Tautog fishing is fun. I like to relax with friends and family, shoot the breeze and enjoy a great Rhode Island fishery all at the same time. Tautog (or Blackfish) is a great eating fish too with a dense whitish meat. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management regulates tautog fishing with three seasons.
The spring tautog season runs from Saturday to May 31, with a three fish/person/day limit; fishing reopens Aug. 1 to Oct. 14 with a three fish/person/day limit; and then the late fall/winter season runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15 with a six fish/person/day limit.
A fishery-wide closure, to protect tautog during their spawning period, is in effect from June 1 to July 31. At all times when the fishery is open, there is a limit of 10 fish/vessel daily limit. Party and charter boats are not subject to the 10 fish/vessel limit.
You have to be over or near structure (rocks, piers, wrecks, ledge, humps or holes, etc.) to catch tautog so anglers use a number of strategies to ensure their vessel stays in position. The trick is positioning the vessel without getting your anchor stuck in rock. I’ve lost three anchors over the years which can cost as much as $500.
Anglers often use a grappling hook anchor made of rebar to tautog fish. The soft rods allow the anchor to bend if it should get caught in structure.
I use an anchor retrieval system, which cost about $100. A float on a six foot line is attached to your anchor line with a sliding metal ring. When the vessel is pulled forward toward and beyond the anchor the ring eventually works its way down to the anchor and the float brings the anchor to the surface where you can retrieve it off the stern. The trick is not getting the anchor line caught in your prop as you move forward toward and beyond the anchor.
Another method that worked well for me when I had a smaller center console was the use of a cinder block as an anchor. The cinder block costs about $1.50. However, it often does not hold in strong current or seas and does not work well with large or heavy vessels.
Anchoring over structure takes some practice too. Locate a rock pile with electronics, 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.
Striped bass coming on strong
On-the-Water magazine’s striped bass migration tracker (www.onthewater.com/striper-migration-map) shows school striped bass are working their way north up the Connecticut coastline with keeper fish being caught off New York. Jason Howell of Narragansett fished the Narrow River in Narragansett this weekend and landed school striped bass.
Rhody Fly Rodders meeting
The Rhody Fly Rodders will hold their Annual Cookout Get-Together Tuesday, April 18, 6 p.m. at the Riverside Sportsmen’s Association, 19 Mohawk Drive, East Providence. The meeting will include fly casting as well as the continuation of the striped bass movie ‘Running the Coast’ that was first shown last month. Flies will be on sale with money donated to ‘Project Healing Waters’. Contact Peter Nilsen, president, with questions at email@example.com.
Where’s the bite
School striped bass are being caught in southern coastal ponds and rivers like Narrow River, Narragansett. However, it is early and hard to tell if these are migrating fish or hold-over fish from the winter.
“Cod fishing has been spotty and the water was cloudy from storms earlier in the week.” said Dianne Valerien of the Seven B’s Party Boat. Capt. Matt Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We fished last week but the water was still churned up from last weekend’s big storm. Fishing was quite slow with a few handfuls of market cod fish up to 8 lbs. However, tons of bait were noted on the local grounds which is always a good sign.”
Freshwater fishing has been focused on trout and opening day (see above story). However, early signs are that the largemouth bite is good and picking up too.
Capt. Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.