2015-08-27 / Nature

August is the Time to Tinker with Mackerel

By James Merolla

If you are going to fish this month from the Newport causeway or surrounding piers, your goal will have to be wholly mackerel; as in tinker mackerel.

You’ll have a tinker’s chance of landing the delicious greenstriped fish, which is a sought-after meal for both larger predatory fish and humans. Shaped like a mini-torpedo, these six- to eightinch beauties are coming in waves, chasing shiners into the causeway, where they in turn are being chased by larger fish.

Fishing last week from the bridge that leads from the Point to Goat Island, I caught a dozen tinkers on a small silver Kastmaster lure with a dangling feather. The key is to throw the lure into the swirls of action. It is the same lure that skipjacks, or small, snapper bluefish, could not resist if this was a normal August. Due to the dramatic winter of 2015 making water temperatures too cold through April, combined with water temps that are now hovering at a very warm 72.3 degrees, these small blues are nowhere to be found—something that hasn’t happened in years. I have spoken to anglers up and down Narragansett Bay and no one has caught or seen them.

But the mackerel are being plucked by fisherman, using inexpensive lures with colorful feathers and shiny wings. Anglers dip them up and down in a motion that makes the fish think they are about to consume wounded shiners.

Late in the evening, if there are any stray or non-schooled striped bass or large bluefish around, a proven method to land them is to place a live, fighting mackerel on the end of an octopus hook (7.0 or 8.0). Let it drift and swim away in an erratic manner. These hooks are specially designed to “lip” the bass and hold better than others.

If predatory fish sense schools of mackerel, they will find a stray straggler almost impossible to resist. The problem in August has been that the vast majority of the large fish are out front, well out in the bay in the cooler waters.

Saved for yourself, fried mackerel is delicious.

A sinker tip

Sometimes traditional two- or three-ounce lead sinkers can get caught along the bottom fairly easily, especially when led there by an angry fish you have just landed, goading you into the rocks. A great tip for an alternative sinker came from Bruce Roias, a commercial fisherman who worked out of Tiverton before too many injuries ended his career.

Roias said to attach an old pair of keys to a metal washer and tie your line through the hole. This sometimes makes a difference, especially if you are trying to “drift” squid, worms or clam bellies near the bottom for flounder, fluke or sea bass. The holes in the washer and keys can be floated or lifted more easily by the current, creating a swirling motion that moves the bait in a way that can be much more attractive to the fish.

Roias added with a wink, “It’s especially satisfying if the keys belonged to an ex-girlfriend.”

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