No Fluke

Anglers supply input on abundant fisheries

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Abundant fisheries is something all fisherman desire. The more fish in the water, the more for all of us to catch, eat and/or release. This year and next promise to be a big learning experience both locally and nationally as to how to continue to grow fish to abundance with strong measures in the primary fishing law or our nation, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).

MSA is proof that an emphasis on science and sustainability works. Through its science-based annual catch limits and other provisions, overfishing has been reduced and more than 45 fish stocks have been rebuilt since 2000.  
Last week Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced a bipartisan effort to garner input for a reauthorization of MSA next spring. And, for the past year I have been helping to facilitate abundant fisheries workshops in the northeast with anglers, outfitters, bait and tackle shop owners, fishing manufacturers, and leadership of fishing clubs and associations. The purpose of the meetings has been to inform all about federal, regional and state fishing law and how it impacts the fish we love to catch and eat. And, how they as anglers can make sure their voice is heard.

This Monday, I conducted an abundant fisheries seminar for Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association members. The issues they identified as important were similar to those identified as key by other anglers in the northeast. Issues include better enforcement though greater funding, enhanced fines and an effort to education the judiciary as to how important a crime fish poaching is to all the people of the United States of America. Other issues identified by anglers included the importance of funding for econ-system based and forage fish management, the impacts of climate change and the need for angler education on how fishing policy works.

One of the most important issues identified was the decline of striped bass and the overfishing of striped bass that has been allowed to continue under the Atlanta States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The ASMFC mangers fish in state waters on the east coast and has struggled to rebuild only seven of the twenty-five species they manger. The commission does not operate under MSA provisions. Allocable catch limits, rebuilding timelines and accountable measures are not in place and/or enforced like they are with federally managed fish under MSA.
The leanings of the abundant fisheries workshops dove tail nicely with Rep. Jared Huffman’s tour announced last week. Huffman is the Chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee and is holding a series of roundtable discussions throughout the United States. He aims to engage diverse perspectives, interests, and needs of individuals who have a stake in management of our ocean and fisheries resources.

This listening tour, which kicks off this fall, is a part of Huffman’s efforts to foster a more transparent, deliberative, and science-based process for developing natural resources legislation. The input from this listening tour, and from other stakeholder outreach that is already underway, will inform his introduction of a Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization bill next spring. Through this comprehensive and inclusive approach, Huffman hopes to restore the historically bipartisan character of marine fisheries policies including prior successful Magnuson-Stevens reauthorizations.

Rep. Huffman’s goal for this listening tour is to assess whether improvements to the Magnuson-Stevens Act are needed and if so, what they should be. Topics covered in the roundtables will include, but are not limited to climate change impacts on fisheries and whether managers have the tools and resources they need to ensure resilient fish populations and stability to fishing communities; challenges of modernizing and improving our data collection systems; examining how current fisheries management practices are maintaining ecosystem roles and functions, protecting important habitats, and minimizing bycatch; and a host of others.

A prime example of a fish stock that has moved into our region (in both state and federal waters) due to climate change and warming water is black sea bass. Recreational and commercial fishermen in our region are not allowed to harvest black sea bass at high levels even though it is a fish stock that is now in abundance in our region because allocations and harvest levels are set by historical catch in an area and not based on abundance.

Rep. Huffman press advisory last week said plans to hold one public forum in each of the regions managed by Fishery Management Councils under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and to introducing a draft Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization bill, informed by this public process, by next spring.

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass, bluefish and false albacore. Expert striped bass angler Mike Swain took his grandchildren Eli (3) and Andre (5) Swain of Richmond striped bass fishing Sunday and the duo reeled in striped bass from 22” to 26” trolling the Bay with lures. Neil Hayes of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown said, “Fishing is very good. Anglers are hooking up with false albacore right outside of Wickford Harbor and far up the East Passage even north of Conimicut Light up the Providence River.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “All the excitement in the Providence River up to India Point Park are the false albacore. Albies to 15 pounds have been caught in the River. Anglers are catching them on Daddy Mac and Hogy epoxy lures. Striped bass to 30 pounds and large to small blue fish are being caught in the east passage as well.” Tautog fishing has been good off Newport, Jamestown and at the mouth of the Sakonnet River but slow in the bay. Henault said, “Codington Cove jetty in Middletown has been holding tautog for a couple of weeks but things are slow in other parts of the Bay.”
Cod and tuna bite offshore has been good. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We took the long ride to Cox Ledge and found quality waiting for us. Biggest codfish last week was just shy of 25 pounds. We have plenty of scup and sea bass to keep rods bent. Sea bass were on the larger size with easy limits of fish to six pounds. Both jigs and bait worked well but more cod did come on the jigs.” Angler Paul Boutiette said, “Jigged one cod at Cox Ledge this weekend and got another on clams. Few cod but they are very good size with thick filets. Black sea bass plentiful, got three heavies.” Capt. Blount said, “The tuna fishing has been up and down. We had two trips and saw very mixed results. We picked away on a few fish close to home but the best fishing was very far from home.”

Scup and black sea bass bite continues to be strong in the mid and lower bay. With scup fishing doing good in the upper reaches of the east passage too.

Freshwater fishing. Canada Pond on the Providence/North Providence line has been drained for value repairs and the fishing there is good because of improved access. Carp to 25 pounds have been caught there as well as some nice bass. Henault said, “Stump Pond, Coventry, Turner Reservoir and Only Pond at Lincoln Woods have all been good for bass fishing.”

Dave Monti 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, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.

Dave Monti

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.