Stage set for summer flounder quota battle
Last week over seventy fishermen expressed their concern about proposed recreational summer flounder (fluke) regulations at an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) public hearing. The Commission regulates many of the species we fish for in Rhode Island waters on a regional basis. The public hearing, held at the University of Rhode Island Bay Campus, set the stage for a summer flounder quota dispute that will unfold at the next ASMFC meeting in February as their Management Board will review, select and approve management measures for the 2014 season.
The addendum's option three would force Rhode Island into a region with states that have not managed their quota as well as Rhode Island has over the years. And, option three would force Rhode Island to adopt more conservative summer flounder regulations for the 2014 season. Its genesis comes from a desire of some states (like New York) to redistribute quota on a regional basis so they get more quota, even though they have consistently overfished their limit relating that they simply have more anglers and an abundance of fish. Other states (like Rhode Island) have fished to conservation equivalency, planning conservatively with stiff state regulations over the years to insure we do not overfish.
The addendum's option one (status quo) in conjunction with option two 'fish sharing' received support from Rhode Island anglers attending the hearing. Option one is a state by state approach with each state fishing to conservation equivalency as RI has done in the past. Option two allows states fishing under their quota to give a portion of remaining fish to other states that need more fish. This 'fish sharing' approach worked well last year when adopted, it allowed New York to reduce its minimum size and allowed New Jersey to extend their season by a couple of days.
Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA), read a letter from his association, "We support option one in conjunction with option two and are opposed to option three." The letter continued to relate reasons why the group opposed option three. RISAA represents thirty different fishing clubs in Rhode Island and over 6,500 recreational anglers. Capt. Steve Anderson, vice president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association, expressed his Association's support for option one in conjunction with option two. About thirty of the seventy anglers in attendance expressed their point of view before public comments were closed by consensus.
Kirby Rootes-Murdy, fishery management plan coordinator for the ASMFC, said, "With overwhelming support for option one and two and no support for option three, does anyone else care to express support for something different." With no additional comments the meeting was closed. After the meeting Mr. Rootes-Murdy said, "I was in Connecticut last night and angler comments were different, most were in support of option three." Connecticut would have its quota reduced if option one was adopted, its quota would be liberalized if option three was adopted. However, angler associations in other states like New Jersey (the largest fluke angler and quota state) have testified and written letters in support of options one and two and expressed their opposition to option three.
So the stage has been set for an interesting ASMFC summer flounder meeting in February when the management board reviews, selects and approves final management measures for the 2014 summer flounder recreational season. Comment highlights from anglers attending the RI public hearing included the following:
"Rhode Island and other states have been conservative in their approach fishing to conservation equivalency. This has resulted in harvest levels well within Rhode Island's harvest limit, proving that the current management structure of State by State conservation equivalency works well."
"Adopting a regional plan such as the ones outlined in Option 3 with no scientific basis is not good management. Option 3 is short term in nature and is not in tune with the long-term sustainable solution that is in the best interests for all states."
"If regionalization outlined in #3 were selected, other states like New York, would have relaxed regulations, they would harvest far more fish in 2014 than in 2013, likely overfishing their quota. New York would be forced to make very large cuts in 2015 which is not good for NY or any other state."
"I also support option 2 as this would allow states facing a reduction not to have as sever a cut. This seemed to work well last year as it allows New York to lower their minimum size and New Jersey to extend their season."
"Recreational catch and effort data estimates serve as the basis for management recommendations and the data we have now is imprecise at best. We are in the midst of a data transition this year (from MRFSS to MRIP) so it makes no sense to change management approaches before this data is available."
There is still time for anglers to send in written comments about Addendum XXV. The public comment period ends January 24, 2014 at 5 p.m. E-mail comments to email@example.com, Kirby Rootes-Murdy can be reached at 703-842-0740.
Fishing with jigs for fluke
"I use to fluke (summer flounder) fish with an old timer who said, when the tide is slow you have to move that jig like your churning butter." said Cathy Muli of Westerly, RI. Cathy was one of six local fishing experts and charter captains for Rhode Island and Connecticut that shared the stage with three national experts at the National Saltwater Sportsman Seminar Series with George Poveromo held last Saturday at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Conn.
Cathy and her husband invented a line of fishing jigs called 'Jackpot Digger Jigs' that actually stir up sand each time the jig is dropped on the bottom. She was a member of the fluke, tautog and striped bass panels of experts. Other fluke tips shared include establishing a good drift of somewhere between .7 and 1.7 knots, using rigs tipped with native squid, minnows or mummies as well as strips of fluke bellies, blue fish, menhaden or whatever fish you might have available to add as an attractant. Cathy suggests fishing contours, from high to low or low to high and said, "just experiment" with different rigs and baits as the fish bite something different every day.
Where's the bite
Cod fishing. Capt. Frank Blunt of the Frances Fleet, Galilee, RI said fishing had been good prior to the winter storms we experienced for the past week or two. Trips (last week) generally found a scattering of market size cod with top fish in the eight to ten pound range, some nice size ling and some perch and a few keeper pollock. Cod trips sail at 5:00 a.m. visit www.francesfleet.com. The Seven B's party fishing vessel sails Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 p.m., verify and reserve a trip at www.sevenbs.com . Last week noted local angler Larry Norin reported on a cod trip he took on the Island Current out of Snug Harbor, R.I. Norin said, "The cod fishing was good, the bergal/ocean perch fishing was great. I ended up with four keeper cod, two throw backs, one pollack, one ling and 10+ bergal …The biggest (cod) fish on the boat was under six pounds, all of my keeper cod were 23-26 inches."
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@