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River Tuna

The Blackstone River holds a special place in my heart. Despite all the things that have been said about the river and it’s (former?) pollution levels, the river still teems with life. There is something for everyone in the river. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, pike, pickerel, panfish, catfish, trout and of course lovely mirror carp.

Last year during lunch I set out on a walk along the banks of the Blackstone. Lo and behold I stumbled across a good bit of bank space. I returned the following day on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Much to my delight almost immediately I saw carp boshing out in front of me. At times they would be on the opposite bank and sometimes a mere 5 feet in front of me, they seemed to be everywhere. Maybe someone is prebaiting this area, I thought. I think what it comes down to is that the river is full of carp, mirrors mostly. Why that is, we may never know. Just about every stretch of river that I have fished has produced carp. The only exceptions are the fast flowing trouty stretches but then again I’ve never really tried there. The bigger obstacle is finding good access to the river. Even if you are not a carp angler, I guarantee you will have a good time fishing the Blackstone or any other river in Rhode Island.

Muddy, buggy and slightly smelly. Bring your hip boots and plenty of bug spray.

Friday morning I was at my river spot by 5am. Fishing the river is highly dependent on how fast it is moving and on this morning it was moving pretty slow. Not long after arriving I spotted fish rolling ahead of me and soon after I had my first and only run, a weird twitchy bite that eventually came off. I was fishing one rod on a lead clip as is my norm and one rod on the method feeder which I hadn’t done much of this year. Last year, fishing a method feeder in this spot seemed to be the ticket, which is why I decided on using it again. On that particular morning the fish were aggressively attacking the feeder, so much so that my rod tip was knocking around. Well, Friday morning didn’t exactly go as planned (does it ever?). I chose to use a longish hooklink on the feeder which proved to be prone to tangles. From my understanding, it’s more standard to use a short hookink, 4 inches or so, when fishing a method feeder. I suppose you could also compress the hook and bait into the method ball, but I have found even this can cause tangles with a longer hooklink. To top it off I had decided to get a little creative with my method mix, incorporating some madras curry powder I had on the shelf. After seeing fish and apparently not having anything they were interested in, I started questioning my decision. It seemed like time flew by, faster than normal. Before I knew it, I had blanked and it was time to get going to work. As I took the long walk back to my car I wondered what it was that I had done or not done that caused my failure. I decided I would go back the following morning since I had committed a bit of bait to the spot.

I was up again at 4 and back on the bank by 5 on Saturday. In the distance I heard turkeys gobbling away in what I presume is their natural habitat. I left the method feeders out of the equation this time, opting instead for what has become my new norm, small PVA mesh bags. To me, a small PVA bag attached to the hook is simply one of the best ways to get bait around your hookbait. A PVA bag will also help keep the rig from tangling up and protect the hook from getting snagged up on the way down through the water. On one rod, I had a mix of salted particles and on the other a mix of crushed koi pellets, curry powder, oatmeal (to help with compressing the bag) and a drizzle of some hemp oil, which I serendipitously found at a local supermarket. Feeling a lot more confident in my presentation, I set the rods out. Just a few minutes into the session I had the first fish on, a fish that was tempted by the salty particles. Turtles showed up shortly causing their usual havoc. I have found that encountering turtles in the river is hit or miss. While they do exist there, they are a bit more nomadic then their still water relatives. The swim died for while except for some fish that were crashing on the opposite bank. I was a little bored and I decided I would try to conjure up a cast that would get a bait near them. I refreshed my hookbait, attached one of my madras curry specials and cast as closely as I could to the opposite bank. I felt a satisfying donk as I felt the lead down, surprised to be able to feel anything at that distance. After another hour fish started showing very, very close to the bank. Something I’ve realized this year is that they are never really very far out. I have read many times that the margins (the bank) is the biggest feature (structure) and you don’t really need to fish a million feet out into a lake. I’ve observed this over and over this year. What a fool I am, casting all the way over there when there are fish right here, I thought. I considered reeling the rod in and fishing up close again but decided to give it another few minutes. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad of an idea as moments later the long distance rod went off. Immediately the fish kited to the right, downstream. Oh dear, I thought. Playing a fish in the river on 12 pound line is pretty nerve racking. It began swimming towards the same bank I was on and at that point, I got in the water to get a better angle on the fish. After a few minutes, I had another beautiful river mirror in the net.

Fishing to the opposite bank. Good thing the river was basically still.

What have we learned? Well, I imagine that most of the curried koi-hemp-pellet mix probably got washed downstream from the hookbait so I’m not even 100% sure that particular mix works. Maybe we learned that sometimes it pays to try casting to showing fish. I re-learned that sticking with what I feel confident in, in this case small PVA bags, pays off and that the river is a fantastic carp fishery.

I leave you this week with this; a chunky bluegill caught trotting a float down a shallow part of the Woonasquatucket, another one of our local rivers that is absolutely full of fish.

On this visit I also spotted largemouth bass swimming in the current. This was surprising considering this stretch of the river is only about 1 foot deep and moves quite rapidly at times, a habitat more suited for trout. I guess my point is, the rivers are full of magic. You’ll never know what you’ll find. The new state record bluegill? Or if you are lucky, you’ll hook into a hard fighting, scaley river tuna.