November offers plenty of opportunity and action along the South County shoreline for the mobile surfcaster.
It’s debatable as to what is the best fall month in Rhode Island for striper fishing, but the patterns of the last few years suggest November takes the prize. While it’s the last month of great fall fishing, it has also proven to be the most explosive month as masses and masses of bait and stripers migrate southward at the same time setting up huge blitzes of striped bass along Rhode Island south shore oceanfront.
I hit one of the biggest blitzes of the fall last year on November 12 along the rocky shores of Pt. Judith in Narragansett. It was a day that I dubbed “the snowstorm blitz.” That day started off warm—in the 60s with drizzle—but the forecast called for a northeast wind to develop later in the day with rapidly dropping temperatures and drizzle turning to snow. I figured I would head down early to try to beat the storm that was expected to come in around sunset.
When I got to the shore around noon, there were birds diving everywhere into dark-colored water that was solid peanut bunker for almost a mile stretch. Stripers were busting here and there, but under the waves were massive numbers of fish picking off the bait. With such a severe forecast, no one was fishing that day although I called my friend Steve to let him in on what was going on. I excitedly walked to the shore in my waders and began casting my egg float with a flathead bucktail jig dangling of the en. It was a hit or a fish on just about every cast. Just too easy. These were all hefty schoolies with an occasional near-keeper in the mix. In the excitement, I hardly noticed the temperature dropping rapidly and the wind turning to hard northeast. Within about an hour, the temperature plunged 30 degrees. It was now near freezing and the drizzle had turned to snow. I continued fishing with frozen hands since I never thought to bring my gloves in the warm temperatures that began my outing. Steve joined me and we both continued to catch fish after fish. Finally, with my hands so cold due to the dropping wind chills, I thought I was going to let the rod go on the cast. It was at that point with fish still busting all over that I decided to walk away and call it quits. By the time I got to my truck, ice was forming on the windshield. The ride home was a slippery mess of ice and snow as temperatures dropped well below freezing. Ah, the joys of November fishing!
November sees less and less fishermen as the month wears on though fishing usually remains quite good. Much of the lack of interest can be attributed to the cold weather and storminess of the month. But, it is these weather events like I described above that can trigger some of the biggest fall blitzes you will ever see. Getting in on the fishing at the beginning of the storm is the key. Note that I went down the next day after the snowstorm blitz and found nothing but roiled and dirty water. The bait and predators had moved on.
While November can provide these all-out blitzes, November fishing can also be a subtle game where nothing is showing. In late November last year I frequently plugged the south shore beachfront on bluebird days. I would walk onto the shore with waders and cast and move, cast and move, sometimes walking miles while fishing. On many days while tossing bucktail jigs or jigs with plastic bodies (Cocahoes) I would consistently pick up stripers along the beach with not a thing (bait, fish or birds) showing. The fish seem to be always moving along these beachfronts in the late fall. And, when nothing is showing, the fishing pressure is nil. Far too many fall fishermen fish with their binoculars rather than their fishing rods.
Another subtle game going on in November is the after-dark fishing. Once again, few are doing this since late November nights can be mighty chilly while standing in water in a pair of waders. Remember that darkness arrives very early in November and you can give it several hours of nighttime fishing and still get home at a reasonable hour. I will put in more hours at night in November than any other month of the year. At night I usually turn to plugs rather than jigs. Swimmers and Slug-Gos have been the best producers for me in darkness along the oceanfront. Thin plastic swimmers like the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow or Daiwa SP Minnow in a white or bone color have been good nighttime choices. When the wind is at my back, a white Slug-Go in either a 7.5- or 9-inch model is hard to beat.
Many fishermen make the mistake of leaving the beach after daytime November blitzes that seem to end at dark. On many of these occasions, I have taken a break and later gone back at night to the scene of the daytime action. Almost always there are fish to be had after dark and what hits after dark is often much bigger than you’ll catch in the daytime. Your best bet at a big November keeper is at night.
A final piece to this end game of November fishing involves ocean herring. It’s a big bait that might come around in big numbers in late November. It’s not a sure bet, but when it happens, be ready. In the past, migrating schools of herring have delivered massive numbers of good-size stripers and big bluefish even in late November. If the herring come around, make sure you have a lot of big, slender, white plugs that are good imitators of this bait. Plugs like pencil poppers, needlefish, and plastic swimmers are all good choices to use when herring are present.
With massive numbers of striped bass around this year in the 24- to 30 inch range, expect fall fishing, especially November fishing here along the Rhode Island oceanfront to be outstanding. Dress warmly, expect the unexpected and keep casting and looking. The end game can have many different looks, but it usually amounts to lots of action and big numbers of stripers.