Tautog bite outstanding, get out and fish
If you have not tried spring tautog fishing, now is the time to do it as the spring season closes May 31. It was a great fall tautog season, and this spring has been outstanding too. John Lavallee of Continental Bait & Tackle, Cranston said, “The tautog fishing has been the best it has been in years. Fishing is so good customers have to work hard to catch an undersized fish.”
The tautog minimum size is 16” with a three fish/person/day limit and a 10 fish per boat maximum. The spring season closes May 31 for the months of June and July for the spawning season and opens again on August 1.
Here are some spring tautog fishing tips:
•Easy to bite and keep it still in spring. Dave Hess of Breachway Bait & Tackle, Charleston said, “I have found tautog jigs effective, particularly when there is little water movement. Smaller baits seem to work best in spring. I cut the legs and often pull off most of the shell of a green crab cut in half. And, I believe in keeping the bait still on the bottom.”
•Warm and shallower water in spring. Dave Henault, Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Tautog are in a pre-spawn state so they are looking for warmer water, that means you will tend to find them in shallower water in the spring and not necessarily over structure, they can be found on a sandy bottom next to or near structure too.”
•Feel the bite… tap, tap and then get ready for a tug of war. Tautog is a quick hook set. Feel a bite and get ready to set the hook. Angler Rich Hittinger of the vice president of the RI Saltwater Anglers, said, “If you get two bites with no hook-up your bait is gone. Reel in and re-bait.”
•Boat placement is important and chum. Find structure 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. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle in Warwick suggests 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. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait said, “To attract tautog to where you are fishing many anglers find chumming effective. Grass shrimp is a popular chum for tautog in the spring, other anglers grind up quahogs and we sell a lot of whole clams for chum. Clams are easy to cut up when frozen and they are fairly cheap.”
•Jigs yield fish in spring or fall. “Customers are using jigs with success particularly when they can keep them vertical in low current conditions. The jigs are tipped with crab and they allow you to create action when water is not moving,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.
Where’s the bite?
Tautog fishing is very good. Many anglers are limiting out with three fish, minimum size 16”. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Jason Christopher of Providence caught tautog to 22” this weekend using jigs. He and his party caught about 30 tautog, 12 of them were keepers. And when fishing on Flippin Out Charters, Amada Riffkin of Lincoln caught a 9.5 pound tautog that she released.” Many Charter Captains, like BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters, are encouraging customers like Amanda to release large female tautog that have great egg producing and spawning potential.
Dave Hess of Breachway Bait & Tackle said, “The tautog bite is very good from boat and shore. The fish are in 20 to 25 feet of water with green crabs and worms being the bait of choice.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle Warwick said, “The tautog bite is good, customers are catching them at Ohio Ledge, Conimicut Light and Plum Island light in North Kingstown. Green crabs and worms are working for anglers.”
John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “The tautog bites has been good at the Day Marker off Rumstick Point, Barrington and the fishing at Conimicut Light has been on and off for anglers. One customer caught sixteen keepers and released them all, the largest was 8.5 pounds off the Bridge in Barrington in the rain last Sunday.”
Striped bass fishing continues to improve along the coastal shore, in bays and estuaries and in the bay. Dave Hess of Breachway Bait & Tackle said, “Fishing has been great from the beaches, breachways and jetties with anglers catching school bass with 30” keepers mixed in. The worm hatch in salt ponds has started with anglers catching bass on flies and lures that mimic cinder worms.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle said, “It will not be long before we have the large fish here. Right now anglers are catching school bass, averaging about 20” in Greenwich Bay at Buttonwoods, Sally Rock and off Oakland Beach. Soft baits such as Storm Shads are working well and many are having good luck with the Rebel Jumpin Minnow and lures like it.”
I continue to find Yo Zuri Crystal Minnows pulled quickly through the water at a depth of 1 to 2 feet to work well. If your lures have treble hooks think about replacing them with inline hooks or snap off barbs to prevent damaging small striped bass.
John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait said, “One customer caught a 35” and 31” striped bass from the rocks off Narragansett. The fish were loaded with lice. Keepers have also been caught in the Bay and up the Barrington River. Anglers in river are floating worms, clam tongue and whole squid to catch keepers there.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Keeper fish are being caught in the Bay and along the all the way up the river to Pawtucket. They are in the 30” range, with a lot of school bass mixed in. Most anglers are catching then on surface or swimming lures.”
Fluke fishing is still slow as the water is still cold. The surface temperature in North Kingstown Saturday was 52 degrees when I was quahoging. As soon as we have a warm day or two the summer flounder are expected to get active. Both bait and summer flounder are in the area. It is just that they are not feeding. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Gill netters are caching fluke but commercial fishermen trying to catch fluke with a hook are having difficulty getting them to bite.”
Freshwater fishing. Dave Hess of Breachway Bait & Tackle said, “The trout bite in stocked ponds continues to be very strong and now that the water is warming the largemouth bass bite has been good too.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait and Tackle said, “Customers continue to catch trout at stocked ponds like Barber and Silver Spring Lake in North Kingstown. The largemouth bite has been good for customers at Gorton’s Pond, Warwick.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, said, “Willet Avenue Pond in Riverside continues to produce trout for anglers, and they are good size. The largemouth bass bite for our customers has been off, but now that the water is warming the largemouth bass fishing has improved a lot.” John Lavallee of Continental Bait & Tackle said, “Hats off to DEM. The trout bite has been so good in ponds stocked by DEM that even causal anglers are catching 2.5 pound trout. The trout bite at Curran Reservoir and the Pawtuxet River is good in Cranston.”
Dave Monti 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, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Follow Capt. Dave on twitter @CaptDaveMonti. He’ll be tweeting about ‘Where’s the bite’, fishing regulations, national fishing policy, and issues that impact the fish. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.