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Weather to blame for a slow start to the fishing season

April 23, 2014

The opening of this year’s fishing season, albeit off to a slow start, has still seen good catches like this largemouth bass.

Spring came home and kicked winter out but apparently never locked the door. Cold rain and sleet have kept our water temperatures low, postponed the arrival of our precious striped bass and given lots of us a good case of the shrugs. Largemouths are being landed, trout are plentiful, fly fishermen are lining the rivers but it’s just not right yet. Edna St. Vincent Millay gave us “April is upon us, pitiless and young and harsh.” How true. As we know, April brings the wind just as nature intended, and much of it has been strong and off the water.

With the start of trout season, we shot right into spring with quick clearing skies and heads. Keeping or releasing, just seeing fish come over the rails really started us moving. With waters around Newport in the lousy forty-five degree range, up north of Tower Hill, the Providence River hovers in the low fifties, where there are schoolies to be caught. Just below the hurricane barrier, small stripers have been in residence, preferring those time-tested spring classics, like small buck tails and Cocahoe Minnows on quarter or half-ounce jig heads. River herring abound from Watch Hill to the top of Narragansett Bay so we know that means bass will follow, maybe this week.

We had some fishing for a few days and then the rains came. The Saugatucket gave up a few nice fish with stocked trout holding by the dam and a few more upstream, resting by the cemetery. One surprised fisherman landed an alewife in Worden Pond, which shows a population in residence and looking to feed. Hopefully they will spawn before heading back to sea through the Pawcatuck River and be back in a few years. A 3.5 pound Watchaug Pond bass was caught and returned during a small group’s regular Thursday night outing. Slowly reeling black over silver broken back minnows or jigging lazy senko worms just off the bottom seems to work best in cold waters. Fresh or salt, it’s all about low and slow this month.

On Monday, the R.I. Salt Water Anglers Association will hold their monthly meeting with a presentation by noted local surf fisherman, Steve McKenna. Steve’s fishing resume is extensive and a more personable man you will not find. Having landed more than forty bass over 40 pounds, Steve’s counsel on equipment, lures, locations and timing will be of great value when the big bass finally return to the beach. His talk will cover “Top Ten Artificial Lures for Striped Bass.” You can listen to Steve as a guest of a RISAA member or even better, join the organization.

Joining a fishing group may not be something you’ve considered, especially if you are the “I fish alone” type or you take the Groucho Marx approach to membership. Fair enough, but there is much to be learned from these meetings full of boat and shore fishermen. Plus, who can turn down a nice dinner of meatloaf and a tossed salad at the institution that is the West Valley Inn? Networking is essential for the business community, the same works on the water. There is also much to be done to keep our resources clean, healthy and available and many groups like this devote time to giving back.

A few surf rods have been seen near south facing beaches and there was some talk about decent bass on the Pawcatuck River but reports of any real striper catches have been very rare. Even our Old Faithful, the west wall in Galilee, has not turned on yet. Maybe this is nature’s way of giving us some pause. We waited a long time for waters to defrost, opening day was a gem and a few fish are nosing around here and there but with the waters being so cold, we are in a very short holding pattern.

Patterns in the natural world provide solid clues to attentive fishermen. Migration, spawning, mating, feeding; these are patterns we use to shape our mornings, travels and efforts. We use tides, a lunar pattern never to be overlooked, to choose our fishing times and locations. On the ponds, clear or stained water makes the decision for us whether to choose noisy crank baits or a soft plastic. These are the easy clues. Calls of whippoorwills on the Wood River are a pattern the wise will link to a mayfly hatch, maybe enticing browns to the surface. Casting has patterns, like conversations. They bend and twist, often falling or ending in places we did not intend.

The cooperative migration of herring, osprey and stripers is an obvious and important pattern even the casual observer can notice. Understanding that nature’s patterns change might be the best observation because when we begin to understand that we cannot understand it all, that’s when we learn to adapt. And catch more fish. We don’t have to necessarily understand, we just need to observe respect and adapt to the patterns often right in front of us. The streamer pattern your dad tied for you to catch early spring bass in salt pond shallows, the one that caught them all on a Thursday, will be left adrift on Saturday. It’s what happens and it’s why we shrug and keep going back for one more cast.

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