Striped bass is in the news again this week. Private recreational anglers, for-hire charter captains and commercial fishermen all say striped bass are a highly valued fishery in Rhode Island.
Last week the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that the 2014 juvenile index which measures striped bass spawning success in Chesapeake Bay is 11.0, nearly equal to the 61-year average which is a big improvement from recent years. "These findings reinforce that, although the coastal striped bass population has recently decreased from historically high levels, the spawning stock in the Chesapeake Bay is capable of producing healthy year-classes…(however) We will continue to work with our partners along the Atlantic Coast to conservatively manage the striped bass population." said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O'Connell.
Striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay area migrate north to Rhode Island and as far as Maine so the health of the spawning stock in the Chesapeake is important to Rhode Island anglers as well. Because the spawning stock of striped bass has been on a decline over the past few years, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that regulates striped bass on a regional basis for Rhode Island and other coastal states, discussed new regulations at their annual meeting in Mystic, CT this week. At press time, regulations in Addendum IV to Amendment 6 of the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan were still being discussed by the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board.
Last Thursday at the URI Bay Campus, Rhode Island ASMFC representatives Senator Susan Sosnowski of West Kingston; Robert Ballou of RI DEM; and Dave Borden, a former DEM fish manager from Little Compton met with fishermen to relate their perspective on striped bass regulations and other ASMFC annual meeting agenda items. All three Rhode Island representatives to the ASMFC related they were in favor of taking measures to enhance the striped bass biomass to target levels in one year rather than three and preferred a one fish per person regulation to do so. The commercial fishery would take the same percentage reduction (25%) to achieve results in one year.
Mark Gibson of DEM expressed the Department's perspective, "We have to take corrective action… a one fish option is the way to go." Dave Borden said "We need to be conservative because measures being discussed have only a 50% chance of being successful and given the value of this resource we need to be conservation. One year implementation and one fish at 30" or 32" is the way to go." Borden said he was sympathetic to the charter industry's request for two fish and suggested "conservation equivalency" be explored as a way to get charter boats two fish if at all possible. Senator Sosnowski said "The only thing we can do is be conservative on this. Looking at the history (of the spawning stock and species) conservative measures need to be taken."
Rick Bellavance, president of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, strongly opposed a one fish option as it would be "detrimental" to the industry. Several charter captains at the meeting expressed similar concerns. Capt. Denny Dillon of Persuader II Charters said, "We need two fish to survive as an industry." Capt. Charles Donilon of Snappa Charters suggested, "What about a 1 ½ fish solution for charter boats, that would help a lot."
Recreational anglers, represented by Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Salt Water Anglers Association (RISAA) said, "We support a reduction to one fish per day with a minimum size of 30 inches, if it has to go to 32" that is fine with us too." RISAA represents thirty fishing clubs throughout RI and MA that have over 8,000 members.
A report on striped bass management plan regulations from the ASMFC will be reviewed next week.
Where's the bite
"Striped bass fishing from shore at Pt. Judith to Watch Hill has been very good. That's where most of the larger fish are being caught with 40" fish taken from the Charlestown Breachway Friday night" said Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown. Rhode Island shore angler Steve McKenna of Cranston said, "We have had a good October. Last week I had a 36 pound bass that went for a Super Strike Bottle Plug swimming lure off Narragansett. The Nor'easte lasted for five days but some nice fish were taken after the storm during the first night (Friday) of calm wind." McKenna who is an associate at Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown said, "Arguably we had the best false albacore run ever with some shore fishermen catching over 80 fish. That is a good year." Mary Dangelo of Maridee Bait & Canvas, Narragansett said, "Narrgansett Beach and the Coast Guard Restaurant have been good for school striped bass." Angler Gil Bell said, "I've been catching and releasing nice striped bass over twenty pounds (from South County beaches) in these nasty, windy mornings (last week). This morning I landed a 38" long, 21.18 pound striped bass using one of Al Gag's Whip-It-Fish." Elisa Martin said, "Boat anglers are landing school bass using top water lures. And, with the bad weather boat anglers have not been traveling to Block Island." John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, "Anglers in the Providence River are catching school bass and bluefish using lures with Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows being the swimming lure of choice. Anglers using eels have met with little success during the day with a better bite at night."
"Tautog fishing is improving with shore anglers landing keepers at a 10 to 1 ratio (ten shorts to one keeper) in the Warren River. The Wharf Tavern and American Tourister have been good as well as Conimicut Light for boaters." said John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & Tackle, Riverside. Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina said "Tautog are still in shallow water. Capt. Lou DeFusco of Hot Reels Charters landed an eight pound and then a five and half pound tautog at Seal Ledge off Newport. But, once the big fish are taken from a spot you have to move because all you will catch are shorts." Littlefield of Archie's Bait said, "One customer said he caught over 60 short tautog to find one keeper." Mary Dangelo of Maridee Bait said, "Anglers are catching black fish at Black Point, Narrgansett using green crabs." Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said, "In general fishing is respectable for the tog considering the water is still on the warmish side and a lot of the fish are still up in side… Mixed in with the tog have been a couple keeper cod, fair to decent numbers of just keeper sea bass, and even one or two striped bass." Angler Paul Mann said of the RISAA blog, "Fished Brenton reef Saturday in 70 feet of water. Water temp 59 degrees… We caught 74 tog with seven keepers to three shorts and kept a 10 pound and two eight pound fish…great day on the water."
Black sea bass. Roger Tellier of North Kingstown nearly caught his limit of black sea bass using squid and green crabs when tautog fishing off Scarborough Beach, Narragansett during windy conditions Saturday. Mary Dangelo said "The black sea bass bite is good along the East Wall of the Harbor of Refuge."
Fresh water. John Littlefield said, "A customer caught a four pound largemouth bass last week using shiners. It had the same mouse fishing lure in its mouth that the angler lost when a fish broke off earlier in the week." DEM stocked ponds and lakes with trout last week. Visit www.dem.ri.gove for a list of stocked locations.
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 dmontifish@
verizon.net or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.