Monday, June 30, 2014

Striper Numbers.....Down or Not?

Shore fishermen seem to agree that striper numbers are
way down, especially keeper bass. Some boat fishermen
are having a good year and see no problems with the fishery.
I have a neighbor who is an accomplished boat fisherman. We got to talking the other day about striper numbers.  I was saying that the shore fishing was dismal for keeper bass, and I thought the stripers were in real trouble.  He countered that he thought the numbers were decent and there is no shortage for the boat guys.  Just who is right?
I think the numbers of keeper bass from shore are down, way down.  In fact the numbers have steadily been dropping for the last few years, and this is by far the poorest year so far.  Here is what some other shore guys are saying:
*A sharpie from Gansett who fishes every morning sent me an e-mail last week to tell me that this was the very worst fishing he has ever seen in Narragansett.  A few schoolies around and that's it.
*Another sharpie from the south shore who gets out every day reports similar poor fishing.  As of a couple of weeks ago he had gotten only one small keeper.
*A sharpie from the canal gave this assessment. "Worst fishing in over 60 years."
* A long time striper surf fisherman I know from the outer Cape indicated poor fishing this year.  So, poor in fact, that he is now fishing for largemouth bass.
Now, from the guys who say the fishing is good.  Note that all these guys are boat fishermen.
*My neighbor who fishes Block Island says there are lots of 8-15 lb. stripers all around the island.  He also mentioned some real big fish from 50-60's taken in a three day stretch. He claims the fish are still around in big numbers, but they have shifted to deeper water where the bait is.
*A respected boat captain I know says it was one of the best springs in the Bay for keeper bass from 15-30 lbs.  He says they were mostly in deep water and hitting pogies.
*This same captain fished Block Island a couple of weeks ago and landed several fifties along with a 63 lber.
*Another guy I know fishes the Cape a lot from his boat.  He says the waters around P-Town and Race Point have been inconsistent though he mentions a big slug of fish way our in 150 feet of water that was there for a short period of time.
And, here are some more facts from various organizations.
*NOAA reports that from 2006-2011 recreational catches of striped bass have plummeted in MA 85%
*Stripers Forever reports a decline of 90 % in coast wide recreational catches since 2006 (note very similar to NOAA numbers).
*In the last 6 years there has only been one good spawning year in the Chesapeake (Young of Year Index) and that was in 2011.  That probably explains all those 12-18 inch schoolies that were around in the spring.
*Recent articles in both the New York Times and Boston Globe cited a dramatic decline in striper numbers over the last 3-6 years.  They have called for new, strict conservation measures to protect the billion dollar striper industry.
So, these are the facts.  Draw your own conclusions about what is going on.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rare Event: TWO Keepers from Shore!

Both keepers hit a white Slug-Go.
This is the first of two keepers.
I did something I had not been able to do yet this year, and that is catch two keepers from shore on the same outing.  Finally, a night with no schoolies.  Admittedly, these were small keepers in the 28-30 inch range, but nonetheless, they were keepers.
The surprising thing about tonight is that I fished the upper Bay. Usually by this time it is only a few schoolies left there so it even surprised me that I would find keepers in this area.  Both fish hit a white, 7 1/2 inch Slug-Go.  In addition, I also had several other big whirls, keepers I assume, along with a couple of smaller bangs.  I had all the action in the daylight of the evening.  I stayed after dark but could not get a hit in the darkness.

This is the second of two keepers landed in the upper Bay tonight from
shore.  Both were caught in the evening light on Slug-Gos.
So, I guess you just never know what is going to happen.  It is just a matter of getting out and fishing, and sometimes you just get lucky as I did tonight.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Just Not Much to Report

Schoolies are still around from shore but there
are less of them.  This 20 inch fish was caught
tonight on a Zoom fluke.  Keepers are scarce.
I fished the upper Bay tonight and got 4 schhoolies. I went down to the Cape Cod Canal with my son Ben on Sunday and we each got a schoolie.  Friends went out last night in the lower Bay and they caught schoolies.  Another friend hit the Newport shore a week ago and caught schoolies.  Notice the trend?  Yes, schoolies dominate the striper scene from shore, but there are less of them than there were just weeks ago.  Keepers continue to be scarce for shore fishermen.
On Sunday I went back to try the Canal.  I haven't been doing well there fishing the daytime in past outings so I figured I would try an evening/nighttime outing.  It was the same results with a lone schoolie of about 22 inches for my efforts.  My son, Ben, also got a schoolie.  When we left the canal shortly after dark there was not one fisherman left fishing. No one!  I also spoke to a guy who fished in the daytime on both Saturday and Sunday, and he never saw a fish caught.
Tonight I fished the upper Bay.  I landed 4 schoolies that looked like clones.  They were all in the 18-20 inch range.  They were all taken on Zoom flukes fished off a float.  There are less schoolies in my spot than there were two weeks ago.  The water is warming quickly, and I suspect that even the schoolies are heading to deeper and cooler water.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Small Blues Invade Upper Bay

Small bluefish in the 2-4 lb. range have
invaded the warming upper Bay waters.
I'm back fishing RI, and I'm back catching bluefish.  I fished yesterday evening and found almost non-stop bluefish action in the Bay from shore.  These fish were on the small side running 2-4 lbs.  They were very aggressive and would hit a surface offering over and over again until they had it. The best plug that worked for me was a Rebel Jumpin Minnow.
Water temperatures have shot up in the Bay this week due to the warm and sunny weather.  In a lot of places surface water has jumped up to 70 degrees.  That spells trouble for striper fishing (not that it was hot).  At this time of the year stripers begin their exit out of the upper Bay waters and head to the deeper and cooler waters of the lower Bay and the oceanfront.  If you are looking for stripers from shore or boat (good luck) I suggest looking in places like Jamestown, Newport and Narragansett.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tough Going from Shore

When a veteran of the Cape Cod Canal tells you that this is the worst fishing he has seen in over 60 years you know the fishery is in trouble.  It's not only the Canal, but fishing for keeper bass in general is poor from shore regardless of where you are fishing.
I got back to the Canal yesterday and my son Matt fished there on Saturday.  Matt hit a bit of luck as he landed a fish of about 20 lbs. when a pod of large fish started breaking right in front of him. I went there on Monday and did not fare as well.  I landed 2 small schoolies, and those were the only fish I saw landed as my father and I fished an entire tide with poor results. We didn't see a single fish break water.
From what my friends are saying RI is not fishing much better. The exception is if you can find a school of menhaden close to shore and then you have a chance to find a large fish under them.  At this point I know many real good fishermen who have not landed a keeper this year.
I am beginning to see many similarities to the 1980's when things got so bad that a moratorium was imposed.  Back then keeper bass were disappearing so quickly that the fishery was closed to protect the fish we had.  Let's hope we don't get to that point.

Friday, June 13, 2014

At the Canal Last Two Days....

There were more schoolies
around than keepers in the
last two days.
I left RI and headed to the Cape Cod Canal for greener pastures in the hopes of getting a cow or two.  I fished the Canal the last two days in ideal conditions.  The tides were right and the weather was right.  The results were similar to what has been going on here in RI.  There were some schoolies around, few keepers and the fishing was inconsistent at best.
Here is what I found:
All the keepers that I saw taken in the
last two days were landed on Savage
sand eel jigs, the new hot lures in the
Thursday:  I landed two schoolies on Daiwa SP minnows.  I also saw several other schoolies landed along with exactly three keepers from 15-25 lbs.  These were taken on Savage sandleel jigs fished deep. This is the new hot lure in the canal.  I saw about a dozen fishermen come in and out of the canal this day, very small numbers of fishermen in ideal conditions.  Tells you a lot about what is going on....not much.
Friday:  Went back on this rainy day.  I landed four schoolies today on Daiwa SP minnows.  These were small fish from 14-20 inches.  I saw several more schoolies landed along with maybe a small keeper.  There were rumors that another guy not in my sight landed three keepers on jigs. There were about 15 fishermen fishing today though most left a couple of hours after high tide.  The positive thing that happened today was that I saw several large fish break but these were individual fish.  There was also a lot of small bait around today. I'm guessing it was bay anchovies.  I saw no mackerel.
The last two days were disappointing because I have landed good numbers of keepers in the past on these tides at this time.  Reports coming from the Canal have generally been fair to poor, not something canal fishermen are used to hearing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cape Cod Canal Alert

In the last few years, I have experienced some of my hottest fishing in the Canal on the June new moon tides.  The new moon is this Friday, June 13, and the big tides, those with the single and double asterisks next to the low tides, will occur from late in the week into early next week.  See this site for tide info: It is during that period from Thursday until next Tuesday that water will be cranking through the Canal.
Those big tides should move a lot of bait as well as stripers and blues through the canal.  While fishing reports thus far from the canal have been way off compared to past years,  I am hoping these big tides will give the fishing a boost. Additionally, in the last few years the Canal has been the very best place for keeper bass from shore here in southern New England.
This has been a strange year so far.  Fishing has been unpredictable and late due to the cool weather so I'm not expecting any sure bets in the canal.  Overall, there has been a noticeable lack of keeper stripers around,  more bluefish than expected and good numbers of schoolies.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

More Blues Than Stripers

This bluefish was foul hooked in the side
with a small popper.  In recent outings blues
has far outnumbered stripers in the Bay.
I've been out quite a few times in the last week in the Bay from both the boat and shore.  And, the results are the same.  There are far more blues around than stripers.  The blues seem to be everywhere.  I suspect they have been drawn to the Bay by the large number of menhaden that are around. For the most part the blues are running 5-8 lbs.  I'm getting most of my blues along with an occasional schoolie on a Rebel Jumpin minnows or a small popper.
Since the year has started (a little over a month now) I have landed more blues this year than the previous two years combined.  And, I thought last year the bluefish were disappearing.  Yikes, was I wrong!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Playing a Striper/Bluefish Mix

Bluefish are around in good numbers in the Bay.
I've caught more blues in the last three
outings than all of last year!
In the last week I have been out quite a few times from shore and from the boat.  Each time I fished I ran into a mix of stripers and bluefish.  Right now the Bay has good numbers of bluefish in the 5-8 lb. range that are looking for the abundant schools of menhaden.  They are not big enough to take them whole but they have no problem chopping them up.  In addition the Bay has good numbers of schoolies in the 16-26 inch range.  There are also some larger keepers around chasing menhaden, but I've yet to see any big numbers of them.
Go with hard plugs when you have
a mix of blues and stripers.
These small offerings have been hot.
For the fisherman who is using a plug, you will need to adjust your tactics to cope with the blues.  I'll tell you that plastics, either skinny ones like Hogys or Slug-Gos along with plastic bodies on jigheads are the best lures to use for stripers.  However, the blues love the plastic offerings also and will chop them to stubs. It's a waste to use plastics when blues are around.  So, you have very little choice here and you will have to turn to hard plugs if you want to fish.  Three lures have been hot tickets in the last week to catch both stripers and bluefish.  Small poppers made by Creek Chub in the 3-4 inch range have worked well at times along with a Rebel Jumpin Minnow.  I've also had good luck with a Kastmaster XL reeled in quickly and fished on top like a popper. Note that these are all small offerings.  Most fishermen are making the mistake of using plugs that are too big for the finicky blues and schoolies.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Big Day in the Bay

We headed out into Narragansett Bay in the boat today with the intentions of trying for keeper bass by using pogies.  That never worked out.  Oh, there were tons of menhaden around and you could snag all you wanted.  But, those reports of lots of big stripers under them just did not materialize today. We had a couple of chases by small keeper stripers that just could not take the offering, and we had a couple of chops by bluefish.  We never saw a keeper bass taken today by an armada of boats.
So, we scrapped that plan and went to plugging for stripers and blues.  That's when we hit the jackpot in a little obscure spot that was just loaded with schoolies and decent size blues.  There were three plugs that were working exceptionally well today.  The 7 1/2 inch white Slug-Go, a white Jumpin Minnow and a small three inch popper were all hot producers as the fish were keying on small offerings fished on top.  It was nonstop action for several hours as we landed at least 35-40 bluefish  in the 5-9 lb. range and at least 25 stripers in the 15-24 inch range. This hot fishing is a good example of how you should have a back up plan if what you are doing is not working.  That back up plan led to a big day for us today.