In the Captains Own Words - an Article by Capt. Ron

Ron Onorato
Capt. Ron Onorato

..."At this time of the year, a mixture of cod, pollack, ling, blackfish, and occasional big flounder can be found here. Since there was a very weak current, we elected to drift rather than anchor.We had two rods baited with fresh skimmer clams, and two rods were rigged up with 8 ounce jigs and teasers. All were sent down in the 60 foot water depth as we drifted over some nice structure. Nothing much happened, so we set up for another drift. This time, the two jig rods got hit on the way down. After a spirited battle, an undersized cod came up, followed by a nicer keeper sized fish. Several more drifts produced nine keeper sized cod, so we headed to a very sticky piece of bottom nearby in the hopes of bagging a few blackfish or maybe some ling. We anchored on the spot and after weeding through the onslaught of bergalls finally got a nice little blackfish bite going, with a nice mess of ling in the mix.

Although bottom fishing at Block Island is a still a shadow of its former self, it still has its moments. The productive bottom holds cod, pollack, ling and blackfish in reasonably decent numbers from mid- March through most of May. Once the big fluke and striped bass show up, this fishing tends to thin out as the hordes of dogfish begin to make their presence known. The nice thing about fishing here is that you can target several different type of fish in the same general area.

I generally start out a trip looking for cod. You can find the fish in water as shallow as 50 feet and as deep as 150 feet. I have found that if there is still some forage as mackerel or herring in the water, it is more effective to use metal jigs than clam baits. Any of the popular jigs that imitate a mackerel or a herring will work. I like to use a combo rig consisting of a cod jig on the mainline with a teaser rigged some 15 inches ahead of the jig. I use a 6/0 Sproat type hook connected to the main line via a dropper loop. I add a plastic skirt to the hook and it is finished off with a jelly worm or grub. You send the whole thing to the bottom, crank in a couple of turns, and vigorously jig the rig up and down. Sometimes the fish will hit on the upswing, and other times they will grab it on the way down. If there are any pollack in the area, they can't resist this rig.

At times the cod will only take clam bait. The standard two hook bottom rig is most effective . One 6/0 Sproat hook is attached to the main line about a foot above the sinker, and a second hook is attached a foot above that hook. If there are some ling in the area, you can switch the hook down to a 4/0 size since the mouth of the ling is much smaller than the cod. It seems that the numbers of ling are definitely on the upswing, as more and more of these tasty bottom dwellers are appearing in the catches.

Also found in this mix is the blackfish. Although they are not found in the same numbers as the fall, there are enough of them around to make a nice day, especially when they are mixed with some cod and ling. The standard Virginia type hook, around a #4 or #3 will work fine. If there are any big flounders around, they will succumb to a #4 or #5 Virginia hook as well.

Among some of my favorite spots around Block Island at this time of the year includes the Appletree Grounds which is a series of obstructions that can be found about three miles south of the Island. The water depth can range from 90 to 100 feet and both cod and blackfish can be found here. Another great spot is called the Gateway area, and lies about four miles southeast of Block Island. The water depth is around 130 feet here and both cod and an occasional pollack can be found here.

When looking for flounder and blackfish, I tend to favor some of the more shallow water spots that lie in 40 to 50 feet of water right off the southwest corner of the Island. You can catch both species on the same anchor drop. Look for the high pieces and set up on that for the blackfish.If that doesn't produce, let out enough anchor line so that you are just on the edge. Put down a chum pot or crack some whole skimmer clams if the tide isn't screaming. There are almost always a couple of big flounder hanging around the edges. Sometimes there are little pods of small pollack that show up on these spots as well,

So if you are looking to fill the freezer with some tasty fillets for the summer, springtime at Block Island is the way to go.