No Fluke

Tautog season open; stripers moving into bay

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Tautog fishing is fun. I like to relax with friends and family, shoot the breeze and enjoy a great Rhode Island fishery all at the same time. Tautog (or Blackfish) is a great eating fish too with a dense whitish meat.

You have to be over or near structure (rocks, piers, wrecks, ledge, humps or holes, etc.) to catch tautog so anglers use a number of strategies to ensure their vessel stays in position. The trick is positioning the vessel without getting your anchor stuck in rock. I’ve lost three anchors over the years which can cost as much as $300 to $500 depending on the type of anchor and chain.

Anglers often use a grappling hook anchor make of rebar to tautog fish. The soft rods allow the anchor to bend if it should get caught in structure. Capt. Sherriff said, “Another method used by anglers is to tie a line to the end of their Danforth or grappling hook anchor (opposite the chain end) and attach a float to the other end of the line.” When ready to leave they pick up the float and line which pulls the anchor out of the structure the same way it went in.

I use an anchor retrieval system (westmarine.com) which cost about $100. A float on a six foot line is attached to your anchor line with a sliding metal ring. When the vessel is pulled forward toward and beyond the anchor the ring eventually works its way down to the anchor and the float brings the anchor to the surface where you can retrieve it off the stern. The trick is not getting the anchor line caught in your prop as you move forward toward and beyond the anchor.

Another method that worked well for me when I had a smaller center console was the use of a cinder block as an anchor. The cinder block costs about $1.50. However, it often does not hold in strong current or seas and does not work well with large or heavy vessels.

Anchoring over structure takes some practice too. Locate a rock pile with electronics, estimate wind/drift direction and anchor up current from where you want to fish and drift back to the spot as the anchor is setting. Once in position, fish all sides of the boat casting a bit to cover as much area as you can. If still no bites, let some anchor line out a couple of times to change your position, if still no bites it is time to move the vessel. Watch for more tautog fishing tips next week.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) regulates tautog fishing with three seasons. The spring tautog season opened Saturday, April 15 and ends May 31 with a three fish/person/day limit; fishing reopens August 1 to October 14 with a three fish/person/day limit; and then the late fall/winter season runs from October 15 to December 15 with a six fish/person/day limit.

A fishery-wide closure, to protect tautog during their spawning period, is in effect from June 1 to July 31. At all times when the fishery is open, there is a limit of 10 fish/vessel daily limit. Party and charter boats are not subject to the 10 fish/vessel limit.

Striped bass coming on strong

On-the-Water magazine’s striped bass migration tracker ( onthewater.com/striper-migration-map) shows school striped bass are working their way north up the Connecticut coastline and starting to land on Rhode Island southern coastal shores and at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Keeper striped bass are being caught off New York.

Jason Howell of Narragansett fished the Narrow River in Narragansett this last week and landed school striped bass. Too early to tell if fish are migrating fish or hold-over striped bass.

Squid fishing and learning how to tube & worm

Learn the basics of squid fishing on a party boat from expert angler Tom Wood during a mini seminar and then learn the technique of fishing with tube and for from fishing author and guide Charley Soares on Monday, April 24 at 7 p.m. at the West Warwick Elks Lodge, 60 Clyde Street, West Warwick. “The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association meeting will focus on when to fish deep vs near the top for squid as well as the best squid lures and gear to use,” said Tom Wood. Charles Soares said, “The uniqueness of the tube and worm is that it catches numerous species along with stripers from five to fifty ponds.” Non-members welcome with a $10 donation to the RISAA Scholarship Fund, members attend free. Visit risaa.org for details.

Where’s the bite

Freshwater fishing is where the action is right now. Trout and largemouth bass fishing remain very strong. “A customer caught a 3.5 pound largemouth bass at Brickyard Pond in Barrington this week,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside. “Anglers are doing very well with largemouth bass, we sold a lot of shiners this weekend,” said Craig Mancini of Continental Bait & Tackle, Cranston.

Mancini said, “Trout fishing has been very good. The best in a long time in terms of size and numbers. Business has been great and customers are still catching fish.” Mike Cardinal of Cardinal Bait & Tackle, Westerly said, “Trout fishing at Carolina Trout Pond and Meadowbrook Pond (both in Richmond) has been great but the rivers have been a bit too high for anglers.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “Opening Day’s weather discouraged some anglers from fishing so Willet Avenue Pond, Riverside is still holding a lot of fish with anglers limiting out there." “Trout fishing is very good at Melville in Portsmouth. PowerBait is the bait of choice with spoons working good at Lincoln Woods for one customer,” said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren.

Gil Bell of Charlestown caught a four pound, 25” chain pickerel at Watchaug Pond, Charlestown last week using a Sutton Frisby Spoon.

Tautog fishing season opened up Saturday, April 15. Some anglers targeted them this weekend with poor results as it was quite windy. Mike Cardinal of Cardinal Bait & Tackle said, “We did not have many customers target tautog, things should get going later this week." Macedo said, “Customers targeted tautog at Stone Bridge, Wharf Tavern and other places but did not get a bite.” Fishing further up the bay was not good either. Littlefield said, “A customer fished the Nayatt Point area for tautog but the wind picked up and he came back, he had a couple of good bites but no fish. Others targeted Wharf Tavern, Jamestown and Newport but we haven’t heard back from them yet.”

Striped bass fishing has not been very active. “Things have not started to percolate yet in the salt ponds. Once the worm hatches start the striped bass will start to come around en masse. We have had a few reports of schoolies being caught but I am not sure they are new bass or just holdovers from last year,” Said Cardinal.

Cod fishing is still slow but picking up. The hope is that the volume of bait will continue to attract fish. Party boats sailing for codfish at this time include the Frances Fleet at francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s (with Capt. Andy Dangelo at the helm) at sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at islandcurrent.com.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit his website at noflukefishing.com.

Capt. Dave Monti

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.