No Fluke

Angling community sends striped bass conservation message

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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) which managers fish in state waters (three miles offshore and inland) held public hearings on a Public Information Document (PID) designed to set the table for a striped bass amendment that would be used to develop a striped bass Fisheries Management Plan (FMP). Massachusetts held their hearing on Thursday, March 18 and Rhode Island on Wednesday, March 17.

Angler after angler testifying at the hearings asked the ASMFC to be more conservation-focused when managing striped bass. Anglers were critical about many of the directions suggested in the PID as well as what was missing.

The PID did not recognize fully that recreational anglers fish for striped bass for the challenge of catching them and not necessarily to harvest them to eat. The value of having them in the water rather than dead on a dock, affording anglers the opportunity to catch them, is what drives the recreational striped bass fishery. Ninety percent of the striped bass fishery is catch and release.

Fish managers through the Amendment process need to quantify the value of the wellbeing that this fishery brings anglers. I believe the commission needs to ramp up social science input to underhand this dynamic of catch and release as it is dominant in this fishery has well as others (bluefish, shark fishing, etc.). Some of this research exists (more is needed), but for some reason it was totally missed in the PID.

Additionally, climate change impacts and econ-system based management on striped bass should be part of an Amendment but was not discussed. For example comments made pertaining to the abundance of small 6 inch fish, particularly in the strong in Rhode Island and Massachusetts waters was mentioned. Anglers related it was hard to believe these small fish traveled from recognized spawning ground in the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River areas. So if we are having local spawns like this does this mean climate changes are impacting spawning and can anything be done to accommodate more spawning in our waters.

Comments from the angling public overwhelming pointed out the failures of the commission to manage the striped bass fishery in an effective way.

Richard Hittinger, first vice president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Angles Association (RISAA) said, “We are disappointed on how this stock has been managed. We regulate this stock and now due to the Commission’s inaction we are in an overfished and overfishing condition with the stock in big trouble.”

Peter Jenkins, chairman of the board of the American Saltwater Guides Association and owner of the Saltwater Edge online and retail tackle shop in Middletown, asked that the amendment do more to protect this species. Jenkins said, “Conservation equivalency has been a total failure with striped bass.” Allowing states to take more fish, a different regulation than we have coastwide, has led to overfishing in those said with no consequences. States like Maryland have overfished by 217 percent with no consequence the nest year. We are total against conservation equivalency with stocks that are overfished or where overfishing is occurring. In cases where it is allowed there have to be consequences for states that do not meet their stated goals (payback the next year?).

Rick Bellavance’s, charter boat operator and president of the RIPCBA, said, “I ask that the fishery be managed for all including those that want to take these fish as meat.” Jason Jarvis, commercial fishermen, for hire mate and recreation fisher said, “Climate impacts are something we need to look into with striped bass as I agree we are catching an abundance of small fish in the Westley area too.” 

The RISAA (www.risaa.org) and the American Saltwater Guides Association (www.saltwatrguidesassociaton.com) have Amendment 7 public Information Document information on their websites including links to the Commission’s landing page and their respective positions on the amendment.

Anglers are urged to comment and have until April 9 to do so.  The public is encouraged to submit comments regarding this document during the public comment period. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. (EST) on April 9. Mail, fax, or email written comments to Emilie Franke, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200A-N Arlington, Virginia 22201. Fax: 703/842-0741 or by email to comments@asmfc.org (subject line: Striped Bass PID) If you have any questions call Emilie Franke at 703/842-0740.
 
Where’s the bite?

Freshwater fishing is starting to heat up as all look forward to an early start of the trout season, which will open at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “The demand is there, and we have been selling licenses all month. Whenever it is warm (50 degrees) customers come and shop. We have a few anglers targeting white perch and largemouth bass.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Customers are fishing and doing well with shite perch and crappie at Turner Reservoir, East Providence and at Roger Williams Park, Providence.” “Customers are buying combination rigs (rods and reels), new reels and are focusing on fresh water buying a lot of shiners,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.

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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