Every year, about 300,000 sport anglers seek finfish and shellfish in the Rhode Island's salt waters. It is a popular, rewarding pastime as well as a business.
Over the past few centuries, prized species have faced severe challenges. The once-abundant populations of cod, lobster, and winter flounder have dropped significantly.
On the other hand, striped bass, summer flounder, and scup seem to be thriving. The changing composition and size of populations are cause for fishermen to be concerned.
Narragansett Bay is not a bay, which by definition is an enclosed body of water that rises and falls with tides and is not fed by outside water sources. It is an estuary — a semi-enclosed inlet of the sea in which seawater is diluted by fresh water.
The Bay's 700 billion gallons of water cover 150 square miles.
There are three entrances to Narragansett Bay from the Atlantic Ocean: the West Passage between North Kingstown & Jamestown, under the "new" Jamestown bridge; the East Passage between Jamestown & Newport, under the Newport bridge.
The third entrance is via the so-called Sakonnet River, which is not a river, but a tidal strait. It flows approximately 14 miles between Mount Hope Bay and Rhode Island Sound.
Only the East Passage, with an average depth of 44 feet, is deep enough for large ships.
Pelagic fish (fish that feed in the water column): bluefish, striped bass, scup, squeteague (weakfish), menhaden, Atlantic herring, and alewife
Shellfish: quahog (or quahaug), oyster
The demersal fish, as well as the quahog and oyster, are Bay residents that are able to live in the Bay year round and during all stages of their life cycles.
Most of the commercially important pelagic fish, as well as squid, migrate to Narragansett Bay in May or June. Each year, about 100 different species may visit the Bay at one time or another (e.g. Bonito, False Albacore, Skip Jack Tuna).
RI fishing starts in late April early May. Spring brings baitfish to Rhode Island for Narragansett Bay's many rivers and estuaries.
Each spring, migratory fish such as river herring, American shad, and American eels return from the sea, running up rivers and streams of the Narragansett Bay watershed.
Fish populations reach their highest abundance in
June, July, and August in Narragansett Bay.
Atlantic herring and tautog are most plentiful in early summer.
Atlantic menhaden, bay anchovy, butterfish,
squid, summer flounder, scup, mackerel, weakfish,
and bluefish move into the Bay a little later, reaching
peak abundance in late summer or early fall.