There is a new fishing cooperative in Rhode Island… the first of its type in the nation, it is called Rhode Island Fish for the Future and I am one of its founding members. It is a charter captains' summer founder (fluke) cooperative consisting of nine vessels. The captains are voluntarily testing an innovative fishing approach to improve accountability and conservation of the summer flounder (fluke) population while increasing business flexibility and stability for the Rhode Island charter boat industry.
The cooperative is also testing innovative new software they developed that records catch in real time. Each of the captains in the program has a computer tablet on board loaded with the software. The software (called Fish Net) allows captains to record species type and fish length (the software converts length to approximate weight). All of this is recorded in real time in the location that they catch/record the fish through a GPS capability. It is hoped that software like this will provide a rich data source for fish mangers in the future as charter boats and recreational fishers are presently not required to report their catch the way that commercial fishermen do.
The cooperative received a grant to develop the software and is operating under proposed guidelines as they fish off a Research Set Aside (RSA) fish allocation they purchased at a federal auction.
The mission of the pilot project includes reducing discards (and mortality rate… or the number of fish that die after release) and increased flexibility and predictability so charter captains can better serve customers. Captains have been able to improve customer experience by allowing them to take more fish and smaller sizes than normally allowed. This sounds great… more fish for customers, smaller sizes allowed, however, there is a catch.
Captains participating in the program agree to live within a rigid set of rules. Rules such as counting all fish caught toward their quota or allowable catch for the season… even the ones too small to keep. Their cumulative total of allowable catch is smaller than they would be able to take under normal recreational fishing regulations, however, the program gives them the flexibility to catch the fish and use them with customers when it is best from a business perspective.
For example they can fish for striped bass or tautog when they are in season and available and save the fluke fishing for when other species are not available. Captain Joe Pagano of Stuff-It Charters (a program participant) said "The pilot program will allow my customers to keep more fish and plan their vacations ahead of time which will ultimately provide more stability for my business."
Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters, one of the organizers of Rhode Island Fish for the Future said, "The catch cooperative program is the best option I've seen to date, one that with the appropriate implementation, will let our industry continue to thrive for years to come."
For information about Rhode Island Fish for the Future visit www.rifishforthefutue.org.
Where's the bite
Striped bass fishing has been fair this past week at Block Island and in the Bay. John Littlefield of Archie's Bait Tackle, East Providence said, "Sunday small bass in the 22" to 24" range were caught at Sabin Point." Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marine, South Kingstown said, "The Bass bite at Block Island has been with eels at night and customer are catching them during the day trolling umbrella rigs." Ken Landry of Ray's Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, "Some nice bass were caught at the Newport Bridge this week with Atlantic Menhaden which have been plentiful in that area and around Gould Island. Some customers have been doing well with bass in the Breton Reef, Newport area."
Summer flounder (fluke) fishing has been spotty with warm water in Narragansett Bay and rough water off shore. John Littlefield of Archie's Bait said, "I had a customer catch a small keeper sized fluke off Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick and then he landed a nice squeteague." I fished in the Beavertail, Jamestown area with Jon Hare and his son John and friend Elliott this Saturday and landed about a dozen fish including six nice keeper fluke but they were hard to come by. "Ken Landry of Ray's Bait said, "Fluke are from Warwick Neck to the bridges and beyond but they were very spotty and hard to catch this week. Some days anglers were hitting them and some days they were not." Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marine said, "Fluke fishing was slow this week for customers both at Block Island and along southern coastal shores."
Black sea bass fishing has been OK with anglers catching them while fluke fishing. Some nice sized black sea bass were taken off the wall at the Harbor of Refuge and off Narragansett Beach.
Scup fishing continues to be strong all over Narragansett Bay, off coastal shores and in the Newport and Jamestown bridge areas. Angler Mike Swain of Coventry said, "I saw a number of boats at Warwick Light landing scup while fluke fishing this Sunday." John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & Tackle said, "Scup fishing continues to be very strong with large scup common. Anglers continue to experience a good scup bite at Colt Sate Park, Bristol."
Offshore fishing had been pretty good this week at the Dump with bluefin tuna, mahi-mahi, and yellowfin being taken by a number of customers said Matt Conti of Snug Harbor.
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 and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association board. Visit Captain Dave's No Fluke Charters website at www.noflukefishing.com, his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him fishing news and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org.