RI Fishing Report: 7/24/2015

Mystery Meat Trolling Good In Shipping Lanes

7-24--RI Report Lead Photo

“I got him right in the lip—you know, the corner of its mouth….”
Ethan Masciarelli, age 12, asked where he caught the massive 55.4-pound cow striper (pictured at the head of this week’s column) while fishing a small piece of real estate in points east with his Grandpa.

Christian at Watch Hill Outfitters reported that one Dale Stowle hooked, fought, landed, and weighed in a fine 53-pound cow striper using top-secret methods somewhere in the Watch Hill Reefs/Fishers complex of hard bottom. There have been solid numbers of bass averaging 35 to 39 inches on patrol around the Weekapaug Breachway and the Overlook for guys slinging eels or live-lining the harbor blues that are on patrol all along the beachfront from Quonny westward. Other folks have been finding some good bass slinging eels in after-dark flood tides (the last two hours thereof up to the high-water mark) in the upper reaches of the Pawcatuck River, from Pawcatuck Rock on up. Guys making the trip to Block have been picking away at quality bass, but also some massive sea biscuits and the occasional doormat fluke between the Thumb and the West Grounds—not every tide. Sharks are abundant, there are still school tuna anywhere from Coxes southward to the Shipping Lanes. Scup are big and seemingly everywhere, notably out in front of Watch Hill Light and the humps and bumps off Weekapaug/Misquamicut.

Capt. Chris Willi at Block Island Fishworks said the bass have been sufficiently cooperative to keep the fishing public engaged and out fishing—though the contrast between last summer’s borderline stupid fishing and this summer’s generally slim pickin’s is a bit sobering. He noted that even some of his longtime fallback spots like the inside rocks at Black Rock—places that were long worth a de-skunking smaller fish—have been conspicuously dead so far this season. But there have been numbers of larger fish—30s, 40s, and 50-pound fish—scattered up and down the smaller pieces along Southwest Ledge (Corner) from inside all the way to the Fence. The same area has numbers of large to mutant black sea bass Willi and company have been sticking with double-Spro dropper rigs and other fluke rigs tipped with Gulp! squid or silversides. Fluke, too are scattered around the Island, with much of the effort concentrated on the grounds well south (3 to 5 miles) and east. There has been a major influx of the same rig-snarling weed on the East Grounds among other spots that were surrendering a stream of very large slabs until a week or two ago. Chris and clients managed one large green bonito about a week ago outside SE Light, and there have been some scattered rumors of tunoids running the cut into New Harbor, though Willi wasn’t willing to bet the farm on the truth of these rumors.

Snug Harbor reported some reasonably steady, if not exactly fast and furious, action on an array of bluewater mystery meat down in the Shipping Lanes north of Atlantis/West Atlantis and below the Dump; among others who’ve scored late-week, the crew of the Big Game had back-to-back trips Wednesday and Thursday, landing one bull mahi—25 to 35-pound range–per trip, and a couple of yellows as large as 70 pounds. Other boats had wahoo, and it would be strange if there weren’t also marlin, makos, bluefins, albies, and other species on patrol in that vicinity. The troll bite has mainly been blind, so don’t expect any wild surface action to lead you to the fish. Sharking is still very good around the usual 30-fathom spots, with tons of blue dogs, and a surprising number of sporty but still manageable keeper makos in the 90- to 150-pound class, providing good opportunities for exciting lighter-tackle fishing.

Closer to home, the striper activity at the Southwest Corner and the high spots off the south side has been slow but reasonably steady, with a pick of mostly larger bass—high 20s to north of 50-pound range—and not too many smaller keepers around. The shop has been selling loads of eels, and with no recent reports of a bluefish takeover or dogfish swarms, that’s a pretty good indicator that folks are catching bass when the tides and winds align, creating good drift conditions. Fluking has been okay to good off Green Hill, Scarborough, and other areas along the south shore beaches. There are solid keepers along the deeper broken bottom off Jamestown, Newport, and Sakonnet. Word has it, though, that a massive mat of weed has choked off a good deal of the real estate south of Block that was turning out numbers of bigger fluke a couple weeks back. There are snapper blues around in some of the upper Bay harbors and inside Weekapaug Breachway, adding another prime live-bait option for doormat hunters willing to spend the time and energy to make bait ahead of their trips. Cod fishing is pretty good on Coxes, but we’re smack-dab in the middle of a major bait-clam crunch, making it tricky to secure a trip’s supply of groundfish candy.

Kenny Landry of Ray’s Bait up in Apponaug was out doing some fluking with Dad when I called Friday morning. The slabs, he said, were abundant, with an unexpectedly favorable keeper-to-short ratio, near the red can off Warwick Light. Shop customers have been chipping away at fluke in the deeper water around both bridges and along the Newport oceanfront. Folks willing to get an early start before the boat traffic hits fever pitch have been finding scattered stripers to north of 40 inches trolling the tube and worm around places like Brenton Reef, Seal Ledge, and other inside reefs and rockpiles between the Bay mouth and the Little Compton stones. Blues are around inside the harbors from Greenwich Bay northward, with two distinct year classes—the usual 3- to 6-inchers, and a second shot of fish around a pound.

Sam’s in Middletown noted the regulars are managing a pick of better bass from the 20s on up but not too many north of the 40-pound mark live-lining, wire-trolling live bait, tube-and-worming, or eeling the various reefs and rockpiles along Ledge Road in Newport: Brenton Reef, Elbow Ledge, and other pieces as far east as Westpoort, MA. Fluking’s reasonably steady but no one’s crushing it in any one spot—fish scattered from Fort Adams past Sachuest, with plenty of jumbo black sea bass mixed in.