North Rip / Block Island, Rhode Island
By Capt. Tom Migdalski
Capt. Al Anderson - a widely known skipper, author and lecturer with 45 years of professional chartering experience - runs his 42-foot custom express Prowler from Point Judith, Rhode Island, a premiere launching spot for historic striper locations such as Montauk Point and Block Island Sound.
Anderson began tagging bluefin tuna for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and striped bass for the American Littoral Society in 1967; his count now exceeds 56,000 career game fish, nearly 42,000 of which are striped bass. Call 401-783-8487, or visit prowlerchartersri.com.
Like a big bull's-eye, Block Island sits smack in the middle of the Northeast's striped bass migration pattern. As the water temperature reaches 50 degrees each spring, Anderson targets the massive waves of stripers as they round Montauk Point, New York, and dump into Block Island Sound. Throughout the season, one of the best spots in the area to tangle with bass is Anderson's all-time go-to hot spot: Block Island's famous North Rip.
Before the last glacier melted and raised sea levels a couple of hundred feet, a 12-mile-long land bridge connected Block Island to the continent. The remnant of that spit begins at the northern tip of tear-drop-shaped Block Island and vanishes into the waters of the sound, becoming the bar beneath North Rip.
"Composed of clay and gravel covered by mussel beds, this bar has stability during storms," Anderson says. "And unlike sand shoals, it stays consistent. These waters are rich with bass forage. The predominate baits are sand eels, which are joined by squid and herring in the spring and fall."
The rip-creating geology of this nearly 1.7-mile subsurface spit begins at Block's Sandy Point and tracks northeast into 120 feet of water. "With tidal currents approaching 5 mph on moon tides, the bar can be a tricky place to fish - but once you learn its waters, you're almost guaranteed bass," Anderson says.
"Because North Rip runs offshore, the filling and flushing of Long Island Sound influences its currents," he says. He recommends using "The Race" section in Eldridge Tide & Pilot Book. The Race is the eastern tidal entrance of Long Island Sound.
"Keep an eye on the marine forecast, as a strong current flowing against the wind creates rough and sometimes dangerous white-water conditions along the rip line," Anderson continues. "North Rip can also create fog banks due to its cooler surfacewater temps caused by tidal upwelling."
June and October are prime months: Head out early or late in the tide, when bass stage in this bait-rich feeding area, often evidenced by working birds.
The primary reason for choosing the North Rip over other areas is simple: It continually offers anglers bass action, not just during daylight hours or tidal changes but at night as well. The area lacks entangling lobster-trap gear, which makes trolling and night bassing comparatively worryfree.
Top tactics for North Rip include drifting live eels on three-way rigs, diamond jigging and trolling wire line with parachute jigs. Anderson is a master at trolling these waters, but not necessarily with wire.
Super spin- and fly-casting action occurs in the shallow, 15- to 25-foot depths, while unmatched trolling and jigging action occurs deeper, in 35 to 55 feet of water. "Because an hour's tide lag develops along the rip's length, numerous strategy opportunities occur for anglers," Anderson says.
For daytime trolling, Anderson uses 6½-foot, light-action graphite rods, and Penn 320 GTO reels rigged with a 50-pound Spectra top shot and 10 feet of 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. He pulls chartreuse parachute jigs or umbrella frames sporting small teasers and tubes, stemming into the current on the uptide side of the rip. "Don't fall downtide to the rip line, as you risk spooking any fish holding station there," he advises. "And replacing cranky wire line with measured and marked Spectra braided line will greatly improve your success."
After dark, Anderson recommends trolling with swimming plugs. "My favorite 'action-packed' plug is Luhr-Jensen's J-Plug in silver, size 5," he says. "But be sure to replace its double treble with a single hook if you're releasing."