Research needed before EEZ opens for striped bass
It is illegal to fish for striped bass outside the three-mile limit in federal waters in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) along our coastal shores including outside the three-mile limit around Block Island.
However, NOAA Fisheries is exploring opening up the EEZ around Block Island and has introduced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) for public comment to allow striped bass fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone. The rule was posted in the Federal Register with a written comment period that ends November 19. Anglers need to comment on this important rule.
NOAA is considering opening up the EEZ because charter and party boats from NY have put pressure on government through New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) who has proposed legislation over the years to open the EEZ at Block Island to striped bass fishing. The initiative is being considered without research on what impact opening up these 150 square miles will have on large striped bass (many in the 30, 40 and 50 pound range with great spawning potential) that are caught there and the fishery in general.
Many have said it is too hard to do research on these fish. However, Massachusetts found a way to do striped bass research in federal and state waters along their coast. Two studies explored striped bass movement from the EEZ off Massachusetts (at Stellwagen Bank) to Massachusetts State Waters.
Both striped bass studies were done by Dr. Jeff Kneebone of UMass Dartmouth, the New England Aquarium and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
As the studies note, within 30 days 55 percent of the fish tagged in federal water moved into Massachusetts waters. In one year 95 percent of the fish were in state waters and in two years 96 percent of the striped bass tagged in federal water moved to state waters.
The studies indicated that Massachusetts striped bass move from the EEZ to state waters so claims from some fishermen that they were missing out on fish was not true. The studies left one to believe if the Massachusetts EEZ were to open for striped bass fishing many large fish with spawning potential would be killed, not make it to spawn again and would not make it to state waters to be caught by anglers closer to shore. The studies also tracked striped bass migration movement south to spawn and then north again.
No such studies have been done in the Block Island EEZ, so in my opinion, we need to press for this. Block Island is not Stellwagen Bank and migration patterns are different, however, a study should be done in Rhode Island modeled after the Massachusetts study that gives us some idea of what impact opening the EEZ will have on spawning stock biomass.
We do not know if opening the EEZ would kill a lot of large fish with spawning potential who might not live to spawn again or travel to Rhode Island state waters.
The fish in the water belong to all the people in Rhode Island and all the people in the United States of America. Not just a few NY, NJ, CT or RI boats fishing in the EEZ illegally today or legally tomorrow if the rule is approved. We need to enforce the law now, arrest and prosecute those that break the law.
How to comment
Submit comments electronically to NOAA at www.regulations.gov, sent by fax to 301/713-1193, or mailed to Kelly Denit, Division Chief, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, 1315 East-West Highway, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
RISAA says keep EEZ closed to striped bass fishing
In an official comment posted October 27, 2018 to NOAA Fisheries the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) said, “RISAA opposes the proposal put forward by NOAA to open the Block Island Transit Zone (BITZ) to recreational fishing for striped bass.”
RISAA said, “Until NOAA has sufficient data to identify the impact of such an action we do not support legalizing additional harvest of a fish that is so important to the recreational fishers from RI, CT, and MA. We also strongly request additional enforcement of existing regulations to stop boats that are currently fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone illegally…We ask that NOAA also increase enforcement actions to stop violation of existing laws.”
Where’s the bite
Tautog fishing had been good before the storms. Anglers were catching fish even though the water was still dirty and relatively warm. In some areas the water was warming up to 60 degrees once the sun came out. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, said, “Customers were catching tautog at Nebraska Shoal; River Ledge, Narragansett; and in the Brenton Reef, Newport area. At Pt. Judith commercial guys were catching their limit but the fish were smaller.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We had a solid week of black fishing. It normally does not get this good until the middle of November. The cold nights seem to have really turned the bite on. We have had easy limits or just a few fish shy every single trip last week. Biggest fish of the week was a solid 11 pound white chin. Green crabs have been the go to bait or the blackfish jigs. The action between the keepers has been stellar with most people catching 20-30 shorts each.” The tautog action east of Newport at the Sakonnet has been good too. Angler Eric Duda reports on the RISAA blog, “Fished Sakonnet Point in the morning (last week) with a good tautog bite. All caught in 45 feet of water. Even caught a 21 inch cod which was a surprise. All togs caught with green crabs and Asian crabs, single hook that is close to the bottom.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “With all the rain tautog fishing has been difficult, however, customers are catching keepers at the Wharf Tavern and off the Warren bike Path Bridge. They have been catching white perch too.”
Striped bass/false albacore/bluefish. Striped bass fishing was very good from the surf and boats last week. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Mariana said, “Fish being caught on the surface were in the 24 to 25 inch range with fish below them in the 28” to 36” range with a lot of fish right around 33”. The false albacore bite was only OK but the fear is with all these storms that they will flow out of here. However, people were catching some with bluefin tuna mixed in, close to shore, just east of Pt. Judith light last week.” “Albert Bettencourt of Riverside has been catching striped bass at night in the Warren River drifting eels and customers fishing out in front of Newport are catching a lot of school bass mixed in with bluefish,” said Littlefield. Fishing for striped bass at the Cape Cod Canal has been mixed.
Fresh water fishing has tapered off a bit. Littlefield said, “With the slowed bite anglers are switching to shiners and are targeting bass. The trout bite, even at ponds such as Stafford Pond that have had a fall stocking by the Department of Environmental Management has been slow.”
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He 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 and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.