Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Variety and Abundance

Today I got out in the boat with my brothers, Mike and Steve.  We headed to Buzzards Bay.  This place should be called the black sea bass capital  of the East Coast.  It has lots of them and big ones to boot.  But, what most fishermen don't know is that Buzzards Bay offers a variety of fish also.
Today we landed seven different species of fish.  We had black sea bass, a bunch of stripers, lots of blues, scup, fluke, sea robins and even a couple of dogfish. Most of these fish (except the stripers and blues) were taken while vertical jigging bucktail jigs and Kastmaster XL's.
The word is that the black sea bass had reached their peak, and they were heading downhill in the last week.  That could explain the lack of boats and fishing pressure today.  However, we found a big pod of them in about 30 feet of water and we kept drifting back over this spot and just hauling them in.  We must have landed well over 50 fish in a short amount of time.  About half of them were good size keepers.  I was getting my fish on a Kastmaster XL while Mike and Steve were using Spro jigs tipped with squid. Both seemed to work with equal effectiveness.
If you are looking for lots of fish as well as variety, Buzzards Bay is a hotspot right now.  It far surpasses anything we have in RI if you are looking for bottom feeders.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

They Still Hit Traditional Plugs

This keeper hit a jointed
Red Fin swimmer, a very
effective plug in shallow water.
Needlefish plugs can still deliver
especially in places where a
long cast is needed.
About a month ago, a reader of the blog sent me an e-mail asking me if I used any artificial other than a Slug-go.  At the time, that lure was hot, real hot, for stripers along the oceanfront and in the Bay.  However, I can report that I haven't used a Slug-go in weeks now. Ah, how trends change!
I have been fishing from shore in the last week.  The boat has not been available as my brother and his boat are off on vacation. So, I am back to slugging it out from shore. I am fishing mostly what I call traditional plugs.  These are either wooden plugs or hard plastic plugs.  The reason for that is because suddenly there has been an influx of large numbers of small bluefish in the 3-5 lb. range.  They are on the tails of large schools of peanut bunker that have also come ashore (yes, strange that we have them now) in the bay as well as along the oceanfront.  With a mix of stripers and bluefish around, it is almost a waste of time to use plastic as the blues are merciless when it comes to attacking and cutting up the expensive plastic offerings.
Decades ago we used nothing but traditional plugs long before plastics were even around.  We caught a lot of fish, and the traditional stuff still works today.  If you are fishing the top, why not try a needlefish, a popper or a Jumpin' Minnow.  All do about the same dance as skinny plastic and will withstand the hit of a blue. Swimmers still work as I landed a good number of stripers in the last week on a jointed Red Fin, a swimmer that I used to consider one of my top three plugs in the bag.  If you are going down deep, why not go with a bucktail jig instead of plastics on a jighead.  The bucktail jig has delivered good numbers of stripers and blues for me in the last week.
Last evening I got out from shore in the Bay.  I walked into pandemonium as stripers and blues had a school of peanut bunker cornered in a cove. And, they were blasting away at them.  My lure of choice was a homemade flathead bucktail jig so that I could get under the schools of bait where the predators were lurking.  That lure landed 4 stripers and 2 bluefish along with several more fish on as well as numerous hits.  Yes, traditional plugs still work.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Unreal Fishing Continues from the Boat

The good times just keep rolling along as the big fish continue to school up in Gansett Bay.  They are after vast schools of menhaden that have been in the area for weeks now.
Today it was one big fish after another on snagged menhaden.  Our technique was the "snag and drag" as outlined in the previous post. Today's fish were generally in the 36 to 40 inch range with a few reaching over 40 inches. My brother Steve had one real large fish that we guessed was around 40 lbs. It was released.
Unlike the last big day we had, there were few boats fishing today, but the few I saw were catching good numbers of fish.
Our fabulous year of striper fishing just keeps going and going! Best year we have EVER experienced for big fish in the Bay from the boat..  Yup, it is that good.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Menhaden Fishing Technique....Snag and Drag

This is one of 40 big fish landed with the snag
and drag technique. Most fish were hooked
around the lips and released.
There are lots of ways to fish menhaden, or pogies.  Most boat fishermen will find a school of bait and snag them.  They will then reel them as fast as they can and get them onto the boat and into the baitwell.  Once they have a good supply of bait, they will begin fishing them by rehooking them onto a heavy duty outfit.
From my experience at surf fishing, I always fish menhaden in a different way, and I have used this approach on the boat.  I use a spinning rod to snag the bait.  When a pogie is snagged I will simply hold it there on the snagger. The snagged bait is pulled from the school as the boat drifts, and any predators below key on that snagged and wounded bait, and they will usually go after it.
This is the way we fished menhaden on that epic day several days ago when we landed 40 big keepers, and it was super effective. There is another added bonus to fishing pogies this way. In most cases we are fishing with the reel in gear, not freespooled.  When a big striper grabs the bait, it is usually hooked immediately.  It does not have a chance to swallow the bait.  Because of that, the snagger's  hook usually finds its way into the striper's lip or the roof of its mouth, making unhooking easy and allowing for catch and release fishing.  Of those 40 fish that we landed using this method, only 2 fish were badly hooked, and we kept those to eat.
I should also warn you that you miss a good amount of fish using this method. You just don't know where the menhaden is snagged.  It could be in the head, could be in the tail.  Lots of times you feel a sharp pull from a striper, and the bait is pulled off.  Other times, the striper might be only slightly hooked in the lip and the hook pulls off on the fight.  On that day that we landed 40 stripers we lost an equal number to hook pulls on the fight.
Contrast this approach with fishing a rehooked bait and fishing it off  a casting outfit as most fishermen do.  Most fishermen will let the striper take the bait, run off line and then they will set the hook.  In this case most fish will be gut hooked, making catch and release near impossible. I also believe you will catch less fish doing it this way.
Most fishermen seem to develop their own way of fishing live menhaden.  For us, the snag and drag works great when big bass are lurking under the schools of menhaden we are snagging. You can usually see this on the fishfinder.

Monday, June 6, 2016

One of the Best BIG FISH Days of All Time

Today will go down as one of the best if not the best big fish days we have ever experienced in Narragansett Bay from the boat.  From morning till night, on the incoming and outgoing tides, big keeper stripers were on the rampage.  They were chasing schools of menhaden and everywhere you found the pogies, you found the big fish.
I was fishing today from the boat with my brother and my son Jon.  In all we landed 40 keeper bass, mostly on menhaden using a "snag and drag" technique.  Snag a pogy, let it swim a bit and usually within a minute or two you had a cow chasing it.  
The fish today were big by Gansett Bay standards.  My guess is that at least half of the fish were over 40 inches with most of those reaching over 30 lbs.  Some of the fish were even in the 45 inch range.  I'm guessing close to or even over 40 lbs.We ended up keeping just two fish today that were badly hooked and released the rest. We saw hundreds of keepers landed by a fleet of boats.
This has been a banner spring of striper fishing in RI.  I have described it as the best in over a decade.  We've had tons of schoolies, good numbers of small keepers and now real good numbers of fish over 40 inches. It has been one hell of a year so far, and I can only hope it continues. Phenomenal.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Slowing Down from Shore

I got this schoolie a couple of
evenings ago in the Bay.  It was the
lone fish of the outing. From shore
numbers have declined and
sizes have declined for me.
I haven't been out in the boat in over a week, but I know boaters are catching good numbers of big bass in the Bay.
I have fished from shore, though, and the results have not been good.  I have picked up a striper here and there in the last week and got my first bluefish of the year on the Memorial Day weekend. The numbers of fish have dwindled as has the sizes. Overall, I would have to rate the shore fishing as fair at best.  It is in sharp contrast to the boat fishing which is excellent.
I have been mostly targeting the Bay, but I know many others that have fished the oceanfront and they report marginal results too.  We are quickly getting into a summer pattern and that spells trouble for shore fishermen. Summers here in RI have not been good for shore fishermen in recent years.
So, it is that time of year when things are heading downhill in RI so I will be heading northward looking for greener pastures in the coming weeks.