The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), Arlington, VA, is responsible for many of our recreational and commercial fishing regulations in Rhode Island. The Commission has served as a deliberative body of the Atlantic coastal states, coordinating the conservation and management of 25 highly migratory nearshore species.
The 15 states that formed the ASMFC in 1942 recognized that they could accomplish far more through cooperation than through individual efforts. Species that recreational anglers fish often in RI such as striped bass, summer flounder, black sea bass and tautog are all managed by the Commission with States implementing regulations locally.
Each state is represented on the Commission by three Commissioners: Robert Ballou from the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) services as our administrative appointee; RI Senator Susan Sosnowski as our legislative appointee (with Rick Bellavance of North Kingstown serving as legislative proxy) and William McElroy of Wakefield, RI serving as our Governor's appointee.
Two popular ASMFC managed species have been hot topics in RI recreational fishing circles this month… striped bass and summer flounder (fluke).
The ASMFC striped bass management board approved a new benchmark stock assessment for management use last month. The 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark indicates the resource is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. However, the female spawning stock biomass (SSB) has continued to decline since 2004 and is estimated at 128 million pounds below the SSB target of 159 million pounds. Additionally, total fishing mortality is estimated at 0.20, a value that is between the proposed new fishing mortality threshold (0.219) and fishing mortality target (0.18).
This means the ASMFC technical committee will now consider measures to reach these new SSB and fishing mortality targets which could translate into new (more restrictive) recreational and commercial striped bass regulations for RI. How RI striped bass regulation changes in the future remains to be seen. The ASMFC technical and planning committees will now meet and make recommendation options on how to reach the new biomass and mortality targets. Recommendations will be voted on at two different ASMFC meetings in 2014, followed by public hearings with any new management plans taking effect in January of 2015.
New summer flounder (fluke) regulations
This year the ASMFC Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board initiated a change in how states may be allowed to manage summer flounder (fluke). The past management shift away from coastwide management to state conservation equivalency addressed the interests of some states. However, it created difficulties for other states as overages in fishing occurred (particularly in NY) due largely to state shares and limits not reflecting local abundance of summer flounder and its availability to recreational fishermen. Consequently minimum sizes in NY were an inch to an inch and a half greater than neighboring states in recent years.
Draft Addendum XXIV will come before the board for consideration in December with a joint meeting with the ASMFC and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The initiative includes options that allow for the averaging of harvest estimates, mandatory regions, and the sharing of unused quota.
What does this mean for recreational summer flounder fishing in Rhode Island? Jason McNamee, marine biologist at DEM said, "… from my perspective we will remain largely unchanged as we would be one of the areas where there are indications that the population has moved/expanded to. So if the managers base their allocation scenarios on where the fish are, we should be ok. If they base it on something else, that could lead to reductions for us. It's tough to tell where things will end up."
For additional information about ASMFC management plans contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, fishery management clan Coordinator, at krootes-murdy@asmfc.
org or 703.842.0740.
Aquaculture and striper magic at RISAA meeting
The Rhode Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) will hold its monthly seminar Monday, November 25, 7:00 p.m. at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick. Perry Raso, owner of Matunuck Oyster Farm and the Matunuck Oyster Bar restaurant will give a presentation on aquaculture in RI. Mike Laptew, who has been diving, fishing and taking still and video photos underwater for many years will present on Striper Magic. His videos of striped bass underwater reveal the magical underwater world of stripers and hot spots where anglers often catch them.
Where's the bite
Tautog. You are either on tautog, or not, so move to find them because they are out there in good numbers. Hot spots include off Newport in the Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge area at cans two and four and around wrecks and rock clusters. Fishing has also been good in Narragansett at River's Ledge and off Scarborough Beach. Lorrain Danti of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, "Fishing shut down in the Bay with all the storms. The hope is that it will pick up again with better weather and great tides this week." Gil and Travis Barao fished off Newport Saturday said, "(We) put a few keeper togs in the boat but lots of shorts and lots of short sea bass as well. We were near the number two can with green crabs in 50-60 feet." Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, "The tautog fishing has been strong off Newport. We weighed in a ten pound fish this weekend." I fished this Saturday with Pete Sousa and Rich Jones of Warwick off Scarborough Beach for two and a half hours in 45 to 50 feet of water. They landed about thirty fish there; three were keepers with lots of choggies steeling bait. Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said, "The tautog fishing was generally rock star with at least half the boat limiting out on most outings this past week (with pool fish to 11 pounds)."
Cod/black sea bass. "Anglers are finding both cod and good sized black sea bass at Cox's Ledge and the East Fishing Grounds." said Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina. Cod fishing trips on the Frances Fleet continue to be good with a broad mix of cod, black sea bass and scup being caught (even monkfish). Roger Simpson said, "Sunday saw a boat limit of big sea bass up to nearly 5 lbs along with some nice market cod, a mess of big ocean perch, a few red hake and some blue fish and some big scup. Friday saw a full boat limit of big sea bass by noon… Majority of the sea bass were jumbos in the two to three and a half pound range with some up to and just over 4 pounds. Some nice cod too into the mid teens…" Capt. John Sheriff said, "(Saturday we) fished structure about 1 .5 miles southeast of Brenton Reef in 60- 70 feet of water. We landed 27 keepers to 6 lbs and 30 shorts. I believe this season so far has been the most productive… in the last several years."
Squid. Lorraine Danti of Lucky Bait & Tackle said, "The squid fishing is fantastic, what a great fall season, they are all over Goat Island (Newport)." Greg Vespe and Kurt Rivard of Warren continue to catch squid in the Newport area. Greg said, "The fall squid run is quietly turning out to be fairly strong; given how poor the spring run was its nice to see... We continue to find them in 10' to 30' of water." Greg serves as mate for Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters, much of the native squid is used for bait on charters.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.