No Fluke

Public hearings slated for striped bass

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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has put out Addendum VI to the striped bass management plan for public comment which mandates an 18 percent reduction in harvest coast wide just to stop overfishing.

The most recent stock assessment shows the species is overfished and overfishing is occurring. If we continue to harvest at this rate the species will continue to decline to extinction.

You can find a complete copy of the ASMFC Addendum VI for striped bass at asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/StripedBassDraftAddVI_PublicComment_Aug2019.pdf.

It is up to each angler to make up their mind on how to best make these stock reductions and at the same time send a message to the ASMFC, fish mangers and government officials that we want this species managed conservatively to not only preserve what we have and rebuild the stock but also grow the species to abundance.

A recent article by the American Saltwater Guides Association compares the regulatory teeth of the ASMFC vs fisheries governed by the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA). The article (www.saltwaterguidesassociation.com) relates the ASMFC can ignore its own policies by allowing overfishing to occur and ignoring rebuilding timelines. The article continues to relate that, “Such lack of statutory authority, combined with the court decision in New York v. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which found that the ASMFC was neither a federal agency nor quasi-agency, and so not subject to judicial review.” In other words the ASMFC cannot be sued for noncompliance with even its own regulations.

So we need to start thinking about making the ASMFC manage species more like the species that are managed in Federal waters under the Magnuson Stevens Act. Under the MSA allowable catch limits (ACLs) are established with payback provisions if sectors overfish, and most species adhere to a rule of thumb 10 year rebuilding time line. Data presented with Addendum VI shows that striped bass would not be rebuilt until 2033.

Under MSA over 45 fish stocks have been successfully rebuilt since 2000. Of the 27 species the ASMFC manges they say nine are rebuilt, and striped bass is labeled as one of these ‘Rebuilt/Sustainable’ species.

So even if the ASMFC makes the tough decisions, it lacks the regulatory chops to enforce regulations. Long term, we need to change this with new legislation.

Striped bass Addendum VI…What do anglers need to weigh in on?

An important option outline in Addendum VI is whether or not to make the use of circle hooks for bait fishing of striped bass mandatory or not. Circle hooks have been proven by science to reduce mortality on released fish. Circle hooks have the tendency to hook fish in the mouth or on the lip, rather than in the gut like ‘J’ hooks often do. Enhancing striped bass catch and release efforts is important as 48 percent of removals are from fish that die when released. So I say make the use of circle hooks mandatory for recreational anglers when fishing with bait for striped bass.

The focus of recreational options going out for public comment as revised last month include:
Option 1: Status quo… keep things as they are now which will do nothing in achieving the required harvest reductions.
Option 2: Has multiple components — It calls for the recreational and commercial sectors to both absorb an 18 percent harvest reduction from 2017 levels. To achieve this in the recreational sector they are offering four sub-options, all options would maintain the existing season for striped bass, which is year round for recreational anglers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Option 2-A1: One fish at 35" minimum for ocean states which would result in and 18 percent reduction
Option 2-A2: One fish between a 28"-34" slot which would result in a 19 percent reduction
Option 2-A3: One fish between a 30"-38" slot which would result in a 18 percent reduction
Option 2-A4: One fish between a 32"-40" slot which would result in a 21 percent reduction

Public hearings times

Public hearings on striped bass management options will be held in Rhode Island on Tuesday, Sept. 24; 6 p.m. at Corless Auditorium, URI Bay Campus, Narragansett. In Massachusetts there is a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 2; 6 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Woburn and a second on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the MA Maritime Academy, Admiral’s Hall, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

Public comments accepted in writing or via email until 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7. Visit www.asmfc.org for details.

Boat shows

The 49th Newport International Boat Show will be held Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Sept. 12, 13 and 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show takes place on the waterfront along American’s Cup Avenue in Newport. Visit www.newportboatshow.com for information.

The Rhode Island Boat Show will be held Jan. 3-5, 2020 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Show organizers announced there will be more exhibitor space this year. For information and booth space contact Jack Martone, Show Director at 401/742-2837.

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass fishing is good at Block Island. Matt Conti of Sung Harbor Marina said, “The bite along the coat was slow this weekend after the storm with turbid, dirty water. At Block Island was the best bet for anglers, the bite there has been good. The fish have been smaller but there are keepers being caught there. We also continue to have a good run of bonito and false albacore before storms and would assume that the false albacore bite will continue into this week as things clear.” Bluefish with striped bass mixed in have been schooling on the surface in Narragansett Bay. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “We haven’t seen bluefish like this in twelve years. They are boiling on the surface at Sabin Point, Barrington Beach and Lavin’s Marina with so many of them close to shore that anglers are pushing them on shore with their feet at the water’s edge. There are also some striped bass under them feeding on the scraps of bait being chewed up by the bluefish.”

Fluke, black sea bass and scup. Fluke fishing has been off. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Fluke fishing seemed to take a nose dive with bass taking off like a rocket. We had near full boat limits to 5 pounds.” The black sea bass limit in Rhode Island now until the end of the year is seven fish/person/day. Littlefield said, “We had some keeper fluke caught at Sabin Point this week. The first reports of keeper caught there.”

Tautog fishing is just starting as anglers are beginning to target them. Call your bait shop before visiting them for green crabs as only a few have them in stock. Conti said, “Few anglers are targeting tautog but those that have seem to be meeting with good success. The local hot spots see to be good, even areas in deeper water off Narragansett and Newport to 60 feet seem to be holding fish already.”

Freshwater fishing continues to be strong for large and small mouth bass. Littlefield said, “A customer caught a 5.3 pound largemouth bass in a Rehoboth Pond and the Brickyard Pond continues to yield bass and white perch for anglers.” Shiners have been the bait of choice.

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. Follow Capt. Dave on twitter @CaptDaveMonti. He’ll be tweeting about ‘Where’s the bite’, fishing regulations, national fishing policy, and issues that impact the fish. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit www.noflukefishing.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.