Solid Night Tuna Bite, Fishtails to the Dip


Ready or not, it’s Labor Day weekend, and whatever else has gone on in this bizarro season to end all bizarre seasons, this is the time to @#$% or hop off the proverbial pot. Whatever has supposedly been running late, if it’s not here now, smart money says it’s probably not coming (obvious exception the things we typically don’t see until September, like albies, tautog, etc.). That said, there’s a ton of prime fishing ahead, whether you plan to hit the exit areas for a couple last shots of big fluke, wreck-hop off Newport in search of sea bass and tautog, or run all the way south to capitalize on what has been a fruitful night chunk bite from the Tails westward. Stand by to see what the coming week brings.


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters said it’s been a little on the slow/discouraging side in his corner of the angling universe, with precious little doing on the striped bass front. A couple of the RIMS guys are picking away at some better fish quietly, working little spots under cover of darkness—one perk of having 30 years of logbooks to refine the search. Sugar Reef, among many other places, is covered up in plus-size porgies, and one shop regular stuck a bunch of hefty sea biscuits working Ragged Reef off Weekapaug. Fluke fishing is getting to be a pretty tough go at this stage of the game. There have been sporadic bonito reports from the west side of Block Island, and rumors of a few around Watch Hill as of mid-week. Blues are here and there. The bass fishing over at Block Island has slowed down at least for the moment, but there have been reliable reports of good night-bite action out in the canyons, mostly between the Fishtails and the Dip, along with a few rumblings of major bigeye events earlier in the week around the Hudson. If everything holds its present course, this could end up being a pretty solid fall in the canyons.


Capt. Chris Willi at Block Island Fishworks confirmed the recent bonito action along the west side, but clarified that it’s been nothing to write home about thus far, pending some moderation I the boat traffic to/from New Harbor—among other places. There are blues under birds all over the place, just in time for the shop’s new smoker. Fluke fishing was good to excellent early-week well east and SE of the Island in 80-plus feet of water, and there were a couple of sick bigeye events from the Dip to Hudson’s over the last week. The time to go is about four days ago—but there has been a night bite worth doing from the Tails westward. Willi noted there seem to be quite a few bass in the northward pipeline, the North Shore of Mass to Maine, fuelling the usual hopes for a big fall run—though weather and timing will have everything to do with the way that shakes out. The sea bass, now that the bag limit is set to jump to seven fish, have gotten smaller and harder to weed through. Obviously, the recent wind hasn’t helped anything, so all hands will be curious to see what the coming stretch of more settled weather brings on multiple angling fronts.


Matt Conti at Snug Harbor Marina was not exactly raving about the recent inshore fishing, thanks to the high winds and heave leading up to the holiday weekend. Wind was smoking out of the north when I called late Thursday afternoon, and Conti noted that “clearing wind” will hopefully have cleaned things up a bit by late on Friday or Saturday. Earlier in the week, there were some big canyon catches. Capt. Dean and the crew of Twentyfive supposedly had some bigeyes trolling down in the Hudson the beginning of the week, but in general, the daytime troll has been a disappointment of late; the night bite from the Fishtails west has been quite good to some who know the finer points of the chunking game. The Mud Hole didn’t give up a giant despite quite a bit of sustained fishing effort and near-textbook fishing scenarios over the course of the last seven days; one boat drifting there reported school-sized bluefins blowing up in its chum slick—an event Conti noted could be a simple function of timing, or in a perfect world, a good sign of things to come for the fall tuna fishery south and east of Block Island. Last guys who went cod fishing found a ravenous nightmare of dogfish clogging up the works at the Mountain, then relocated to the SE Corner of Coxes and managed a pretty good shot of market-sized keepers. The East Grounds, where the fluke bite had been quite good, succumbed to dirty water and tons of weed on Wednesday and Thursday; one of Conti’s sources said his jig stopped halfway to bottom when it touched down in what must have been a massive raft of vegetation (?) There are big scup and sea bass on the broken bottom all over the place and all hands are eagerly awaiting the big bag-limit bump on September first, when sea bass goes from 3 to 7 fish, adding a realistic fishing option to the short list. Bonito reports have been mighty slim, but there have been a few around outside New Harbor.


Kenny at Ray’s Bait called Wednesday with some welcome news, namely that one of the shop’s longtime regulars, Shirley Saccoccio, out fishing off the south end of Prudence with her fluke-obsessed husband, stuck a welcome-mat-sized summer flattie of a bit over 12 pounds. The duo had decided to change up the plan of fishing south, given the number of little slabs tiling the bottom down nearer the mouth of the Bay. In classic fashion, they wandered off the beaten path and wound up with a fish that has become the new family benchmark, and the fulfillment of a 30-year quest to crack double digits. Congratulations, Shirley, on one helluva doormat!
Other news has been notably spotty—fluke are in the process of beating their annual retreat southward, leaving precious little inside the Bay to justify the time adrift. Tautog are still way up in the rocks per the norm, but there are some nice scup and sea bass piled up on quite a few wrecks, rockpiles and ledges south of Newport, around the Bay mouth, and out front. There are still some good bass over at the Island, though that fishery is now a shade of what it was a month ago. There have been rumors of some surface activity around Newport, where the peanut bunker, among other baitfish, is piled up thick in places. Blues are where you find them in the Bay. There’s been a legitimate night bite out along the edge of the shelf, mainly from the Fishtails westward to the Dip and beyond, but the Mud Hole has yet to turn out anything worth mentioning in the tuna department. If you have thoughts about a trip way outside, think hard about doing it soon.


Sam Toland at Sam’s Bait and Tackle was pleased to report some confirmed blitz fishing that lit up after 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon from roughly Fort Adams southward top Castle Hill. Capt. Robbie Taylor managed a handful of fat bonito in addition to schoolie bass and blues working the outskirts of the surface fray. There are still big scup and some cooperative tautog in the rocks from Fort Adams to Brenton Point, and at intervals along Ocean Drive. The bay seems to have dumped most of its fluke at this point, but folks willing to put in the time in the deeper water south of Seal Ledge and Brenton Reef, making short drifts in 70 to 90 feet, have been coming up with some solid slabs. On the canyon tuna front, the daytime action has been mostly limited to scattered longfin albacore and mahis, but the night bite between the Fishtails and the Dip has been quite good to some of the sharper guys who understand the chunking game.