June is a time for bigger fish in the waters of Connecticut and Rhode Island, with striped bass, bluefish, fluke and even tuna showing in quantity and quality as each day passes.
Beginning with striped bass, expect to see a shot of potentially enormous striped bass drop out of the Hudson River and move through Long Island Sound this month. I did some research a few years back and documented an astounding number of 50-, 60- and even 70-plus-pound striped bass caught over the years between the last moon of May and the first one of June. Most of these oversize fish were caught around substantial bait sources—bunker schools, porgy spawning grounds, etc.—and were always caught on bait of some sort. Keep in mind that the use of inline, non-offset circle hooks is required when targeting striped bass with natural bait (live or dead), and there is a slot limit for keeping striped bass with a 1-fish bag between 28 and 35 inches only.
If you happen to miss the school of super bass, or you just want to have some fun catching, the areas in and around the mouths of the large rivers of Connecticut (the Housatonic, Connecticut, and Thames) will attract and hold bass from small schoolies to fish of 20 and even 30 pounds this month. The bass can be found feeding on bunker and river herring, so mimicking these baits with the likes of large spooks and soft plastics will be your best bet for success. Light tackle action can be had around the new and full moons in smaller estuaries and tidal rivers in connection with the “worm hatches.” Not actually a hatch but a mating event, striped bass from little rats to 20 or 25 pounds can be found gorging on 3- to 4-inch cinder worms in calm backwaters from dusk to dawn. The bite can be maddening at times as the fish become extremely selective some nights, but small flies with red bodies and black heads, as well as the 3-inch Slug-Go in red, black, and even bright pink can fool them.
While the first Rhode Island stripers are usually landed somewhere along the South County beaches each spring in April, June is when the action really improves, and fish spread across the state. The rips off Watch Hill, the waters inside Narragansett Bay from Beavertail on up to and into the Providence River, and the Newport coast on over to Buzzards Bay all seem to have and hold bass this month.
Like the bite in Connecticut, when you find the bait, you will find the bass. My plan of attack this month in Rhody is straightforward as I begin each trip by filling the live well with bunker (either by way of snag hook or cast net) and then bounce around looking for schools of fish on the electronics. When a school is located, a live bait is dropped down, either free-lined or on a 3-way rig, and I do not spend a lot of time with a given school if I do not find success in short order. If the fish are not schooled up tightly, or if they do not react positively to the baits, slow trolling the same live baits can be productive.
As June rolls on, work your way from the upper Bay and Watch Hill on out towards Block Island, and be sure to head towards the Island by the week of the 4th of July as this is when the real fun begins, but we’ll dive deeper into that next month.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention bluefish in June as this is when they usually arrive in Southern New England, albeit in far fewer numbers and quite inconsistently in recent years. First up there is a body of fish that comes down from the north and east, following schools of squid moving inshore to spawn. The other biomass makes its way from the south side of Long Island and either works around Montauk or through Peconic Bay. This second wave of fish follow porgies as they migrate inshore to spawn, and I have experienced outstanding action at times in Peconic Bay with some of the biggest blues of the season being caught on evening into night tides. This bite is a bit more consistent than the one seen in Rhode Island and expect fish from 10 pounds to nearly 20 in the mix. While it’s tough to beat some sort of chunk bait—bunker, mackerel, herring or even squid—I prefer the fun of diamond jigging on light tackle for these gear-busting choppers. Bluefish get a bad rap from many anglers but hooking into a 10-plus-pound fish on a diamond jig fished on a medium rod and 20-pound braid is an experience you will not soon forget.
June is also the real start of bottom fishing as fluke season is now well underway, black sea bass opened back on May 19 in Connecticut water and opens by month’s end on June 24 on Rhode Island, and porgies are everywhere. Starting in Long Island Sound, fantastic black sea bass action will be taking place in the waters off Clinton. Keep in mind that the season remains closed in New York waters until the end of the month, so you may not be in possession of, or actively target black sea bass once you cross the border. That said, staying on the Connecticut side of the Sound will put you into plenty of fish. Baited rigs with clams, squid or any accessible bait works fine on black sea bass, but I prefer to target them with artificials. Traditional diamond jigs are a good start, but fancy speed jigs, slow-pitch jigs, butterfly jigs and the likes fill my sea bass tackle kit. Spaced about 20 inches above the jigs I add a dropper with either a Gulp saltwater grub or Z-Man Doormatadorz pinned on a simple baitholder hook. While the bait often produces numbers of fish, the jig-and-teaser combo produces the bigger fish.
Fluke fishing has been hit or miss the past few years, and it has been especially so inside Long Island Sound. Better action is generally had on the New York side of the Sound with the waters from Southold out to Montauk producing a decent bite early. Every time I’ve fished these waters in the spring, small sand eels have been the primary forage.
In Rhode Island, expect to find two distinct groups of fluke this month with one holding off Block Island’s south side, and the other making a quick run inshore to the waters off Misquamicut. Usually, the bigger fish are caught off Block early on, but I know of enough doormats landed inshore in June not to rule it out. On average, however, you will see the smaller fish closer to the mainland.
Once again, bait rigs like the old ‘fluke sandwich’ (a squid strip over a silverside over another squid strip) will put some fish in your cooler, once again I find that artificials really shine. My fluke rig is like my sea bass rig with the only modification being on the terminal end as I swap out the metal jig for a more traditional bucktail jig like the JoeBaggs Flukie. I tip both jig and teaser hook with the Gulp or Doormatadorz.
Lastly, June is also a time to start looking east beyond the horizon. Bluefin tuna usually arrive in local waters this month after making their way up from the south, but the bite can be very sporadic. Early last June I ran into several schools of lockjawed-bluefin just south of the Windmills while wreck-bouncing for cod, and a few days later I got word of several boats boating a handful of bluefin, but it wasn’t until much later in the month and into July that the bite got good, so I’ll touch more upon tuna in next month’s installment.