Island Fishing Report
The thermal winds of summer are being replaced by the cooler air and northerly breezes that turn fish into eating machines as they instinctively fatten up for their long migrations. This is an exciting time of year, when you never know what to expect as you back down the trailer or drop the lines on the dock and head out.
I would rate the fishing this year as one of the best in recent memory, maybe the best that I can remember! There were considerable highlights both offshore and onshore. It started early with one of the best spring menhaden runs in recent memory. The conservation efforts in Connecticut and New Jersey to protect this most important species gave us an early season run of striped bass in the upper bay that many of the older anglers compared to the 70s. There were a lot of notable striped bass catches thanks to this historic run, including Bill Nolan's 60.5- pound upper bay striper and a new potential free diving spear-gun record of 65.1-pounds taken at Beavertail by Dan O'Neil. The striped bass fishing is still good and should improve in the coming weeks. Try slow trolling a tube and worm in the mooring field at East or West Ferry or drifting an eel at Brenton Reef or near the Southwest Ledge on Block Island.
Moving into the main part of the summer the fluke (summer flounder) fishing was the best I have ever seen, with numerous local anglers loving the high numbers and big slabs at all of the local hot spots. Prior to the opening of the season there was a lot of concern when the minimum size limit was announced at 19 inches. It turned out that the inflated size restrictions of the past few years have paid off with high numbers of fluke brought boatside easily within the "keeper" range. The fluke season wraps up Sept. 16, but they are already getting tough to catch as they move into deeper waters. Try the deep waters off Seal Rock or Second Beach for a last minute shot at this tasty fish.
Those lucky enough to have the boats and the ability to make it to the offshore grounds were rewarded as well. Numerous local anglers scored heavily in the canyons on sharks, marlin, tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi and wahoo. The season started off a bit slow but quickly got exciting as Gulf Stream eddies and lots of bait started pushing into the eastern canyons like Veatch and the Atlantis, then eventually moving west to the Fishtails and the Dip. These warm eddy waters have recently spilled over to "the flats" inside the canyon wall setting up excellent large pelagic fishing for overnighters and those equipped to take day trips 60- 90 miles south. September is typically a fantastic time to be offshore and I expect the excellent fishing to continue, but pay attention to the weather. Forecasting tends to get a little tricky this time of year and the consequences can be extreme.
Lately, the talk of the town has been the excellent black sea bass fishing on the humps and ledges just outside the bay and the arrival of green bonita and false albacore in droves around the Point Judith Lighthouse. Both sea bass and green bonita are fantastic table fare and scrappy fighters. It is well worth your time to go out and target these fish for the fight and the food. I made a trip this week to the Center Wall off of Galilee, and scored a dozen false albacore, two green bonita and a mahi mahi. I have never caught a mahi mahi so close to shore and all of this on 10-pound test.
Some local catches of note for the season include a 350-pound mako taken in mid-August by the Gladding boys on Reel Crazy, a nice 140-pound swordfish and a 120-pound big-eye tuna taken by Steve Kennedy on Seal and lots of healthy yellowfin and albacore tuna taken by Tom Lafazia and Jeff Fantoli on Island Lure and Chris Michalik and crew on Blitzen. Statewide, I received a report of two, 300-pound big-eye tuna taken in West Atlantis Canyon by my good friend, Jim Noon, and son on the Midnight Rambler. Nationwide, we have a pending all tackle world-record fluke of 24.3 pounds taken near Ocean Township, N.J. by Monica Oswald. Wow!
Now is the time to get out there, but be safe. Safety is more important then any fish, because you can't enjoy them or the experience unless you make it back to the dock in one piece.
Editor's note: Rob Roach can be seen each Saturday morning on his show, Kettlebottom Outdoor Pursuits, on Cox Channel 3 at 10:30 a.m.