2018-06-21 / Nature

Sea Robins Biting in Large Numbers

By James Merolla

Sea robins, those brightly-colored, bottom-dwelling walking fish who cluck, are spreading their dorsal fins and taking over vast portions of the ocean bottom in area waters.

They also are exhibiting signs of being more aggressive than usual. How aggressive?

John Migliori of Newport, a noted local angler, recently posted a photo on social media, showing the sea robin he caught on a nine-inch Doc Lure white popper.

“According to some [experts] at The Fisherman Magazine, this is the first time this feat has been known to have happened on this large nine-inch Doc Lure,” he said. “This is not my largest sea robin, but it’s the largest lure I ever caught one on. Now, that’s being really aggressive.”

Also called “gurnard,” sea robins have armored bony heads, two dorsal fins, fan-shaped dorsal fins and some rays that emanate from the bottom and act as separate feelers. These feelers assist the fish in “walking” along the bottom to sense mollusks, crustaceans and other bottom-dwelling prey.

Anyone fishing Narragansett Bay knows that you usually catch these orange-and-brown hued, unusually patterned finfish on clam tongue, clam belly and squid when you are really trying to catch scup, or black sea bass and even stripers. So, to have one hit a large popper being dragged at high speed along the ocean surface is highly unusual.

Greg Vespe of the Aquidneck Island Striper Team, who fishes all over New England, agreed.

“The sea robin bite remains strong and is definitely the surprise of the season so far, as no one expected numbers like this,” he said. “Anglers are busy trying recipes to try to take advantage of this lesser-known fish.”

If carefully fileted, sea robin tail makes for a nice meal, but they are not easy to carve up and most anglers just throw them back, especially after they make unexpected, audible “clucking” sounds that can rattle an amateur angler. The “clucks” emanate from their sea bladders and underneath attached muscles.

Vespe reported that local fishing has really opened up, with striped bass up to the mid-30-pound range now being caught throughout the bay.

“Bass are hitting topwater, as well as bait. And trollers are beginning to hit, too. Fluke have been beginning to spread out into the bay, but the majority still seems to be out front and south of us,” he said. “Bluefish remain fairly scarce but are expected to show up in better numbers as the water continues to warm.

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