Monday, December 24, 2018

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Grading the 2018 Season

Here's a typical "big"
RI keeper. Most of the
keepers from shore
were 28 to 32 inches
It was just loaded with
schoolies in the 16 to 24
inch range this year. They
seemed to be everywhere.
It was the year of the schoolie. From start to finish it was loaded with them. And, while I caught big numbers of schoolies in RI, they also seemed to be everywhere I fished this year including the Cape and Boston Harbor.  Thank God for all those schoolies because for other fish such as bluefish and albies, it was not good. So here's a rundown of how I saw the fishing year here in RI.
Schoolies-I started my year catching holdovers in early April, and it was a bonanza from that time forward until late November. I found big numbers of migrating fish in late April along the oceanfront, and early May brought huge numbers to Narragansett Bay. Most of these fish were in the 14 to 24 inch range which was about 4 inches bigger on average than in 2017 (yes, they are growing). Summer fishing had good numbers of schoolies in the Bay even though the water was abnormally warm. Fall fishing began early this year with August delivering massive numbers of schoolies along the oceanfront  after huge schools of peanut bunker which seemed to arrive earlier than normal. The rest of the fall featured some of the biggest blitzes of schoolies I have ever seen.  Just phenomenal at times. These were the good 'ole days coming back to life. Grade for schoolies- A+
Keepers- Not so rosy here. There was a noticeable shortage of large keepers, say fish over 40 inches.  It tells you a lot when not one striper over 30 lbs. was entered from shore in the annual RISAA Tournament. But, we did see more small keepers than were around in 2017.  In spring and fall I was catching occasional keepers in the 28 to 32 inch range from shore and boat that were mixed with the schoolies. There were no big numbers of larger fish after pogies in Gansett Bay this year which was a disappointment. Summer fishing for keepers was poor for me in RI which prompted me to head to the Canal on a regular basis. I had a summer to remember there with big numbers of big fish (no shortage there). Fall brought a few more keepers than expected but once again, these were small keepers in the 28 to 32 inch range. Grade for RI keepers- C
Here's a rare bluefish taken
from the boat in Gansett Bay.
It was a poor year for
bluefish as they seem to be in
steep decline.
Bluefish- It was POOR.  They seem to be disappearing from our waters, and no one seems to care. I got a few from the boat in Gansett Bay in the spring, got a couple from the shore in early summer, and landed a dozen in the fall (most of which came on one outing). I saw days in which there were massive schools of peanut bunker ( a favorite of bluefish), and there would not be a single blue after them. With these fish in steep decline, the RI regs still allow 15 fish a day and no size limit.....simply ridiculous. Grade for bluefish- D
Everyone was all wound up for
a big albie year, but it didn't happen.
There were some, but their numbers
were way off compared to the last
two years.
Albies- Boy, there was a lot of hype and high hopes for another great year, but that faded quickly. Remember, these are pelagic fish that come in from the ocean depths.  History will tell us that it just doesn't always happen, but after a couple of great years, many thought this year would be a sure bet. The few that did arrive came late in late September along the oceanfront. With fewer albies around this year, boaters had a better shot at them than shore fishermen. Boaters also had a good shot at bonito which were around in fair numbers.  I never saw many albies showing in my travels, and landed only two this year. By October, I realized this wasn't happening and turned my attention to targeting stripers. Still, the diehards who sat on a rock all day and waited in some of the high percentage spots did get some fish, but by all standards, 2018 was not a great year. Grade for albies- C-