NEWPORT, R.I. – When I first spotted Captain Rene Letourneau he was waving to me. He picked me out right away. After all I probably was the only person wearing a Cincinnati Reds cap in the seaside city of Newport … or maybe in the state of Rhode Island.
It wasn’t a particularly good place to be wearing a Reds cap. Rhode Island is part of Red Sox Nation, something Captain Rene let me know right away. And they still haven’t forgotten 1975.
But I’ve worn the cap in Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean. It helps with identification. Like the time I was in line to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. One of the ushers stopped me, saying “Hey. I’m from Cincinnati, but I went to school just north of there … at the University of Dayton.”
Anyway, hat and all, I thought I would revisit my youth for a few hours, fishing in Long Island Sound. My wife and I were on a cruise ship, “following the leaves” from Quebec. On our last full day, the ship stopped in Newport. My wife decided to tour the famous mansions. That’s not exactly my thing. Fishing is.
So I set up a half-day trip via the Internet a few weeks ago. Captain Rene happens to offer the only charter fishing service in Newport that will pick up clients at the docks where the cruise ship tenders come in. That’s how I hooked up with his On the Rocks Charters.
When we began searching for fishing spots, I found out why he calls his service in his 21-foot Mako “On the Rocks Charters.” The places where he likes to fish are in and around rocks and reefs with waves breaking over them.
“It’s not because that’s how I serve your drinks,” he said with the accent of a lifelong New Englander.
We were fishing for stripers, probably 200-300 yards off shore. He drove the center-console boat while I sat up front. We’d look for seabirds circling what looked like a large spot of boiling water. That was the stripers and bluefish sending the baitfish to the top and then coming up to snack on them.
It was their way of ordering a pizza or perhaps a Caesar salad. The fish they were chasing were anchovies.
In Ohio, freshwater stripers and white bass will behave in much the same manner. You fish for them by following the jumps, as they say. That, apparently, is how they fish for the hybrid striped bass at East Fork Lake. I have never tried it. When we fished for wipers at Kiser Lake, we usually tossed a big fat nightcrawler out and let it sink to the bottom and found out that’s a great way to catch a catfish.
These saltwater critters were something else. You see this spot of boiling water, rush over there, cast as quickly as you can and reel like crazy. The problem is by the time you are ready to make a second cast, the fish have disappeared. Then you wait and watch, spot another boil and do it all over again.
To be honest, I wasn’t ready for it. I hadn’t bass fished in a couple of years, so my casting skills were suspect. We used spinning rods with light jigs, so distance was also not there.
One time, however, the captain put us right next to the churning water. I could have reached out and touched the fish. And this time, I got a hook in one and was in for the fight of my life.
The light rod just about bent in half as I fought the fish. It pulled on the drag and I reeled. I kept up the tension. That part of my game wasn’t so rusty. But this fish fought harder than the last 50 walleyes I have caught … combined.
I got it up to the boat. We could see the flash. And then it was gone.
It bit through the 20-pound braided line. The captain said it looked to be about an 8-pound bluefish. Oh, well, the fight and the day were fun.
We fished a bit more, stopping to catch some blackfish on the rocks – where else? He caught two. I never had a bite.
(For information, visit http://www.ontherockscharters.com/)