It’s the dog days of summer. That period between July and August when bay water gets as warm as 76 degrees and warmer in low water coves and sanctuaries.
This Sunday the surface water temperature on Narragansett and Buzzards Bays was about 75 degrees, and the water temperature at Narragansett Pier was 73 degrees with an average July temperature being 67.6 degrees. And, this week as reported by anglers on the RI Saltwater Anglers Association blog, the surface temperature at Cox Ledge (over 20 miles offshore) was 76 degrees and 78 degrees at the Dump fishing grounds offshore.
So this year the water is very warm. When warm water occurs with poor flushing of our north facing coves and saltwater sanctuaries, or when we get an overabundance of rain, water oxygen levels may lower, adding to fishing challenges.
Bait fish leave the area when there is low oxygen and extreme heat along with the fish we like to catch and eat. They leave the area for cooler, deeper water that is well oxygenated. Fish such as black sea bass, scup, summer founder, even bluefish and striped bass may be hard to find in Bays and estuaries.
So, how do you catch fish when it seems like there are no fish to be found? As a charter captain I have often had to find fish for customers, family and friends even though the water was warm. Here are some tips on how to catch fish in Narragansett Bay and other estuaries during the dog days of summer.
Fish where the fish are
The key to fishing the dog days of summer is water movement ... the bay water is hot so you have to fish an area that gets flushed often and has structure or edges where water movement is brisk and often deep. This includes structure such as channel pads, under or near bridges, rock clusters, jetties, outcrops, points or peninsulas on land and wrecks.
The shipping channel in the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay from the southern tip of Prudence Island to Providence serves as a "fish highway" flushing that side of the Bay bringing bait and fish into the Bay. Places such as Warwick Neck; Providence Point, Sandy Point and the T-Wharf on Prudence Island; Poppasquash Point, Bristol; and Sally’s Rock, Greenwich Cove; as well as Quonset Point, North Kingstown all serve as natural structure that can whip water around them along with bait fish and the fish we like to catch. The Jamestown, Mt. Hope and Newport Bridges serve as manmade fish magnets, funneling water, bait and fish. And, talk about water movement, the Cape Cod Canal pushes water, bait and fish, at high velocity, often up to five knots.
So when the water is warm you have to take advantage of structure and fish where the fish are.
Fishing the bottom
Bottom fishing can be done on the drift or anchored near structure where there is water flow. Moving water is important so I like to fish two hours before or after a high tide. Some of my favorite places to bottom fish during the dog days of summer are the waters in front of or near Warwick Neck Light, Providence Point, at the northern tip of Prudence Island, and the southern tip of the Island at the T-Wharf.
I have also done well bottom fishing near the Jamestown and Newport Bridges. I often anchor or drift on Great Ledge, a half mile northeast of the Jamestown Bridge. In fact, this is one of my go to places to catch scup and black sea bass when I have children on board and it is important to hook them up with fish in minutes to keep their interest.
Fishing for summer flounder just north and south of the Newport Bridge is good too. Because the water flow is good, depending on the tide and wind I will either focus on the north or south side of the bridge. Both the east and west sides are good. The idea is to stay close to the bridge at the start or end of the drift. Strikes often occur on depth breaks and where the current is strongest near the bridge. ‘Out in front’ a good option
Another option for the dog days of summer is poking out into the ocean a bit to fish where the water is cooler, deeper and movement is greater. Ideal spots for this are Beavertail Point just south, southwest or south east of the point on rock clusters and ledges. Out in front of the west, center or east walls of the Harbor of Refuge as well as in front of Narragansett Pier. Or venture off of Newport to the Sakonnet River or off south county beaches if you can. Be safe and plan your trip when seas are predicted to be calm with no threat of thunder storms or fog.
Where’s the bite?
Summer flounder (fluke) and black sea bass. “We weighed in a 12 plus pound fluke this past week but no reports of the bite really turning on anywhere.” said Neil Hayes of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown. I fished two to three miles off the Sakonnet River mouth again this week and customers limited out with three sea bass each in the 18-22 inch range each time we fished there. Water movement and staying close to rock clusters was the key to success. “The black sea bass bite at Seal Rock and off Newport in general is good.” said Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, said, “Anglers are catching shorts along the southern coastal shore with not many keepers and south of Block Island the dog fish have left and all are waiting to see if the bite improves.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “The weather was on the hot side but the fishing this past week has been hotter. The sea bass have been plentiful and very good size. We had limit catches or near limits on nearly every trip. Some real quality fluke in the mix up to 10 pounds.”
Striped bass and the bluefish bite are excellent at Block Island. The challenge for recreational anglers is hooking up with a fish that fits the 28-inch to less than 35-inch slot limit. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor said, “Striped bass fishing is very good anglers are using eels at night and during the day as well as trolling umbrella rigs, tube & worm and jigging with success during the day.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle said, “Customers are catching striped bass off Newport in the Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge areas. Activity in the Bay is slow now.”
Offshore. “Tuna fishing is outstanding. So good both commercial and recreational angler are catching more fish than there is a market form.” said Matt Conti. Commercial fishing markets for just about all fish have been depressed due to COVID 19 and restaurants not opening in full force. Conti said, “We have a lot of bluefin tuna being caught just short of the canyons, and a lot of yellow fin, big eye and albacore being caught in the canyons.” 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. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at email@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.