Michael Casey, a member of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, poses with an eight- and a 10-pound tautog he caught last week in the Brenton Tower area.
Yes, we could have a cod filet law in Rhode Island in 2012, as the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) voted to recommend one to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) commissioner Janet Coit last week.
Captain Frank Blount, owner of the Francis Fleet party boats, said, “I was the one who recommended this filet law and would support an option that would allow filleting of cod at sea but with fillets equal to a specified size. Fourteen inches, if that translates to the minimum size fish [of 22 inches].”
Blount advocated for the law to prevent private anglers, party and charter boats from taking undersized cod and then filleting them at sea with no minimum size. If DEM Law Enforcement should check their catch, nothing could be done if the fish were filled because there is no minimum filet size. We just have a 22-inch full fish minimum size in Rhode Island.
Captain Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association, advocated for status quo ... a 22-inch size with no filet law. Bellavance said, “Filet laws are not the solution. They are not going to stop people from taking undersized fish; what is needed is enhanced enforcement.”
Many anglers and charter captains feel that filet laws are restrictive and burdensome, particularly those that require no filleting at sea or the preservation of racks. Charter boats and most anglers filet their catch at sea on the way back to port and saving racks (of fish skeletons) often creates a burden too.
Some of those at the meeting felt that the “saving the racks” option would place a burden on captains and private anglers who have no readily available place to discard racks once at the dock, as most marinas do not allow fish racks to be discarded at the dock. Party boat captains related that the number of racks, particularly on long trips, would be impractical to keep due to the mere volume of them and amount of space they would take up.
The final recommendation approved by the council will be sent to Coit for consideration. The recommendation approved was a combination of two options, which is the vessel would either have to have all 14-inch and above fillets (possibly with a 1-inch skin patch left on them to make it identifiable as a cod fish) or the racks of all fish taken. If undersized fillets were on board due to a poor fillet job, then all filets and all racks must be kept.
The new law could get complex. DEM staffers are expected to take RIMFC input and their departmental recommendations to the director for her decision. What seems clear is that some type of cod fillet law may be in place for 2012.
Other RIMFC news
The RIMFC voted to discontinue the fluke sector pilot program, however, this leaves the door open for some other type of program, perhaps a permanent one which is expected to be proposed.
The Council voted to recommend the elimination of the Friday and Saturday commercial fluke fishing restriction. Commercial rod and reel fishermen in particular felt that this regulation was unfair to commercial fisherman. Recreational anglers advocated keeping one restricted day, Saturday, which would allow recreational anglers to fish Saturdays without the impact of commercial fluke fishermen. However, in the end with a split vote, the council voted to recommend the elimination of both restricted days.
A Whelk Ad Hoc Committee had convened and reported on draft regulations for the industry. A major topic advocated for by many industry participants is that all Whelk meat be kept in shells so law enforcement officials can check minimum sizes if they should check a fisherman’s catch.
Agendas for a variety of Advisory Panels (AP) were approved by the council including two summer flounder AP agendas, a scup/black sea bass agenda, tautog, striped bass, menhaden, an Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) and a winter flounder advisory panel agenda. Visit DEM’s web site at www.dem.ri.gov for dates and times that these meetings will be held. Fishermen are urged to attend, as this is an opportunity to impact fishing policy. Most of the meetings will be scheduled in January and will set the table for recreational (and commercial) regulation recommendations that the RIMFC will consider and eventually send to the DEM director in late winter and early spring 2012 for consideration.
Solar panels to be installed at state facilities
DEM has been awarded $1.5 million in federal funds from the R.I. Office of Energy Resources to install solar panels at nine DEM facilities throughout the state. The solar panels are designed to turn the energy from the sun into electricity that will be used to offset the energy needs at the state facilities.
The funding was awarded as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009. Solar panels will be installed at the following facilities starting this week: Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett; Fisherman’s Memorial State Park and Campground in Narragansett; Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly; Burlingame State Park in Charlestown; Lafayette Fish Hatchery in North Kingstown; Dawley State Park in Exeter; Prudence Island Research Reserve; Urban Edge Farm in Providence; and East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown. It is estimated that all work will be completed by the end of February of 2012.
Where’s the bite
Black sea bass and cod. Cod fishing was fair this week. Private anglers seem to be doing better than the party fishing boats. Cod anglers are catching some great black sea bass.
Francis Fleet Vessels reported keeper sea bass in the two- and three-pound ranges were easily caught with just about all anglers limiting out this weekend on the sea bass. Angler Eric Duda reports on his Francis Fleet trip, “Went out on the Frances Fleet on Friday [7 a.m. to 4 p.m.] for Cod fishing. Well, don’t expect to get many cod yet, but the sea bass fishing was great! Within seconds, you would get a hit.” Private angles seem to be doing a little better.
Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Customers are catching some nice 30-inch fish in the Brenton Tower area.” Earlier in the week several RISAA members reported a good black sea bass and cod bite at the East Fishing grounds off Block Island.
Tautog bite continues to be good too. Dave Fewster reports catching fish to just under 10 pounds off Newport and limiting out in a short amount of time this weekend. Angler Michael Casey said, “Black fishing is still going off of the Brenton Tower and Fountains area off Newport. Bite good off Washington Ledge ... in 55 feet [of water] we caught 30 tautog [10 keepers] before limiting out and going home in about three hours.”
Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “I have been selling a ton of green crabs, tautog fishing is good; it is a shame the season will end next week [Dec. 15]. Fishing from Coddington Cove and Plum Point Lighthouse throughout the lower Bay and out off near coastal shores has been very good.”
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license, a charter fishing license, and is a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council. Your fishing photos in JPEG from, stories, comments and questions are welcome. There’s more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com; his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him at email@example.com.