August means options in the Southern New England waters off the Connecticut and Rhode Island coasts. If you time things right and plan out your attack in an efficient way, you could realistically land black sea bass, fluke, striped bass, cod, porgies, blackfish, bluefish, false albacore, green bonito, Spanish mackerel, tuna, and several species of shark all in a single outing. Sure, you’re going to have to burn some fuel to accomplish such a feat, and sprinkle in a hefty helping of luck, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities this month!
Regulation Notice – Before I go any further, I want to pass along word of the recent moratorium on retention of shortfin mako enacted by NOAA Fisheries effective July 5, 2022. This final rule establishes a shortfin mako shark retention limit of zero in the commercial and recreational Atlantic HMS fisheries, consistent with the management measure adopted in 2021 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). If ICCAT provides for U.S. harvest in the future, NOAA Fisheries could increase the shortfin mako shark retention limit, based on regulatory criteria and the amount of retention allowed by ICCAT. Until that happens, the retention limit will remain at zero. Read the full description of the final action in the final and supporting Environmental Assessment online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/zero-atlantic-shortfin-mako-shark-retention-limit.
Ok, back to the fishing you can do right now.
Offshore, the tuna bite should be in full swing from the nearshore spots well on out to the canyons. Where you’ll find the best action is going to change from day to day but expect to see the larger bluefin off the Cape and the smaller, more manageable fish the further south you get. Expect to see some “exotics” popping up as well with wahoo and white marlin a possibility on any day. While these species are not my specialty, those who know how to target them based on what works to the south do well with out-of-town tactics. You would also be well-advised to keep some mahi gear onboard and at the ready for any trip offshore as they’ve saved more than a few trips! Mahi relate to most any FAD (fish aggregating device) from trees to high-flyers to weed mats and even something as small as a 5-gallon bucket. If you have the time, a stop at any floating object you encounter is worth a few minutes time as once you locate a mahi, it is never a solo fish. Live bait is tough to beat with peanut bunker netted back at the dock and loaded into the live well before starting the day just about the perfect option. When you approach a FAD, pitch a handful of peanuts in the direction of the structure and see if anyone is home; if you see flashes then stop and cast, if not then move on to the next one. Artificials are also productive, and a Spro Power Bucktail tipped with some sort of soft plastic is a good start. You can also get them on topwater, metal, swimmers and any sort of trolling lures meant for tuna.
As the month progresses, word of Funny Fish should increase with each passing day. The duo of false albacore and bonito have a dedicated following by inshore light-tackle specialists, and now is the time to start looking for them. The last few years have also seen large schools of chub mackerel when and where we’d expect to see albies and bonito, and there have even been some consistent-but-small bites of Spanish mackerel in select locales. Targeting all these speedy foes is simple but they have a way of driving anglers stark raving mad at times. They can be the easiest fish to catch one second, then for no discernable reason they get lockjaw, and you can’t seem to buy a hit no matter what you throw at them. I am not a funny fish obsessive angler, but I know just enough to get myself into trouble. The basic arsenal is comprised of epoxy-type jigs (my favorites include JoeBaggs Resin and Peanut jigs, Tsunami Forktail Candy jigs and Game On Exo jigs) and small soft plastics (Albie Snax and Zoom flukes are tough to beat!) Rig the soft plastics on both small jig heads as well as weightless on an EWG (extra wide gap) worm-style hook. With these two styles of lures, you can cover most any situation you’re likely to encounter. Rig up a 7-foot medium-light spinning rod matched to a quality reel and spooled with 10- to 20-pound braid topped off with matching fluorocarbon leader and you’re good to go. Accurate casts at breaking fish will put you on fish some days, but I’ve landed just as many if not more fish by blind casting into areas I see fish running through. I also try to lead breaking fish, especially with soft plastics, and let the fish come to my bait as it’s more natural to them than seeing their food come running into their mouths. One last note, as anglers tend to get excited when fish are blowing up, an air of courtesy should be followed as nothing will turn a case of Albie Fever into Albie Rage faster than motoring at top speed through an area where fish have been working!
For some low-key August action, it’s tough to beat a day of bottom fishing—especially if you have kids or a significant other that you’re looking to introduce to fishing. Whether on your own boat, or one of the many local head boat options, this is mixed-bag season with fluke, black sea bass, porgies, and a handful of others on the table. I used to take a fair number of late-summer fluke trips in Rhode Island, frequenting the head boat fleet in Point Judith almost every weekend some years. We fished both the beaches off South County from Watch Hill to Point Judith as well as off the south side of Block Island. While the hot tactic these days is to go lightweight and technical with jigs and Gulp, often the pool winner goes to someone fishing rental gear and dragging a fluke sandwich (squid strip over a silverside topped with another squid strip.) My best advice here is that if you already know your way around a fluke trip, then by all means use what you know. However, if you are new to this game or simply want to improve your success rate, then listen to the mates on the boat and follow their lead to a T. They do this every day and know what’s working. If they say jigs are the way to go, then rig up with jigs. But if bait has been producing, then follow their advice and bait up! I always pack a variety of Spro Power bucktails, fluke balls, Gulp, and different rigs for both artificial and bait. One tip I will pass along is to try to get your hands on some fresh tinker mackerel. Each mack gets filleted with the meaty parts being saved as strip baits while the remaining head and bones saved as its own bait. We dubbed this piece “Skeletor” back in the day, and I took some solid fluke over the years by fishing old Skeletor on my teaser hook set about 16 inches above a jig.
With so many options on the table, one of the most difficult choices in August lies in deciding what to target on a given day. Next month we start talking about the “Fall Run,” expect me to lay heavily on striped bass as they begin to feed heavily to fatten up for the migration south.