Monday, December 25, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Grading the Past Year Here in RI

Here we go again this year.  With fishing over except for limited holdover action, it's time to grade the past season. The highlights will be the tons of schoolies and the hot albie action; the disappointments will be the lack of keeper stripers here in RI and the dreadful low numbers of bluefish.
It was loaded with schoolies in 2017.
Schoolies- It was a banner year for schoolies, and that bodes well for the future.  From the get go in mid April, there were tons of schoolies around both the oceanfront and the Bay. For the year I landed 2300 stripers and the majority were under 24 inches. My first big hit along the south shore oceanfront happened on April 13 when I landed 35 schoolies.  From then on it was a glut of fish along the south shore as well as in the Bay until the action started to slow in early June. Summer fishing as always was a bit spotty but I still had good action in the Bay from shore.  Fall fishing was fantastic, especially in November where big numbers were being caught almost daily along the south shore beachfront. Grade for 2017....A

Keeper stripers were a disappointment
here in RI. The few that were around
were generally 28-34 inches. 
Keeper Stripers- These were a disappointment here in RI. My first keeper of the year came from the Bay on April 26. Fishing for keepers was better in May and June but they were few and far between, even from the boat.  We found tons of menhaden around from the boat but  there were few keepers under them. There was a good pod of keepers holed up in the Bay near the Hurricane Barrier but there were loads of shore guys and boaters after them. We scored better on keepers from the boat than from the shore, but even the boat saw far fewer than other years. I tried a lot in the fall for RI keepers and it was a few here and there with no big numbers and no big fish.  The biggest I was able to get from RI waters was a disappointing 20 lbs. Now, for those thinking the big ones are in decline, all you had to do was travel a short distance to the Cape Cod Canal where a bonanza of big fish over 20 lbs were holed up all summer.  If I were grading the Canal, I would give it an A+.  Here in RI was a different story. Grade for RI keepers....C-
It was another fantastic year for albies.
Albies- It was another record year in terms of numbers. Right on schedule, I got my first ones from shore on Sept. 14. From then until early November (yes, very late), it was lights out.  I found them in multiple locations from the mouth of the Bay down to the south shore.  There was rarely a day in which I didn't see them jumping. The beginning of the season, from mid September until mid October, was very good, though some days the fish were especially fussy. I think the increased albie action in recent years is a result of the warming ocean.  Expect this hot fishing to continue in the next few years. Grade for 2017...A
Bluefish were a major
disappointment in 2017.
Bluefish- Wow, this was the  disappointment of 2017. They were very few and far between. I landed my first one on the late date of May 28 from shore in the Bay. We had a couple of good outings with big blues (over 10 lbs.)in the Bay in late spring from the boat.  My brother Steve got the whopper of a lifetime with a 40 inch blue on May 31.  However, that action died in early summer.  Late in the fall we landed a few from the boat, but they were almost non-existent from shore.  Heck, I didn't even see any snapper blues in the Bay. All fall I landed exactly 7 bluefish and 6 of those were caught on one day.  I saw no blitzes of big blues along the south shore in November as we usually see. I think the blues are in trouble but no one seems worried about it. Grade for bluefish for 2017....D

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The White Perch Option

I'm still fishing with all this ice and snow around.  With few stripers in my winter spots, I have turned my attention to white perch. 
These are a mystery fish around here, but they can suddenly appear in places in good numbers.  The most likely spots to find them are in brackish river systems that enter estuaries and bays.  Both the east side of the Bay as well as the upper Bay and even the oceanfront are loaded with places that fit that description.They often hang out in the very same places where holdover stripers are found.
Before catching any, you have to find them as they often travel in schools in early winter looking for food. Once you find them, you'll quickly discover that they will aggressively take small lures and jigs fished on or near the bottom.  I like to either use small bucktail jigs (1/4 or 1/8 oz.) or small jigheads spiced with plastic curly tails (see photo).
These fish generally run from 8 to 12 inches, although I have landed some real big ones in the past that have gone 14-15 inches.  Light tackle is ideally suited to fishing for these.White perch are just one more options for open water winter fishing here in RI.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Check Out These New Swimmers from Yo-Zuri

These are the new Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow LC swiummers.
That green mackerel colored one looks like a winner for
the Cape Cod Canal.
Yo-Zuri has come out with a brand new swimmer called the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow LC. I was fortunate to receive a number of samples from the company. This plug looks and feels a lot like the Daiwa SP Minnow, but with a number of differences. First off, it comes in two different sizes, a 6 inch model that weighs 1 1/4 oz. and a 6 3/4 inch model that weighs 1 3/4 oz.  It has the weighting system inside the plug that moves to the rear on the cast. I have the larger model and it looks like it would cast a mile (Canal guys will love this). Both models have are heavy duty with heavy duty hooks (3X), heavy duty split rings and strong anchors that hold the rings.  I suspect no modification will have to be done on this plug. Finally, it comes in a number of colors.  Of the ones I have, the green mackerel color looks like a winner for the Canal. I also have a white model that has a chartreuse back that looks like it will be a killer in RI waters. The company claims this plug has a tight wiggle on the retrieve. The smaller one sells for about 10 bucks while the larger one is about 12 dollars.
I can't wait to try these out.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hundreds of Dying Stripers

Last weekend I went up to the Providence River to explore its winter fishery.  I was up on some high walls in the city above the river when I looked down into the shallow and clear water.  What I saw was shocking.
I saw so many sick and dying fish. Below me in some spots were various schools of small stripers.  In some places they numbered up to fifty or sixty fish.  In other places, there were a few here and there.  In about a half mile stretch I must have spotted hundreds of fish.  Sad to report, they were ALL sick.  They looked like white ghost fish in the water as they had a glowing white fungus all over their bodies. Some were completely covered in the white fungus; others were partially covered.  Some were swimming around in circles as if blinded by the disease. When I looked more closely, I spotted several dead ones on the bottom, white lifeless corpses just laying there in the sand.
I've seen this in Narragansett Bay before, but never this bad. I also caught several that had the white fungus along the RI south shore oceanfront this fall. I'm guessing this is a disease called mycobacteriosis, a skin disease that infects striped bass along various parts of the coastline.  From what I have read, it can be brought about by stress, poor nutrition and also very warm and polluted water (seems to fit in Providence). It spreads among schools of fish in certain areas. They say this disease can also affect humans who come into contact with diseased fish.  I wear gloves when fishing up here and try not to touch any fish that's even slightly diseased.
This is certainly bad news for the Providence River holdover fishery.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Moving On

This is one of 16 schoolies that I landed in the
last week in one of my winter holdover spots.
This is a transition period for me.  For the first time in eight months, I spent more time on the ski slopes than I did at the shore fishing last week. This is the time of the year when I throw in the towel on the south shore striper fishing and move on to other things. I'm done with the oceanfront unless I hear of some fantastic fishing (which is not likely at this point).
I know that there are still fish being caught along the oceanfront, but there are a whole lot less and the game has become more inconsistent compared to a couple of weeks ago.  While I spent a lot of time skiing this past week, I also did some after ski fishing in my winter holdover spots.  I came away with 16 schoolies in three evenings of fishing.  That's not great, but I'm guessing I would not have done much better at the south shore oceanfront, and the winter spots are so much closer to my house. I am also still carp fishing occasionally on the warm days.  They have been sluggish in the cold water.
So, it's that time of the year when fishing opportunities are coming to an end, but for me, other adventures await.