Monday, April 29, 2013

First Keeper of the Year!

I was into a glut of fish along the south shore this evening. I was catching mostly schoolies in the 10-24 inch size range.  Most were falling for Cocahoes and teasers.  I decided to try a swimmer, hoping for something bigger.  The swimmer I used was a small 4 inch Bomber with a blue back.  After a few casts I was onto a good fish.  Only thing is this fish was unlike the others I had caugth tonight.  It was ripping drag and was heavy.  I knew I had something far bigger than the dozens of fish I had landed to this point.  After tug of war battle, I had my first keeper of the spring season in the wash.  I estimate it was a fish in the 15-16 lb.range and probably went about 32 inches long (see photo). It was quite hefty so it was eating well.
Right now the oceanfront is red hot.  There are lots of schoolies around.  Mixed in with the schoolies are occasional keepers along with near keeper fish in the 26-27 inch range (had several of those tonight also).  The spring run is in full swing right now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bustin' Out All Over

Fishing has taken a dramatic turn for the better in the last couple of days.  The oceanfront has been especially hot and the Bay is steadily improving. The fish are also getting larger with some small keepers around. The spring run is on!
Tonight I fished the Bay.  My son, Jon, was in one spot at the oceanfront and my son, Ben, along with his girlfriend Allie, were miles away at another spot along the oceanfront.  We all caught fish. The kids at the oceanfront had big numbers of schoolies while I had  a couple.  Ben had the biggest fish which was just shy of a keeper.
The fish have also gotten much more active in the warming waters.  I got my fish tonight on a Slug Go (see pic) that was fished off a float.  I even saw  one guy next to me catch one on a Jumpin Minnow.  When you have fish coming to the surface to nail a topwater plug, it is a sure sign that the activity level is perking up.
So, now is prime time to cast a line as the spring run is in full swing.  With nice weather predicted for the next week or so, it looks like the coming days should be very good for spring fishing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bucktail Jigs....Prime Spring Lures

I was out fishing the upper Bay this evening.  At first, I was fishing a Zoom fluke on a jighead, a hot lure in the spring for schoolies in the Bay.  I worked an area and got nothing.  It was then I decided to switch lures and try something else in that same spot.  Of course I went for a bucktail jig.  On my third cast, bang, a schoolie hit the jig.  This fish, about 20 inches long (see photo), must have seen the Zoom fluke, yet it didn't hit it.  Instead, it wanted the jig.
Bucktail jigs, often  forgotten lures these days in our age of plastic lures, are still very effective.  In fact, I will catch more fish this year on a bucktail jig than any other lure. In past years I have taken countless stripers of all sizes, bluefish, fluke, black sea bass, large scup and hickory shad on bucktail jigs. The bucktail has often been called the most versatile lure in saltwater.
In the spring I like to go small with the bucktail jig when targeting schoolies on light tackle.  I favor a flathead or Upperman style homemade jig in sizes from 1/4 oz. up to 3/4 ounce. I like an all white bucktail tied with red thread.  I always add a curly tail to my jig for added action.
The bucktail is one of those must have lures in your surfbag for springtime striper action.  They will catch lots of schoolies as well as an occasional keeper.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


It should have been better.  I fished a lot for stripers yesterday. I started off in the Bay. I hit several high percentage spots for a couple of hours and had exactly one hit. As I fished I noticed a strong southwest wind developing. Southwest winds combined with warm, sunny weather can usually light up the fishing at the oceanfront so I headed down there in late afternoon. The spot I fished had PERFECT conditions. The strong southwest wind was blowing in and setting up a white water surf with lots of current and movement. Such conditions in past years at this time would have delivered big days of fishing. Not yesterday.
I managed to land 6 schoolies in 4 hours, not exactly setting the world on fire. Got them on Cocahoes and shrimp fly teasers. I saw maybe 20 other fish taken by about a dozen fishermen (see photo of one them at left).  Just a few years ago, a day like yesterday would have produced hundreds of schoolies. The good news here is that the fish are getting bigger, averaging 20-22 inches. There's even news of a few small keepers landed earlier in the week.
I talked with a few sharpie friends of mine who were also fishing. They were complaining about the mediocre fishing thus far. Most think we are seeing the beginnings of a severe decline. They mentioned myco disease, overfishing, poor YOY index and liberal size and catch limits as the culprits. I'm still not buying into the collapse argument, but I also have no explanation for the fair to poor fishing. It should be better at this time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fish Spreading into Bay; No Big Numbers

  I landed my first "new" fish in the Bay today in  places where you wouldn't find a holdover.  I landed a couple of 20 inch fish (see photo at right) on Zoom flukes mounted onto half ounce jigheads.  I also had another fish on and several more hits while spot hopping in a number of locations in the Upper Bay. So, it's starting.
I'm not surprised I landed these fish even though I had less than ideal conditions.  Reports have been floating around now for a few days about fish being caught in the Bay.  Reports suggest there seem to be some schoolies here and there but no big numbers.  The same thinking seems to hold true for the oceanfront.
What strikes me as strange thus far is the lack of effort.  I've seen very few fishermen out and about so far.  I never saw another guy in the Bay today.  Last week I fished a popular spot at the oceanfront and shared it with only one other fisherman. My sons, who have been picking up a fish here and there along the oceanfront, also report few fishermen around. Some of the fishermen I have spoken to have expressed disappointment at the slow start.
We continue to have cold weather, cold water and less than ideal conditions.  I do think we'll see some quality fishing once the weather turns warmer.  Until then, I suspect it will slow going with a fish a fish or two here and there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Not Much Going On

I hit a hot evening of schoolie fishing a week ago, but since then it has been all downhill with slow going.  My sons have been hitting the oceanfront just about every evening in the last week, and they have gotten a fish here and there along with some blanks.  I hit the upper Bay on two occasions this week and got nothing in some high percentage early spring spots.  Today I had favorable conditions and I headed to the oceanfront. I fished for four hours and landed two small fish (see photo of one fish). I only saw one other guy fishing at dark and he got a couple of fish also.  The mood among most fishermen thus far is disappointment.  Yes, we are off to a slow start overall, but realize, too, we have not had favorable conditions along the oceanfront that would tend to drive migrating fish ashore. It is also very early in the season. Years ago the best spring schoolie fishing seemed to come around the third week in April.  Hopefully, it is coming.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

All About Conditions

The schoolie fishing just lit up along the oceanfront on Wednesday.  Yet, if you go down there today or tomorrow, my guess is that you will be lucky to find a fish.  Conditions are just wrong.
At this time of year and for the next couple of weeks, it will be all about the conditions.  If they are right, the fishing will be hot.  Most fishermen make the mistake of simply going fishing without any thought as to what is going on with the weather.  Wind, temperature and sunny weather are all movers in the early going of spring striper fishing.  Unlike the fall, you see no evidence of fish at this time.  There is no bait that's visible, no diving birds and no fish breaking.  Migrating schoolies show up in big numbers because of atmospheric conditions that drive them ashore.
So, what's the key?  Winds from the south and west quadrants are prime movers.  Especially when combined with a sunny day, these winds blow warm water up the coastline and early season stripers are concentrated in the warmer water. Additionally, warm weather goes along with these winds, an additional mover. It can get crazy after these conditions exist for several days like it did this week. Combine all of that with a moon tide and you have a good shot at finding fish along the oceanfront in April.  Get a cold day in April (like what's coming tomorrow) with north or east winds that blow the warm water away from the shore, and you have little chance of finding any fish.
The right conditions brought hundreds of schoolies to the dozen or so guys that were fishing around me on Wednesday.  Had the wind been from the north and a cold day, there would have been nothing. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

NEWSFLASH....Schoolies Arrive at Oceanfront Big Time

Check out the sea lice on the tail
It took exactly three warm days and a southwesterly flow and BINGO, the oceanfront lit up with schoolies.  Just as I had predicted in my previous post, this was the week for it to happen.  I went to the oceanfront with my son, Ben, today and we had phenomenal schoolie action as we landed one fish after another.  These were all small schoolies, typical perfect fish that are covered in sea lice that you find in April.  I will say they were really small with all our fish measuring less than 16 inches long!.  We used a combination of Cocahoes and shrimp fly teasers to catch them on light tackle. About half the fish took the Cocahoe and half hit the teaser.  From what my sources tell me, the action began yesterday, April 8, when a few fish were taken.  The Mother Lode hit the shore today.  I suspect the action in the Bay will pick up in the next few days if it hasn't already.  Give it another week and we should see some small keepers.  The new season is finally here!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Striper Watch for Next Week

Favorable conditions are coming in the next week that could impact the start of our striper season.  As of right now, I know of no stripers that have been taken along the oceanfront, and I know a good number of fishermen who have tried.  That could all change in the next week.  A warm-up is coming starting tomorrow, and we should see several days in a row with temperatures in the sixties.  More importantly, the wind will shift to south and southwest for several days.  The southwest wind generally drives warm water northward and causes a big upswing in surface water temperatures. Right now NOAA lists the water temperature (site: )at just a cold 41 degrees off Newport and a few degrees warmer in most locations in the Bay.  Lastly, the new moon is on April 10.  That moon phase tends to bring exceptionally high and low tides which cause a lot of water movement, something stripers just love. So, if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on next week as the start.  We'll see.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Must Have Lures

Early spring striper fishing is right around the corner.  Are you ready? 
For the first couple of weeks this will be just about all schoolie fishing done with light tackle. It just ain't complicated in the early going.  A few lures is all you need to get in on plenty of action.  Here is a list of the 4 "must have" lures that are the most effective.
1.  Cocahoe Minnow-  This is the very best lure along the oceanfront and sometimes works well in the Bay. This plastic fan tailed body is threaded onto a small jighead of 1/4 to 5/8 oz.  Light colors like pearl or glow are your best bets.  Cocahoes come in a small size (3 in.) or the large "queen" size.  Either one usually works though I carry both sizes.  These are hard to find, but Quaker Lane in N. Kingstown usually has a good supply.
2.  Zoom Flukes-  This is your best bet in Narragansett Bay.  The plastic fork
tailed body is threaded onto a small jighead as described above.  Light colors are best.  I prefer an  albino color.  These come in two sizes that work, a regular fluke or the "super" fluke. Can't find a Zoom fluke, then try the Fin S fish.
3.  Bucktail Jigs- Ah, the ole reliable bucktail.  You'll need to add a plastic tail to them for added action, but they still produce with amazing effectiveness at both the ocean and in the Bay.  I like a half oz. homemade flathead jig with a 3 inch Bass Pro triple ripple tail.
4. Shrimp Fly Teaser-  Not a main lure but is real hot as a teaser rigged ahead of the jig.  The shrimp is by far the best early season teaser and will even outperform the jig at times along the oceanfront.