"What studies have and will be done to measure the impact of this project on fish?" Do we know how the vibrations will impact fish? Has Deepwater Wind built other wind farms? What about migrating birds, will some be killed by the wind mills? How is this project related to the larger wind farm off Block Island? These were some of the questions posed by recreational anglers after Monday's Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) screening of the film "Ocean Frontiers II: A New England Story for Sustaining the Sea".
The film tells the story of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) that serves as a federally recognized coastal management and regulatory tool. The SAMP was developed with input from fishermen, scientists, academia, government and the community to map the future uses of the ocean off our shores. The effort is a far sighted plan that was pushed by plans for offshore wind energy. The need to know where to put wind farms stimulated Rhode Island's efforts to map or zone the ocean floor much the same way that towns zone land for various development uses (commercial, industry, residential, etc.).
Overall anglers were very supportive of the SAMP program and process depicted in the film. However, they expressed concerns about the five turbine wind project being built by developer Deepwater Wind three miles off the south coast of Block Island.
They expressed concerned about the Block Island project because it is setting the table for the 200 plus wind turbine project that Deepwater Wind hopes to build between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard in the Cox's Ledge area. Additionally, many wind farms with thousand of wind turbines are planned for the east coast so with all this construction activity the fishing community has expressed concerns about any challenges created by wind farms being magnified.
David Beutel of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council facilitated a discussion after the film screening. "I can answer questions pertaining to the STAMP program, but I am not the developer and can't answer questions on their behalf. I'm the person that is and will continue to review the trawl surveys being done before, during and after construction to see if the wind farm is having an impact on the fishery." said Beutel.
The trawl studies being done off Block Island will record what fish are in the area before, during and after construction so that the impact of the project on fish populations can be measured. The hope is that these studies will also help assess what impact future projects may or may not have on fisheries.
At a meeting for commercial fishermen in Newport in November of last year, Aileen Kenney, vice president of permitting and environmental affairs for Deepwater Wind, said "Let me highlight where we are with permitting and approvals." The list of agencies that need to review, approve or give a nod to the project are endless. This is a pioneering effort so fishermen, environmentalists, Deepwater Wind, town, state and federal agencies are leaving no stone unturned. The project is or has been reviewed by town and state governments, the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, BOEM, FAA, RICRMC, RIDEM and a host of others.
The final schedule for the Block Island project depends on receipt of permits, financing, procurement and completion of engineering. Pending approvals work on the project could begin in late 2014 with contracting, mobilization and verification. If this start window is missed it would be pushed to the same time period in 2015. Actual pile driving for jacket foundations would be either in the months of May to July or August to October.
Overall I am impressed by Deepwater Winds commitment to the fishing community. It is not easy to site and build an ocean wind farm as no wind farms have been built off the coast of the US. Deepwater Wind, government officials and regulators just have to keep the process transparent and open and keep the information flowing to recreational and commercial fishermen as well as other stakeholders.
Trolling for striped bass
"Last year I changed the gear we use to jig for striped bass while trolling. We use to use wire line and jig moving the rod back and forth horizontally on the Dacron line spacers that alert you to how much wire you are putting out. Jigging on the Dacron helps to avoid putting kicks in the wire which can lead to breaks. Now we can target things a lot better putting the right amount of line out for water depth and conditions by using (Shimano) reels with line counters and we jig vertically, up and down, rather than sideways to avoid kinks." said Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters, Point Judith, RI. Capt. Bellavance spoke about the what, where, when and why of striped bass trolling around Block Island and along southern coastal shores at this Monday's Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) seminar.
The seminar covered trolling with umbrella frames and rigs, tube and worm, lures, jigging and the use of downriggers as well as when to use wire and lead core line. A copy of his presentation will be posted to www.priorityfishingcharters.com (there's a great shark fishing presentation posted there when I visited his website).
"My favorite parachute jig is something I call the 'Blurple'. It is made by Poly Jig. They are now black and blue (I use to use black and purple jigs) and are designed to mimic a black sea bass, because there are a ton of small black sea bass out there in late summer and fall." said Bellavance. In the spring he uses yellow and white parachute jigs to mimic squid.
When trolling with umbrella rigs Capt. Bellavance likes to mimic sand eels, Atlantic Menhaden and herring. He makes his own rigs with tubes as well as spoons. The small tubes mimic sand eels and hang about 27" off the umbrella rig on 80# test monofilament line. Some of his favorite colors are orange, green and white. When fishing with spoons (small metal lures) he likes to use a modified Tony Accetta lure and often tips them with pork rind. "I use silver spoons that flash as they move through the water mimicking an Atlantic Menhaden or herring." said Bellavance. The trick is to use bait that the bass are interested in, usually this means whatever they are feeding on that time of year or on any given day.
Capt. Bellavance is a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC), a legislative proxy on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and is president of the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA).
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. Monti at firstname.lastname@example.org.