The long, lonely winter is over and across the Northeast the best fishing holes are beckoning again
Finally - after another long, snowy, rainy, chilly winter - it's now time to get back to boating and fishing. Anglers from all over New England ready their boats for that first trip for whatever finny pursuits are in their home waters.
Folks in southern Maine might head down the Saco River bound for Tanta's Ledge, a hill not far offshore, to jig for keeper cod - one of many bumps available to the near-shore fisherman. It may pay to look at what way the tide is running and try the uptide side of the hill, the fish lining up there to see what the current is bringing their way, just like stripers in a tide rip. You might also check around the base of the hills, looking for fish marks where the hill flattens out into softer bottom, that junction sometimes holding the biggest fish of the day.
People like Dave Jermain of Manchester, Mass., are readying their boats for the first trip to Stellwagen Bank, many on the water by the end of April into mid-May. They target cod and haddock in the shoal water atop the bank, some following the fish down into deeper water on the east slope as the water warms.
Many use the traditional jig and tube teaser, jigging and drifting while others like Capt. Al Anderson have made good-to-excellent catches by anchoring down, fishing a two-hook rig with clam bait on the bottom hook and a Red Gill on the top hook. The rig is lowered to the bottom with a sinker of enough weight to tend the bottom. The current pushing past the Red Gill causes the tail to wiggle, mimicking a sand eel, one of the prevalent baitfish around in the spring. Capt. Al adds to the catch by chumming with fresh mussels he buys from a commercial house in Rhode Island, the cracked mussels sinking to the bottom in the 90- to 110-foot depths he normally fishes, drawing fish to either the hook baited with fresh clam or the wiggling Red Gill.
Rhode Islanders are now out and about, chasing the first schoolies in upper Narragansett Bay from Prudence Island to the Seekonk River. Veterans like Capt. Charley Soares, fishing on the east side of the Mount Hope Bridge in Mount Hope Bay, usually catch their first keeper in nearby river systems by the third week of April and then go on to enjoy bumper catches of small-to-medium bass by May 10, sometimes casting in the early morning, then trolling the tube and worm on lead core line as the sun gets higher later in the morning.
Farther down the Rhode Island coast, anglers in small boats are looking for their first bass in the Salt Pond by Point Judith with traditional spots like the Narrows, the side channel off Strawberry Head and the entrance of the Potter Pond Channel into the Salt Pond, producing bass of various sizes.
Every once in a while, somebody out for their first schoolie nabs a big fish, probably a winter holdover. Thirty-plus-pounders have been caught early in the season off the West Wall of Point Judith Harbor, the headwaters off the Narrow River above the Route 138 bridge and Napatree Point, the early fishing at the latter spot now a bygone deal, the fishing realistically starting around mid-May.
Kayakers and other small boats will be out on Ninigret and Quonny Ponds along southern Rhode Island as well as the Pawcatuck River, the boundary between Rhode Island and Connecticut. Old timers will tell you the fishing in the latter spot used to start sometime at the end of March to April 15, but the last few seasons haven't seen much activity until April 24-28 - maybe the victim of cool, wet springs that hold down the water temperatures.
Along with smaller bass, anglers casting small plastic lures or small poppers often catch small blues, those first few showing up sometime between May 5 and May 10.
On Cape Cod, anglers look for the first bass sometime in May along the bayside beaches like Sunken Meadow or maybe a trip for flounder off the Pamet River or other spots on the Cape's bay side. As May wears on, boaters look for mackerel schools to show up off the east end of the Cape Cod Canal on up through Gurnet Point near Plymouth, the macks adding variety to a season that is picking up momentum.
This article originally appeared in the New England and Connecticut/New York Home Waters Sections of the May 2010 issue.
Tim Coleman died May 3, in Weekapaug, R.I., doing what he loved to do best at that time of year: scouting the salt ponds and outer beaches for spring striped bass. He was an exceptional saltwater angler and a prolific writer. Thousands of readers lost an advocate and authentic storyteller for fishing in the Northeast, and anyone fortunate to have known Tim lost a good friend.