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Still A Nighttime Game
                         by Bill Nolan

 Surfcasting at night Rhode Island

     It was late October. I awoke at 11pm and headed down to the surf. I was armed with only my eels and my excitement, just as I had done all summer. My hunch was that I would be into bass in short order, considering all the bait I had seen in the daytime along the Southern Rhode Island shoreline. I was right. After climbing onto one of my favorite rocky perches, I began to cast and retrieve my eel slowly. It wasn't long before the first strike. After landing a 25 pound bass, I cast again, only to have my eel taken by another lineside of comparable size. This process went on for about two hours, with a total of seven bass landed. All of the bass were of decent size, ranging from about eighteen to thirty pounds. For the next week, I fished a later and later tide and tallied 31 bass in all, most of decent size. There have been many complaints the last several years about the fall striper action, that it just isn't the same. For the most part this is true. Daytime fishing as of late can't compare to what it once was. There is another trend I have also noticed. After mid October, most bass fisherman simply stop fishing when the sun goes down. This is born out of the notion that somehow because it is the "fall" you must change your fishing habits 180 degrees. Well, a secret that I have known for some time now is this: Don't stop your nighttime fishing. If you want a fish from the surf that will give the drag washers on your reel a good workout, then fish under the stars, just as you have done all summer. You won't see breaking fish in the daylight hours that we all associate with fall fishing but you will tally some nice sized bass. These hungry creatures prowl the shoreline in search of food under the cover of darkness. Over the last several years, I've noticed that most of the daytime action seems to center around school bass and bluefish. The bigger bass appear to come to boat anglers fishing a mile or so offshore, staying deep on their southward migration.

     Tactics for the fall are no different than summer, but there are some things you can do to up your score. First stay with eels, they are the best bait to be using for a trophy bass. If you prefer plugging, then stick with plugs such as mambo minnows, bombers and the like. Teasers are very effective companions to your plugs also, as the bait tends to run on the smaller side. Gone are the huge schools of ocean herring we once had, and the mullet run of the past few years has been mediocre at best. But eels are still safe, and we all know how effective they can be right up until the very end of the season. Gone are the halfhearted strikes of summer, fall bass hit eels with a vengeance! Hold on!


       In the fall I like to center my night fishing around inlets and breachways. These are the places where the most bait will gather and where the shore bound striper hound should concentrate his or her efforts. Most of Rhode Island's breachways are excellent for bass on a dropping tide, and once the bait starts dumping out, the adjacent shoreline is just as good. Two spots that I favor are Narragansett's Narrow River inlet and Charlestown's Quononchataug breachway. Both have great rocky shorelines adjacent to them which hold bait and are very productive areas to probe on a crisp fall night for trophy bass. The Galilee channel has some good night fishing for bass in late September and early October as well. The Cape Cod Canal is another hotspot in the fall and I like to fish it at night with jigs. In early and late November don't overlook Charlestown breachway on night tides. Speaking of jigs, all of the breachways in the Ocean State are worth a try with them on both tides. There is always something holding in the depths and I probe every inch! Other late fall spots include Watch Hill Light and Napatree Point. The rocky coast to the east of Weekapaug breachway also has been very good to me in the late fall and, in fact, the fishing in Westerly can last into early December.

      In the fall, whatever the fishing in the day is for surfcasters, it will be twice as good at night. Your odds for a big bass go way up if you stick to night fishing right through November. The other plus you will notice is all the elbowroom you will have. Most surfcasters that I know just don't fish the fall surf at night and this is a mistake. Remember that your only enemy to nighttime fall bass is storms and cold, and you can combat these if you dress accordingly. Once you start catching fish you will warm up fast! As for the storms, the good fishing usually returns once the seas calm down, as long as there is still time left. If your still hooking bluefish or hear of blues being caught around where you fish in the daytime, you can be sure there are still bass around ready and willing to pull your rod south!

      Try fishing at night this fall. Sling those eels and your fall will be a memorable one. While every one else is racing down the beach at daybreak complaining of the lack of big bass, you'll already have yours in the cooler! Nighttime fall bass, the ticket to a trophy striper! See you out there!

      Copyright Bill Nolan 2000.  No part of this article may be used except with written consent by the author.

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