Monday, November 30, 2015

A Disappointing November

Hickory shad were abundant
in some backwaters.
A familiar November scene....
lots of bait, little fish.
A few years ago I wrote an article for one of the magazines in which I described November as the "new best fall month" here in RI.  We had been on a roll for many years with November providing spectacular action along the RI south coast.  This was fueled by an ocean herring migration along with big schools of peanut bunker and adult bunker also moving southward. The big blues, large stripers and schoolies were plentiful, and it seemed that there was almost a daily blitz along the south shore if you could find it.
This November could be described as a dud. It turned out to be the poorest of the three fall months.  I would rate September as our best fall month this year. The strange thing about this November was that it was warm with warm water temperatures which tends to favor good fishing lasting until the end of the month.  In addition, there was a lot of bait, but few fish after it. Big numbers of fish were just not around.
I fished a lot in November and was
able to land only one decent fish
of 40 inches.
The marginal fishing took its toll on the number of fishermen out and about.  By the third week in November, it was rare for me to run into anyone. It got that bad. Most had given up by mid November. On beautiful weather days I would find no one fishing.
I got out a good number of times in November.  I was able to catch one good size keeper (40 inches), another smaller keeper (28 inches) and 25 schoolies. I never saw what I would call a blitz of fish. Those numbers are really poor compared to past years.  I caught no bluefish and never saw a bluefish caught. In addition, I got a load of hickory shad but only in the backwaters.  I got one lone shad in the high surf of the oceanfront.
Many will look at this fall and say we are seeing the downward trend and shortage of stripers in the poor November numbers. Others will say the fish just bypassed the south shore of RI. Still, others will point to severe weather that drove big numbers of fish out in October. However you want to frame it, most will agree that November, 2015, was disappointing for striper fishing. One of the poorest Novembers in the last decade.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Slim Pickings

This was one of two stripers landed today right
at dark. There's still a lot of bait but few fish.
I fished the oceanfront today.  Conditions were good with moderately rough water and a cloudy day with rain on the way. However, the south shore beaches looked like a ghost town as you really had to look to find anyone fishing.  That tells a lot about the state of our fishing.
Everywhere I went I saw bait and birds working.  I saw good numbers of gannets, cormorants and gulls working, the same activity I have seen in the last few outings. However, there seemed to be no fish working under the bait.  Another observation I can report is the presence of seals.  I saw them in every spot I fished.  It's never good when seals are on the prowl.
As far as fish, I managed to find two stripers (schoolies) and one hickory shad right at dark along an oceanfront location.  That was it....a couple of fish moved in close as darkness arrived.  I stayed later, but had no success.
In other years, this weekend before Thanksgiving has been a hot time to fish, but not this year.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lots of Bait; Few Fish

There's bait and lots of birds hitting the water, but no stripers
are under them.
There are strange happenings this November along the south shore oceanfront.  I was out several times this week and found good amounts of bait, especially in the area from Charlestown southward.  I fished multiple spots and saw gannets hitting the water in close and gulls and cormorants going nuts almost in the wash in many places.  In one spot, I stood on a rock with my waders  and watched a continuous line of bait go by me for an hour.  Yet, in all of this I saw no fish.
In other years, lots of bait at this time meant lots of stripers and maybe bluefish.  Not this year.  The shortage of stripers is really showing itself in our late fall fishing. While there are some fish hitting the shore in short bursts, it is not consistent. In one spot where I saw a lot of bait, one guy told me the schoolies made a pass and for about 20 minutes they were there and then gone for the day. I am still hitting a fish here and there at night, but that is no sure bet either.
With the calendar moving into late November, many are abandoning the fishing as evidenced by the lack of fishermen.  Is it coming to an end?  I just don't know.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Back in the Game in a Big Way

I got back to the ocean today.  My son, Ben, had a good day along the south shore with stripers on Saturday so that gave me some encouragement to get back down there and try.  I found lots of bait in the daytime from Charlestown to Misquamicut, but I found no fish under the bait....just gulls, cormorants and gannets having a feast.  I saw more guys out and about fishing than I've seen in recent outings as the bait was attracting a lot of attention. But, I didn't see a single fish caught.
It all changed for me after dark as I was able to find some fish.  Right at dark a good size fish slammed my white Slug-go.  As the fish ripped off line and sent the drag humming, I knew I was onto a good fish.  As it turned out this fish went about 40 inches, the biggest one I have taken in a while.  I landed several more schoolies after dark with one of the fish up near keeper size. I also tried one of my backwater spots and landed a load of hickory shad.
So, things were looking up for me today.  Yes, the fish are back, though you still have to do some looking to find them.  And, as I found out today, there are some decent ones in the mix.
I landed this 40 inch keeper on a white Slug-go right at dark.  I also had several more
schoolies. Fish are around but you have to do some looking to find them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's that bad.....

After Sunday's poor outing, I told myself I would not head down for at least a few days.  Well, I couldn't resist heading down yesterday.  Everything was in place for a great time, storm coming, a little rough water and a dark day. That had to bring some fish around.
As it turned out yesterday turned out to be the worst day of the fall for me.  I started in Westerly and hit the waters around Weekapaug Breachway and the beach.  From there I fished the Fire District Beach.  Later, I checked out East Beach and Quonny and then fished Charlestown.  From there I headed north to Green Hill and Matunuck.  From there I went to some Gansett spots after dark.  So, I really covered the oceanfront.  And, I fished for about 8 straight hours to the point that I have a sore arm today.  It wasn't until well after dark that I landed one lone hickory shad.  Yup, it was that bad.  This is the first time this fall that I failed to catch a striper or a bluefish on a given outing.
Forget catching, I never saw a thing.  No birds, no bait, no fish breaking.  In all I saw maybe 4 fishermen all day.  I seems like many are tossing in the towel and hanging it up for the season. Yup, it's that bad.
Jump forward to today.  My son, Ben, had the day off from work so he headed down to the oceanfront against my recommendation to come carp fishing in freshwater with me.  He reports catching two hickory shad along one of the south shore beaches. He did see some small bait and some hickory shad jumping but no stripers or blues.  There were also scant few guys out fishing on this holiday. In past years, Veterans' Day brought out big numbers of fishermen. Yup, it was bad again.
So, at this point, I am almost ready to cash it in.  I will be sitting on the sidelines waiting to hear some good news from some of my friends who live along the shore.  In the absence of any good news, I will stick with freshwater fishing for now.  Yup, it's that bad.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Averting the Blank

Several shad were landed after
dark on small bucktail jigs.
It was one lone schoolie on the
day after dark.  Fishing yesterday
was poor for me.
I knew I was in for a dead day yesterday.  As I walked out onto Charlestown Beach in mid afternoon, I could not find one fisherman, NO ONE, from the breachway to Green Hill. There's good reason for this...there were no fish.  I slugged it out for two hours, casting and walking with not so much as a tap.  I saw no bait, no birds working and no fish.  I checked out several more spots to the north and saw nothing at those spots either.  By now, it was getting dark and I tried a couple of high percentage spots after dark.  Still nothing.
So, now I am staring at a blank for the day.  I decided to try one more backwater spot with ultralight gear that I had stored in my car for a night such as this.  Fortunately, I did land one schoolie and a several hickory shad on a small, homemade 1/8 oz. bucktail jig. Not exactly a big find, but I will take it considering I found nothing all day.
Yesterday was one of the deadest days I have ever seen along the RI oceanfront in early November.  This is supposed to be prime time. But, this is just what has been happening for the last few weeks.  It's a hit-or-miss deal that is greatly influenced by the bait situation.  With another big blow coming tomorrow and Wednesday and a calendar that keeps ticking away, there is little time left for the fishing to perk up (if it even does). I'm guessing we will see one more good push of fish in mid to late November, but how long they will stick around is another matter.

Friday, November 6, 2015


This keeper took a Slug-Go after dark.  Fishing today was
hot in some rough water.
While yesterday was a "miss" for me along the south shore, today was a "hit".  I knew I was in for a good day as I drove to my beachfront location.  As the water came into view I could see big numbers of gannets along with gulls divebombing into the water.  They were almost at the surf line, very unusual for gannets. It could only mean bait, and lots of it. So, I quickly suited up and started fishing.  Funny thing was that there were no fish where the birds were diving, but plenty nearby in another section of the beach.  It was loads of schoolies before dark on Cocahoes and bigger fish up to keeper size after dark on white Slug-Gos. The water was really charged up today with a big southwest wind and a heavy surf which certainly helped the fishing.  Combine those conditions with lots of bait and I had the perfect recipe for a big hit.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Hit-or-Miss Deal

This is one of 6 schoolies that I landed today
at and after dark.  A small school of  peanut
bunker hit the shore and the stripers were
on them. Find the bait and you will
most likely find the fish.
I was talking to a guy today at one of  the south shore beaches.  He drove two hours from a location in MA to come and fish the RI south shore.  He has been doing this for many years and commented about how he used to do this a lot years back, and catching fish used to be a sure bet at this time of year.  Not these days. Today he fished multiple spots from early AM until near dark and got nothing.
I can tell you that others have caught good numbers of fish in the last few days along the south shore, the place to be at this time of year.  Most of those who did make out well found a lot of bait.  Where bait moves, especially peanut bunker or large menhaden, it is almost a sure bet you will find stripers and bluefish. But, finding that bait and the fish is very much a hit-or-miss deal.  Trying to pick off a fish here and there with no bait around is difficult, if not impossible along the south shore beachfront these days.
I was heading for a blank today.  I fished the south shore for much of the daylight hours and got nothing.  Then, I decided to ditch this area and headed north right before dark.  I fished my new spot for half an hour with no success.  Then, it happened.  Right at dark I saw a small school (about the size of my truck hood) of peanut bunker in front of me.  As soon as I saw this bait I hooked up with a schoolie. In the next 45 minutes, I landed 5 more stripers proving once again that if you find the bait, you most likely will find the fish.