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Captain Sheriff's Tips For Fishing Striped Bass On Watch Hill Area Reefs
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Fishing for Striped Bass on Watch Hill, RI

Rhode Island charter fishing Captain, Captain Sheriff has fished the Rhode Island waters for several years. While many years were dedicated to fishing Block Island waters, the increasing price of fuel has forced me and many fishermen to become more proficient at new techniques closer to home ports. Fortunately, living in Charlestown, Rhode Island, the Watch Hill Area Reefs are a short boat ride when departing from Barn Island Boat Launch in Stonington, Connecticut.

The Watch Hill Area Reefs just off Westerly Rhode Island provides anglers with hot fishing action from May through November with a variety of fish species. The most common sought after species are Striped Bass, Bluefish, Bonito and False Albacore. The school size Striped Bass show up around late April in Little Narragansett Bay and the Pawcatuck River as they follow bait fish and warmer waters. Around mid May the Watch Hill Reefs start to come alive with Striped Bass and then Bluefish shortly thereafter.

The tidal currents in the Watch Hill area are very strong due to the outcropping of reefs and the funneling effect of the water as it approaches from Long Island Sound through the Race and then into the Watch Hill Reefs. From the Eastern side of Fishers Island to Watch Hill Rhode Island there are numerous deep channels and reefs which set the stage for the great fishing we enjoy in these waters.

There are three main channels to navigate through this area include the Watch Hill Passage, Sugar Reef Passage and Catumb Passage. Each of these channels have navigation hazards if you should find yourself outside the channel boundaries. Both Catumb Rocks and Watch Hill Reef have rocks that are navigational hazards at low tide. Sugar Reef Passage has a sunken ship with its mast as the navigation hazard and difficult to see at night.

When fishing this area, Captain Sheriff utilizes a systematic approach in catching Striped Bass, Bluefish, Bonito and False Albacore. Due to the swift currents prevalent around these channels and reefs, surface action can occur any time of the day when there are strong currents. A sure sign of this is Seagulls diving on bait as you approach these areas. Bait fish are disoriented from the strong currents and the fish feeding on them.

Captain Sheriff’s favorite fishing technique is top water on light spinning tackle. Most Rhode Island charter fishing clients enjoy the thrill of watching a fish explode on their top water lures. This is especially true when you are hooking up with Striped Bass exceeding 30 pounds on this technique. Remember when fishing top water to let the lure remain still for a few seconds after popping it. My Rhode Island charter clients have had great success in this area even when the water is very rough. It is common to see Seagulls working bait from the East side of Fishers Island to Watch Hill. It is also possible to see hundreds of Striped Bass and Bluefish working the surface at certain times of the year. If this is not happening or you do not want to chase the fish, work your top water lure at the edge or breaks of the channel. You will be surprised at how effective top water can be if you put time into it.

The next option may be to work soft plastics in this same area. Matching the hatch will enhance your productivity. Besides working the edge of the channel, another productive spot is working near the rocks in these channels if the waves and current allow for it. The key is to know which way you are drifting and make sure you always know where the rocks are. You can easily sink or capsize a boat in this area.

When fishing gets tough, break out the umbrella rigs or jigs. Umbrella rigs rigged with imitation sand eels or soft plastics can be very effective depending on the time of the year and the bait that Bass are feeding on. Trolling in front of the Watch Hill Pass across the passage has been a very good spot over the years. The Sugar Reef passage is also productive when trolled near the edge of the channel.

Live bait is another effective option for the Watch Hill Reefs. The best area is the Sugar Reef passage as you drift across the channel. The typical drift lasts a few minutes before crossing the channel and having to start over again. Live bait such as Pogies, Scup and Eels can be very effective when fished with very little or no weight.

When the tide changes or slow down, tube and worm also work well. The tide and lobster traps make it a little tricky but fish can be caught that way when all else has failed or the bite has slowed down.

During the fall, Watch Hill area reefs attract good numbers of Bonito and False Albacore. Fly fishing these reefs and or casting small spoons are very effective on these speedsters

If you are looking for hot fishing action close to shore or even from the shore, Watch Hill Rhode Island area reefs may be the ticket you have been looking for!


Captain Sheriff fishes Narragansett Bay, Watch Hill Rhode Island, Block Island and Newport Rhode Island reefs for Striped Bass, Bluefish, Fluke, Tautog, Sea Bass, Tautog, Bonito and False Albacore. Fishing Charters RI depart from Galilee, RI, East Greenwich, RI. Point Judith, RI, and Stonington, Connecticut


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