The holidays are upon us and I am thankful for the fish. We are blessed in New England to have such great access to fish and fishing. And, here in Rhode Island, we have some of the best fishing in the northeast. Our striped bass, tautog and summer flounder fisheries are all superb and arguably the best in the northeast.
I am also blessed to be able to take people fishing, experience their joy and then often write about it. Whether seven or 70 years old, no one catches a fish and is sad. They all have smiles on their faces.
This holiday season, I pledge again to be an advocate for the fish and the sea for a very selfish reason. I do not want anyone to steal the joy that fish and fishing brings me.
Snug Harbor Open House
Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, will hold its annual customer appreciation open house on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor said, “It is an opportunity for us to thank customers. We will have refreshments and open house specials, in addition to the regular great values on all our fishing gear and tackle.” Call Snug Harbor at 401-783-7766 for information.
Atlantic menhaden catch limit increased; ERPs voted down
Last week, the Atlantic menhaden board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) met to vote on Amendment 3, which modifies the coastwide Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the species.
Atlantic menhaden serves as a primary forage fish for striped bass, bluefish, tuna, osprey and a host of other species. Menhaden also help filter water and improve marine habitats. By feeding on algae-causing plankton, an adult menhaden can filter 2.4 gallons of water per minute, providing a valuable service in places like Narragansett Bay, where nutrient runoff can become concentrated in coves and inlets.
The amendment’s primary aim was to establish ecological reference points (ERPs) for the species, which would determine the amount of Atlantic menhaden that should be left in the water for ecological reasons, i.e., as forage fish and for water filtering purposes. This would be the first species managed by ERPs in this fashion for the ASMFC.
In addition, Amendment 3 also addressed a suite of commercial management measures, including allocation, quota transfers, quota rollovers and incidental catch; the episodic events set aside program, and the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery cap.
Here is what the board decided:
The board voted to maintain Atlantic menhaden’s current single-species biological reference points until the review and adoption of menhaden-specific ecological reference points as part of the 2019 benchmark stock assessment process. The Menhaden Coalition, in RI a partnership of Save the Bay, the Audubon Society and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) were advocating for a 75 percent EPR.
Rich Hittinger, RISAA 1st vice president, said, “The Technical Committee of the board was not as complete with their answers to board questions as they could have been. The Menhaden Coalition advocated for a phased in ERP, meaning the 75 percent goal would not have to be achieved in one year, but rather two or three. This would allow the stock to build further.” The phased-in option was also suggested by some Atlantic menhaden Advisory Panel members two weeks prior to the board meeting. Hittinger said, “Yet the technical committee did not mention how such phased in ERPs could work.”
The Board set the total allowable catch for the 2018 and 2019 fishing seasons at 216,000 metric tons, with the expectation that the setting of the TAC for subsequent years will be guided by menhaden-specific ecological reference points.
Last year’s TAC was 200,000 metric tons. The fish reduction industry (primarily Omega Protein) that harvests over 85 percent of all Atlantic menhaden was vying for a 240,000 metric ton coastwide TAC.
Robert Ballou, chair of the Atlantic Menhaden Board (and assistant to the director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management) said, “Through adoption of Amendment 3 and the setting of the 2018 and 2019 TAC at a risk-averse level, the Board has demonstrated its continued commitment to manage the menhaden resource in a way that balances menhaden’s ecological role with the needs of its stakeholders.”
Ballou said in a press advisory from the ASMFC, “While the Amendment maintains the current reference points, the Board placed the development of menhaden-specific ecological reference points as its highest priority. While the Board’s action was not supported by the majority of public comment received, it is still a conservative management action relative to our understanding of stock status and many of the positive signals we see in the current stock conditions.”
Amendment 3 also changes fishery allocations in order to strike an improved balance between gear types and jurisdictions. The Amendment allocates a baseline quota of 0.50 percent to each jurisdiction (this includes Rhode Island which had a TAC of .002 percent, now it will be .52 percent).
The Board also agreed to maintain the quota transfer process, prohibit the rollover of unused quota, maintain the 6,000-pound trip limit for non-directed and small-scale gears following the closure of a directed fishery and set aside one percent of the TAC for episodic events in the states of New York through Maine.
Rhode Island is the primary jurisdiction that has taken advantage of the episodic event set aside in the past. If an overabundance of fish are in the water states can apply for more quota under the episodic event program.
The Amendment also reduces the Chesapeake Bay cap, which was first implemented in 2006 to limit the amount of reduction harvest within the Bay to 51,000 MT from 87,216 mt. This recognizes the importance of the Chesapeake Bay as nursery grounds for many species (such as striped bass).
The Amendment will be available on the Commission’s website by the end of November at www.asmfc.org. For more information, contact Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at email@example.com or 703-842-0740.
Where’s the bite?
On Saturday, I caught six keepers to 19 ionches fishing in front of Newport in about four hours. The fish were smaller than they were earlier in the week, when fishing Thursday the fish caught were in the 22- and 23-inch range. Capt. Andy Dangelo of Maridee II Fishing Charters said he fished off Newport Saturday, “Tautog fishing has been very good. It picked up a lot over the past two weeks. We had 31 nice keepers Saturday, with the larger fish in the 9 1/2-pound range.” “Daphney Forster caught a 12.82-pound tautog of Newport last week,” said Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, said, “Most of my customers have pulled their boats, but those fishing from shore are catching keepers at the Wharf Tavern on the Warren River.”
fishing is still sluggish. The hope is that the water will cool and the bite improves next week.
fishing for largemouth bass has been good. “Customers are catching fish using shiners at the Brickyard in Barrington, as well as at Bad Luck Pond in Rehoboth, Massachusetts,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle.
Capt. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.