Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Grading the 2018 Season

Here's a typical "big"
RI keeper. Most of the
keepers from shore
were 28 to 32 inches
It was just loaded with
schoolies in the 16 to 24
inch range this year. They
seemed to be everywhere.
It was the year of the schoolie. From start to finish it was loaded with them. And, while I caught big numbers of schoolies in RI, they also seemed to be everywhere I fished this year including the Cape and Boston Harbor.  Thank God for all those schoolies because for other fish such as bluefish and albies, it was not good. So here's a rundown of how I saw the fishing year here in RI.
Schoolies-I started my year catching holdovers in early April, and it was a bonanza from that time forward until late November. I found big numbers of migrating fish in late April along the oceanfront, and early May brought huge numbers to Narragansett Bay. Most of these fish were in the 14 to 24 inch range which was about 4 inches bigger on average than in 2017 (yes, they are growing). Summer fishing had good numbers of schoolies in the Bay even though the water was abnormally warm. Fall fishing began early this year with August delivering massive numbers of schoolies along the oceanfront  after huge schools of peanut bunker which seemed to arrive earlier than normal. The rest of the fall featured some of the biggest blitzes of schoolies I have ever seen.  Just phenomenal at times. These were the good 'ole days coming back to life. Grade for schoolies- A+
Keepers- Not so rosy here. There was a noticeable shortage of large keepers, say fish over 40 inches.  It tells you a lot when not one striper over 30 lbs. was entered from shore in the annual RISAA Tournament. But, we did see more small keepers than were around in 2017.  In spring and fall I was catching occasional keepers in the 28 to 32 inch range from shore and boat that were mixed with the schoolies. There were no big numbers of larger fish after pogies in Gansett Bay this year which was a disappointment. Summer fishing for keepers was poor for me in RI which prompted me to head to the Canal on a regular basis. I had a summer to remember there with big numbers of big fish (no shortage there). Fall brought a few more keepers than expected but once again, these were small keepers in the 28 to 32 inch range. Grade for RI keepers- C
Here's a rare bluefish taken
from the boat in Gansett Bay.
It was a poor year for
bluefish as they seem to be in
steep decline.
Bluefish- It was POOR.  They seem to be disappearing from our waters, and no one seems to care. I got a few from the boat in Gansett Bay in the spring, got a couple from the shore in early summer, and landed a dozen in the fall (most of which came on one outing). I saw days in which there were massive schools of peanut bunker ( a favorite of bluefish), and there would not be a single blue after them. With these fish in steep decline, the RI regs still allow 15 fish a day and no size limit.....simply ridiculous. Grade for bluefish- D
Everyone was all wound up for
a big albie year, but it didn't happen.
There were some, but their numbers
were way off compared to the last
two years.
Albies- Boy, there was a lot of hype and high hopes for another great year, but that faded quickly. Remember, these are pelagic fish that come in from the ocean depths.  History will tell us that it just doesn't always happen, but after a couple of great years, many thought this year would be a sure bet. The few that did arrive came late in late September along the oceanfront. With fewer albies around this year, boaters had a better shot at them than shore fishermen. Boaters also had a good shot at bonito which were around in fair numbers.  I never saw many albies showing in my travels, and landed only two this year. By October, I realized this wasn't happening and turned my attention to targeting stripers. Still, the diehards who sat on a rock all day and waited in some of the high percentage spots did get some fish, but by all standards, 2018 was not a great year. Grade for albies- C- 





Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful for More than Just Fishing

My son, Matt, who you have seen fishing
many times on this blog, holds his
newborn daughter, Hailey, as his wife
Kristy looks on from her hospital bed
in Boston. She is his their child and
our first grandchild.
Oh, the striper fishing was great in 2018 and I am thankful for that.  For me, it ranked as one of my very best years in terms of keepers as well as huge numbers of schoolie stripers landed. We should all look forward to 2019 which is sure to be another banner year, maybe even better, for striped bass fishing.
As most of us experienced and mature fishermen know, life is more than just fishing.  Just one week ago, I had plans to fish the south shore on Thursday. Very early that morning we got a call from my son, Matt, that his wife, Kristy, who was expecting was in labor. Six hours later, the phone rang again, and we got the great news that their baby had been born.  This is their first child and our first grandchild. It was a baby girl.That day the fishing was put on hold as my wife and I headed to the hospital in Boston to see our grand daughter.
She was beautiful.  When I was in the hospital, it really brought back memories of when my my four sons were born. As we sat in the hospital room, taking turns holding the baby, I couldn't help but think that this is the start of a new generation in our family. I also couldn't help but think how fortunate this baby will be. She's got two wonderful parents as well as a supportive extended family.  She can look forward to accomplishing anything she wants and a wonderful life. Her parents lead a charmed life of great jobs, fun and adventure, and she will be a big part of it. My son, Matt, will pass on all that he loves to do to this lucky kid....hiking, biking, traveling, skiing, baseball, gardening, photography and fishing. Before the baby was even born he talked about teaching his daughter how to fish from shore and the boat just as my father did with his three sons and just as I did with my four sons.
Fishing is one of those hobbies or sports that gets passed down from generation to generation in many families. For our family, this is the start of a new generation of fishermen and fisherwomen.
We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, 2018, and it involves more than just fishing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The stripers along with the bait are on the move.  I mean really moving.  That big pile of fish I hit just two days ago were nowhere to be found yesterday.  In fact, the fishing has really taken a dive just like the temperatures. Two days ago I landed 36 stripers.  Yesterday I had 7.  Today I had just one. No question, the fishing is on a steep downhill slide and is nearing the end.  I suspect this big time cold and wind predicted for the next few days will put the final nail in the coffin. For me, it's time to check out the holdover winter spots, head up to the ski slopes and get ready for my winter show season. I'll head back to the oceanfront if I hear some big news; otherwise, it's time to move on.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Just When You Think Its Over.....

This is one of 36 stripers landed today.  Yes,
they are still around in good numbers. This one
was landed on a small Yo-Zuri swimmer.  Jigs
also accounted for good numbers.
Along comes a big day, and I'm back in business.
I went down to the oceanfront today with low expectations based on what I heard was going on in the last few days. But, I'll tell you today was a BANNER day.  I landed 36 stripers while fishing multiple spots. They ranged from small schoolies to hefty ones in the 24 inch range.  I even had one "big" fish that was either just a keeper or just shy of a keeper. I got good numbers of fish in the daytime and even better numbers after dark. They seemed to be everywhere I fished, but you saw no indicators....no flocks of birds diving, no bait visible, no schools of fish breaking, but the fish were there. You just had to put in the time and fish for them (which few fishermen were doing today).
So, with a few days of normal weather coming up, I'm guessing this new surge of fish should continue to hit. I'm back in business!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ticking Away

I don't have a good feeling about this. In the last week, the fishing overall has gone from excellent to only fair.  Yes, there are still some fish around, but I have not seen the big numbers I saw back in the beginning of November. I saw no big schools way out and no big flocks of birds diving. Could the end be near?
Storms have taken their toll.  This has been a vicious fall weather-wise, and we have seen one BIG storm after another blow by. I have never seen a fall in which I have fished in so many 40 mph + windy days.  Add to all that dropping temperatures, and it is not a formula for an extended season. Today, NOAA posted the water temps off Newport to be 49 degrees.  In parts of the Bay it is down to 46 degrees. All not good.
Many will point to the fact that we have had years in which the consistent fishing has held up well until late November and even early December along the south shore.  I will tell you that those years featured warm and tranquil late fall weather, nothing like we are seeing now.
As I write this, I'm looking at over 6 inches of snow in my backyard. I'll be skiing tomorrow. But, this is New England, and I still know there will be some fish around next week when I get out again. How many fish will still be there is the big question?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Nighttime Produces After a Poor Day

This is one of many schoolies taken last night after dark.
Daytime fishing was poor all over yesterday.
Yesterday broke a string of fantastic fishing days for me,  My son Ben and I traversed and fished just about the whole RI South Shore in the daytime and found nothing.  No bait, no birds, no fish. It looked like I was heading for the big blank.
I decided to stick it out at night in some of my past good spots.  I hit the jackpot in one location, catching schoolie after schoolie on jigs.  While I was having success in my spot a couple of friends of mine were fishing miles away after dark in another spot that fished poor in the daytime.  They were banging away at fish after fish on Slug-Gos after dark.  They even had some keepers in the mix.
With fishing being so good in past weeks in the daytime, just about no one is fishing after dark these days.  Heck, if this were ten or fifteen years ago, most of my fishing would be happening at night. It was real good back then, so why not now?
The point here is that stripers, nocturnal by nature, still hit after dark. So, on those days when they are not hitting in the daytime, staying into the night might just deliver good numbers of fish. With darkness arriving so early these days, you can get in three hours of fishing the nighttime and still be home by 8 PM.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

As Good As It Gets

Here is a 30 inch keeper that I landed on a
Cocahoe fished off a float yesterday.  While
schoolies make up the majority of stripers
around, there have also been good numbers
of small keepers and occasional bluefish.
Wow, the fishing right now is really good.  This has been a great week so far.  While the weather has been all over the place, the fishing has been rock solid. I fished two days ago in torrential rain, wild wind and a real heavy surf.  The fish were on the rampage.  I fished yesterday in the clearing weather with very strong winds out of the west and southwest that kicked up a heavy surf that had some sand in it.  Didn't matter, the fish were still on the rampage.  And, finally, I was out today in some beautiful, tranquil weather that had the surf as flat as a pancake.  Still, it didn't matter as the fish were around again in big numbers.
Besides the fishing being so consistent, the bait has also been consistent.  Huge schools of peanut bunker have been moving along the south shore, and the stripers have them in their sights. Occasional bluefish are also around.  My son Jon got two today; I had a couple two days ago. Most of the stripers are hefty schoolies that are averaging 20 to 25 inches.  These fish are as fat as footballs. There are also good numbers of small keepers around.  In the last three days we have landed 5 fish that went 28 to 30 inches.  Most of the keepers I have seen have been running that size.
Jigs continue to be the hot ticket. They are working alone or off a float.  Today the fish were a bit fussy in the calm  water and small 4 inch swimmers were outscoring the jigs.  My son Jon had real good luck on a Rapala X-Rap fished close to shore.
I've mentioned many times that November has become the new best month of fall.  It is really playing out this way as the fishing in the first week of November has been excellent.