No Fluke: The scoop on scup; testing for mercury

Research to identify mercury levels in scup

The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation has awarded a $12,166 grant to Roger Williams University to drive new research that will measure mercury levels in scup, a native fish frequently fished and consumed by Rhode Island recreational fishermen. The research will assist the Rhode Island Department of Health in establishing new guidelines for safely eating scup, which account for 23 percent of the total recreational catch in Rhode Island.

Over the next year, Roger Williams University Associate Professor of Biology David Taylor and marine biology student Sean Maiorano ’ 14 will analyze mercury levels of scup to enable the Department of Health to update fish consumption advisories, should a change in mercury risk be identified. The effort is aimed at encouraging safe, healthy consumption of scup, a fish that Taylor anticipates will measure low in mercury levels.

Dr. Taylor has conducted a lot of research in this area. To determine how much fish and what species area residents are consuming, Taylor surveyed eating habits of 280 local fisherman and their families and found that they eat 80 percent more fish relative to the national average.  Further, approximately 29 percent of those surveyed reported eating scup on a regular basis. Taylor has performed comprehensive research on mercury contamination in striped bass, bluefish, tautog, black sea bass, summer flounder and winter flounder from Narragansett Bay. When the analysis on mercury in scup and other species concludes, consumption advisories will be updated.

Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation said, “We are very pleased to offer this grant in support of Taylor’s  important research into mercury levels in our local scup. This is an important fish caught by local anglers and consumed by thousands of people.  Our Foundation believes that this research will aid everyone to determine if consumption of scup could lead to exposure to mercury. We are sure that this work will help improve the overall recreational fishing experience and we are pleased that such fine research will be conducted at a local University.”

For additional information about research and news from the University’s marine and natural sciences programs, visit http://departments.rwu.edu/mns/.

The scoop on scup

Scup (or porgy) are plentiful in local waters as the stock was officially declared rebuilt in 2009 as it increased 30-fold from 1997 to 2008 largely due to conservation measures.

Scup are a small, mild tasting fish. Locally, they are fished for by anglers for food and not just sport.  Scup has been cited as an underutilized fish species. NOAA says on their website in taste tests participants discovered the lesser known scup has a subtle, delicious flavor and is an excellent alternative to more popular white fish.

Scup facts:
•  Scup can grow as large as 18” and three pounds and can live for over twenty years.
•  Scup migrate north and inshore to spawn in the spring, then migrate south and offshore in autumn as the water cools.
•  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council jointly develop management measures for the scup, however, individual states may set different regulations for the scup.

In Rhode Island the scup shore and private angler minimum size is 10”, 30 fish/person/day from May 1 to August 31 and from November 1 to December 31; and 45 fish/person/day from September 1 to October 31.  However, Rhode Island has a special area provision: while fishing from shore at India Point Park, Providence; Conimicut Park, Warwick; or at Stone Bridge, Tiverton, Rhode Island anglers may posess up to 30 scup, nine inches or greater in length, from May 1 through  December 31. Party and charter boat regulations are slightly different.

Recreational fishing guide

The Department of Environmental Management announces the publication of the first annual Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing Guide, which is now available at bait and tackle shops, marine supply stores, town halls, chambers of commerce, and other locations throughout the state. The guide is also available online at http://www.eregulations.com. The guide features boat ramp locations, saltwater fishing regulations, features written by area experts on how and where to catch certain species, and a host of other information. The guide is funded entirely through excise taxes that fishermen pay on tackle, fishing equipment and fuel through the federal Sportfish Restoration Program, and licensing fees through the Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater License Program.

Where’s the bite

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing is good in the lower Bay around both the Newport and Jamestown Bridges with anglers fishing these areas talking their limit (eight fish/angler, 18” or larger). Larry Norin launched at Wilson Park, North Kingstown this Friday at 4:30 p.m. and was done by 8:30 p.m.  He fished south of the Jamestown Bridge. Norin said, “We were drifting north at over 2 knots. I needed 12 ounces to hold bottom…we started to catch fish. As we made shorter drifts we found the fish concentrated in one area so we just kept making shorts drifts over and over again… all fish kept were in the 20” to 22” range.” John Owens reports on the RISAA blog that he limited out in just four hours fishing north of Dutch Island to just north of the Jamestown Bridge this past Friday with fluke to 24”. He also landed two nice keeper sized black sea bass. Fluke fishing is still good off Warwick Neck according to John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown. “We have guys catching their limit frequently,” he said. “So it has been a good year for fluke so far.”
Striped bass fishing is still good in the upper Bay and in the Providence River.  Capt. Fred’s Charters reported “I had James Elkins, his father and son on leave from his Sub based in Pearl Harbor out Friday morning, fishing for stripers.”  They landed two keeper striped bass, 29” and 37”, using orange Hogy tubes with worms, trolling the Providence River.  John Wunner said, “Fishing hasn’t been this good in ten years.  The bass have sea lice which would indicate they have just arrived in the Bay from the ocean. It seems like the middle of the Bay is getting a lot of actions now with anglers catching bass all around Prudence Island and Hope Island.”  John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle , East Providence said the bass bite has been very good between Nayatt Point, Barrington Beach and Rumstick Point. I weighed in a 29-pound bass this week caught off Rumstick Point. They seem to be going for chucked Menhaden.” Action out at Block Island has been consistently good with smaller fish, though larger fish are now becoming more prevalent.
Squeteague (weak fish) continue to make their presence known with fish landings in the 23” range both at Warwick Neck and off the Southern tip of Prudence Island.
Scup fishing continues to explode with large fish being caught at Colt State Park and at the Mt. Hope, Jamestown and Newport Bridges.  “I weighed in several scup in the one pound twelve ounce range,” said John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing on Narragansett Bay 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. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com, his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him at dmontifish@verizon.net.

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