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Rhode Island's

by Tom Keer In season,Point fudith smells of boxed fish ready for the Boston

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and Providencemarkets, fried clams and steamers, and an occasional puff of smoke from the Block Island Ferry. Point Judith is an old, working harbor. \7hen the seasonopens there are tuna boats that leavein the middle of the night to make their long runs. The draggersand trawlers usually leavea bit after that, and head boats generaily leavePort slightly before sunrise. Pleasure boats launch mostly after sunrise, but some are out all night. There is hardly any traffic on the road at 0300 this lateAugust morning and what few cars are around have oulled into the cofGe shops. Weathermen haven't commented about summer nearing its end, but this morning I can feel it. The humidiry is lower, the winds are variable and are more consistently from the north. The temperature is colder at night and the days are clean and hot. All of the horseshoe crabsthat died in the spring havewashed away.The immature alewives,the bay anchovies,and the blue-backed menhaden have shown up, and the gannets will be around beforetoo long. It is a transitional time and I Feelthe shifr coming. At the Route 108/l junction there is a Mobil station that was built with fishermen in mind. It is open 24-hows a day, has plenry ofroom for trucks and trailers, and has good coffee. For many yearsthere was an old charter captain named Bobby who used to hang out at night, drink coffee, gather the current fishing reports and passthem along to anyone who would listen. Most fishermen did, except for the oneswho preferred to go offon their own.

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Sometimeswhile I was fishing Id seehim walking the dock fingers around Point Judith watching for striped bass.fhe fall came and I staltedhuntir.rg,and when the wind kicks up as I head out in beween the \fest and the Center \7alls. I seea lot of flashlights on tl.re beach at Deep Hole and since itt Wednesday mornir.rg I suspect it must be one of Kenney Abrarnes' groups.Abrames takesgroups fishing everyTuesdaynight for free.Sonetimes there are only a few people, other times tl-rere area few dozen, ar-rdhe teachesthem about bait and about the moon and the tides ar.rd the fish. Sharing ir.rformationand stories is a decent thing to do, and l-repostslocations of his weekly outings on his website ar www.srripclmoon.com. Historically,Matunuk hasbeenamong a few areasthat fishermen find the earliest striped bass in the spring, and Deep Hole is a favorite spot. There is a long beach that ends in a rock garden irnd ther.r drops offinto a dozen or so feet ofwirter


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and spooked when they saw our boots. tWethen fished the same water from my boat, casting our flies right onto the beach, and as quick aswe skittered them into the water a fish was on. The tide was falling, the wind blew southwest and the fish would probably move into the wind. That meant the bass would follow the beach to Deeo Hole. which was why Abramesand his group were whe re they were on the beach, and alsowhy the rwo boats were working the rock garden.There was enough room for another boat, but I didn't want to crowd these anglers so I left my lights on and drifted with the current and watched both the beach and the boats. The beach fishermen were all hooked up. By watching I could seethey weren't casting very far. When the wind blew softly I could hear them joking around and laughing. Every now and then a flashlight lit up for a moment and then turned off. At one point all of the flashlightswent on and clusteredaround one sDorisomeone must havebeacheda good fish. I watched the rwo boats drifting. They were a few hundred yards apart and when the first boat fished out his drift the captain stalted his engine, backed out, putted forward to the top of the drift, killed the engine and drifted again. 'When they crossed the middle of the rock pile they would hook up, so the bass were holding tight to the structure. As I got closer I recognized both boats. The first was PeterJenkins from the Salrwater Edge in Newport, and the secondwas Roe Laboissere,a charter captain out of Ocean House Marina in Charlestown. There were a few other olacesI wanted to check out. At this time of year there probablywouldnt be many fish in Ninigret or Quanny Ponds.The bait would be there, and therewould be shad,but it was probably too warm to hold bass.The saltponds are firn in the early seasonwhen the bass just get in and they are also fun during the worm hatches.A 35-pound basswas taken out of Ninigret last year on a clam worm, and with the campground situated on the saltpond and out of the wind it is a perfect area to fly fish from a kayak. The beachfront along Five Cottages might have some bass,and when the sun came up there could be some bluefish and maybe some bonito or falsealbacore, too. The run down to Weekapaug and on to Watch Hill usually promises the same kind of fish, and the Watch Hill Reef is very well known in the spring


and the early sLlmmer when the squid are in. It gets a bit crowded down there when the bonito and the albiesshow up. I figured I would cruise around the wallsof PointJudith, take a northerly tack toward Newport, and fish the rock garden by PointJudith Lighthouse. It is classic striped bass water up there, with ScarboroughBeachon one side,a gradual sloping rock garden in the center, and some rocks and beach intelspersed beri,veen.There is a long offshore bar that would probably hold some fish, and if it w a s a t o r a l h u s r I c o u l d c o n t i n u eo n u p to Barrington and fish the rocks. There are beaches,saltponds, rock gardens,ledges,boulderfields, reefs,rips and jetties in South County, and they are all close by. It is as diversewater as a fishermenwill flnd anyr,vhereand is concentrated in a very small place. Even the run to Block Island is only a dozen miles offshore. And many fishermen will wade fish the South County water, the n catch the last ferry for Block Island. I like having lots of options when I go fishing. Falsedawn was upon me. A few black-backedgulls and a bunch ofterns started prowling for breakfast-and I had nothing but opportuniry on my side.

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Fishing Rhode Island's South County by Tom Keer originally printed in Fly Fish America