Fishing for giant bluefin tuna off Rhode Island coastal shores hasn’t exactly been productive for sport fishermen for the past several years. In fact, many have taken to fishing off Cape Cod as bluefin tuna have been more plentiful and larger in that area.
But this season, with very few fish around in waters off Rhode Island, David Appolonia of South Kingstown and his crew managed to boat two giant bluefin fishing the waters south of Block Island. His second fish, 763 pounds and 108 inches long, arrived at Snug Harbor Marina in South Kingstown after sunset. Just 10 days earlier, Mr. Appolonia brought a 730-pound bluefin to the same dock.
Snug Harbor Marina serves as the weigh-in station for most big game fish landed in Rhode Island. “It is like getting struck by lightning twice, but David Appolonia managed to catch his second giant bluefin tuna … when there is nothing else around,” said marina owner Al Conti.
Mr. Appolonia is no novice. He is a giant hunter, catching an 878-pound giant bluefin tuna three years ago. “Catching giants is truly a team effort,” he said. “This time we had Lenny Upham of Cranston on the boat. He is experienced and comes from a long line of tuna fishermen. And very special for me, my two brothers Felix (of West Warwick) and Eric (of North Kingstown) were crew members, too. All took turns on the reel as this fish was very strong.”
“We were anchored and chumming when we picked up the fish at 12:10 p.m. We thought we would luck out as it surfaced in 45 minutes but then sounded and it took five hours to land. Lenny harpooned it and my brother Felix gaffed the fish. We got the tail tied at about 5:15 p.m. It took us about two and a half hours to get back to Point Judith,” said Appolonia. It is important to note that all three of David’s giant bluefin tuna were caught on his 26-foot Regulator.
Well done and congratulations David, Lenny, Felix and Eric on a very nice fish! David Appolonia and his crew members are writing new chapters in the history of Rhode Island giant bluefin tuna fishing.
NOAA here to listen to fishermen
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was in Rhode Island on Monday to hear directly from Rhode Island fishermen about issues facing the industry. John K. Bullard, recently appointed to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Bill Karp, who was recently named Science and Research Director for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, met with fishermen in Narragansett at what was billed as a “listening session.”
Warm water hurting striped bass
For the past three weeks, anglers catching and releasing striped bass off Block Island have noticed that the fish are having much more trouble reviving than ever before. Many wonder if it’s a lack of oxygen. Last week when fishing on the southwest side of Block Island, angler Chris Jalbert said, “Some of the fish were difficult or impossible to revive even after short fights with circle hooks and being released without even lifting them from the water. Somewhat exasperating, and is the reason we stopped fishing.”
Chris Deacutis, chief scientist for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (NBEP) at the URI Bay Campus, has been working on the issue of low oxygen in saltwater and its impact of fish for over 10 years. Dr. Deacutis believes it’s not low oxygen affecting striped bass, but rather carbon dioxide (CO2) and warm water temperatures when the fish are brought to the surface.
“Open waters outside the upper half of the bay have never shown any evidence of low DO (dissolved oxygen),” said Dr. Deacutis. “The most likely culprit (for bass having trouble reviving) is the CO2-blood pH issue after a fight. The surface waters are so warm now (75 degrees) that the (striped bass) just can’t acclimate to these surface temps. That’s why they stay on the bottom, and there is significant stress just from the temp jump alone when brought to the surface, never mind the fight.”
Anglers are urged to catch only what they plan to keep, then lay of the striped bass as the mortality rate of released fish under these conditions is likely very high.
Where’s the bite?
Striped bass fishing, when the weather permitted last week, was good at night and slow during the day at the North Rip and the Southwest Ledge area off Block Island. Capt. Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters in Jamestown said, “I was out fishing Thursday and Friday at Block and yesterday locally. Block Island has been a bust lately unless you seek bluefish and sea bass. Locally we have found a lot of the same. We fished yesterday with eels and managed only bluefish and sea bass. Switched to tube and worm and nailed a nice 47-inch striper.” Mary Dangelo of Maridee Canvas-Bait & Tackle of Narragansett said, “Prior to rough conditions, customers were catching school striped bass with some keepers mixed in at dawn until 7 a.m. fishing off the wall at Narragansett Pier.”
Tautog fishing is still slow. Anglers are catching some small tautog off Black Point in Narragansett. “Divers are reporting a good number of tautog but not many anglers are targeting them yet,” said Mary Dangelo. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “Small tautog is being caught at Conimicut Point, Colt State Park and at Ohio Ledge with few keepers in the mix at this time.”
Scup fishing remains strong at Colt State Park, Ohio Ledge and off Conimicut Light, said John Littlefield.
Offshore — Eric Weybrant said bluefin fishing was slow last Monday at the mud hole (14 miles off Point Judith). “We got one small bluefin just under 30 inches right on top of the deepest part of the mud hole about 20 minutes after going lines in. This was at 6 a.m. Should have called it a day right there but we slugged it out for another five hours. One more hookup at 10 a.m. at the southern tip of the gully but the hook pulled before we could fight the rod out of the holder.”
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 www.noflukefishing.com or e-mail him at [email protected]