RI Fishing Report: 7/17/2015

Fluke Fishery Lights Up at Block; 502-Pound Mako Landed

Tony Renzi's 52-pound, 11-ounce trophy, caught with Kenny Landry of Ray's Bait while they drifted eels off BI's SW Corner
Tony Renzi’s 52-pound, 11-ounce trophy, caught with Kenny Landry of Ray’s Bait while they drifted eels off BI’s SW Corner

“I’m straight out for July, a little light for August…We’re getting the trips—staying busy–but everything’s coming in last-minute—much more so than any other recent season…”
Capt. Andy Dangelo, Charterboat, Maridee II, Point Judith, RI, 16 July 2015, on the way bookings are stacking up against last season or seasons before that in light of the striped bass bag limit reduction to one fish, 28 inches or greater.

It has been a craptacular week in the ole weather department—yet again. You can hang current highlights from all corners of the rod-and-reel fishery on any one or five of the almost infinite number of variables affecting fishing success. Like our psychotic new weather patterns, or the multifaceted, longer-frequency turmoil we call “climate change.” The fact is, no one can seem to so much as fit a given day’s conditions into any discernable—or even recognizable—pattern. The vessel’s under way, but I’m sure I’m not the only one getting the idea there’s no one steering.

Christian at Watch Hill Outfitters has been scrambling around on the shoreline stones and sands, catching bass and fluke—also scup, sea bass, bluefish, among other species—casting Zoom Fluke soft-plastic tails on leadheads of various sizes and configurations. He was, in the days leading up to last week’s entry, picking away at plenty of keeper-sized slabs and striped bass up into the 35– or 37-inch class. He added that Weekapaug was an obvious first choice—has been, as of press time coming up on noon, Friday. He and crew made the trek across the mighty pond to sample some of the larger fluke that had allegedly moved up onto the high ground at the East Grounds, perhaps four miles ESE of Old Harbor. The payoff fish for him and crew last weekend was a solid 10-plus-pound welcome mat they pried out of 70- to 90-foot depths. Striper fishing has been slow but not standing still this week: Block Island’s North Rip, the middle to outside stretch of high ground (the 90-foot spots up to 70 and still rising). There has been quite a bit of recent intel meandering back into the shop of good to excellent sharking not all that far.

Elise at Snug Harbor reported in n some specifics from the Marina’s big Shark Tournament last weekend. Interesting was the fact a 351 thresher, landed day one (Saturday, that is) along with every single other toothy specimen that reached the IGFA-certified block-and-tackle scale. The former 351 whiptail was hooked and fought by Jim Vecchis and the crew of Skinny T. Henry Zewinski and crew on the Season Ticket took the second thresher slot with a 191. The second-largest money shark overall and the top mako, fought and landed by angler Chris Guyette and the crew of Release Me, scaled a rock-solid 261 pounds. Mitch Wnek and the crew of Dusky came to the dock with a 199 mako. Angler Steve West took individual tag-and-release honorswith five big, bouncing blue dogs; the crew of Carol J tagged and released 15 sharks to secure the boat T-R award.

Unfortunately, Sunday was the last day of civilized offshore weather, so there has been little or no word on the immediate state of the tuna or shark fisheries. The fluke fishing that was pretty well lights-out leading into last weekend’s report crapped right out under the combined effects of snotty weather and stiff easterly winds late-week, a bunch of spiny dogfish and smooth dogs (i.e. sand sharks) that always seem to get stirred up into a frenzy by easterlies, and last—not least—a creeping pestilence of impenetrable, all-fouling brown weed that rendered most of the productive doormat bottom on the (BI) East Grounds through the latter half of the week. Here’s hoping there are still some solid slabs holding their ground in that vicinity when water cleans up. Rich Golembeski weighed in a nice 9.64 fluke for the PBR tournament, while Nicole Niles out of Point Vue Marina in Snug Harbor checked in with a fine fat 49-pound cow bass drifting eels off Block Island’s SW or SE corner back on Tuesday.

Capt. Russ Benn of the party-boat, Seven B’s V, said he’s been leaving the big-boat night bass trip(s) to Capt. Richie Romano, who’s been working overtime to get night striper patrons—many of whom have been regulars for years—on quality fish. Asked about the state of the night eeling in and around North Rip, Benn noted numbers have come down some from where they were five years ago, then added that some very nice fish have been crossing the rails most nights, with pool fish routinely landing north of the 30-pound mark. Fluking results, per the age-old ground rules of the fishery, have related closely to the quality of drift conditions on a day to day basis: When the boat gets a good, quick drift with the moving tide, patrons catch keeper slabs in numbers. For details on the current sailing schedule—half-day fluke, 8:30 – 12:30 and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., daily, while Night Striper runs sail at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights and return to the dock at 1 a.m.—call the Seven B’s office at 401.789.9250.

Kenny Landry of Ray’s Bait up in Apponaug managed one highly eventful mission over to Block Island from July 5 until earlier this week. All told, he, his girlfriend, Mary Corcoran, and a couple of friends logged long hours—various sessions, both day- and nighttime—drifting eels along the deeper reaches of the slope up to various pieces of high ground off the SW Corner out toward the Peanut and a couple of humps off SE Light that have endured borderline staggering fishing pressure in the days since. The crew racked up some big numbers of fish from the 20s and 30s well past the 40-pound mark, and at least two that scaled over the fabled 50-pound mark. The first fifty, landed by Tony Renzi, taped just over 49 inches but scaled 52 pounds, 11 ounces; the second hooked, fought, landed, measured, weighed, revived, and released with utmost skill by Ms. Corcoran, scaled over 50 and less than 51 pounds at a length of 52 inches.

Meanwhile, closer to home, shop regulars have rated the fluking solid in a number of areas around Narragansett Bay. Notables on the list of grounds surrendering full limits of keeper slabs are the stretch between Warwick Light and Rocky Point, underneath the Jamestown and Newport Bridges in depths from 70 to 90 feet. By all accounts there are still stupid numbers of black sea bass, and the scup are starting to prove a bit more cooperative.

Sam’s in Middletown noted the local surf talent has been chipping away at some better bass slinging eels or chunking—best of those fish anywhere from the teens to high-20-pound class. Boat guys have been getting in on the act at points, too, drifting eels or other live baits around various oceanfront reefs and rockpiles from Brenton’s east. Fluke fishing has improved quite a bit locally in recent weeks, but there’s a feeling that the body of big slabs on the East Grounds took a pretty thorough beating—a scenario that seems to be playing out again and again this season. The school tuna activity has been moving eastward toward the Vineyard and beyond, but the sharking remains quite promising between 30 and 40 fathoms. Black sea bass are still around: If you can’t limit out on that species at this point, it might be time to ditch the hooks in favor of grenades or depth charges.