Photo by Virginia Magnan-Monti
Captain Dave Monti holds the first striped bass of the season caught on No Fluke Charters last week in East Greenwich Cove. The fish was caught with a Yozuri Crystal Minnow swimming lure.
Spring tautog fishing which started two weeks ago has been outstanding. Tautog are going for Asian crabs and clam worms in a big way with anglers easily limiting out this week. Fishing at most favorite Narragansett Bay spots has been good… Conimicut and Plum Point Light Houses, General Rock in North Kingstown, Hope Island and Coddington Cove. Also reports of nice fish taken off Point Judith and Narragansett. But before sharing some tips from the experts, here are 2012 regulations for tautog from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
Tautog have to be sixteen inches or more. The catch limit for recreational anglers from April 15 through May 31 is three fish/person/day. The season is closed June 1 thru July 31 (during spawning) and reopens August 1 to October 14 with a three fish/person/day limit. The limit jumps to six fish/person/day on October 15 through December 15. However, there is a ten fish per boat limit during all periods. The boat limit does not apply to charter and party boats.
Here is what the experts have to say about tautog fishing.
Where are they biting this spring? Captain Robb Roach of Kettlebottom outfitters said, "(We have) been hitting the West and East passage a little bit this week for tautog. The fish are there and seem to prefer the sunny, warm, high spots. We caught a couple of limits in 18 feet of water in the mid to upper West passage on Sunday afternoon. The fish liked Japanese fiddler crabs (Asian crabs) on strong, small hooks. We were also chumming with crushed mussels. We found quite a few spots holding fish including Hope Island, Halfway Rock, the Navy Base, Castle Hill and Plum Beach Light. We concentrated on finding the warmest water (55 deg) and watching the depth finder for marks before setting anchor."
Boat placement is important. Use electronics to find structure, estimate wind/drift direction and anchor up current from where you want to fish and drift back to the spot as the anchor is setting. Once in position, fish all sides of the boat casting a bit to cover as much area as you can. If still no bites, let some anchor line out a couple of times to change your position, if still no bites it is time to move the vessel.
Fish lodged in structure. Here is a tip from George Poveromo's "Rock'em Sock'em" article that appeared in a back issue of Saltwater magazine. When a fish is hooked and it has muscled its way back to structure, apply pressure forcing a respectable amount of bend in the rod. If the fish is not moving, hold the rod vertically to the water, tighten the line and pull or pluck the fishing line like a banjo string. The sharp vibrations emitted work their way back down to the fish through the line and irritate it. The fish, in a state of confusion, may back out of the hole to free itself from the irritation. Once you sense this has happened start reeling in the fish. If this does not work try letting the line just go limp for a minute or two. With no pressure on the fish, it may dislodge itself. The rig often frees itself, the fish may get unhooked, or you may still catch the fish.
Feel the bite… tap, tap and then get ready for a tug of war. Captain George Cioe said, "I believe with the first tap the tautog is positioning the bait for consumption." So at the second tap I raise the rod up firmly feeling for the weight of the fish (no need to jerk the rod up hard). Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod up and pressure on so the fish is not able to run for cover. Captain Rich Hittinger, RISAA vice president and a long time angler out of Point Judith said, "If you get two bites with no hook-up your bait is gone. Reel in and re-bait."
What type of bottom should you look for. From shore, look for rocky coastline like Beavertail Point on Jamestown, locations off Newport, Point Judith and off jetties at South County beaches. From a boat, I have had good luck at Plum Point light house next to the Jamestown Bridge, rock piles off Narragansett Beach, the jetty at Coddington Cove in Middletown, off Hope Island at rock piles and mussel beds on both the north and south sides, around Brenton Reef in Newport, Whale Rock, Ohio Ledge in the East Passage and any other places there is structure, debris, rock clusters, wrecks, etc.
Bait and chumming. The bait of choice for tautog this spring has been Asian crabs and clam worms. In the fall it has been Asian crabs and/or green crabs (with legs taken off and cut in half). Chumming for tautog will enhance your catch dramatically. Kevin Bettencourt from the East Bay Anglers said, "Chumming is a critical part of tautog fishing. If you want to land numerous tautog you must establish an effective chum line. This can be accomplished with grass shrimp or crushed Asian or green crabs. Don't be afraid to feed them! If you don't, they won't stick around long!" Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters from Jamestown said chumming is very important… "I chum with crushed mussels or crushed periwinkles."
Where's the bite
Freshwater. "Fishing is good for customers with nice sized rainbow trout being caught at Silver Spring Lake in North Kingstown and Beach Pond at Arcadia State Park.", said Craig Castro of Erickson's Bait & Tackle of Warwick, RI. Visit www.dem.ri.gov for a list of ponds, lakes and rivers stocked by DEM.
Striped bass fishing is good. Bass to 38 inches being caught in the West passage with school bass being caught in covers, at the month of rivers and on the troll. Last week I caught my first keeper of the season in East Greenwich Cove. It was 29", healthy with a medium sized girth for this time of year. All the fish this spring have been very aggressive. This one took a Yozuri Crystal Mino plastic swimming lure just before it was pulled out of the water. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, reports a good bass bite in the Seekonk and Taunton Rivers. Customers catching bass on the troll up to the mouth of Omega Pond in East Providence.
Tautog. Captain Steve Sherriff reports tautog at several Bay locations "We fished the upper Bay for Tautog on Saturday morning with no luck. Very dirty water. Moved to lower bay North of
Jamestown Bridge near General Rock and Hope Island. (We) caught 17 keepers on Asian and Green crabs in 10 to 20 feet of water. 5.5 pounds was largest fish." Captain Robb Roach experienced similar good luck last week in the East and West passage of the Bay (see above report). A 16 plus pound tautog was caught last week by Captain Billy Silvia of Can't Imagine Charters, Bristol.
Squid fishing has been mixed this week. Captain Rick Bellavance said, "We are exploring squid fishing trips in the next week or two at a special rate". Many anglers catch squid and freeze it for use as bait throughout the season. You can reach Captain Bellavance at www.priorityfishingcharters.com. Francis Fleet and Seven B's vessels out of Galilee, RI are also taking anglers fishing for squid.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license, a charter fishing license, and is a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council. Your fishing photos in JPEG from, 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; his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.