And just like that, leaves are falling. Barely September and that north wind is blowing back in windows for months hidden by shades and drying out dark garage corners where snow shovels lie forgotten. For now. That north wind has brought in bonito and bonita and pretty chub mackerel. Stripers are considering migrating, poachers are stealing all they can and the federal government thinks open pit mining on top of salmon runs is a great idea.
The most welcome news over the last few weeks has been the arrival of bonito and bonita. As a refresher, bonito have those long horizontal stripes and bonita, aka false albacore, funny fish and fat alberts, have a few of those lines crowned with the most magnificent iridescent colorings up to their dorsal fins. Both are all muscle, are members of the Scombridae family, have smaller finlets toward their sterns and both will wear out a reel or spin your kayak around in circles. They’ve made showing along many south facing beaches from Westerly to Brenton Reef but as is their stubborn nature, they disappear as quickly as they arrive.
Rods need to be stout and knots tight. Bring a pair of dice; luck seems to have lots to do with finding them. Mike Wec, now famous for his Wicked Wec rig, found the bonito in Buzzards Bay. Throwing an Al’s Goldfish Saltwater Series spoon, he picked up four nice ones from his boat by keeping the lure about three feet below the surface. It’s the little adjustments which create great fishermen and women.
Jeff Amerson found the bonita. He’s a tough fisherman who takes his kayak all over, even where charter boats think kayaks don’t belong, like where he’s finding fish. Jeff used a light green epoxy jig to fool one of the local waters fastest fish. Undoubtedly the best part about his catch is his sheer joy in catching one. Fishing has a way of returning grown men and women into happy kids again with a tug of the line, especially when there’s a rocket ship on the other end that’s uninterested in visiting a kayak. Cheers to Jeff and Wicked Wec for good days on the water.
Atlantic chub mackerel have also made an appearance.
Also members of the same scromber species, many will remember them as tinker mackerel. There was a time on Block Island when schools of them would fire through Great Salt Pond, all the way to the back salt pond corners, tearing through shallow waters like they owned the place. Not many will eat mackerel these days but for old school fishermen with backyard smokers, they’re a treat, albeit a bit bony. Bonito and bonita should stay around for a few more weeks, hopefully into late September; mackerel move with own rhythm. Bonito tend to scatter when albies show up to feed on the same bait but can make a second appearance if waters stay clear. Any one of those predicted or random storms can churn up inshore waters enough to force both species to move offshore so as fast as the arrive, they’re gone with a north wind.
The least welcome news was yet another arrest of thieves to the striper fishery. Robert Majors, age 41, of Bristol and Peter Parente, age 53, of West Greenwich were arrested by DEM environmental police officers for being in possession of 38 striped bass. The two Massachusetts commercial fishermen were charged with 37 counts of exceeding the daily possession limit of one fish per day, and with 38 counts of failure to fin clip striped bass found in their possession. Majors and Parente are scheduled to be arraigned in September. Too bad most of us have to work an honest job and can’t be there in court to tell how we’d like to see them punished.
Based on social media chats, they’re lucky DEM got to them first and that penalties haven’t caught up to the level of severe yet.
Striper fishing has been predictably unpredictable. Big bass have come and gone through west of Block Island but there’s been plenty just south and east of Newport. A few crafty ones have found schools in the upper Narragansett Bay but they’re on the move. That’s fish and wise fishermen. Brian Hall left to go sharking only to face seven foot seas and a quick adjustment to chase stripers. Based on the way he had to heft his catch for the celebratory catch, they caught some beasts. Thom Houde has accelerated his paddle to the top of the Striper Cup leaderboard. Thom must leave a puddle of sea water under his work desk considering how much time he spends on the water. The man is a striper magnet.
5500 miles west should be right on our radar screens. The disturbing application to create an open pit mine on top of the world’s most prolific and important salmon fisheries has been given a pass by this administration’s EPA. That’s the agency that protects our environment. Theoretically. By appointing big wig fossil fuel industry lobbyist Davis Bernhardt to head the agency, the EPA is wiggling out of a critical conversation about destroying one of our planet’s richest fisheries, not to mention the sheer beauty of the land. EPA’s own threat review showed, “99 percent of all comments were in favor of up-front protections for the Bristol Bay region.”