The holidays are over and it is prime time for recreational fishing policy and regulations to be made. So from now until spring the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's (DEM) Fish & Wildlife Division and the RI Marine Fisheries Council will be developing fishing policy and regulation recommendations taking their quota cues from regional fishing councils and NOAA.
flounder public hearing January 15
Summer flounder (fluke) regulations are likely to get more conservative in 2014. At press time Rhode Island representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) are trying to identify key summer flounder challenges and possible solutions important to RI anglers prior to the planned January 15 ASMFC public hearing on Draft Addendum XXV. This addendum is expected to force RI to engage 2014 summer flounder recreational fishing regulations that are more conservative than the eight fish/angler/day 18" minimum size regulations that were in effect for the 2013 season. Key components of Draft Addendum XXV are new proposed regional options. One regional option groups RI with MA in a separate region, another places RI with CT, NY and other coastal states. Many feel the regulations are changing to accommodate states like New York as they have consistently overfished their summer flounder quota and the Addendum is designed to allocate more quota to such states.
Jason McNamee, marine biologist for DEM who serves on a number of ASMFC panels said, "It's tough to say which option is best for RI. I guess my personal opinion is that continuing state by state conservation equivalency (what we've been doing) is the best for us because all other options, even the one with MA have some level of either a bag decrease, a season decrease, or both. We do benefit in most cases with a smaller minimum size though."
It is important for anglers to attend and express their support for RISAA's position at the January 15 ASMFC meeting. The meeting will take place at 6:00 p.m. in the Coreless Auditorium at URI's Bay Campus in Narragansett.
Striped bass regulations
Striped bass regulations are likely to be more conservative in 2014. Many anglers and conservation groups have advocated for more conservative striped bass recreational and commercial regulations, particularly with the release of a new ASMFC striped bass benchmark assessment. The 2013 assessment indicates the resource in 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, this is 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).
The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved the benchmark stock assessment for management use. This means the ASMFC technical committee is considering measures to reach these new SSB and fishing mortality targets which could translate into new (more restrictive) recreational and commercial striped bass regulations. The ASMFC board is expected to release management plan options for public comment.
for black sea bass too
Black sea bass is also part of Addendum XXV and Rhode Islanders are being vocal about the abundance of fish and asking for liberalization. The Draft Addendum proposes two options for the 2014 black sea bass recreational fishery (1) coastwide measures (currently proposed at 13" TL minimum size, a 5 fish possession limit, and a season from June 1 to September 30) or (2) the continued use of management measures by northern (MA - NJ) and southern regions (DE - NC). The ASMFC said in a press release, "The regional management approach has been used since 2011 and offers some advantages over coastwide regulations, which can disproportionately impact states within the management unit. Specifically, regional measures can address geographic differences in the stock (size, abundance and seasonality) while maintaining the consistent application of management measures by neighboring states."
Black sea bass received a lot of attention at the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) meeting at the end of 2013. Council members and the fishing community expressed concern over the low quota assigned to Rhode Island (and other states) by the ASMFC and MAFMC.
The situation as related by members of the fishing community is that black sea bass are in abundance in Narragansett Bay and off coastal shores. So much so that anglers catch them often as by catch (and as bait stealers) when fishing for tautog, fluke and cod. So the large amounts of black sea bass and the low quotas have both commercial and recreational fishermen scratching their heads.
In fact the RI DEM agrees that something should be done. Robert Ballou, chairman of the RIMFC, on behalf of the council and DEM sent a letter outlining RI's concerns and asking for guidance on what we have to do to correct the situation (and ultimately be able to liberalize regulations with a new quota).
Councilman Kenneth Booth said at the meeting, "The black sea bass situation is critical, there seem to be an awful lot of fish in the water, what do we have to do to get their attention (ASMFC and MAFMC). Should we engage an effort to enlist the support of our congressional delegation?" Chairman Ballou suggested, "We hope to here a response from our letter this month, so perhaps we plan our next steps based on the response."
Black sea bass are a very important part of the RI fishery for commercial and recreational fishermen. So attend the ASMFC public hearing on January 15 to weigh in on this important part Addendum XXV.
and public hearings
At press time RIMFC advisory panels and public hearing meetings on recreational management plans had not been schlulded. All species management plans for tautog, scup, black sea bass, striped bass, summer flounder, etc. will likely first be discussed at RIMFC advisory panels and then will be heard at public hearing. Watch this column or visit www.dem.ri.gov for dates and times of meetings.
DEM stocks ponds with trout for winter fishing
DEM has stocked trout in ponds throughout Rhode Island for the winter fishing season. During the first two weeks of December, DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife stocked approximately 2000 Rainbow trout in several ponds statewide; Carbuncle Pond (Coventry), Barber Pond (South Kingstown), Silver Spring Lake (North Kingstown), Meadowbrook Pond (Richmond), and the Wood River, Route 165 access (Exeter).
A current fishing license and a Trout Conservation Stamp are required to keep or possess a trout. The daily creel and possession limit for trout December 1, 2013 - February 28, 2014 currently stands at two per day. Visit www.dem.ri.gov for additional information.
Where's the bite
Striped bass are being caught in the Providence River near Hemenway's Restaurant. Anglers fishing both day and night are landing school bass with an occasional keeper. Average size is 17 to 20 inches. "One of my good customers, Paul from Providence, landed 23 striped bass last week with one keeper that broke off as it was being landed." said John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & Tackle, East Providence. "Paul using six to eight pound test line and soft plastic lures… Fin-S lures… dark colors at night and green-gray during the day with ½ to ¾ once jig heads." said Littlefield. So if you want to put the time in, in the cold, there are fish in the Providence River.
Cod fishing. Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said, "Nothing over ten pounds this week so generally just the "great eating market size". Hi hook both Monday and Friday took home seven nice keepers apiece… Both bait and jigs were reported to be effective… the crew reported more and more herring are coming out of the cod as of late." Cod fishing options include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.
com; the Island Current (www.islandcurrent.com) at their winter location at Snug Harbor Marina; and the Seven B's at www.sevenbs.
Fresh water fishing is expected to get better as DEM has now stocked several fresh water ponds (see above or visit www.dem.ri.
gov for locatins) with 2,000 rainbow trout.
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.