By Nick Pacelli
Jamestown might be one of the more overlooked areas of the Rhode Island coast, in terms of surfcasting. Nearly every week, fishing reports cover surfcasting at Narragansett, Newport and the breachways of South County. However, Conanicut Island, the island that makes up Jamestown, is rarely mentioned. While Narragansett and Newport may receive the publicity in the fishing reports, Jamestown is at the center of the surfcasting action. In Jamestown, you will find great fishing, and more room to do it.
Jamestown is a much quieter location than Newport. However, it fishes much the same. Much of the shoreline resembles the cliff walk of Newport (minus the mansions, of course). The water surrounding Jamestown is deeper than that of Narragansett, giving the stripers a place to go when the shallower water begins to warm up at the end of June. I fish the island from May through mid-fall, but I feel late June into July is the prime time, especially if you are looking for keeper-sized bass.
When fishing a high tide in Jamestown, I always check Potter Cove first. Potter is the small beach on the left just before the toll booth for the Pell Bridge. There is a small parking area on Freebody Drive. Whether I am just beginning a night of fishing, or ending my night and driving home, I check Potter Cove. I have had many excellent nights on this little sandy beach. Occasionally there will be a few other fishermen at dusk, but often, I am alone. Anytime bait is trapped in the cove, stripers are sure to be lurking. The bait—usually sand eels or other small stuff—is sometimes so thick, the water will be black. Stripers that feed here usually range from twenty to thirty inches and are sometimes finicky when feeding on the small bait. I usually start with a Zoom Fluke on a 1⁄4-ounce jighead. If the fish don’t hit that, I’ll try the Fluke, or a soft-plastic Slug-Go or Hogy, rigged “Tex-posed” on a weightless offset worm hook that I fish on the surface. I use my “schoolie rod,” a light surfcasting outfit rigged with 12-pound-test line, which allows me to throw these light lures.
If there isn’t any bait, I move on. The stripers will only be in the Cove if there is bait. No bait, no fish.
Up the hill from Potter Cove is Taylor Point. There is a group of guys who fish these rocks all night, often using chunk bait. It is a nice spot, with only a short walk to the water which boasts rocks that sit above the water line on nice flat ledges. No matter the tide, there will always be plenty of flat rocks to stand on. (As always, be careful of wet and slippery rocks. Wear wading boots with felt or studded soles.) I have done well at Taylor Point casting plugs into the outgoing tide. I try to fish all the way to the left, where the water dumps out of Potter Cove and the fish wait for the bait to flush out. One night, my son and I enjoyed a blitz of stripers here for an hour before sundown. We were the only ones there, yet the fish were splash- ing within sight of Route 138!
After Potter Cove, my favorite high-tide spot is Mackerel Cove. Believe it or not, there are many fish to be caught here at night. Rocks lie on either side of the beach, and I usually walk to the right of them, heading toward Beavertail, fishing as I work my way south. Though this is a large cove and fairly protected, it fishes more like the ocean than Potter does. I use eels and rarely walk away without catching at least one good-sized striper. I have also caught keepers here on black Bombers and herring-colored Mambo Minnows after dark. I will usually pick a rock that juts out and fan-cast. The nice thing about this spot, is that regardless of a strong south wind, the waves will never be unmanageable. I have caught many stripers using eels without a hint of whitewater. Because of the size of the cove and the large volume of moving water, it does not have to be rough to attract fish.
I will warn you that on some nights, you will end up getting cut off by bluefish. Unfortunately, these are smaller blues, ranging between four to six pounds. Some nights, they will leave your eels alone, but on others, you may have to switch to plugs.
I have fished from my kayak in this cove many times, and I am convinced that there is a school of bluefish that spends the summer here. They may not find me every night, but if I go looking for them, I can always find them. I will sometimes put the kayak in an hour before dark and have some fun with the blues. They seldom disappoint. I used to use poppers from the kayak, but after a close call with an acrobatic 8-pounder, I use single-hooked lures to target the toothy bluefish.
Once the tide starts to drop, I usually choose to head over to Fort Wetherill.
I fish here often on a dropping or rising tide. There are some great points at Fort Wetherill that you can find with some exploration during daylight hours. Parking areas and paths that lead to points extending from the large coves are easy to find. I usually drive all the way to the end of the road and park in the lot past the RI DEM Fisheries Center, walking the path up this hill which leads down to the water. The rocks on the left looking across the water to Fort Adams and Newport are very good for scup and tautog. Often, I will arrive just as the daytime bottom fishermen are leaving.
When fishing the spot facing Newport, look north and you’ll see a large rock in the water. Start your casting at the outside edge of this rock. I usually will fan-cast from here until I cast to the open water facing Beavertail. I like to arrive while it is light and use a topwater popper. When fishing topwater plugs at this location, pay attention. The hits will not be as plentiful as they are at other locations, but the fish that bite here are big ones. Be ready for it.
I like to use eels or a black Bomber after dark. If the wind is coming from the southerly quadrant, you will have white water that hits the rocks facing south and washes all the way up the shoreline. The potential for great nights is always here.
To the left of the parking lot is the RI DEM Building. Behind this is a handicap-accessible dock. Many nights, lanterns can be seen blazing on this dock. Early in the year, squid can be caught. During the summer, baitfish are attracted to the light, which of course means stripers and blues. From my perch at Fort Wetherill, I frequently see fish hoisted up the dock. You will not find easier access to productive fishing than this spot.
My other mid-tide option is one of the most famous places on the striper coast: Beavertail Light. Beavertail is a legendary spot. I can personally tell you that casting under the light is an amazing experience. The romance of fishing in a spot where legends have cast for stripers for a hundred years does indeed have an effect. I will admit however, that my healthy respect for Beavertail can really be equated to a mild fear. The waves can be huge. The rocks are slippery, and the water is deep. I only fish here when it is safe to do so. If you plan on going near the water, studded-sole wading boots or Korkers are an absolute must.
The great thing about Beavertail is that all of the water is fishy. Of course, everyone wants to fish the point below the lighthouse. If that is taken however, there is no need to worry. My favorite area to fish is on the west side, below lot two. I have a friend who fishes the rocks by parking lot three on the east side. I find that the fish here are usually grubbing around for crabs and lobsters and will eventually find my offering.
The key to fishing here is to pick a night when the water won’t kill you. Choose a nice, comfortable rock to fish on and make sure you plan how you will land your fish once you hook it. I usually cast eels and plugs in this location. However, other options can be successful. Many anglers choose to chunk. Losing gear however, is inevitable due to the rocky bottom.
Another interesting way to fish in this area is by utilizing a float or balloon. There is a dedicated group of anglers who fish just aroundhte bend near the lighthouse on almost every calm night, using this bobber method with chunk bait or eels. I have to admit that this idea has its benefits, as it allow the depth of the bait to be controlled, decreasing the risk of snagged hooks and lost gear. Another great thing about this location and method is that a prevailing southwest wind will float the bait further out.
The last place I will mention is Hull Cove on Beavertail Road, located just past Hull Cove Farm Road. There is a small parking area for about three cars on the left. The walk to the water takes about five minutes. This is another spot where everything looks fishy. This isn’t a typical sandy beach, as it is rocky and full of shells, making it clear that life below the water is prominent. Many times, I have cast from this beach and had a fish hit my lure as I was pulling it out of the water. This location is one of my favorite areas to fish at dusk. I cast poppers before dark, usually hitting blues and schoolies.
Looking south from the beach, there are rocks on both the right and left. To the left, there is fishy water all the way to Short Point. To the right, I will fish the spot where the beach meets the rocks. I have always done well here. I cannot say that this is a natural funnel, but I do think bass use this area as a highway when traveling into the cove. I generally make long casts, finding fish farther out. The water is generally very calm on this side. The stripers that are caught here are usually grubbing for crabs and lobsters. I once kept a 36-inch striper that had five seven-inch lobsters in its belly. Do not worry though. The stripers (and blues) will gladly take an eel or plug.
Short Point is known for its big bluefish, although I see many anglers reeling up keeper bass. I admit that I rarely make it out to the point. I have a favorite spot before the point on the rocks, from which I do most of my fishing. The rocks on this side will usually have some whitewater. I use the same strategy as other locations, finding a nice rock jutting into the ocean and start fan-casting. Some of these rocks are tougher to get to, so I am generally a bit more patient before I move to the next minor point.
Hull Cove is my low-tide spot. It fishes well at any tide, but since I have good spots at other tides, I fish here during low and early rise. There are many places where the
rocks extend to minor points along the rest of the shoreline. Getting onto these rocks makes the cast a little longer allowing you to reach deeper water.
Although the reputation for big fish at Short Point is well earned, there are just as many big fish in Hull Cove. Even though it is technically a cove, it is large and has a wide mouth that faces the open ocean. Some nights, fishing these rocks is nearly as scary as Beavertail, and I’ll go fish elsewhere.
I caught my largest bluefish in this location a few years ago in July. It measured over 36 inches, which I marked on my surf rod. During a mid-October night, I lost what was the biggest striper of my life. I am quite sure it was over forty pounds. My average after-dark striper here is around three feet. This alone is good enough to keep me coming back again and again.