Advice From the Trenches

Gone Fishin’

With summer quickly approaching, I imagine there are some readers who would like to learn to fish — that age-old skill and pastime. I have learned a lot in the last eight years or so, mostly through trial and error. I have taken suggestions of conventional wisdom that didn’t work, and tried oddball tactics that did. You never know what might bring you the catch of a lifetime. Luck certainly plays a part, but for most anglers, the strategies and tactics evolve as much as the environment does.  To be successful at catching fish, you need to be in tune with Mother Nature, or just have a little luck. Here are some of the helpful tips that I’ve picked up over the years that improved my luck.  And since we are the Ocean State, I will focus on saltwater fishing.
Our coastlines are ripe with the potential of the catch of a lifetime.  A monster striper, or cow, as they are often called, could be fighting at the end of your line upon your next cast. It is mostly just a matter of using the right tackle at the right time.
Saltwater fishing is heavily reliant on the tide. Arrive at your spot about an hour before high tide, or any time up to about an hour after it goes back out. Otherwise, you’ll be casting in vain because there will be few or no fish in the area.  It is not like a freshwater pond where the fish remain there all day.
I find that medium-sized lures made of soft or hard plastic produce most often with stripers. I have the most success with a white or light green presentation. If bluefish are running through, they will strike just about anything. They have sharp teeth and tear soft plastic lures to shreds. If your rubber lures are coming back torn up, either switch to hard plastics, or keep using the soft ones because they are attracting fish. Just know that the soft plastic lures you bought will probably get destroyed. They are, however, relatively inexpensive, so I usually just keep ripping through them.
Cast your lure out as far as you can and reel it back in over and over again. When you get bored, try a few more casts. You’ve probably heard that fishing requires patience, and it does. Just slow down and get into it. Try to reel the lure in at varying speeds and depths, never letting the line slack.  Be careful not to get stuck on the ocean floor. If you do, you may have to cut your line and tie on a new lure. Work the middle/top of the water column until you are comfortable enough to let it sink lower.
A piece of conventional wisdom that I have found to be true is that darker colored lures work better in darker water, and lighter colored lures work better in clearer, lighter water. If you have worked a section of water for a while with no results, move on to another spot, or try a different lure. Maybe the one you are using is too big or not bright enough, or maybe there are no fish in the area.
I usually stop at the bait shop before I go saltwater fishing. I bring two poles — one to cast lure and one to throw out bait. When I get tired of one tactic, I switch to the other. Sandworms almost always produce results for me, and they attract a wide variety of species. Most often I catch scup, flounder and sea robbins with these ugly little creatures, but stripers and blues go for them as well. Just remember: They have pinchers on their front end that you’ll want to cut off. Your hands will get bloody and slimy; fishing with bait gets pretty messy, but the results can’t be beat. Tie a two-ounce weight about a foot and a half above a medium sized hook, then feed the length of the hook through the sandworm. Cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, then lightly reel until there is tension on the line from the sinker. Hold the rod in a manner that keeps the tension so you can feel if there are any tugs.  Now you’re in business.
Wait for something to take the bait; you will know when it does. Resist the temptation to set the hook right away because you will likely just pull it right out of the fish’s mouth.  You will usually feel some tugs, but wait until there is a consistent pull before you set the hook. If you manage to get a fish on, reel it in at a pretty consistent pace and do not let any slack form in the line. That is when the fish usually frees itself from the hook.
The Charlestown Breachway, Beavertail State Park, The West Wall at East Matunuck and India Point Park are some popular spots to fish. You may, however, want to do a little research and get off the beaten path.  You will share space with fewer fishermen that way.
You will need to get a saltwater fishing licence, which can be done online for a nominal fee. Check for regulations, keeper sizes and bag limits. I recommend asking for advice from the clerk at the baitshop. They know where the action is and should be happy to advise you on what to use.  You can also check for updated news on where it is popping off.  Good luck.