Winter Bass: Holdovers on Hold


Alas, here we are in February, the bleakest month of Rhode Island’s fishing calendar—a month that pretty reliably cuts a dismal two-fishery state’s options by 50 percent. Let’s see: There’s—well—cod… and… uhhhhhhh… wait, there’s another one. Cod and… holdover stri…No–wait… Yeah, I guess it’s just the cod….

Granted, there is not exactly a consensus view that the winter-over striper catch falls apart by February, but it’s probably safe to say that it’s basically game-over for holdover habitats with significant freshwater influences. In fact, by early January, water temps near the Narrow River estuary’s headwaters in Saunderstown/North Kingstown had dipped below 35 degrees, and much of the pond nearest the Gilbert Stuart inlet had iced over. Capt. Al Anderson made one last mission up that way, running up a narrow swath of open water where another skiff had done some icebreaking to gain access, but marked absolutely nothing, saw nothing—no signs whatsoever of holdover bass, active, torpid, or otherwise, no bait, and plenty of ice.

Though Potter’s Pond in South Kingstown boasts salinity levels a bit higher than the upper Pettasquamscut Lakes, word has it the limited winter schoolie activity in that waterbody has gone pretty much quiet, too. Make no mistake: some persistent angler will land a schoolie or two in defiance of basic bass biology, but if he does it in Potter’s it will be in absolute solitude—there’s no real, above-board access to the upper pond. The other dark-months schoolie spots should reignite by mid-March
If hope remains for holdover striper fishing anywhere in the Ocean State, it is up inside the Providence River, somewhere between the power plant outflow and Down City—up in Water Fire territory. If you’re up for a surreal evening casting small shad bodies and the like among the rafts of litter, choose an inhospitable evening of weather and give ‘em what-for. A few mid-winter schoolie specialists we’ve grilled on the reasons Providence schoolies chew when all the state’s other off-season striper waters have fizzled out suggest that it’s the superheated discharge water that keeps these urban schoolies on the offensive.

Word from the Thames in Connecticut indicates a mighty slow fishery from the Norwich on down. As of mid-January, semi-fresh intel placed the only cooperative linesides still further up-river in the freshwater tributaries—notably the Shetucket and Yantic Rivers. There have been rumors circulating about a few seals that have set up shop in Norwich, adding (if the rumors are true) to the overall doubts about the viability of the Thames River fishery. If you’re feeling ambitious, know that the Housatonic River in western CT is the new Thames. We got one confirmed report of a 47-inch winter cow caught in an undisclosed stretch of that river. If you want to scout that estuary, track down a copy of our sister edition covering CT waters.