or without dredging, for Charlestown steadies every season. “I used to have a spot down the beach a ways, a hump that I’d found by chance,” he said. “I used to sneak over there on nights the Breachway was packed and catch a keeper or two while everyone else struggled.” Now, he said, that little hump of sand has disappeared, and he’s piecing together a new understanding of the place he’s fished pretty steadily for 12 years (5 or 6 of those seriously). His big catch for the week was a solid bass he estimated at around 20 pounds—that one caught on a plug Tuesday night. Asked for his thoughts about the striper situation, he explained that he favors the idea of slot limits in striper management, something, in his words, “that will protect the 30- to 40-inch fish that are so important as breeders.”


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters was worn down to a stump when we finally connected Thursday evening. He said his regular fluke nuts continue to make the longer rides to ply the 80- to 100-plus-foot depths off Block’s lower west, south and east sides, and returning with some impressive slabs like a 12-3 angler Chris Sottile slipped into a bass net drifting near the Hooter off the SW Corner mid-week. Meanwhile, the scup fishing persists from Watch Hill down the length of Naps, and shop regulars have been making it all but impossible to keep sandworms in stock. There are mixed-size bluefish running to and fro in and around the Weekapaug Breachway and along Chucktown’s East Beach. Bass results are off just about universally, but the albies (false) have been making noise along the south side of Fishers and around Montauk. The canyon chunk bite in the Fishtails is in high gear, and all hands hope that action—now nearing the beginning of its third week—will outlast some of the impending weather and give us a whole fall of world-class tuna-tangling. Now is as good a point as any other in the season to go looking for a very large mako south and east of Block or Montauk.


Capt. Chris Willi at Block Island Fishworks was out Thursday morning enjoying one of those glorious fall days when he had the better part of Block Island Sound to himself. The bass fishing has taken a pretty serious nosedive over the last week—not to say it’s cooked for the season, just that we’re in a lull before the migratory push puts fish back on the feedbag. There have been false albacore around the Island—some off the north end, others around the mouth of New Harbor and up inside the Salt Pond. Both are places, noted Willi, that you’ll have a reasonable chance of a light-tackle Grand Slam at this point. The yellowfin bite has been wide-open in the Tails, both trolling and chunking during daylight hours, and the night chunk bite. The yellows coming out of that area have been somewhat larger than what had been around most of the summer, with fish to north of 70 pounds fairly common over the last week-plus. One of the guys from the shop had six fluke over 5 pounds before he lost the Queen Mother of all Doormats at the net; he was fishing the deep water off the Island’s SE Corner. Nothing, giant-wise, has come out of the Mud Hole yet, but the shark fishing has been world-class.


Elise at Snug Harbor Marina said it’s been the wild and pleasantly surprising eruption of tuna activity out in the Fishtails and further west around the Hudson that has drawn most of the available angling energy around the shop for at least a week. Unfortunately, we are in the throes of a major bait-butterfish shortage, and the shop’s been working overtime to keep bait in supply. The chunking has been excellent at night, and quite good even during daylight hours. Trolling, too, has been taking share of the catch, bigeyes and larger yellows in particular. The approximate zone from the south end of the Mud Hole down through the Gully and out to Tuna Ridge has seen some top-flight sharking results of late, including a number of makos in the 100- to 200-pound range, and a few larger in the mix. One of those latter toothy critters, a thick-bodied mako of 361 pounds, rode the cockpit of the Galilee charter boat, C-Devil II, right to the big-game scale at the marina. (For further details on that catch, see the next entry.) Meanwhile, there have been rumors of bonito popping up out in front of Point Jude Light, and confirmed, photo-verified false albacore catches in front of western Matunuck. The deep-water, south-of-Block fluking is still going, though talent is now a much larger factor in the success of a given day’s drifting. For what it’s worth, this is one great time of year to hit high ground outside (well south of Newport, Sakonnet, or off the Island’s S side) in search of a career-best slab. Scup are almost everywhere—the chief issue setting up on the right pile of them—and the black sea bass are big and bunched up on the deeper wrecks, reefs, and rockpiles that never made the popular charts. Relegated to the south shore, you’ll find some quality biscuits gaggled up on Nebraska Shoals and out on the glacier-tossed rubble, storm-tumbled lobster gear, and other sinker-intensive real estate out around the Hotter a few miles south of Point Judith Light.


I chased down Capt. Kelly Smith of the C-Devil II after learning the boat brought home a 361 mako last Sunday. Smith put that milestone catch in context by explaining it was one of three makos they landed on three consecutive trips to the vicinity of Tuna Ridge between Friday and Monday last weekend. Friday’s scaled 160, Saturday’s trip had a slightly smaller specimen that still made keeper size with room to spare, and Sunday was the jackpot. If those three missions weren’t sufficient, Monday’s charter hooked, battled, but ultimately lost a fourth mako Smith estimated at around 200 when that fish leapt and the steel leader apparently kinked and parted off about the time the toothy missile touched down again. The angler on the reel for the Sunday mega-mako was noted eye specialist, Dr. Martin Lederman of New York. The bass bite—Smith hasn’t logged much time at it the last week or so—has not, by most accounts, been anything to knock the socks off anyone, but Smith is quite confident we’ll see some improvement in that fishing again as things cool off and fish start to dust off hard-wired migratory instincts in the coming month or two. Sea bass fishing has been quite good around the Island, and a bit tougher along the south shore beaches.


Sam’s Bait and Tackle led off this week’s update with solid word of some early tautog fishing. One shop regular managed to put the wood to three substantial blackfish—each over 9 pounds—while anchored up within spitting distance of the rocks at some undisclosed Aquidneck Island hotspot. There are suddenly all kinds of school bass and blues of various sizes chowing on a diverse abundance of bait in the lower East Passage—those fish responding well to smaller Hogy’s and unweighted Slug-go’s among a whole arsenal of other soft plastics. Blues are all over the place along the oceanfront and around lower Gansett Bay, scup and sea bass are around in big numbers in most of the usual hangs in slightly deeper water between Brenton Reef and the Sakonnet River mouth. The chunk bite—day and night—has been outstanding in the Fishtails and at various parts of Hudson’s for the better part of two weeks, and trolling efforts around dawn and dusk have turned up some impressive yellows and bigeyes. In short, if all holds together, this could well be the beginning of a fall tuna fishery of a sort we haven’t seen since the 1990s.