Jim Malachowski of Cranston (left) and Keith White of Johnston with the striped bass they caught this weekend. Captain Dave Monti fished with them on White’s boat. The trio drifted eels at the North Rip off Block Island.
Striped bass fishing is outstanding. Big fish have been caught all summer long. Peter Vican of East Greenwich caught a state record striped bass that weighted 77.40 pounds on June 19 off Block Island. This was one pound shy of the national record. The national record was shattered on Aug. 8 when North Bradford, Conn. resident Greg Myerson landed an 81.88-pound striped bass off the Connecticut shore (in both cases, anglers were drifting eels). All summer long recreational anglers have been catching big fish in and around Block Island, making it one of the hottest striped bass fishing spots in the Northeast. Striped bass often surfaced at the North Rip and fish at the Southwest Ledge have been consistently large.
How large is large?
I spoke with Captain Neil Vitullo of “Played for It Charters” from Warren. I saw Neil with some monster striped bass at the state boat ramp dock in Galilee when returning from a fishing trip this weekend. I called Neil the next day, and as he was “drifting eels” with his charter on the southwest side of Block Island, he said, “Fishing around Block Island has been outstanding. Our largest fish this week was 46 pounds and the largest fish today [so far] is 43 pounds.”
Al Conti of Sung Harbor Marina said, “Striped bass fishing has been the best I have seen it in a while. Recreational anglers have been catching big fish all summer and today the commercial season started and I must have gotten 20 fish all over 40 pounds.”
Where do these big fish hang out and how do you catch them?
Big bass often live deep. Pods of bait will bring striped bass up to feed on the surface, to the shallow water or to the surf near coastal beaches. But seldom can you catch a monster striper on the surface. When fishing offshore or in Narragansett Bay, the largest bass are deep, close to the bottom and near structures (humps, holes, rocks, etc.). Not necessarily in deep water but deep in the water column because they wait to see what falls their way from fish feeding frenzies above. Striped bass also stage on the bottom near structures because it gives them cover so they can strike out at prey with little warning. The trick is getting your bait down low to elicit a strike.
How low are the striped bass?
From what I have experienced, read and heard, the larger fish are very low in the water column. Often times when you take fish up quickly from the bottom off Block Island, they will still have mud on their bellies from laying low on the bottom.
The largest fish I have caught (or witnessed being caught) all had one thing in common; they were on the bottom and the bait was presented to them low in the water column. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle (Warwick) has often said when trolling, if you are not checking and picking weeds off your bait or losing gear every now and then due to bottom tie-ups, you are likely not getting your bait down low enough in the water column.
So how do you get your bait low enough?
This year the bait of choice for the big striped bass has been eels. Eels allow anglers to get their bait low in the water column, one to three feet from the bottom by just lowering the eel and then once it touches bottom, reeling up a couple of turns. Anglers spot bass on their fish finder usually at their favorite spots that hold bass such as the North Rip or Southwest Ledge off Block Island. Often, anglers use two or four ounces of weight to get the eels down low quickly to avoid and prevent blue fish from stealing their bait as they generally feed higher in the water column.
Another popular way to catch big bass is trolling with tube and worm. Lead core line is generally used in low water 10 to 25 feet and wire line for deeper water. When trolling offshore with tube and worm with 65-pound test wire line and letting out 300 feet of line, you are down 30 to 35 feet, depending on your bait’s weight, leader length, current, boat speed, etc. But sometimes 30 to 35 feet is not enough. If you are in 55 feet of water and want to get down to 45 to 50 feet, you just cannot get there with 300 feet of wire. So fishing in water low enough so you can get low in the water column is important.
Many anglers and striped bass advocates have expressed concern that striped bass are on the decline. Historically, big fish (and fewer smaller fish) show up when a fishery is about to crash. State, regional and federal fish managers are in the process of gathering new data to determine if striped bass are in decline and if there are regulations that may be put in place to protect large egg-bearing fish. We will have to wait and see what happens.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass fishing has been outstanding around Block Island. Fish in the 30- and 40-pound range have been common. Bait of choice continues to be eels. Fish are being caught on jigs (underneath feeding birds) as well as with tube and worm. Striped bass fishing in the Narragansett Bay is still spotty.
Fluke fishing remains strong. Al Conti of Sung Harbor Marina said, “Often times when you get a big storm this time of year, the fluke go away.” They start to migrate off shore. But that has not been the case. The southern coastal shoreline from Watch Hill to Galilee has been holding fluke after the storm. “Eric Taylor of Charlestown caught some great fish this weekend off Charlestown Beach,” said Conti.
Tuna fishing was slow after the storm so far. Reports of several anglers giving the Mud Hole a try with no luck.
Green Bonito. Rick Sustello from the RISAA blog said, “As we headed up the coast [from Point Judith to Narrow River], I immediately saw birds working in small groups. I figured they were blues, so we could have some great fun on light spinning gear. I got us up wind of the birds and drifted into them. I put on a 2-ounce Crippled Herring and started casting into the birds jigging with fast retrievals. On the second cast, I hooked up with what I thought was a nice blue. After a great fight with several runs, it jumped about 20 feet from the boat; Green Bonito! ... In about an hour and a half, we landed two bonito, five 25-inch stripers and some blues.”
Bluefish off southern coastal shores, Newport and Block Island have been plentiful and large. When fishing with Keith White of Johnston this weekend, we caught two large blue fish in the 11- to 12-pound range. Some of the largest bluefish I have seen in a while.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Your fishing photos in JPEG form, stories, comments and questions are welcome ... there’s more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.