The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, is responsible for many of our recreational and commercial fishing regulations in Rhode Island. The Commission has served as a deliberative body of the Atlantic coastal states, coordinating the conservation and management of 25 highly migratory nearshore species.
The fifteen states that formed the ASMFC in 1942 recognized that they could accomplish far more through cooperation than through individual efforts. Species that recreational anglers fish often in Rhode Island, such as striped bass, summer flounder, black sea bass and tautog are all managed by the Commission, with states implementing regulations locally.
Each state is represented on the Commission by three Commissioners: Robert Ballou from the Department of Environmental Management serves as our administrative appointee; state Senator Susan Sosnowski as our legislative appointee (with Rick Bellavance of North Kingstown serving as legislative proxy) and William McElroy of Wakefield serving as our Governor’s appointee.
Two popular ASMFC managed species have been hot topics in RI recreational fishing circles this month: striped bass and summer flounder (fluke).
New striped bass regulations
The ASMFC striped bass management board approved a new benchmark stock assessment for management use last month. The 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark indicates the resource is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. However, the female spawning stock biomass (SSB) has continued to decline since 2004 and is estimated at 128 million pounds below the SSB target of 159 million pounds. Additionally, total fishing mortality is estimated at 0.20, a value that is between the proposed new fishing mortality threshold (0.219) and fishing mortality target (0.18).
This means the ASMFC technical committee will now consider measures to reach these new SSB and fishing mortality targets which could translate into new (more restrictive) recreational and commercial striped bass regulations for Rhode Island. How local striped bass regulation changes in the future remains to be seen. The ASMFC technical and planning committees will now meet and make recommendation options on how to reach the new spawning stock biomass target of 159 million pounds and the new striped bass mortality target of 0.18. Recommendation options will likely be voted on at two different ASMFC meetings in 2014 with any new management plans taking effect in January of 2015.
New summer flounder (fluke) regulations
This year the ASMFC Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board initiated a change in how states may be allowed to manage these species. The past management shift away from coast-wide management to state conservation equivalency addressed the interests of some states. However, it created difficulties for other states as overages in fishing occurred (particularly in New York) due largely to state shares and limits not reflecting local abundance of summer flounder and its availability to recreational fishermen. Consequently minimum sizes in New York were an inch to an inch and a half greater than neighboring states in recent years.
Draft Addendum XXIV will come before the board for consideration in December with a joint meeting with the ASMFC and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The initiative includes options that allow for the averaging of harvest estimates, mandatory regions, and the sharing of unused quota.
What does this mean for recreational summer flounder fishing in Rhode Island? Jason McNamee, a marine biologist at DEM said, “It will all depend on how the managers want to adjust the allocation, but I guess from my perspective we will remain largely unchanged as we would be one of the areas where there are indications that the population has moved/expanded to. So if the managers base their allocation scenarios on where the fish are, we should be ok. If they base it on something else, that could lead to reductions for us. It’s tough to tell where things will end up.”
For additional information about striped bass and summer flounder ASMFC management plan development, contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at [email protected] or 703/842-0740.
Where’s the bite
Tautog fishing was good this past week. You are either on them or not, so move to find them because they are out there in good numbers. Hot spots include off Newport in the Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge area at cans two and four and around wrecks and rock clusters. Fishing has also been good in Narragansett at River’s Ledge and off Scarborough Beach. Action has been slow at most spots in Narragansett Bay. Gil and Travis Barao fished off Newport Saturday said, “It was pretty lumpy and we were pretty beat up by the end of the day. We did manage to put a few keeper togs in the boat but lots of shorts and lots of short sea bass as well. We were near the number two can with green crabs in 50-60 feet.”
Cod fishing trips on the Frances Fleet continue to be good with a broad mix of cod, black sea bass and scup being caught (even monkfish). Roger Simpson said, “Sunday saw a boat limit of big sea bass up to nearly 5 pounds along with some nice market cod, a mess of big ocean perch, a few red hake and some blue fish and some big scup. Friday saw a full boat limit of big sea bass by noon…Majority of the sea bass were jumbos in the two to three and a half pound range with some up to and just over 4 pounds. Some nice cod into the mid teens as well with hi hook Mr. Kim from NJ boxing six nice green cod fish.” Capt. John Sheriff said,
Squid. The fall squid run is still pretty good. Greg Vespe and Kurt Rivard of Warren continue to catch squid in the Newport area as they have for the past couple of weeks. Greg said, “The fall squid run is quietly turning out to be fairly strong; given how poor the spring run was, it’s nice to see… as you know nothing beats native squid for bait or the dinner plate. We continue to find them in 10’ to 30′ of water.” Greg often serves as mate for Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Fishing Charters and uses much of the native squid they catch for fluke fishing trips in the summer.
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. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at [email protected] or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.