Steve Brustein of Rhode Island and Mike Weaver of New Hampshire with some of the tautog they caught off Newport in October.

I step on the dock, and that intangible essence of what boating and fishing brings to me turns on. I have tried to put my finger on it for years.

It’s the fact that you are outdoors, in nature, and can observe firsthand what nature brings. It’s the exhilarating feeling of getting a bite and having your line start to peel off. And, it’s the hunter instinct in us that is satisfied by bringing your catch home for your family and friends to eat. But, most importantly to me, it is the joy that spending time with family and friends brings. The one-on-one time that fishing creates.

I once took a friend and his 16-year-old son fishing. He thanked me the following week and said, “You know it wasn’t about the fish that we caught, it was all about the quality time I got to spend with my son. We haven’t spoken that much in a couple of years.”

These are the types of bonds that fishing builds.

So I am grateful for the fishing opportunities that this year brought. And I look forward to next year, working hard to catch fish, bringing a fishing experience to others and doing everything I can to put fish first for the future so that there are plenty of them in the water for our grandchildren and great grandchildren to catch and eat or release.

Hot bites I am thankful for:

Strong tautog bite

Arguably, it was the best tautog fishing season in years, and by the way, last year was a good year too. Tautog are a very slow growing fish and can live for 35 to 40 years. This year there were quite a few large fish over 22 inches (legal size in MA and RI is 16 inches). There were plenty of 16- to 22-inch fish, too, and many undersized fish below 16 inches. This abundance is a good sign for the fishery, but anglers will likely overfish this year because tautog were so abundant and relatively easy to catch. The season is open until Dec. 31 with a five fish/person/day limit and a 10-fish boat limit.

Holy mackerel

Another surprise this year were the mackerel. Boston mackerel, also called Norwegian mackerel, Scottish mackerel or just mackerel, were here in greater abundance. Spanish mackerel and chub mackerel (named “chub” because it is chubbier than most mackerel) all made an enhanced appearance in northeast waters off Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

We have had mackerel in our waters before, but this year (and last) they appeared in greater abundance. Mackerel spends the warmer months close to shore and near the ocean surface, appearing along the coast in spring and departing with the arrival of colder weather in the fall and winter months.

However, many believe the abundance of mackerel in our area is due to climate change, because they seek our cooler water compared to states south of us.

Summer flounder (fluke) fishing

Summer flounder (fluke) fishing was on and off this year. Some days, the bite was on in the Block Island Wind Farm area and some days, the bite was off. The best fluke fishing was in June this year, both in our bays and out in front along Rhode Island’s ocean coast line off Narragansett, Pt. Judith, Charlestown and Westerly.

The best bite was off Montauk and Fisheries Island, New York. After June, fluke fishing in general was good one day and bad the next without any consistent positive pattern, but those who went fluke fishing and stuck with it were often rewarded with a nice doormat-sized fish and a great black sea bass bite.

Black sea bass and scup

Black sea bass and scup were caught in abundance this year in our local waters with Buzzards Bay exploding once again this spring with a great black sea bass bite. Larger and larger fish were caught this year, including 15-inch scup and black sea bass in the low 20-inch range were more common than ever. The abundance of both of these species in our waters can directly be attributed to climate change and warming water. These warm-water fish have moved into our area in abundance because our water is now warmer than ever before.

Striped bass bite weakens

Striped bass fishing in the Cape Cod Canal was good once again this year. However, fishing off Massachusetts and Rhode Island found an abundance of small school size bass, but the larger fish were not so abundant. Striped bass are overfished and overfishing is occurring according to the latest stock assessment so coastwide a mandatory 18 percent reduction is in play for 2020. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved one fish/angler/day in the 28” to 35” slot size limit, however, the Commission is now reviewing conservation equivalency proposals from coastal states.

Our oceans give us so much to be thankful for. As the holiday season is upon us, let’s take time to give thanks for their bounty and for the joy that they bring us throughout the year.

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass: Fishing has softened at the Cape Cod Canal and off the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coastal shore. Canal angler and author Ed Doherty said, “There were no fish to be found yesterday (Tuesday) as I worked my surface plug in the east end on a west dropping tide. The gear now gets put away until spring.”

Tautog fishing: Tautog fishing continues to be good but not as good as it was earlier this month and in October. We fished off Newport last week and caught fish to 20 inches but did not catch an abundance of keeper size fish. The areas we tried had fish, but the larger ones were gone and smaller fish remained there in abundance.

“When we were able to get out tautog fishing continues to be strong,” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said. “We worked closed to home on the blackfish trips and found good results. Many limit catches and some quality fish.”

Cod fishing continues to improve. Angler Rich Hittinger said, “Four of us fished south of Block Island on the East Grounds and rock piles south of Block Island and managed to catch twelve nice keepers last week. We also caught and good number or large black sea bass.” Not many boats this week due to high seas, winds and bad weather but when boats are getting out they are finding fish. Party boats sailing for cod this time of year include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com , the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.

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