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What Atlantic menhaden do best: They get eaten

By   /   December 10, 2012  /   Be the first to comment

Brian Gratwicke

Atlantic menhaden serve as roving filters, converting algae into energy and thus reducing nutrient loads in bays and covers.

I have written about Atlantic menhaden and the role they play in our fishery in Narragansett Bay and in the ocean a number of times.

Atlantic 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 or 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.

But what menhaden do best is that they get eaten by other fish, particularly striped bass and other game fish targeted by recreational anglers. They’re an important part of the food chain.

“Game fish and seabirds, sharks and whales all seek out these oily fish as a favorite meal, making menhaden a crucial link in the ocean food chain,” according to H. Bruce Franklin, a professor at Rutgers University and author of “The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America.”

This week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will vote on Draft Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic menhaden, which outlines a number of possible regulations on the species. These proposed regulations will force the commission to choose between allowing industrial processors to continue to over-fish the species with little or no restrictions, or will rescue the fish with regulations that will start to rebuild the species that can help restore our bays, coastal waters and fishery.

Recreational anglers and environmentalists have weighed in with widespread support on the issue. “A total of 128,333 comments were received on Draft Amendment 2,” said Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association. “Of those comments, 127,925 comments were letters. Thirteen public hearings were held in 10 states. Approximately 502 individuals were estimated to have attended the hearings combined. I don’t have a breakdown yet, but I think that we will see a large majority seeking action to start rebuilding the stock.”

Amendment 2 will come before the commission Thursday, Dec. 13. I’ll report on the outcome in next week’s column.

Lobster raffles

The West Bay Anglers are continuing to hold their lobster raffles to raise funds for the Impossible Dream and their Take a Kid Fishing program. They take place every Saturday at the Warwick FOP, 95 Tanner Ave., Warwick, through March 16, 2013. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.

The anglers raffle off large lobsters — ranging from 6 to 14 pounds — and usually have a table with small appliances like toasters and George Forman Grills, a meat table with hams and roasts of all types, a miscellaneous table and a final table with large prizes like Sony flat-screen TVs, GPS systems, gift cards, cash and more. For information, call 401/463-7532.

Rhody Fly Rodders meeting 

The Rhody Fly Rodders will hold their Premier Fly Tying Event at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the Riverside Sportsman’s Club, 1 Sportsmans Drive, East Providence.

Members, friends and the public are invited to participate in this great evening of “fly-tying for charity.” Bring your tying tools; tying materials will be provided.

Winter harvest schedules

Last week the Marine Fisheries Division of the R.I. Department of Environmental Management announced the winter harvest schedules for shellfish in management and transplant areas. For the Bristol shellfish transplant area, the schedule is as follows: Open from 8 a.m. to noon on Dec. 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 28 and 31; from 8 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in January 2013; and from sunrise to noon Monday through Friday from Feb. 1 to April 30.

Visit www.dem.ri.gov for detailed closure information.

Where’s the bite?

Tautog and cod fishing is good if you’re willing to fish in cold weather. Anglers are experiencing good fishing off Newport.

“I fished in the waters around Newport Thursday and did very well,” said Dave Garzoli. “The water depth was between 60 to 70 feet. Limited out easily and released a bunch of keepers and a pile of shorts and landed two cod over 22 inches, all on green crabs cut in half.”

The Francis Fleet reported: “Had a great day of black (tautog) fishing (Sunday) despite the very wet conditions. A very light crowd was treated to stellar fishing. Many limits on the blackfish with the biggest blackfish being over 10 pounds. Also found a pile of nice fat healthy cod with five fish over 12 pounds. Some anglers managed to snag a half-dozen cod with others getting a few. More and more cod have been showing up as the season goes on.”

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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