2018-09-06 / Around Town

‘Blitzing’ Fish Return to Bay Waters

‘By James Merolla

In a series of “blitzes” seen offshore in shallow water, bluefish and striped bass are returning to all outlets in Narragansett Bay this week. They have left colder waters off Cape Cod and are slowly making their way back through Rhode Island.

Longtime Newport angler John Migliori videotaped such a blitz in Middletown, as he scoured the shoreline for stripers and blues returning to Sachuest (Second Beach), Corey’s Lane in Portsmouth and elsewhere.

The video, taken just before Labor Day, shows something that the R.I. Environmental Police confirmed while I was fishing at Colt State Park in Bristol. The bay is filled with bait fish, and large predatory fish are striking them. One officer said that in her eight years of service in the RIEP she had never seen such a proliferation of small bait.

Millions of minnows,

shiners and silver sides, those tiny, shiny fish that blues and stripers wallop, along with menhaden and, to a lesser degree, mackerel and squid, are filling bay waters, prompting the traditional September return of keeper fish.

This can be a tantalizing tease for shore anglers, in that trusted traditional lures may not work. As one fisherman asked me in Tiverton, “Why are these fish going to hit your lure when they are eating the real thing in such abundance?”

Case in point, the return of skip jack, or snapper blues, over the last three weeks. They have come back to area waters after a severe drop in numbers in the summer of 2017 and earlier this year. However, attempts to land them on the surface, with a bobbin lure tied to a thin strip of rubber that they normally strike, are resulting in many an angler shaking his or her head, cast after cast.

The reason? The small blues are blitzing large schools of the small bait fish from the bottom, swirling in circles from underneath, ripping into the shiners and silver sides, then circling below again, making traditional surface poppers, swimmers, divers and rubber strip lures ineffective.

The best way to get your bucket full (daily limit of 15) of these small blues is to employ a silver Kastmaster, usually two to four ounces in weight, with a white or light brown feather attachment. Cast it alone, with no other weight or bait, let it sink for several seconds to the bottom, and slowly retrieve it. Wham!

The weight of the lure lowers

it below the schools, and its shiny silvery surface, reflecting the sun, resembles the fish the blues are hitting. Failing this, buy shiners and silver sides, place one on any small hook with a three-ounce weight tied two feet behind it, let it sink down and do the same slow retrieve.

Using both of these methods, anglers caught blues with every cast I witnessed in Bristol and Tiverton, while those fishermen with their traditional bone white surface lures were out of luck.

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