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Inside Narragansett Bay
by Frank Daignault

hore fishing the Barrington River. When Rhode Islanders talk about their state's 400 mile coastline, most of it is Narragansett Bay. Here rivers, inlets and islands abound providing some of the best and overlooked salt water fishing in the northeast. It was the first sea water that I fished in over 50 years ago and I ended the season there last year. It is protected, good, starts early and ends late.

Look for the first schoolies to arrive in the bay late April and keepers around the 20th of May. Of course the more time you delay, the better one's chances of cashing in at the timing end. First linesides will tend to travel way up in the estuarine reaches where there are herring runs and stores of grass shrimp all season. Places like the Barrington and Warren Rivers are the bay's best early season spots. Hundred Acre Cove off Route 114 is a nice wild salt marsh where we have spent many memorable nights and days casting an east facing point on the incoming tide for mostly schoolies. But by late May the headwater Runnins River herring run lures some larger linesides into this cove. A second herring run, which is a quarter mile downstream of the White Church Bridge, also adds draw to this river in spring. Years ago we saw bass as large as 35 pounds behind the White Church (you can't miss its steeple on Rt 114 and Massasoit Ave.) so it proves that big bass will choose and use the river this far up. People often drift live or dead herring off the bridge here until mid-June when the herring run ends.

From 195 in East Providence, drive south from Exit 1, Shoe Expressway, Barrington also known as the Wompanaug Trail. The white church is about five miles south. The first tidewater on your left or east shoulder is Hundred Acre Cove.

Joyce Daignault with a bay striper she took fly-fishing in mid-summer.

The Warren River. This sister river to the Barrington has a larger flow and reaches further inland to its headwaters, known in Massachusetts as the Palmer River where there is also a herring run along with another smaller, less known run on the east bank. Timing for the Warren is the same as the Barrington as they are really the same river, which is a north facing split or Y. However, the last few years we have been able to take stripers all summer into October in the Warren which may be because there are so many more fish these days. People like to drift dead herring or live seaworms, even in the daytime, off the bike path bridge (old railroad bridge) on the incoming tide, which runs north. I like the entire shore on the east bank running north a few hundred yards to a stony point which you will see quite easily. Except for the top of the tide, wading is good here and you can plug poppers if it is light and swimmers after dark the whole shore from the bridge to the stones on either tide. Currents are strong because it is narrow and the entire river has to come past your fishable, reachable water. Also, because of that, fish come through or they come up to face the current at any time; it can be dead for hours then you all-of-a-sudden have a slug of fish following and hitting your lures. Because of the inland/protected nature of this place, it is of course an ideal place for fly fishing. To me it seems the common failing of those one sees fishing here is that people don't fish it enough at night when it is really good as there is never anyone there when my wife and I are there. Warren is the next town on Route 114 after Barrington.

Colt Drive, a state park. How would you feel about driving a waterline road, which on a west wind is close enough to splash seawater on your car for a distance of a mile. Here at Colt State Park you can picnic with a few west over Narragansett Bay with Warwick Neck dead across and Prudence Island slightly sou'west. Walking north for ±1 mile to the mouth of the Warren River, and you can fish anywhere along the way, there can be some great bottom fishing with herring chunks in the deep night during the falling tide. We have caught stripers here up to 41 pounds (I say we but it was really my wife). Also, whenever we had good bottom dunking, the boats out front, where currents fall from the Warren River, seemed awful busy and not too inclined to move so they must have been doing something.

Not the bay. While in this area, I always check out the mouth of Bristol Narrows, which is really part of Mount Hope Bay, outside the scope of this but too good to miss. Narrows Road, which is about mid-way between the Mount Hope Bridge and Warren off Route 136 and opposite Gooding Ave, goes east for about a mile to the water. Go left at the watery end onto a bar that you can drive on at low tide with even an unequipped car as the clay is nice and hard. Everyone does this at low tide. There is an awesome rip off this bar and sometimes, but not always, bass or blues will gather there especially if it is dark. But if the tide is coming or you can't start your vehicle for some reason, they will give you ten cents on the dollar six hours later. The place is worth a listen in the deep night and you don't even have to suit up to determine if fish are there. This spot is also a boat launch, but the book says that it is "hand carry" so it is a little more demanding to launch here.

Providence and Upper Bay. Stripers and blues can be caught regularly in the upper bay and we have seen them blitz as far up as the Seekonk Rivers Division Street Bridge in Pawtucket. (Blues love goldfish.) The Providence River has a year-long run of smallish linesides which results from a warm-water power discharge. Sabin Point, which is a park in Riverside, has a darling rip and bar that stripers and blues will pant for on the downtide side. But fishing at night in these places you need three fishers: two to cast and one to face the shore with a gun.

Conimicut Point. This hotspot is a park that guards the west side of the opening to the Providence River. It is a lighthouse flanked sandbar where fishers gather on both tides but I think the rise, which is even more dangerous, is the tide of choice by those who fish it regularly. The place has structure, current and commands the bay nicely and the place is no secret. One thing, and there are few places in ocean fishing which scare me, Conimicut Point has killed a lot of shore fishers and a few duck hunters. Anyone who thinks about going there should know the tide and perhaps even get familiar with the spot and how the water moves in the daylight. Take 117 in Warwick to Shawomet village and follow signs to Conimicut Point.

Sandy Point, Potowomut. Guarding the entrance to Greenwich Bay, Sandy Point is one of those classic spots that are timeless. It is a hook shaped sand-bar where light tackle spin fishers gather in waders during the rising tide. Best tides are moon tides which provide 8:00 P.M. to midnight high tides; these give anglers a rising tide in evening and sunset well into dark. Recheck your drag when the light begins to fail. You'll catch just about anything here from stripers to tautog. But the bread and butter fishery for Sandy is squeteague or gray weakfish which begins late May and last about a month. With this species beginning another up cycle, the spot is particularly worthy of mention. For weakfish everybody still uses small bucktails, usually but not necessarily, white, tied direct to mono; no wire leaders. Blues and bass, can be incidental or even dominate some nights. A number of times we have seen moby tautog taken on bucktail jigs, which I know is not supposed to happen. From Route 1 in East Greenwich follow the signs to Goddard memorial State park on Ives Road to its very end. Walk left along the shore to a point on your northeast. You will see a small rundown breakwater before you begin wading.

Rome Point Outflow. One of the nicest estuarine salt ponds on the bays west bank is the Rome Point outflow. A possible reason for this is that there are few sun heated salt ponds which can compete with this current in the area. On the end of the beach the water drops off and books out of the pond through a small opening about 1 = hours after Providence high tide on the chart. As with all outflows, this current will call in stripers, or any other gamefish for that matter, which will gather and move up in the current to the feet of shore fishers either plugging or fly-fishing. In most inlets it seems to me that the longer the water runs, the better it gets. But for some reason this spot is good for only a short while before the linesides move off. So you have to be there early and plan to get out for another spot to keep the night alive. The far bank, which is the true Rome Point east to the edge of the bay, is a newly acquired state park. The north side, which you will be driving in on, is all tidewater which I don't believe they can kick you out of.

To get there take Route 1A about a mile south of Wickford, or two miles north of Route 138, to an east turn named Waldron Ave. for about a mile to a first right. At the end, with the bay in your face, go right down the beach following evidence of car tracks in the mud for another half mile. It is not soft and you should not have driving problems with even a two-wheel drive, once the tide is down an hour. End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Frank Daignault, All Rights Reserved

Frank Daignault
Frank is the author of Striper Surf, Twenty Years on the Cape, Striper Hot Spots, The Trophy Striper, Eastern Tides and Fly Fishing the Striper Surf. Autographed copies of any of these books can be ordered directly from Frank, HERE.

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