Monday, July 29, 2019

Large Amounts of Bait Light Up RI Fishing

I've had my best three days in a row of fishing that I've had in months here in RI. I found big amounts of bait in both the Bay and along the oceanfront, and it delivered big numbers of stripers, blues, fluke and black sea bass.
Several days ago I went back to fishing in the Bay.  To my surprise, I found big schools of peanut bunker in the area I was fishing from shore. It didn't take long the find the stripers and bluefish as I started getting fish after fish on Zoom flukes mounted on jigheads. Towards dark, fish started breaking all over the place. While these were all schoolies and smaller blues, they were great on the light tackle I was using.  Hey, it's the end of July and I'll settle for anything.  By the way, this is very early for peanut bunker, and a real good sign of what's to come.
I went back to this spot again last night and once again, fish all over the place with a mix of stripers and blues.  Same deal, fish breaking all over the place at sunset. I got good numbers of fish on jigs.
Today, my brother and I decided to hit the oceanfront from the boat. We found big amounts of bait that looked like bay anchovies. We began our day by catching good numbers of fluke up to keeper size along with a number of black sea bass.  We got those vertical jigging bucktails.  While doing this, we suddenly ran into an area of schools of breaking fish and diving birds.  It turned out to be schools of both stripers and bluefish attacking the schools of bay anchovies. These were like wild October blitzes with big schools of fish feeding on the surface.  It went on for hours. The stripers were good size schoolies in the 20 to 25 inch range.  The blues went 4 to 7 lbs.  All the action was on topwater plugs with the Rebel Jumpin Minnow being the hottest plug.
It's the end of July, but suddenly, the fishing has a fall feel to it.  That's what bait can do, and we have it right now. The RI fishing has awoken from the summer doldrums!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Not All Pencils Created Equally

Here is just a sampling of some of the pencil poppers I have
used recently. Top to bottom: Left Hook, Guppy, Gibbs
In the last month I have had a fascination with pencil poppers. Like most fishermen, I love seeing a big fish come up from the depths and blast a surface offering, and that has happened to me on many occasions lately.  If you've ever had a thirty or forty pound striper hit a surface plug such as a pencil popper, you realize that it is one of the most exciting and heart pounding events in all of fishing.
The pencil popper is a unique plug. Most fishermen will agree that it is the very best casting plug you can use so if you are looking for distance, this is the plug to use. But, if you have ever used a variety of them, you quickly learn that all pencils are not created equally.  Most look about the same with their skinny necks and fat rear ends which give them that long cast, but beyond that they all take on a personality of their own depending on the brands you use.
As many of you know, I make most of my own wooden plugs, but when it comes to a pencil I've found out that my homemade models are far inferior to the pricey commercial brands.  I've bought up a number of wooden pencils of various brands in the 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 ounce range and have found noticeable differences in all of them.  Some cast better than others and it has little to do with weight.  Remember, too, the outfit you are using will handle an ideal weight to cast.  Go beyond that weight and it just doesn't work as efficiently.  My 10 1/2 foot heavy St. Croix Mojo is good up to about 3 1/2 ounces.  Beyond that, the rod is staining and the cast is less efficient. I will say, though, that the trend is toward bigger plugs here.  I've seen some big dudes with stiff, heavy duty rods casting 4 and 4 1/2 ounce pencil poppers, and they are casting one hell of a distance.
In fast moving waters, many fishermen prefer flat bottomed
pencils saying they track better.  Here is a flat bottomed
Guppy pencil popper.
Most pencils also work differently in the water. In fast, moving water, many fishermen prefer to use the flat bottom pencil popper claiming it tracks better in the current.  I would tend to agree with that. In regular surf conditions, many prefer the round bottomed pencils. But, movement also depends on the fisherman here.  Unlike most of the "dummy plugs" out there that require nothing but reeling in, you need to impart the action on the pencil with short pulls of the rod tip to give the plug its back and forth and dipping movements.  Once again, they all dip and move a little differently due to the weighting of the plug, the buoyancy and how the fisherman moves it.
So far this summer I have used a number of different brands of wooden pencil poppers, and overall, they have all been good.  I've used Gibbs, Guppy, Left Hook, Lights Out and my homemade models. All have their pluses, but I really have no favorite.  The one that casts the best sometimes doesn't have the best action. Some cast and work better in a stiff wind.  Others sink faster.  Some float. It's simply a matter of trying different models and seeing what works for you and your equipment.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Double Whammy: Lack of Keepers, Lack of Bluefish

This has been a bad week of saltwater fishing for me. I put in a good amount of time looking for stripers and/or blues and came up empty, and I was fishing mostly in a place where I killed them last year at this time. We are in a strange period of time of fishing here in southern New England. Both larger stripers as well as bluefish are scarce. We are seeing larger stripers in severe decline, something that was predicted long before the season started.  If you don't believe me, check out the commercial quota numbers for MA.  At this point, a mere 14% of the quota has been reached for striped bass.  That tells me that even the diehard commercial guys are having a hard time finding them. Bluefish fare no better.  At this point in MA, only 8 % of the quota for blues has been reached. Strange thing is that the bluefish have gone under the radar in the management game.  Very little has been said about their decline, but their numbers have been on a downward slide for years, but bag limits and size limits have not changed one bit.
I am finding bait around, but very little after it.  Yesterday I found lots of small bait (maybe rain bait or bay anchovies). Small pods of mackerel were hitting it.  But, no stripers of blues were after the macs. My son Matt was out in Boston Harbor this week.  The place was absolutely choking with large menhaden.  There was one school after another in a large area of the Harbor. Once again, nothing under it.
Finally, check out this week's fishing report at On the Water magazine.  For the first time in a long, long time, most of the bait and tackle shops along the Cape Cod Canal are reporting "slow" striper fishing. It was hopping at the Ditch last year at this time, but not this year.
This is today's new reality: not many keeper bass, not many bluefish. I'm hoping it all improves as we move toward fall.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Daiwa BG 5000: Best Big Reel Out There for the Price

Daiwa BG 5000 mounted ona St. Croix 10 1/2 foot Mojo.
For the last month I have been basically fishing big plugs for big fish. I set up a new outfit this year to do this.  My choice of reel is a Daiwa BG 5000. While I have been using this reel for only a month, it has performed flawlessly. It casts well, has perfect line lay with braid, casts great and has a super smooth drag. What you are not going to believe is that this reel is currently on Amazon for $95. The tackle shops have them for a little more, but even for twenty bucks more, it is still an unbelievable buy.
The reel has a rugged feel to it, and it is built like a tank.  It's a bit on the heavy side (22 1/2 oz.) but is solid in every respect.  It holds 360 yards of 50 lb. test braid (I'm using 50 lb. test Power Pro) so the line capacity is very good.  It comes with a manual flip bail, something many of the reels are built with these days. It sports 22 lbs. of drag.
I've got this reel mounted onto a 10 1/2 foot St. Croix Mojo surf rod (heavy version, MSS106MHMF2). That pairing seems made for one another.  I've been using this to cast plugs in the 2 to 4 ounce range with no problem. I've put the reel to the test in the last month by landing dozens of keepers up to over 40 inches from shore.
Now, I know there are other more expensive reels out there that might be just as good or even better, but for less than a hundred bucks, this is your best buy by far in a good size, heavy duty surf reel.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Hot Plug of the Week- Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow

This Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow
was the hot number for
me this week
I caught a lot of fish this week, and my hottest plug of the week turned out to be a Yo-Zuri Hyro Minnow in a green mackerel color.  I've written about this plug in the spring, and then I was doing well with a white version.  The place where I was fishing this week had mackerel for bait
so I went with the mackerel color, and it worked like a charm for large schoolies and small keepers.
This near keeper was landed using the Hydro Minnow. There
were mackerel around so the green mackerel color was
a logical choice.
I really like this plug, and it is fast becoming my go to thin profiled plastic swimmer. This plug is heavy modifications needed right out of the box.  It sports heavy duty split rings, heavy duty anchors and comes with 3X hooks.  I was using the 6 3/4 inch model this week which weighs 1 3/4 ounces.  It casts like a bullet as the weight inside moves to the rear on the cast.  As is the case with these thin plastic swimmers, it comes in with a tight, alluring wiggle that makes it mimic the real thing.