Weekly RI Fishing Report: 7/4/2014

Unsettled Weather Throws Wrench In the Works for Fourth Fishing Plans

I’m used to penning tropical-storm-inspired caveats and disclaimers in September or October. But the idea of having to footnote a Fourth of July fish report as such is a little eerie—especially in a year when we’ve had so much talk of things running way behind. Be that as it may, the reality of the following entry is that whatever heave the offshore storm sends our way, whatever rain falls and whatever wind howls or doesn’t howl, the details of recent fishing are apt to be a bit of a moot point by the time you get back out on the water. Dirty water and weed have a way of shutting fluke, scup and sea bass right off for some period of time—and moving other migratory visitors like bass around. Bottom line is that things will be in flux as you read this, and if the weather is truly vile, you’ll essentially be fishing blind—heading out with no firm idea about what’s where or how things will look when you get where you’re going. Whatever rotten tricks Mother Nature has up her sleeve for the coming weekend, we wish you a safe and happy holiday weekend.


Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters was busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger when I called late Thursday afternoon. He’d already sold out of sand worms, and was trying to secure an emergency supply for the long weekend, thanks to some fast and furious scup action from the rocks at Watch Hill Light—action that will probably take a brief nosedive with all the rain and possibly wind that’s in the weekend forecast. The local striped bass fishing has tapered off quite a bit over the last week or so, though a few of the usual suspects continue to pry noteworthy fish off the local rockpiles soaking live bait on the lunatic shift. Blues have been scarce, relatively speaking, but the black sea bass are all over the place and some of them are huge. Fluke fishing has been fair to excellent, though experience and creativity (in terms of the areas folks target) are playing a large hand in individual results. There are fish all along the Misquamicut, from quite shallow out to 60 or 70 feet. The big ingredient in every local fishery at this stage is sand eels, a superabundant food source that seems to be keeping every recreationally important species fat and happy; that dietary reality should factor into your own strategy no matter what you’re targeting.


Elise at Snug Harbor noted the bass fishing has dropped off a few rungs over the last week, thanks, perhaps, to the fact that some percentage of the top talent pulled back on its fishing schedule with the closure of the commercial striper season last week. The charter guys have been toughing it out, working for what fish they’re catching, and the night eel crowd has seen a bit of a decline in the average size of wee-hours bass; largest fish the last week or so have typically fallen in the 30-pound range, rather than the 40s or 50s that were seemingly stacked like cordwood a week or two ago. The fluke fishing, per the usual, has everything to do with drift conditions and individual willingness to travel for better fish. The south side of Block Island is about the best game in town at this point, since Sakonnet and some of the closer parts of the Newport oceanfront dropped off. There were some bluefins on a bite out toward Tuna Ridge and east of there over toward the south side of Coxes and the Claw. Likewise, there were some fish on a wide-open feed down in the Shipping Lanes last weekend. One angler managed a mako and a thresher—both released—early-week a bit south of the Mud Hole, an area loaded with sand eels and other bait. But with tropical weather barreling up the coast, there’s really no telling what will shake out on the offshore scene after the weekend.


Kenny Landry at Ray’s Bait in Apponaug, a guy who tells it like it is, noted the bass fishing in the Bay fell right off—but didn’t fail completely; some of his regulars have been trolling tube-and-worm rigs around Prudence, from roughly Pine Hill down to Black Face, and around Patience Island for schoolies, small keepers, and the occasional 20-pounder. Kenny and a friend took one nice fish down around Gould Island earlier in the week, but on the balance, things have quieted right down in the Bay. The Island still has some better fish for those who know how to play trhe night tides; one trip a bit over a week ago, Landry and friends boated five fish over 40 pounds drifting eels off the SW Corner, but that was more than a week ago. Meanwhile, most of the shop’s regulars have shifted over to fluke fishing. Best bet there has been drifting around the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, where you’ll have less shorts to contend with between keepers, and some nice scup and sea bass mixed in. The fluking farther afield—along Newport’s oceanfront and eastward off Sakonnet Point—has dropped off, but should bounce back a bit with the arrival of new waves of fish in the coming weeks. There are schoolies in Newport Harbor, and both bluefins and edible sharks from south of the Mud Hole south and east toward the Claw. Recent canyon intel has been hard to come by. There are still pogies scattered all over the Bay; one of Landry’s friends even ran across some around Old Harbor at Block—an area that hasn’t seen much of that bait in recent years.


If history is an indicator of future success, we are heading into a stage of the season several of my sources agree could be one of the best for bigger bass anywhere from the Newport Reefs eastward toward the boulder-strewn network of prime striper structures off Little Compton and Westport, Mass. Of course, in this season of zany timing, unexpected arrivals, and unforeseeable no-shows, only way to find out will be to keep slinging big casting eels or other jumbo livies into the stones in that famed stretch of the Striper Coast (thank you, Frank Daignault). While things may get a bit tougher along the oceanfront, the fluking should hold up nicely in the lower reaches of the East Bay, especially for those willing to go through the additional effort of secure live baits to supplement the staple baits like squid of strip baits; a major bonus for flukemen will be black sea bass, which are big, and plentiful according to where you drift. Speaking of, anyone in possession of some choice numbers for wrecks or rockpiles in the deeper water south of Newport might conduct some memorable sea bass recon in the coming weeks.