By: Joe Lyons
Rhode Island is in style once again. The Greene Airport expansion and Providence’s new Convention Center have made the Ocean State a popular destination for business as well as pleasure. If you find yourself in town for business any time from May to October, bring a travel rod and some lightweight waders, and treat your self to a little fishing. What’s the point of going to a convention if you can’t slip out for a while!
A mere 20 minutes from the airport, and under a half hour from Providence, you can find exceptional light-tackle angling along the shores of Greenwich Bay at Goddard Park, a state owned, facility that is one of the favorite spots for shore anglers in Narragansett Bay. Located on the west side of Greenwich Bay, across from East Greenwich Harbor, the park boasts a beach, bathing pavilion, boat ramp and restrooms. Goddard Park affords the angler with dawn-dusk access, but I’ve bent the rules by an hour at end of the day without any problems. Last year, entrance to the park was free to residents and out-of-state visitors.
An 8-to 10-weight rod with floating or intermediate line is the standard outfit employed by the locals. When the fish are close to the bottom, most of the regulars will use of sinking tip lines. Other necessary gear includes: a wading belt, pliers, and a headlamp for low light conditions. A stripping basket is optional.
Early spring fishing starts around the first week of May, and the last fish exit the stage as late as Halloween. Small early season flies, like a Glass Minnow or a sparsely dressed Deceiver work well early in the season. During the summer, poppers and sliders are good choices early and late in the day. Sandeel patterns, bigger Deceivers and menhaden imitations, along with Poppers, make good autumn presentations. During the spring and fall, fish can be caught all day long. Dusk and dawn provide the best action in the summer.
Striped Bass, the first migratory game species to arrive and the last to leave, are the target of most fly-fishers. In this area of Narragansett Bay you will find mainly school fish, occasionally mixed with some marginal keepers. But, evening tides in the late spring and early fall have produced some whoppers. What Greenwich Bay lacks in size, it makes up for in action; when the fish are running strong, in the late spring and early fall, ten and twenty fish days are routine for anglers in the know.
In addition to bass, weakfish, which are again on the upswing of their population cycle, and can be found in catchable numbers in Greenwich Bay. Don’t let the name “weakfish” lead you to believe these fish are wimps; weakfish are strong fighters with some sharp teeth.
Bluefish arrive early summer, and by the middle of July they pretty much take over. By late August, the big bluefish, known locally as gorilla blues, move in. While some anglers frown on bluefish, I look forward to them. Nothing else fights like a big bluefish in shallow water. You’ll need wire leaders and tough, durable flies to deal with the razor sharp choppers of these brutes.
From the beach area, you can access several nice points to the south from which a wading angler can easily cast into the highly productive rips. Dead-drifting a fly inside a rip is a favored technique among the local experts. Cast your fly into the current, and retrieve only enough line to stay in contact with the offering.
North of the beach area lies Sally Rocks, an outcropping of about half a dozen pickup truck size boulders. Besides the rocks, a small jetty serves as a fishing perch. The rocks, jetty, and the shore on each side is considered the premier area to fish. In the spring, particularly in late May, you can find many anglers lined up this part of the Bay. Sally Rocks is best fished when the water is moving; for this reason, most anglers like the mid-tide stages. Some anglers like to wade by the rocks, some like to fish from the jetty; both approaches are productive.
From the Boat Ramp, located at the park’s eastern end, you can reach many more points and drop offs. Look for the usual indicators: breaking fish, swirls, and congregated baitfish. The fish here tend to move around quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to cover a lot of ground.
Goddard Park is one of the few areas of open space remaining in the city of Warwick. In the early morning, it’s not uncommon to see a great blue heron one minute and a whitetail deer the next. The still, sheltered water, bordered by abundant eelgrass provides a fine habitat for crabs, eels, bay anchovies, silversides and clams.
Since menhaden netters have been banned from the bay we have experienced a great resurgence in this primary food of local game fish. Let’s hope the legislation sticks for years to come. The 2000 fishing season was one of the best I have ever seen in Greenwich Bay. The presence of immature Menhaden, coupled with the cooling effects of a rainy summer, kept gamefish in the bay. While we can’t expect every year to be as good as that year, we can expect Greenwich Bay to be a productive locale for many seasons to come.