What Is Happening to RI’s Stripers?
Log entry, July 15:
“Sandeels by the millions have hit Narragansett Beach and the stripers have found them. Landed 32 bass on teasers and swimmers from shore. Most of the fish went 5-8 lbs., but had a number of keepers in the 10-12 lb. range. Action began around dusk and continued till about 11 PM. Fish rolling all along the beach in the surf line.”
No, this is not from this year. The year was 1993, almost twenty years ago. That summer I would head to the Cape to catch loads of keeper bass from shore at Chatham. I would also fish such Gansett spots as the East Wall, Point Judith, the Avenues, Narrow River, and Galilee. It seemed like every spot had fish. I would go on to tally 215 stripers in just that month of July.
My, have we fallen on bad times. Most good surf fishermen I know are reporting about the worst fishing they have ever experienced along the mainland Rhode Island shore this summer. In fact, many striper fishermen in RI have either given up until fall, cut way back on their outings, or have turned to fishing for other species. Here’s what I think is going on.
Lack of fish – No question, the numbers of schoolies, fish under 28 inches that have made up the bulk of our summer fishing in past years, are way down in numbers. Keeper bass are also way down in places close to the mainland, but seem to be in abundance way out along Block Island. There are also scarce numbers of resident fish. In the past we would have places that would consistently produce all summer long because resident fish would reside there. Not any more.
Warm water – Our water temperatures have risen to unseen levels this year because of the record warm winter and very warm summer. Right now, according to a NOAA site I visit, the water temperatures in the Bay and along the oceanfront range from 73-82 degrees. I suspect these temperatures are driving stripers and baitfish out to deeper water and farther north. Those fish that have moved out will not return until the fall.
A False Sense in Spring – Most fishermen were all excited when spring fishing got off to a great start in late March and early April. With good numbers of migrating schoolies around, everyone was doubting the predicted shortage. It was short-lived, and it all dried up as we moved into summer. The truth is that we have been on a trend of decreased numbers of stripers for the last five summers and the trend continues downward for whatever reason.
Will the Season Turn Around this Fall? – Yes. Once again, the last five years show that fall is by far the best time to fish the mainland shore in Rhode Island. We seem to get a lot of migrating baitfish from bay anchovies to peanut bunker to ocean herring and that all coincides with the striper and bluefish migration. I think late fall from mid-October into early December will be the prime time.
So, for now, put up with the poor striper fishing or try for other species of saltwater fish such as bluefish, scup, and fluke which are fairly abundant. Or, give freshwater a try. Better striper fishing is coming, but you will have to wait a couple of months for it to happen.