Proposed panel format designed to enhance input
In a move to enhance fishermen participation the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) is exploring full-day meetings to consider annual amendments to species-specific management plans. These annual amendments traditionally address such things as catch limits, season length, size limits, etc. for both commercial and recreational fishing. Historically, Advisory Panel meetings have been held on separate nights i.e. striped bass, fluke (summer flounder), tautog. With the single night approach fishermen have to attend several evening or afternoon meetings to provide regulation input on the variety of species they fish.
Robert Ballou, acting chief of the Division of Fish & Wildlife of the Department of Environment Management (DEM) and chairman of the RIMFC, introduced the proposal at July's RIMFC meeting. "Now I would like to continue the discussion regarding streamlining the Advisory Panel process." Consolidating the meetings was recommended by Councilman Rick Bellavance of North Kingstown (a charter boat operator and captain). Captain Bellavance said, "Holding meetings together on one or two days or evenings will enhance participation from fishermen who cannot make multiple meetings and allow greater council participant at a variety of species meetings." Bellavance continued to say that fishermen have too many meetings to go to. Consequently they often have to miss meetings to fish or prepare their vessels for fishing
The draft proposal calls for a full-day (and/or night) meeting in September and a meeting in February that will likely be one and a half or two days. The fall meeting would address commercial summer flounder, scup, black sea bass as well as herring. The winter meeting could address commercial tautog, striped bass, menhaden, bluefish and weakfish; federally managed species such as monkfish, dogfish, skates, cod, winter flounder; lobster; and recreational summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, tautog, striped bass and winter flounder.
Advisory panels and committees that would remain in effect, meeting throughout the year as needed, would include the Industry Advisory Committee (IAC), enforcement, floating fish trap and shellfish possibly both wild harvest regulations as well as aquaculture lease proposals.
The proposal received wide support at the meeting. DEM and the RIMFC hope to enact the new meeting structure this year keeping advisory panel and committee membership as it presently exists.
Fluke exemption certificate
The summer flounder (fluke) exemption certificate program was also discussed at the RIMFC meetng. The Council voted to not eliminate the certificate and then asked DEM to develop an alternative proposal that addressed key fishermen concerns if the certificate was eliminated i.e. too much pressure on inshore fish in the summer, possible early season closures due to overfishing but yet address the inequality of the present certificate program.
The fluke advisory panel had voted unanimously (8 to 0) to "recommend not eliminating or modifying the summer flounder exemption certificate program." The program allowed vessels to apply for a "RI Summer Flounder Exemption Certificate" prior to 1/1/97. 173 permits were issued with approximately 148 (56 are non-resident permits) active today. The permits allow fishermen "to possess, land, sell" more than two hundred (200) pounds of summer flounder in any calendar day in Rhode Island as catch limits permit.
The Rhode Island Fishermen's Alliance sponsored a proposal to eliminate the permit relating that the proposal was about creating equity amongst Rhode Island fishermen. However, some at the summer flounder advisory panel meeting and the following RIMFC meeting voiced opposition to eliminating the certificate program relating the "too much inshore pressure" and "overfishing" arguments. Those voicing opposition to eliminating the certificate included the Rhode Island Commercial Rod and Reel Association as well and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA).
Where's the bite
Striped bass fishing has been good at Block Island at night. Captain John Sheriff reports landing bass to 43 pounds on the Southwest Ledge Friday night. Captain Sheriff said, "We caught a 34, 25 and a few 20 pound class fish as well…Bass caught with live eels with no weight in 45 feet of water." Steve McKenna, a noted local shore angler and fishing author said the shore bass bite has slowed a great deal off Narragansett and other areas he fishes. Steve said, "I caught over one hundred fish in April but since May I have caught about seventy fish… I have been shore bass fishing for 39 years and places where I would catch five and seven fish a night are now yielding two to no fish." Angler Dave Morton reports that Saturday night, "…we decided to hit the car docks at Quonset where we came across schools of stripers chasing squid and small bunker type bait, by the end of the night my friend's brother landed his first Rhode Island striper at 25 inches! In total the three of us landed 30 stripers from 12 to 28 inches all stuffed with squid." John Littlefield from Archie's Bait & Tackle, East Providence said, "The striped bass bite has slowed a great deal in the upper Bay and River."
Squeteague (weakfish or saltwater trout as they are often referred to) are being caught in Narragansett Bay in larger numbers. John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & Tackle, East Providence, said, "Two days in a row customers have reported catching squeteague. One caught four off Warwick Light when fluke fishing and a second caught two off Barrington Beach." Ed Bison caught a 25" weakfish in 60' of water when fluke fishing Saturday. The legal size for squeteague is 16" with a possession limit of one fish per angler per day with no closed season.
Fluke (or summer flounder) fishing slowed a bit this week with anglers working harder for the keeper fish. Craig Castro of Erickson Brothers Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, "Customers fishing in the RISAA fluke tournament experienced a very slow bite catching one and two fish this weekend." I fished this week off Newport and caught three fluke in the 21" range in a two hour period. Thursday, Larry Ruddy caught a nice 24" fluke under the Newport Bridge when fishing on Bob Brodeau's boat Popcorn2. Angler Dave Sweet fished at Austin Hollow Saturday and caught three keepers in the afternoon with a slow bite most of the day. Anglers fishing the mouth of the Sakonnet River also experience a slower fluke bite this week. Angler Steve McGonagle said there was a "Slow pick of nice sized fluke along with big BSB and even a couple of fat tautog on the outgoing, at the mouth of the Sakonnet River in 70-75 feet of water. Point Judith head boats were there along with 30 or so other boats. Not nonstop action but you could work for a nice pick of fish." Angler Rick Sustello who fished at the three mile limit off Point Judith Saturday said, "We had non-stop action with fluke and BSB for over two hours before it slowed down. We had over a dozen keeper size fluke, but kept only 6 fluke… we also caught about the same number of BSB with the largest at 4..."
Scup fishing remains good all over Narragansett Bay with fish as large 18" being caught. Hot spots include Colt State Park, Ohio Ledge, the Rocky Point area and wharfs in Warren and Barrington.
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. Your fishing photos in JPEG from, stories, comments and questions are welcome… there's more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave's No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com; his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.