The Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association and the Nature Conservancy’s Rhode Island Chapter this week received an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2018 Environmental Merit Award for their work restoring a fish passage on the Pawcatuck River. The work also improved the flow of water, upgraded the water quality and reduced flood risks.
Five dam removals and river restoration projects in the last decade have left the headwaters of the Pawcatuck River open to spawning of migratory fish for the first time since Colonial-era development of mills and dams there.
Congratulations to the Watershed Association and the Nature Conservancy for a job well done.
Mass. black sea bass season closed
While the 2018 Massachusetts recreational black sea bass season closed Thursday, in Rhode Island, the black sea bass season is open until Dec. 31. The minimum size is 15 inches with a seven fish/per person/per day limit as of Sept. 1. Rhode Island chose to utilize its recreational harvest limit differently than Massachusetts by starting its season later, on June 25; and prior to Sept. 1, the limit in Rhode Island was only three fish/perperson/per day, saving the larger harvest limit for the fall and winter fishing seasons.
Tug-of-war season is here
To me, there is nothing better than tautog fishing in the fall. You anchor up on structure (such as rocks or a sunken vessel) and fish for these ferocious fighters. In the process, you get to talk to fellow anglers, have a sandwich or beverage and catch fish. Once you are on tautog, you are on them with little need to move the boat.
The minimum size in Rhode Island is 16 inches, with a fall season that runs until Oct. 14 with a three fish/per person/per day limit; and from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31, the limit increases to five fish/per person/per day. There is a 10-fish-per-vessel maximum, however, which does not apply to party and charter boats.
Tautog fishing is much like a tug of war. Once you hook one, the battle is on to keep it from going into structure. Many bottom hook-ups that occur when fishing for tautog are caused by a fish that takes the anglerâ€™s bait into the rocks before they know it.
Here are some tautog fishing tips:
Find structure to find tautog. Tautog can be fished from shore or boat and in both cases they like structure (rocks, wrecks, bridge piers, dock pilings, mussel beds, holes and humps along the coast and in the Bay). So no structure, no tautog.
Fish where the fish are. This is particularly true with tautog because they are a territorial species, you have to find the tautog, they are not going to find you. So if you get no bites move to another spot. When you find them, you find them and the bite is on.
Boat placement is important. Find structure, 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.
Green crabs (and Asian crabs) are the baits of choice in the fall. When using crabs make it easy for the tautog to bite and take the bait. Break off claws and legs (sometimes I like leaving one or two legs on), cut the crab in half and hook it through one leg socket and out another.
Losing rigs is common when tautog fishing due to bottom hang ups on rocks and structure. To save tautog rigs, anglers can use rubber bands to attach sinkers. If the sinker gets hung up on a rock the rubber band breaks, you lose the sinker but save the tautog rig. I have developed a tautog rig that has reduced tie-ups by 50 percent. It is an egg sinker on a 40-pound 6-inch piece of monofilament with red beads and swivels on either end. The main braid line connects to the top swivel and a snelled tautog hook with an eight inch or so leader is on the bottom. I buy Laser Sharp tautog hooks of various sizes already snelled. The objective is to tap the sinker on top of structure and pull it up a couple of inches so the bait hangs on or in the structure. If the egg sinker gets logged in structure it generally frees itself.
Whereâ€™s the bite?
Summer flounder, scup, black sea bass. I fished the weekend around the Newport Bridge and managed two keeper fluke and plenty of scup and short sea bass. The bite for scup in the West passage along Jamestown and Dutch Island was good, with a lot of short sea bass and no fluke this weekend. John Littlefield of Archieâ€™s Bait & Tackle in Riverside said: â€śNo reports of keeper fluke, but a ton of scup, along with Northern kingfish, are being caught in the upper Bay and rivers.â€ť
Striped bass and bluefish. Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters reported: â€śAt the end of last week, the striped bass fishing was great off Block Island. Saturday, we limited out with eight fish in one hour.â€ť Ken Landry of Rayâ€™s Bait & Tackle in Warwick said: â€śWe have heard good reports of bluefish on the surface around Hope Island and around the Newport Bridge.â€ť Littlefield said: â€śCustomers are finally starting to catch snapper blues in the covers, and larger bluefish in the 4- to 5-pound range are being caught in the lower Bay.â€ť Bluefish of decent size have been feeding on the surface north of the Newport Bridge and off Quonset Point. The schools are larger than they were last year. I fished a school about the size of an acre on the surface just north of Gould Island and saw them on the surface there this weekend.
Bonito and false albacore continue to be the fish to target. There are reports of anglers hooking up with more false albacore than last week, with the bonito bite still good, too. Letâ€™s hope this continues, as this is the time of year to catch them.
Tautog. No good reports of keeper tautog being caught. Anglers targeting them are catching some short fish. As the water cools, tautog fishing will improve.
Offshore. Shark fishing has been very good. Capt. Andy Dangelo of Maridee Fishing Charters landed three mako sharks last week. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet reported: â€śWe sailed last week on Wednesday to tuna fish with perfect weather, really hoping to raise some fish. We found a great bite on the troll with the longfins [albacore]. We had times where we had five fish on at once. The night bite was nonexistent for us but there are reports to the south of a good bite. As long as these hurricanes donâ€™t mess things up, we should have a solid year.â€ť
— Capt. Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for more than 40 years. He holds a captainâ€™s master license and a charter fishing license. He is an RISAA board member, a member of the R.I. Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the R.I. Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Captain Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.