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Being thankful for the Atlantic menhaden

By   /   November 19, 2012  /   Be the first to comment

Rhody Fly Rodders member Dave Pollack reached a milestone a few weeks ago by catching his largest bass yet on the fly: 42 inches and estimated at over 35 pounds. Rhody Fly Rodders meet every third Tuesday of the month at the Riverside Sportsmen Association in East Providence.

It’s Thanksgiving already, and we have a lot to be thankful for in Rhode Island. We were clobbered by hurricane Sandy but did not experience the loss of life and property that New York and New Jersey experienced. By no means am I belittling our losses in Westerly, Misquamicut and along our southern coastal shores. Our residences suffered major losses and we need to continue to help them.

However, overall it was a good year for recreational fishing in our bays and ocean. Fishing this year was better than it has been in a number of years. The striped bass run in the bay was moderate, but the bass fishing continued to be great offshore around Block Island, the fluke season was good and we really had an outstanding scup and black sea bass fishery this year. All this was capped with a surprisingly good fall tautog season that we’re still experiencing.

One species I am forever grateful for is Atlantic menhaden, as it serves as a food source for so many other fish including striped bass. If you fish Rhode Island coastal waters, offshore or in Narragansett Bay, now’s the time to voice your concerns about this important fish species as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlanta Menhaden Management Board meets Dec. 14 in Baltimore, Md. to consider regulations.

In additional to being a primary food source for many other species of fish, menhaden serve as roving filters, converting algae into energy and thus reducing nutrient loads in bays and covers. An adult menhaden, through its unique filtering gills, is able to process up to four gallons of water per minute — a million gallons of water every 180 days. Multiply this by the number of menhaden in any given area 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.

At the Dec. 14 meeting, the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will consider approval of Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic menhaden. A draft of the amendment was out for public comment until Nov. 16. The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) and other fishing groups in Rhode Island and Massachusetts expressed their thoughts on the regulations at public hearings.

However, even though the public comment period is officially closed it’s important to continue to put pressure on the ASMFC committee to regulate on the side of the fish — to make sure this species is here to stay and will not continue to be overfished. Advocating for this species should continue through December as regulations are finalized and implemented. Watch this column for ways to advocate for this species as we get closer to the December meeting.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Capt. Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing on Narragansett Bay for more than 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Your fishing photos in jpeg form, stories, comments and questions are welcome. Visit Capt. Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com or e-mail him at dmontifish@verizon.net.

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