Get your gear ready for an early season

Posted 2/28/23

Spring is around the corner and starts March 20. Although it snowed this week, we hardly had a winter and the water is very warm. 

How warm is the water?  The temperature at Narragansett …

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Get your gear ready for an early season


Spring is around the corner and starts March 20. Although it snowed this week, we hardly had a winter and the water is very warm. 

How warm is the water?  The temperature at Narragansett Pier was 41.7 degrees Fahrenheit on last week. The average sea temperature for February over the past several years there has been 37.9 degrees Fahrenheit.  Water temperatures in the area last week included 40.8 degrees at Horseneck Beach, 39.9 degrees at Westport, and Block Island was a balmy 43.7 degrees.

For the past three years the warm water has brought new abundant bait profiles.  We have had a variety of mackerel, herring, Atlantic menhaden and peanut bunker (immature Atlantic menhaden), sand ells, silversides, squid and more in our waters here together in great abundance.  This abundance of bait has driven the fish we like to catch, eat and/or release closer to shore including tuna, mahi, sharks, striped bass as well as a variety of mammals including porpoise and humpback whales. Right whales have been close too with over 30 of them feeding on zooplankton on the surface in Cape Cod Bay in January, which is usually a spring event.

So, get your gear ready as the season could start early. Here are some tips I like to share about getting your gear ready.

Reel maintenance 

Give your reels a good cleaning, particularly when the line is off and spool exposed. Grease where directed by manufacturer, often times, the reel is marked where to do this.  If instructions are long gone do not hesitate to stop by your local bait or tackle shop to ask where to grease. Do not grease the drag, it is not meant to be greased, if you do, it will not work.

Every other year (or as needed) I have my reels thoroughly cleaned by a bait & tackle shop or by a rod and reel repair expert. The reels are taken apart, cleaned, parts that are broken or worn are replaced and then everything gets put back together. I use Dave Morton of Beavertail Rod & Reel ( who has been repairing reels for almost 20 years. 


Each year, replace used line. This is a judgment call as to what is meant by “used”. Braid line may still be OK to leave on the reel, however, I usually take off line at the beginning of the reel that shows signs of wear. Experts say to cross braid line when spooling onto conventional reels to prevent the line from digging into the spool when a big fish is on.

I often fish with lead core line that is designed to sink in the water column when trolling for striped bass and bluefish in 20 to 35 feet of water in Narragansett Bay. I re-spool the lead core line putting the used portion on the reel first, this way you use line that is new as most anglers rarely use more than three to four colors (90’ to 120’) of line. 

Replace all monofilament line on reels at the start of the season. Monofilament line has memory so it creates bird nest tangles when it is old or has been sitting in the cold for a while. Also stretch the line, the first 100 feet (of monofilament line) to relax its memory and avoid tangles. 

When you change any type of line it is important to spool tight or the line may slip on the spool. To prevent braided line from slipping on the reel, first spool some monofilament backing to the reel as it will not slip, tie braid line to the monofilament, then spool the braided line onto the reel.


Examine the rods for cracks and stress marks. Closely examine the eyes for chips or cuts on the ceramic rings inside the eyes. These cracks could cause line to snag, rub or break. Do not place hooks on the eyes or they will eventually create cracks that will cut line as it passes through. Place all lures at the base of the reel as those hooked to an eye brace will bang on the rod and may cause microscopic cracks in the rod blank that could lead to a broken rod.


I get tackle ready in chronological order when certain species are fished… in this region that means starting with tautog, then striped bass, bluefish, fluke, sea bass, etc. Make sure you have enough rigs to fish the species. Hooks should be clean and sharp (no rust), and strong enough for the size fish you are going after. Often hooks that come with lures are not quality hooks so I replace them with stronger hooks.


Use wire leaders for bluefish and monofilament or fluorocarbon for striped bass, fluke, sea bass, etc. Blues won’t bite though the wire and other species will find it harder to see the monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders. As a rule I replace all used leaders at the beginning of the season. During the season make sure leaders have no nicks or stress marks from fish pulling. If they do, replace them. 

I switched most of my hooks to in line circle or wide gap hooks, I did this so I can safely catch and release undersized or unwanted fish. In-line circle hooks now required when fishing for striped bass with bait. Circle hooks are designed to hook the fish at the corner of the mouth and not down in the belly. 

Where’s the bite?

Cod fishing south of Cape Cod is still open. Party boats fishing for cod this winter include the Frances Fleet at  and the Island Current at . 

Freshwater fishing has been good as not many have fished ponds in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that were stocked in fall and early winter. For licenses and trout/salmon waterway stocking information in Rhode Island visit, and in Massachusetts .

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to or visit

fluke, fish, fishing


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