RI Fishing Report: 9/19/2014

Striper Hearing Turnout Pitiful; Albies Everywhere

The striper hearing at the Narragansett Bay Campus on Wednesday night was a bit of a shocker in that attendance was minimal. Frankly, I was expecting to have trouble finding a parking space, and by the time I poked my head into Corliss Auditorium, I wasn’t altogether convinced that there was a hearing in progress. Per expectations, surfcasters overwhelmingly supported the shortest of the possible timeframes for taking our mandated 25% cut next season, all at once. Most if not all supported a reduction to a one-fish bag limit, but there were differences of opinion on the matter of minimum size. Most of the Newport guys favored a 32-inch minimum, while I supported a 28-inch keeper on the grounds that I worry about creating a discard problem as folks try to find a fish to take home. RISAA members in attendance mostly voiced support for the one-year reduction scheme, with a two-fish slot-limit option, one bracketed keeper between 28 and less than 40 inches, and a second “trophy” fish over 40 inches. There was much talk of the big black market horror show over at Block Island; I actually caught up to one of the top guys in DEM enforcement, who noted he and his guys are more than clear on what has been going on out there. But with a staff of less than ten officers to handle every single DEM call—trash barrels, crowd control at Scarborough, vandalism, plus shellfishing and fisheries enforcement–from North Kingstown to Watch Hill, they’re strained to about the snapping point. I want to be very clear that the following comment is from me: This is the time to start applying pressure to your state-level representatives to send a loud-and-clear message to the legislature that DEM enforcement needs a lot more manpower to adequately protect out state’s precious natural resources from a seasonal flotilla of black-market fishermen, many from out of state. The charter captains, with one exception, favored a more conservative approach to taking the 25% cut over three years, a two-fish bag limit with a minimum size that steps up in two-inch increments from 2015 to 2017. Most commented that they need a second striped bass to sell charters. Unfortunately, ASMFC was utterly unwilling to entertain the possibility of a mode split of the sort we have with tautog and scup. A mode split opens the possibility of managing for-hire (i.e. party and charter boats) separately from private recreational anglers. While it’s unlikely the Commission will budge on that issue, that would be the only way to give all what they want. So it appears that whatever we get by way of reductions and ultimate bag limits or minimum sizes, we will all be in the same boat (even if we fish from shore). Most in attendance spoke out against a proposed measure that would allow interstate transfer of unused striped bass quotas. In the meantime, if you care about the future of striped bass, you’re going have to get involved in the process; if this past Wednesday night is any indication of public interest, I’m afraid we’re in deep trouble.


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters said the word of the day is albies—even if the fishing hasn’t been uniformly easy over the last week out front. On the better days, folks with the patience to drift and wait, rather than zipping all over the ocean, have been putting together some impressive numbers. Later this week, Wade attributes a bit of a slow-down in the action to crystal-clear water more than a lack of tunoids around. Per the old rule that 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish, striper fishing has been a very tricky proposition for most, while a handful of the local sharpies are catching slobs more or less at will on the Reefs, mainly chunking or yo-yoing pogies that are still plentiful in the Pawcatuck. Scup and sea bass are still all over the place, although the average size on the sea bass has come down a bit over the last couple weeks. Wade has been staving off seasonal burnout playing ID-that-mystery-fish with a little person named Zoe, who has been dip-netting a whole array of miniature tropical stowaways and delivering them in her five-gallon bucket for Wade’s expert opinion.before sending them back to swim along.


Capt. Chris Willi at Block Island Fishworks noted continued slow striper fishing has fuelled interest in albies. Out sea bassing a bit west of Black Rock earlier in the week, Willi had a few nice false albacore. Others putting in their time in and around the Coast Guard Channel at the mouth of New Harbor have been catching a mix of little tunny, bonito, and frigate mackerel, among other mystery meat. There are rumblings of some mixed green bonito and, more recently, some school bluefin tuna in the Mud Hole, while the last guys who returned from the Fishtails managed some decent yellows.


Matt at Snug Harbor Marina was pleased to report some school bluefin activity, plus green bonito in big numbers, for chunkers down in the Mud Hole on Thursday. Albies are zipping this way and that along Narragansett, and from roughly the Center Wall west to Nebraska Shoals and beyond. Fluking, meanwhile, looks to have crapped out, but the black sea bass, while generally smaller on the average, continue to pile up on local humps, bumps, and rockpiles. There are bass for the taking along Southwest Ledge, but it’s a right time, right place grind of a fishery at this stage.


Kenny at Ray’s Bait noted most of his guys have been out trying to work on tautog, particularly in the stretch from Bonnet Shores down to the mouth of the Narrow River, and at various spots along the Newport oceanfront. Bass fishing is pretty poor around the Bay, but North Rip over at the Island has had fish from schoolie size up past 30 pounds. The Mud Hole has a big mass of green bonito, and lately, some school bluefin tuna—chunking, trolling, or jigging all taking a share.


Sam Toland of Sam’s Bait and Tackle said up-to-the-minute word on the month-long-plus yellowfin bonanza down in the Fishtails has drifted out off the edge toward 500 or 1000 fathoms, though there should be some stagglers around up on the flats and around the edge. Meanwhile, there have been loads of pogies jam-packed from the bridge down into Newport Harbor, along with huge blues and some big bass—a September bonanza the likes of which his customers haven’t seen in years. There have been scup and tautog aplenty for guys fishing the rocks and the albies are on patrol anywhere from along Ocean Drive into the East Passage, as far up as Prudence Island some days over the last week.