No Fluke

How experts fish for spring striped bass


It was a great night. Three of the top striped bass anglers in the State spoke about fishing in the upper Bay in the spring. Steve McKenna of Cranston, RI, author, lecturer and noted shore angler; Capt. Jim White of White Ghost Charters; and Captain Joe Pagano of Stuff-It Charters all gave an enlightening panel discussion facilitated by Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) at their March 26 monthly meeting.

Everything striped bass was discussed… baits, locations, preferred time of day to fish and gear. This panel discussion format, the first for RISAA, was a big hit as the experts shared techniques and tips with the record 235 anglers in attendance at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick.

Here are highlights of what they had to say:

When they fish

All fished in the upper West Passage in the Bay from Conimicut Point to the Hurricane barrier in Providence in the month of May (some start May 1 others by mid May, there was a lot of discussion about what will happen this year with the warm water, maybe if will start earlier? Maybe end earlier?). They usually fish into June (the first or second week), leaving when the bait (Atlantic Menhaden) leave the area.

• Night fishing is Capt. Pagano' preference, early morning for Capt. White and Steve McKenna. All fishing different times of day and night depending on the time of year and location.

Location and bait

• Captain Pagano's (who fishes from a boat) preference is to use Atlantic menhaden chunks in the Bay at night, live menhaden in the day, fresh bait (not frozen) is a must, he finds the fish in the coves, channels and around structure, anchors up and he moves the boat in about 20 minutes if he gets no bites.

• Steve McKenna fishes many of the same areas from shore (wherever he can gain access as he is a shore angler). Places like the mouth of Pawtuxet Cove, from shore near Save the Bay, Conimicut Point and along this Western Bay shore (he lives in Cranston and access is good for him there). He exclusively uses artificial bates… surface plugs and swimming plugs (many of them wood) and soft plastic baits of all types. Toward the end of May and June, Steve often fishs the herring runs coming out of the rivers into the Bay.

• Captain Jim White prefers using live menhaden, with light tackle and never anchors up. He is also on the move looking for fish. His second preference is to use a variety of soft plastic baits; he is a firm believer in mixing it up… find out what the striped bass are attached to on any given day and sticking with it if it works. If he is not fishing with a charter customer he is scouting favorite spots in the Bay looking for fish.

Rods, reels, line

• In regard to gear, all prefer the lightest tackle they can get away with… spinning reels are used most often with some bait casting conventional reels for Capt. White when using soft plastics. Capt. Pagano likes a rig a bit heavier when chunking with menhaden. He feels the hook set has to be strong and firm for the hook to pass through the menhaden chunk into the bass. All prefer monofilament line rather than braid as they believe it is more forgiving, particularly around structure. All have lost fish due to break off with braid on the bottom or around structure. Some believe in using fluorocarbon leaders and others believe monofilament leaders work just fine in the Bay as the water is usually not clear and the monofilament is not visible.


• Captains White and Pagano prefer treble hooks, particularly with live or chunked menhaden as you have three chances to hook the fish rather than one. Steve McKenna uses treble hook as most of the lures he buys come with and have treble hood. The soft plastics he uses have one hook.

Circle hooks enhance catch and release efforts

Circle hooks have been praised nationally and locally by conservationists in that the hook usually sets in the corner of the fish's mouth saving the fish from being hooked in the belly thus enhancing its chances of survival if released. I believe in using circle hooks when fishing with baits such as menhaden, ells, etc. and when lures and jigs can be adopted to use circle hooks. I also flatten the barbs on treble hooks to enhance catch and release.

Some anglers believe that conventional hooks and treble hooks do not hook fish in the belly if the hook is set quickly, giving the fish no time to swallow the bait. The use of conventional hooks, treble hooks, wide gap hooks and circle hooks continues to be a debate with anglers of all experience levels. Capt. White said, "It is all about catching the fish, circle hooks do not allow you to set the hook, and this is not natural when fishing and not as effective."

Circle hooks have been used by commercial fishermen for many years. When long-line fishermen using circle hooks would return to check their hooks the fish would be still alive (hooked in the jaw or mouth and not in the stomach or gut). Circle hooks are highly efficient at catching fish with little or no angler effort as well as keeping the fish alive.

Here's how circle hooks work…after the hook (and bait) are swallowed by the fish and it starts to run, the hook is pulled out of the stomach and slides toward the point of resistance on the fish's jaw or lip and embeds itself in the corner of the fish's mouth.

Circle hooks successfully hook bass in the mouth 95% of the time. The trick is not to jerk the rod to set the hook because you could pull the hook out of the fish's mouth. Let the fish run, as it does, it will pull the hook out of its stomach and hook itself on the lip. Once this happens the fish is hooked so all you have to do is start fighting the fish and reeling it in. Ask your local bait & tackle shop for circle hooks and/or purchase rigs that have circle hooks. They are becoming more and more available for a variety of species.

DEM stocks ponds for Opening Day, Saturday, April 14

The Department of Environmental Management's (DEM) Division of Fish & Wildlife announced last week that the 2012 trout and general freshwater fishing season will begin at 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 14. More than 20,000 anglers are expected to turn out at dawn on opening day. Approximately 80,000 hatchery-raised brook, brown, and rainbow trout with an average individual weight of one and a half pounds are being stocked by Division staff in more than 100 ponds and streams for opening day.

A complete list of stocked ponds and other information of interest to anglers can be found on DEM's website,

Where’s the bite

Striped bass fishing this week slowed down as the water cooled substantially. It dropped four degrees in the Bay from previous weeks and this perhaps slowed down the migration. Few reports of migrating fish (with lice) being caught at press time.

Cod fishing continues to be mixed. Some good days and some bad days both of the Seven B's and Francis Fleet vessels

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 stories, comments and questions are welcome… there's more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave's No Fluke website at or e-mail him at


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