No Fluke

Anglers weigh in on climate change impacts

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This week anglers and recreational fishing associations from Rhode Island and Massachusetts weighed in on the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) request for initial public input on Section 216 (c) of the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

NOAA held a stakeholder input meeting on April 1, is garnering the input of Fisheries Councils throughout the nation, and asking fisheries stakeholders to email comments by April 2 (information links below). 

Anglers are experiencing profound changes from climate impacts of warming water, acidification, lower oxygen, rising sea level and habitat degradation. And, the fish we are catching today are different in type and abundance than what we caught ten years ago.

Warm water fish have moved into the area in greater abundance such as black sea bass, scup and summer flounder.  And, cold water fish such as winter flounder, cod and American lobster have left the area for colder, deeper water. 

All of this is leading to less productive stocks and less abundance which could lead to lower catches, less stability, shifting stocks and new bycatch.

Climate impacts have created challenges. Shifting stocks have created a need for reallocation, by states, regions and between sectors. States with quota fish outside their normal geographic range to catch fish and those in areas where there are fish in abundance have little quota. A recreational fishing example is the hope anglers have in regard to the Summer Flounder, Scup & Black Sea Bass Reallocation Amendment. Anglers hope our nation will restore commercial and recreational allocations back to the ‘real’ level they were when allocations were originally estimated (before the MRIP reset).

With multiple regions and sectors vying for the same fish, NOAA needs to step in to make decisions if regional councils cannot agree on allocation issues.

In a letter to NOAA this week the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, which represents 7,500 anglers and 28 affiliated fishing organizations, said, “Our national fisheries need to have strong and sustainable science-based management more than ever before. We should not move to weaken standards as some stakeholders have done. Lowering the bar on things like ecological reference points such as biomass thresholds and targets is not the way to go.”

East End Eddie Doherty, noted Cape Cod Canal fishing expert and author said, “Last year was not a productive season for striped bass on the canal which may be attributable to the reduction in oxygen rich levels dissipating and a huge increase in the seal population. It wasn't always like this so I think that climate change is driving seals to Cape Cod beaches and the canal…Seals are estimated to consume 100 pounds of striped bass per day presenting another reason to dread the warmer water.”

“We need to both rebuild fish stocks as usual, and work hard to mitigate and anticipate climate impacts,” said RISAA.
I believe possible solutions to challenges would be to first, make fisheries climate ready by building healthy stocks, end overfishing and rebuild stocks to sustainable levels and beyond providing a climate buffer if needed. Second, we need to fill the science gap with enhanced surveys and assessments done more frequently. And third, we need more funding for the enhanced science and management programs.

We also need to explore creative ways to anticipate climate impacts, developing ‘what if’ scenarios and a set of leading indicators, then ring an alarm when fish stocks or habitat are changing. Indicators could include electronic monitoring of recreational catch & effort in real time watching for major shifts in species caught (or not caught) and their abundance. On the commercial side a leading indicator could be a decline in catch per unit effort from the previous year (or years). We need to eliminate liberalizations like extending seasons if the fish are not there we need to stop trying to catch them.

You can let your New England Fishery Management Council representative (www.nefmc.org/calendar/april-2021-council-meeting) know how you feel; send them a copy of your email and comments by April 12 as NOAA is scheduled to meet with them for input on April 13.       
 
Opening Day of trout season is Wednesday, April 7

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced that Rhode Island trout stocked lakes, ponds, rivers and streams will open for fishing at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7. DEM will be filing an emergency regulation opening the freshwater trout fishing season early this year in order eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing season in April.

“We’re excited to welcome anglers to our state’s beautiful freshwaters this spring to experience the thrill of reeling in the first trout of the season,” said DEM Director Janet Coit.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience or with members of your immediate household, not as a group activity. Check Reopeningri.com and current Executive Orders for current guidance on group sizes for social gatherings. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming, please leave and choose a different location or return at another time or day. There are many enjoyable fishing locations statewide – try somewhere new. Please note that overnight camping is strictly prohibited at state fishing access areas.

DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife is stocking over 60,000 hatchery-raised rainbow, brook, golden rainbow and brown trout in more than 100 waterways across the state. In addition, 4,000 Sebago salmon will be stocked statewide. Again this year, hatchery-raised golden rainbow trout are being stocked for Opening Day. These trout are a color variation of a rainbow trout and provide an exciting angling experience. Anglers who catch a golden trout from April 7 through April 20 will receive a free golden trout pin. Take a picture of your catch and send it to dem.fishri@dem.ri.gov.

For a complete list of stocked waters and links to regulations and licenses visit www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries/troutwaters.php.

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater trout season opens Wednesday, April 7. Prior to this date angler are doing well targeting largemouth bass, perch and crappie. See above link to a list of Rhode Island stocked ponds that can be fished for trout on April 7 and beyond.

Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting include) the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com

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.

Dave Monti

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