Fish bite before and after storms

Fish bite before and after storms

Corey Smith caught this 35-pound striped bass in Mt. Hope Bay Sunday. He put an eel out while tautog fishing and the bass took it.

Corey Smith caught this 35-pound striped bass in Mt. Hope Bay Sunday. He put an eel out while tautog fishing and the bass took it.
Many anglers believe the best time to fish, either in fresh or saltwater, is before a storm.

For example, in the summer before a cold front moves in, they believe the fish feel the difference in barometric pressure. The front moves in, the pressure drops and it triggers a feeding frenzy. I guess the fish sense bad weather, so they eat while the eating is good.

Some believe that fishing is not good during and after a storm, as the water is cloudy, so fish cannot even see the most attractive bait. However, sometimes fishing after a storm is good. Just like any other time, the right time to fish depends on variables such as water temperature, water movement and clarity, structure and — most importantly — bait in the area that fish can feed on.

Safety is the most important thing to remember when fishing before and after storms. I head for shore if the weather is threatening. If you’re on shore, don’t take any risks fishing near fast-moving high water or unpredictable surf. Wait until things calm down.

Fishing can be good after rain storms, tropical storms, even hurricanes like Sandy. Once again, the quality of fishing depends on variables. For example, flooded areas create new fish habitats with a new food supply of insects, shrimp, shellfish and small fish that arrive with the water. These flooded areas and adjacent waters can become good fishing areas as the water starts to recede.

Fish like this 41-inch, 20.5-pound striped bass caught a week before the storm by Albert Bettencourt of East Providence can be caught after storms, too. Anglers continue to catch bass after Sandy at night drifting eels in the Warren River.
Fishing after storms has been good for shore, coastal and bay anglers. Any time you can get close to inlets, the shore or underwater structure, you’ll do well. Fishing is good at inlets and outflows because water levels are high due to rain, abnormally high tides and heavy surf. Once water rushes out of rivers, bays and inlets, bait that may have sought refuge up inlets gets tossed around as they leave for open water where larger fish are waiting.

Other contributing factors to good fishing after storms are geography and storm patterns. With storm winds coming out of the southwest, bait, crabs, oysters, mussels, clams, etc., get crushed and pushed to the opposite shoreline or get hung up on ridges. These areas become prime feeding grounds for hungry fish, particularly tautog and bass this time of year. It’s a good idea to try clams and split crabs as bait when fishing after a storm in these areas.

During the hurricane season a couple of years ago I asked some noted local anglers what they thought about fishing after storms. Here is what they had to say:

Fish the opposite shoreline after a storm and you’re more likely to catch fish because the bait is there, said Steve McKenna, an associate at Quaker Lane Outfitters in North Kingstown. “I like to fish the first clearing wind after a big storm once the sea settles down a bit. I caught my last three 40-pound striped bass after storms,” he said.

Capt. Rich Hittinger, vice president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Angler Association (RISAA), said, “At the end of the season, storms have sometimes sent the fluke packing to deeper water with no significant bite until the following spring. It also can chase the giant tuna out of here for the season, but you can only wait and see what happens.”

Last year Mark Pietros commented about cod fishing after a storm on the RISAA blog: “I went out … a couple days after a rain and wind storm. It wasn’t a hurricane but the seas were pretty bad a few days before. When we went out the ‘weathermen’ were calling for small craft warnings. The seas were actually one foot or less; it was a great day. We had all the cod action we could handle along with a few haddock, pollock and the biggest hake I have ever seen. I have been out several times after storms and have had good luck when fishing in deeper water.”

Two additional theories about fishing after storms: First, big storms do not necessarily bother fish in deep water, so bottom fishing offshore for tautog and other species may not be affected at all. Secondly, with fish not feeding much during a big blow, they’re interested in eating as soon as things clear. Both fresh and saltwater anglers have related success using surface plugs once winds settle down as water throughout the water column may still be turbid and cloudy after a storm, even though the seas have calmed. Surface plugs splashing around on the surface will likely get the attention of hungry fish.

Where’s the bite?

Fishing is just starting to pick up after the Sandy. Every indication is that tautog fishing is still good and that striped bass fishing will improve as the water clears.

Tautog — Angler Ken Robinson reported fishing after the storm on Saturday. “Fished Hope Island from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Slow bite. Five keepers.”

Joe Daniels had better luck fishing prior to the storm. “Found a fantastic hole on Hope Island last Thursday. One tautog ate at least a half-quart of crabs. Kept on missing the hook-up. (I) tied on a fluke hook and as soon as I dropped it, I hooked him — a beautiful fish (at) 21 inches,” he said.

Lary Norin and Rick Sustello reported a good tautog bite off Narragansett this weekend, landing six keepers in 30 feet of water. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle in Warwick said customers are catching tautog on the humps off Brenton Reef. “Good spots in the bay include Coddington Cove, General Rock, Rocky Point, Plum Point Light, Hope Island and Despair Island,” he said.

John Littlefield said the short-to-keeper ratio is still not good in the upper bay — about 10 sorts to every keeper.

Striped bass and bluefish — Littlefield said a customer caught eight  striped bass in the 12- to 18-pound range drifting eels at night on a tide change in the Warren River. There are bluefish around, too. An “8- to 10-pound bluefish was caught this week” in the Providence River right outside Hemenway’s Restaurant in Providence, he said.

Squid have been making a run in Newport at the usual places including the Goat Island bridge, said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait.

Capt. Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing on Narragansett Bay for more than 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Your fishing photos in jpeg form, stories, comments and questions are welcome. Visit Capt. Dave’s No Fluke website at or e-mail him at [email protected]