Rhode Island’s coastal waters are prime hunting grounds for some of the most popular fish species. Striped bass are probably the most popular target (which is why that species is now protected by catch limits), but fishermen also love hunting the schools of bluefish, mackerel, and cod in the waters off Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
But those looking for the big game know they have to go deep, searching the depths of the underwater canyons and drop-offs for tuna (bluefin, yellowfin, albacore and bigeye), white and blue marlin.
Getting out to where the bottom drops off can take some doing–it’s a good 90 nautical miles out to the edge of the Gulf Stream, where these pelagics dwell.
Savvy fishermen know that some planning before launching an all-day trip out to the edge can provide a better foundation for success. First, make sure your boat is ship-shape and ready to run. Carry enough fuel to get you back home safely. Most importantly, always check and re-check the weather conditions and wind direction. Getting caught in bad conditions miles from shore is sure to wreck your day.
Beyond that, here are some helpful tips that will make your trip successful.
1. Check your tackle. When heading offshore, you should know the species you’re after. Before you go, review your tackle and make sure you have the right gear for the job. Whether you plan to fish with live bait, jigs, or lures, now is the time to make sure you have everything on hand and easily accessible.
2. Clean the leaders. Often overlooked, leaders can quickly become fouled with algae, nicks, or other things that could cause failure. Clean all your leaders with rubbing alcohol, plain saltwater, or even just a rag. Be sure that your spreader bars and other trolling equipment are hooked up correctly so they run true. Check and re-check for frays that could lead to sudden breakage when you’re hooked up with a large pelagic.
3. Know your knots. Every charter boat captain knows that the knot is the weakest link. Do some research and practice knot-tying before you head out to sea. Remember to wet your knots when cinching down and pull tight to avoid slippage. A bad knot tied tight is better than a good knot tied loose.
4. Keep a fishing log. Do you remember where you fished last year, and what you caught on each piece of tackle? If you kept a written logbook, you would have that data at your fingertips. Make it a habit to jot down weather, location, baits, and species caught for every offshore trip. It will give you a good place to start for the next time.
5. Safety first. Getting caught in bad weather when you’re miles offshore is no picnic. The time to double-check your communications systems, your charts, and all your safety gear, is before you head out. If you are going to be outside of cell range, it is a good idea to have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) or a Garmin InReach satellite communicator in case of an emergency. Be sure to make sure you have all the necessary life jackets, safety, and emergency equipment, including up to date documentation of your vessel and your licenses.