Top fishing stories of 2023


Fishing in 2023 was a mixed bag. Everything seemed to be delayed and/or extended this year due to warm water. In the spring, summer and fall the striped bass fishing was good, but the fish in shore were smaller than usual.  The summer flounder (fluke) season was sporadic with larger fish being caught and tautog fishing continued to be stellar.

Here are my top three fishing stories for 2023.

Big animals close to shore

Last year when participating in the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography Baird Symposium on Climate Change Impacts of Recreational Fishing, scientists and anglers alike related the impacts climate was having on the recreational fishing community.

For the past three years, we have seen a change in bait profiles in our region which has changed the fish we have in our area, many closer to shore than ever before. Exotic fish such as wahoo, enhance mahi, cobia, even a tarpon caught off Cape Cod this summer. And the larger animals such as sharks, porpoise, yellow and bluefin school tuna as well as giant bluefin tuna, sharks and whales are all here dining close to shore.

In early September, the top three fish in the Boston Bluefin Classic tournament came from Rhode Island with fish caught one to three miles off Scarborough Beach, Narraganset. The winning giant bluefin was 788 pounds.

Whale strikes were more frequent this year too. Many believe because the forage they like to eat is close to shore bringing whales and humans (ships/boats) in the same area more than ever before.

Another example of large animals close are sharks of all types. “When the thresher shark surfaced, its tail slapped the water into a froth a few times,” said Greg Vespe, former Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association executive director, who is in awe of thresher sharks and caught three this year on his 19 foot center console.

Vespe, of Tiverton, caught a couple of threshers last year also — one was 325 pounds and 11 feet, 4 inches long. “These fish are majestic,” he said. “Just so beautiful. They do not normally come up to your boat like other sharks do when fishing. So, to see them up close, you have to catch one. And each one is different. The fish we caught this week was down deep and it stayed down for the first 15 minutes. Then it leaped into the air clear out of the water.”

All of the thresher sharks caught by Vespe came from the same general location — Southeast of Newport and the mouth of the Sakonnet River in sight of land.

Striper fishing hot, but they are in trouble

Striped bass fishing was hot in Narragansett Bay, Buzzards Bay and the Cape Cod Canal this year but the fish have been a bit smaller than usual. Anglers caught keepers (28” to less than 31”) in our bays, estuaries, salt ponds, and out in front from Watch Hill to the Sakonnet River. Block Island lite up too, but it was hard to catch a keeper there as most fish were over 31 inches.

Anglers caught them with swimming and surface lures of all types, Atlantic menhaden chunks or live lining them, trolling tube & worm or umbrella rigs and the craze this year flutter spoons that drop through the water column to the bottom much like an injured fish.

So, in spite of all this catching going on, the striped bass stock is not healthy. They are overfished and re subject to overfishing.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and their marine coastal states from Maine to Virginia closed the public comment period of December 22 on Draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. Addendum II considers management measures designed to support stock rebuilding by reducing fishing mortality to the target level in 2024.

A copy of Addendum II can be found at Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission ( Tony Friedrich, vice president and national policy director, American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) said, “While we strongly supported the initiation of Addendum II, we believe that the potential outcomes of this action are not enough to ensure long-term striped bass sustainability and abundance. Five consecutive years of poor spawns out of the Chesapeake Bay should be on everyone’s minds as we consider Draft Addendum II and the future of this fishery.”

New recreational fishing policy and implementation plan

This year NOAA Fisheries released a new recreational fishing policy nationally with regional implementation plans. A center piece of the policy and regional plan is data modernization for recreational fishing.

Anglers in the Northeast are working with NOAA’s regional office, the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO), to work on data modernization plans which play a significant role in the agency’s new policy and regional plan. Other additions to this implementation plan include climate ready fisheries provisions, social environmental justice, data modernization as well as continuing to make fisheries sustainable in light of difficult climate impacts including shifting stocks, sea level rise, warming water and a host of others.

More to come on the data modernization effort and the new recreational implementation plan as it rolls out with angler input opportunities in the region.

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater fishing in stocked ponds for trout and salmon is pretty good with a fairly decent largemouth and smallmouth bass bite. For a complete list of trout stocked ponds in Massachusetts visit Mass Wildlife at Trout stocking report |  and in Rhode Island visit, or call 401-789-0281 or 401-539-0019 for more information on trout stocking.

Saltwater. Tautog, cod and black sea bass are being caught by anglers. Call ahead to make a party boat reservation for tautog and cod fishing, vessels generally sail between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and return in the afternoon. Visit, and Full day rates for vessels are generally $130 to $135 per adult and around $80 for those under 12 years old.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to or visit



No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here