2017-08-03 / Nature

Hot Weather Drove Large Fish to Deep Water

By James Merolla

We say goodbye to July and the doldrums of summer shore fishing. It is no secret among local anglers that last month’s hot weather drove the big fish, such as striped bass, most large blues and other species, into deeper, cooler water.

The average water temperature was 77 degrees in the upper bay, 73 in the Newport area. This is anathema to shore anglers, but a bonanza for charter boat captains who make their living taking people out to Block Island in July and August to land the monsters who are no longer near shore.

However, late July did not pass without the next wave of the biggest version of smaller fish. Big scup has invaded the shoals and rocks of the lower bay in Newport and Narragansett, all the way up the Warren River.

Deeper rock piles off local beaches have produced keeper fluke up to 27 inches, according to a local angler. Squid and clam tongue, set on colorful plastic rigs of fluorescent green or pink, have been effective as bait.

Black sea bass are so plentiful and large that you almost cannot fish from the rocks at Ft. Adams or the cliffs of Newport without landing several 15-inch, blue-speckled keepers. In fact, sea bass, caught by the bucket and around the Cape Cod Canal, are so invasive that one fishing expert said that the DEM in Rhode Island and Massachusetts might have to investigate lowering size keeper limits, while increasing the daily numbers of keepers or extending the season in order to cull the schools.

There is nervousness that the huge population of black sea bass may devour the food supply for rival species like fluke, tautog (black fish), sea robins and scup.

Charter boat captains who take anglers farther offshore are reporting sightings of yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, bigeye and makos for the first time. Live eels, especially in and around Block Island, continue to be the premier bait to catch huge stripers as we head into August.

As you read this, bluefish have spawned. In a week or so, their progeny, small “snapper” blues, will race to the shore. These aggressive fish may be caught with a simple bobber and rubber tube rig that costs under $3 at area tackle shops. Catching snapper blues on this rig is a marvelous way to attract children to fishing, as they will likely be very successful in landing many fish in a short period of time. Snappers overcome boredom by slamming this lure.

But parents, be advised. Even five-inch bluefish have razor-sharp teeth to accompany their nasty disposition. Do not allow your children to “unhook” them, as they can rip a finger tip off like a blade. The best advice is to let the snapper wriggle his way off the hook or have a grown-up step in.

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