Vessel ‘Fortuna’ takes tournament with 330-pound mako

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The sport fishing vessel ‘Fortuna’ from East Greenwich, captained by Mike Beland, landed a 330-pound mako shark to take first place in Snug Harbor Marina’s Shark Tournament this weekend. Bryan Jay was on the rod when the fish hit. Michaela Hastings on ‘Rangeley’ took second place with a 235-pound mako.

Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, “We had a great turnout with 49 vessels participating, two more than last year.” The tournament took place July 8-9, and concluded with a cookout after weigh-in, which closed at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Proceeds from the tournament go the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association and the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

How much Atlantic menhaden is enough?

I serve on the Atlantic menhaden advisory panel of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that makes regulation recommendations on catch quotas for Atlantic menhaden (locally known as pogies). The lines on how these fish should be utilized have been more sharply drawn today with a new amendment (visit www.asmfc.org for a copy) being developed for the Atlantic menhaden species management plan.

In early August, the ASMFC will vote on Amendment 3 that will be put out for public comment, and on Nov. 14 it will vote on options within the Amendment that will guide the plan in the future.

On one side of the issue is Omega Protein, a firm that catches and processes over 80 percent of all the Atlantic menhaden. Atlantic menhaden is used for the production of fish oil pills for humans, as well as an important ingredient for the production of dog and cat food, fertilizes and other uses. With the Atlantic menhaden stock on the rebound, due to the first ever catch quota put into place in 2012, those that represent the interests of fish processors want an enhanced Atlantic menhaden quota.

On the other side of the issue are conservations and fishermen, who see the importance of Atlantic menhaden for environmental reasons. They are an important forage fish for striped bass, bluefish, tuna and other species. Menhaden also serve as roving filters, converting algae into energy and thus reducing nutrient load. An adult menhaden, through its unique filtering gills, is able to process up to four gallons of water per minute or a million gallons of water every 180 days. Multiply this by the number of menhaden, and this is an amazing amount of water being filtered. A reduction of nutrients means fewer algae blooms and ultimately more oxygen for all fish.

Conservationists believe we should leave enough Atlantic menhaden in the water to use for the environment and as a forage fish. They say current formulas (to determine catch quotas) do not contain adequate ecological reference points.

Rich Hittinger, a Rhode Island recreational and commercial rod and reel fisherman, is part of a regional group of the National Wildlife Federation advocating for conservative Atlantic menhaden quotas. Hittinger said, “Atlantic menhaden play an important role in our striped bass fishery as a forage fish.”

A statement issued by the National Wildlife Federation said, “Amendment 3 needs to have ecosystem-based management guidelines. We have sound science that suggests a forage fish like menhaden should be left with a 75 percent unfished stock in the water to fulfill these needs.”

John McMurray, a New York charter captain and a member of the ASMFC, said, “Atlantic menhaden are an incredibly important baitfish for striped bass, bluefish and other predators targeted by recreational anglers. Multiple studies have shown that, when available, menhaden are the preferred diet of striped bass.”

Many feel that the progress made in regulation of Atlantic menhaden as a forage fish is under threat. Patrick Paquette, a charter captain from Cape Cod and an Atlantic menhaden Advisory Panel member, said, “Since more restrictive Atlantic menhaden quotas have been in place, we have seen an increase of menhaden in our waters, which will lead to an enhanced striped bass fishery. Allowing more Atlantic menhaden to be taken for commercial fish processing will impact the striped bass fishery up north.”

Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA), said, “We have a model Atlantic menhaden management program here in Narragansett Bay. We helped craft the plan with the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM). The program includes a Bay management area that has a fish abundance threshold. If we drop below the threshold commercial fishing is shut down in the Bay.”

The species biomass is measured weekly (sometimes twice a week) via airplane spotter stock assessments. Medeiros said, “This is an important forage fish for striped bass. Our members are quite aggressive about conservative quotas for this fishery, making sure we have enough fish in the water for forage fish and environmental reasons.”

Amendment 3 to the menhaden management plan will include an opportunity to manage these fish, not just for the health of the individual species, but for the importance they play for predators across the ecosystem.

To voice your opinion about Amendment 3 and the Atlantic menhaden management plan, visit www.asmfc.org after the ASMFC early August meeting when the public comment period begins. Local hearings on the Amendment will likely occur with the comment period ending prior to the November, 2017, Commission meeting. Watch for details on hearing dates and where to send written or email comments.

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass fishing continues to heat up on Block Island. Angler Eric Appolonia (and family) from North Kingstown caught striped bass to 40 pounds using umbrella rigs and eels at the Southwest Ledge last week. We fished a Sunday too and caught three keepers to 32 pounds on eels.” Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, “The bass have left the Bay. We have a few fish caught at Ohio Ledge on eels, but all the action is at Block Island. The largest Block Island fish we weighed in this week was at 50.5 pounds.”

Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet reports good evening striped bass trips last week with anglers limited out, many with fish in the 30- and 40-pound range.

Summer flounder (fluke) fishing was good last week at Block Island with fish being taken on the north and west sides of the Island, the windfarm area on the south and at the East Fishing Grounds three and a half miles east of the Island. The biggest challenge was dog fish…avoid them and you will likely hook up with fluke. This weekend, Steve Brustein and Mike Weaver found fluke to 23 inches just north of the Jamestown Bridge on No Fluke Charters. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Anglers are catching keeper fluke both in the Newport and Jamestown Bridge areas. Most of the activity is happening south of the Bridges.”

“Customers are landing fish in the Sakonnet River area,” said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle. Capt. Frank Blount of the Francis Fleet said, “We had a good week of fluke fishing. There were a few handfuls of limit catches on most days; many saw limit catches of sea bass that were generally of very good size. We had at least three fish this week that threatened or hit the 10-pound mark and a bunch of others in the 8-9 pound range.” Matt Conti of Sung Harbor Marina said, “From the Center Wall of the Harbor of Refuge to Charlestown anglers are catching fluke in 55 to 65 feet of water. They are catching shorts and keepers with black sea bass filling in nicely.”

Scup fishing is strong in the Bay. Many Macedo said, “The scup are very large. Some are 17 and 18 inches and are being caught from shore at Colt State Park and in the Warren River as well as off Newport.

Offshore fishing is starting to take off. “One of the boats fishing our Shark Tournament this weekend (see story above) caught a 139-pound bluefin tuna, and others in the Tournament caught bluefin in the 60-inch range. Any place at the 30 fathom line from the Horns to South of Martha’s Vineyard is filled with bait, whales and birds. Anglers fishing east of the Fingers, at Tuna Ridge and a number of other locations are hooking up.”

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.

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