Fishing the Block Island Wind Farm
September 14, 2017
The other day, friend Tyler Adams and I had the opportunity to fish around the wind farm towers that were recently installed off the southeast tip of Block Island. Our guide was veteran fishermen Capt. Chris Willi of Block Island Fishworks, who fished aboard our Pursuit S280, which we had launched in Pt. Judith earlier in the day.
As Willi explained, the wind farm towers are already serving as an oasis of life on an otherwise flat and featureless bottom. In just over a year and a half since their installation, the submerged legs have gathered marine growth such as mussels and aquatic vegetation that provide food and shelter for various species of fish, among them sea bass, tautog, scup, fluke, bluefish and occasionally striped bass. In the future, Willi expects the structure to also hold mahi, false albacore, striped bass and possibly even tuna. It’s only going to get better!
Willi, Adams and I started at Tower 1, the easternmost of the 5 towers, where we dropped ½ oz. metal jigs to the bottom. We were careful to account for the current direction, so that we would drift away from the tower rather than into the structure. Judging by the sounder screen, there was plenty of life on the bottom in 90’ of water, and it didn’t take long to hook the first fish, a large scup and several small sea bass.
After 2 drifts, we moved on to Tower 3, where we uncovered a pile of larger sea bass. Willi explained that the sea bass often school by size, so if you are only hooking sub-legal fish at one tower, try different towers until you find some keepers.
With so many sea bass around the towers, it’s often hard to catch other bottom species, as we discovered when we moved just west of Tower 5 to target fluke. We fished a section of uneven bottom that routinely produces fluke, although on this day we only succeeded in hooking more sea bass. Convinced that the only way we’d get our fluke was to try a new spot, we reeled in and made a run to a shoal area off Old Harbor. Along the way, we encountered wolf packs of big bluefish that were hounding halfbeaks, and landed 2 of them on a big surface plug.
The action quickly died, however, so we continued our quest for fluke, which we eventually found on a patch of mixed sand and rock bottom off Mansion Beach.
By the way, it’s perfectly legal to fish close to the towers; however, caution should be used in heavy seas and high winds. Also, the towers receive constant maintenance, so give the crew boats a wide berth. Lastly, keep clear of the towers if you see workers on the platform high above, as you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a dropped tool or piece of hardware!
To book a trip with Capt. Chris Willi, contact Block Island Fishworks.