We still have a lot of larger holdover striped bass in the 20- and 30-plus-inch range in the area. These are the fish that decided not to migrate south and ‘hold over’ here for the winter in our salt ponds and estuaries because the water has been so warm. And now, we have fish migrating into our area from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay area too. So, with the season now underway, here are some of my favorite ways to catch them.
But first, it is important to note that striped bass are in tough shape. They are overfished, so great care should be taken to catch and release these fish safely to reduce post catch mortality. Anglers should keep the fight short, as playing with the fish tires it out, keep the fish in the water even when dehooking, photo taking and releasing if possible, and try not to handle the fish a lot.
The striped bass limit is one fish/person/day between 28” to less than 35”. Anglers are required to use inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits, except when fishing with a natural bait attached to an artificial lure e.g., tube and worm. Additional provisions include removal of the right pectoral fin on fish 34” or greater and gaffing striped bass is prohibited.
Prepare to use a number to tactics, here are some of my favorites.
Trolling with tube and worm or umbrella rigs
I use lead core line weighted with lead between the line and a six-foot leader to a tube tipped with clam worm. I find that bubblegum-colored tubes work well in spring in Bay water that is 10 to 30 feet deep. Red and amber tubes seem to work best in deeper water. I use umbrella rigs in deeper parts of Narragansett Bay, off Newport or Block Island with a variety of squid, shad, worm or eel soft rubber baits.
Casting soft plastics, flies, surface and swimming lures
Many anglers are addicted (including me) to the feel of a powerful bass hitting their fly or lure. A variety of flies and lures work for spring, as the bass dine at all levels of the water column. Ask your bait and tackle shop owner for lures that mimic bait in the water this spring.
Used by shore and boat anglers, often where there is structure in places like the Southwest Ledge off Block Island and off Newport on reefs and ledges. Hook the eel through the mouth and out one eye, as going between the eyes usually kills the eel.
Live Atlantic menhaden or cut up chunks
Snag a live Atlantic menhaden with a weighted treble hook or net them. Hook the bait through the bridge of the nose, find a school of fish and put the live menhaden into the school of bait and let it swim. You can also use cut up chunks of menhaden (cut the fish in thirds). Anchor (and chum), drift fish or fish the moving bait schools with chunks. Some anglers use a weight slide to get the bait down to the striped bass.
Sung Harbor used tackle sale
The Annual Snug Harbor Marina Used Tackle Sale starts Saturday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sunday, April 30, the dock and tackle shop will open for the sale at 7 a.m. Elisa Cahill said, “We are getting some great used tackle including rods, reels, combos, lures, jigs and accessories in every day and will be accepting gear for sale right up until Friday, April 28.” So, if you have gear you no longer use, it could become cash to get that tuna jigging combo or whatever new gear you may need. For information on how the sale works, contact Snug Harbor Marina, Wakefield, R.I., 401/783-7766.
Where’s the bite?
Striped bass. Mike Wade of Watch Hill said, “Customers are catching fish in the 25” range that are holdovers. They also are landing fish in the 12” to 14” range which I believe are migrating fish.” Angler Rick Wise of Wakefield, said, “I caught and released a holdover striped bass in the 30” range Saturday from my kayak using a white soft plastic lure in Salt Pond and then caught several small fish that had lice on them and presumed to be migrating fish.”
Fly expert and guide Ed Lombardo said, “I caught a nice keeper last week in the Narrow River and three school bass. Fish caught in the River on Friday had lice on them.”
Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, “We have had some nice fish taken from Potters Pond (South Kingstown).”
Anglers are catching keepers from Westerly to Newport, with the bite improving each day as the water warms. “Customers are fishing, but no major reports of keeper tautog being caught. However, we are watching reports from New Jersey to Virginia, and the bite there is outstanding, although they are in very deep water. Assume once our water warms a bit (now about 47 degrees) the tautog bite will improve,” said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters.
“We have had a few nice tautog caught in deeper water off wrecks, with some nice cod mixed in as they seem to be close, too,” said Elisa Cahill.
Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, “The warm days we had last week stimulated pre-spawn fishing for largemouth bass … It’s the best I have seen it in over 20 years, catching 17 fish, many of them in the four- to seven-pound range.”
“The largemouth bass bite has been good, with the trout and salmon bite at stocked ponds outstanding. Once again DEM did a great job stocking area ponds,” said Harrison Gatch of Watch Hill Outfitters.
“I fly fished the Wood River with Dr. Nick Califano of Barrington, and we hooked up with some very nice rainbow trout,” said Ed Lombardo. “Customer Jeff Spicer has been landing some nice trout at Shippee Sawmill Pond, Foster, using Power Bait,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle. “Olney Pond at Lincoln Woods has produced trout and salmon for customers too.”
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. Forward fishing news and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.