Offering excellent late-season cod and sea bass, the East Grounds produce fish through the year.
Located just 3 miles to the east of Block Island, RI, the “East Grounds” is a popular fishing spot that’s depicted on most charts. Situated about halfway between the Mud Hole and Block Island, it’s surrounded by bottom that averages 100 to 120 feet of water. The East Grounds itself is an area that rises up to depths of 80 feet, almost like a plateau area. It also has several higher spots that rise up to as much as 46 feet. The bottom is relatively hard with the high spots having a large amount of rock. Traditionally known as a prime location for bluefish and cod, you can also find excellent action with black sea bass, fluke, and blackfish depending on the season. Back when we had strong runs of pollock in the spring this was also a prime location for finding them.
The peak or high point of the area is located at 41-09-50.3/71-26-29.7. Anchoring up in April and chumming crushed clam shells near the peak would often produce a steady bite of market-sized cod. A lot of the cod caught here come up a dark, reddish-brown color; typical of cod inhabiting rocky sections of bottom. This same ground will give up a few blackfish early in the spring and late in the fall.
Bottom fishing for cod and black sea bass can also be productive around the following high spots: 41-10-11.9/71-26-57.9, 41-10-18.2/71-26-59.4, and 41-09-52.9/71-27-19.0, as well as around 41-08-19.6/71-24-43.1 and the rockpile at 41-07-58.9/71-24-05.5. Most of the cod caught here are landed between November and early May. Sea bass can be found from May through December. The last few Novembers and Decembers produced a decent mix of cod and black sea bass for those braving the weather.
Look for bluefish to arrive here the end of May to early June and usually start showing up around 41-09-49/71-27-06 or around the southeast corner of the grounds at 41.15540/71.42091. We typically hunted them down by trolling umbrellas on wire. Once a concentration of fish is found you can switch over to diamond jigging and lighter tackle. There is usually plenty of lobster gear in the area so be sure to keep an eye out as you troll along.
While I have not personally done much fluke fishing here, I do know that it’s a spot that produces quite a few decent fluke between the months of May and September. Try fishing the 70- to 85-foot depths that surround the highest ground. The key is in avoiding the times of heavy dogfish infiltration.
In the late summer or early fall you may find some bonito cruising just to the southern edge of the East Grounds, too. Look for these fish to be fast moving and pushing water on the surface. Feathers that are fast trolled in the wake similar to tuna trolling can also be effective.
Historically, we used to find good numbers of pollock on the north bank around 41-10-29/71-26-48. May and June were the prime times to find these fish and you could catch them either trolling umbrellas on downriggers or diamond jigging. While this fishery is not what it once was, there’s always a chance to find a few fish that are still frequenting the area, especially if loads of sand eels are present. Fishing with downriggers just off the bottom and paying close attention to your sounder is the key to finding these fish.
The East Grounds is essentially a year-round location to fish and offers several alternatives for those looking in the right spots. Don’t overlook it if you fish around Block.