Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: One of the BEST Years in a Long Time

It was loaded with big keepers in the Bay in
the spring. 
This past year will go down as one of the best years in recent memory, certainly the best year in the last decade for me. It was a year with unprecedented numbers of schoolies, big  time keeper bass in the spring, tons of bluefish and a memorable but short albie run.  It all came together with terrific fishing from the opening of April fishing for schoolies right through the late fall. In this post I will grade the fishing for each species of fish.
It was one of the biggest
years for schoolies in a long
Schoolies- This was the good ole days of schoolie fishing. Those fish from 8-24 inches were around in astronomical numbers which really bodes well for the future.  I landed over 1,500 stripers this year, and a high percentage of those were schoolies. My two best months of fishing for schoolies was April (219 fish) and November (528 fish).  I saw all day blitzes along the south shore in November that were simply awesome. Some days, many days, it was a fish on just about every cast and this went on for weeks.  I also had some of the best schoolie fishing in Gansett Bay in the spring and summer that I have ever seen.  In near 80 degree water, the fish were hitting big time as they were in a feeding frenzy over vast schools of peanut bunker that stuck around Narragansett Bay from spring through the fall. Grade- A+
Bluefish showed in big
numbers this year.  Some of
the biggest blues were taken
along the south shore beaches
in the fall.
Keeper Stripers-This past spring was one of the best I have ever experienced for keepers in Narragansett Bay.  I was catching consistently from both shore and the boat from spring through the summer.  Boat fishing with live menhaden was especially good in the late spring. I saw an astounding number of keepers in the 36-45 inch range landed by boaters.  We had our best day on June 6 as three of us in the boat landed over 40 keepers up to 45 inches.  It was so good that I would say it was almost a sure bet that we could find schools of menhaden that had keeper bass under them on any given day.  The snag and drag technique worked best for us.  I was also getting good numbers of keepers from shore using white Slug-gos and Jumpin Minnows.  Those keepers in the 28-36 inch range were around through the summer in the Bay. This keeper fishing was so good that by the end of May I had landed more keepers than all of 2015. Unfortunately, the fall fishing from shore was a disappointment for keeper bass.  I had to really scratch to get a few fish up to 38 inches.  I put in a lot of time after dark in the fall and landed loads of schoolies but keepers were hard to find. Grade- B
The albie fishing was short but memorable.
For several weeks there were big numbers
from shore and boat.
Bluefish- Wow, they were back with a vengeance in 2016.  From the boat we found fantastic numbers in the Bay up to the low teens.  Just like the good ole days of the early 2000's, the blues were in the Bay all fall looking for vast schools of peanut bunker and larger menhaden.  All one had to do was drive the boat around and look for birds diving and breaking schools of fish. Twenty fish days were common.  The fish were mostly taking topwater plugs like poppers, spooks and Jumpin Minnows. The oceanfront was also alive with big blues as I saw more big bluefish around this year than the last five years combined. Anywhere large menhaden moved along the shoreline there were big bluefish. I caught a lot of them in Gansett and along the south shore beaches from Sept. to late November.  Some days I saw hundreds of large ones from 10-18 lbs. landed by loads of smiling fishermen. Grade-A
Albies- I got my first one from shore on Sept.11.  For three weeks the fishing for these gamesters was hot and heavy from shore and boat along the oceanfront as they were feeding on large schools of bay anchovies and peanut bunker. While I was splitting my time between fishing for stripers/blues along with albies, I did manage to land over 40 of these little tunny.  The hot lure was a float and blue Deceiver fly. Grade- A-
Overall, I would give this past season an "A".  It was one one of the best years in a long time and sets up what I believe will be very good fishing for stripers and blues for years to come here in RI.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Holdover Fishing Turning into a BUST Again

Thus far, wintering over stripers have been scarce in Gansett
Bay.  The few fish around have also been small like this
10 incher taken a few days ago.
Even in the best of years fishing for holdover winter stripers was usually inconsistent.  And, this year is no exception. While I got some fish in late November and early December, the fishing has taken a dive since we had that cold spell last week.  In the last three outings I have landed four small schoolies and I got those within a fifteen minute period of time.
I focus my winter fishing in upper Narragansett Bay.  Back ten to fifteen years ago I had no trouble catching 1,000 stripers a winter.  While the majority were schoolies, maybe one in 20 fish was a keeper.  So far, this year's fish have not only been sparse in numbers, but they have also been small, real small. Last week I got one schoolie that you would have to stretch to make it 10 inches. Earlier in the winter I saw fish as small as 6 inches being caught.
By now, any wintering over stripers should be in their locations to wait out winter.  While some areas of NE, most notable some CT rivers, are reporting big numbers, my places in the Bay seem to be devoid of any numbers of fish.  Looks like another BUST of a winter for holdovers, just like last year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Passing of Doc Hayek

Doc fished almost nightly for decades and
caught a lot of fish. He loved catching
big blues with poppers.
The RI oceanfront lost a real good fisherman yesterday.  And, I lost a good friend.  It is with sadness that I tell you that George "Doc" Hayek passed away yesterday in a hospital after undergoing major surgery several weeks ago.
Doc was also an
accomplished striper
fisherman.  He fished
the Bay, the RI
oceanfront and the Cape.
Doc was a well known figure along the oceanfront and along the Bay for decades.  He would fish almost nightly. He had a love for the surf which he often told me was like a tranquilizer to him. Like most of us who surf fish, he loved putting the waders on and casting while wading into the sandy surf, in the quiet Bay or along a rocky bar.  He especially enjoyed fishing the Narragansett shoreline with his friends.
He could turn a lousy night of fishing into a barrel of laughs.  He would often tell one joke after another and would have all of us in stitches for hours with his humor.  For him, fishing was a way of relaxing, getting together with friends and enjoying the whole experience.  If we caught fish it was a bonus.
He also was one who would strike up a conversation with all he met. And, he never forgot a name. He would often guide novices and strangers in the fine art of surf fishing and would give others tips on how to cast, plugs to use and hotspots to fish.  He had one of the longest casts I have ever seen and could often reach fish that were breaking way out in places like Matunuck and Pt. Judith, two of his favorite places to fish.
In recent years, Doc did less and less fishing due to deteriorating health.  Yet, he still had that desire.  Several days before he was to undergo major surgery we talked together and he mentioned he might meet me along Gansett for one more shot at fall fishing.  He also talked about how he was going to do more fishing in the spring after his recovery. That desire to get out and fish was still with him until the end.
To all who knew him and fished with him, Doc will be sorely missed.

Doc fishes along the south shore of RI with a friend on a beautiful sunset night.

Monday, December 5, 2016

In the Snow

Yup, that is SNOW on the ground.
For the last two weeks I have been concentrating my fishing in my spots where I catch wintering over stripers. Even in good years winter fishing is inconsistent at best. My experience thus far has lived up to the inconsistency.  I have been out about 8 or 9 times in the last couple of weeks and I have only blanked once.  My best day has been 11 schoolies and I have had multiple days with only one fish so it has not been hot and heavy fishing. Still, in my mind it has worthwhile since little else is going on right now, and besides I love being outside in the winter.
While I normally fish in the evening and at night for winter stripers, I decided to get out this morning in the snow and rain.  I found one lone fish that wanted to hit (see photo at right).  The fish took a Zoom fluke mounted on a quarter ounce jighead, a hot lure for me in the wintertime.
Wintering over stripers exist in many of the river systems in southern New England.  The big rivers along CT seem to be the hottest areas where large numbers of fish hunker down for the winter months. Smaller river systems in RI as well as the backwaters in the coastal ponds also have them if you can find them. They also exist in places where power plants send out warm water outflows. So, if getting a striper in December or January is your goal, look around, because they do exist, even on a cold and snowy December day.