Fishing Bristol, RI

Bristol may be best known as a sailing town, but there’s plenty of great fishing action available in and around this Upper Narragansett harbor.

Striped bass fishing in the Upper Bay can be sensational, especially in late spring and early summer. “Cow” bass arrive in mid- to late May and often linger through June, feasting on menhaden and the herring that spawn in the surrounding rivers. Productive spring methods include drifting chunks or live-lining menhaden around rocky points, bridges, and deep holes of the Cole, Kickamuit, Lee and Warren Rivers. Keeper-size fish are also taken by drifting chunks, whole menhaden, and, later in the season, eels under the Mt. Hope Bridge, off Poppasquash Point, and up inside Mount Hope Bay. You can often find schools of menhaden (aka, pogies, bunker), on Ohio Ledge, and inside the Providence River.

Capt. Jim White with a 30-pound striper taken on live bunker off nearby Prudence Island. Photo Tom Richardson

The biggest stripers generally clear out in early July, but schoolies continue to provide action throughout the season. Fly fishermen and light-tackle anglers can have a blast by working the rocks off Hog Island, Prudence Island, Rumstick Point, Colt Drive, and Mill Gut. Top lures include soft-plastic Slug-Go’s, shad-tailed jigs, 3⁄8- to 1⁄2-ounce bucktail jigs in white and chartreuse, and metal spoons such as Kastmasters and Hopkins. In the fly department, Clouser Minnows, Deceivers, Rhody Flatwings, Snake Flies, Skok Mushies, and baby-bunker imitations fill the bill.

The same techniques used for stripers will also take big bluefish in the bay. If the bait supply remains steady, expect smaller blues to be available all summer and fall. Indeed, in past years the Upper Bay and Bristol Harbor itself have played host to some amazing surface blitzes, with crazed bluefish sometimes chasing panicked baitfish right onto the shore. Blitzes can occur anywhere, but watch the waters off Colt State Park, Ohio Ledge, the mouth of the Warren River and the eastern shore of Prudence Island, particularly on an outgoing tide.

Epic bluefish blitz off Bristol. Photo Tom Richardson

If there is no obvious signs of surface action, try trolling with wire line, leadcore line, or deep-diving plugs. Productive lures include the tube-and-worm, white or chartreuse parachute jigs, Rapala X-Raps and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows. Concentrate on channel edges and drop-offs along the eastern shore of Popasquash Neck, Popasquash Point, and near the abutments of the Mt. Hope Bridge.

Bottom fishing is another option in and around Bristol Harbor. Small, rocky outcrops and humps throughout the bay will hold black sea bass and scup—great eating and lots of fun for kids. Either drift or anchor over these spots and send down a small jig tipped with a squid strip.

Tautog are a favorite as well, and can be taken around pilings, riprap, and rocky structure in early spring and fall. Use a section of green crab on a standard dropper rig to target these fish.

Fluke round out the hit parade of local species, and can be caught in the deep waters of the East & West Passages using heavy weights and big baits. In summer, the fish tend to move south into the cooler ocean waters, although some fish remain available in the deeper zones.

Charters

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