Striped bass under attack… anglers need to take a stand
Striped bass fishing this year has been mixed. Some large fish are being caught in Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays, however, anglers are really having to work for keepers (see report below). Also the fishing at Block Island, and along the southern coastal shore is not great either (still a bit early). However, for the past three to four years anglers have said their striped bass fishing is way off.
And now, striped bass are under attack, and not by anglers. The recent stock assessment indicates they are overfished and are subject to overfishing. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), that regulates striped bass coastwide, recommended an addendum that aims to reduce harvest by 17 percent to lower mortality and bolster Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB).
Yet some government officials and special interest groups are advocating to take more fish for short term economic gain, rather than rebuilding the stock and growing it to abundance so there are more fish in the water for all to catch, eat and/or release.
Rather than fishing within the scientifically arrived at target to insure a sustainable fishery, some want to lower the bar on ‘ecological reference points’… the amount of spawning stock biomass that is required to be left in the water.
In a May 21, 2019 press release Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) from New York District 1 (which includes the Montauk, NY area) said, “New York fishermen faced a major blow due to ASMFC’s decision to cut the Atlantic Striped Bass fishery by up to 17 percent next year and maintain the current ban on striped bass fishing in the Block Island Sound Transit Zone. Rather than rooting these decisions in local stock assessments,… the ASMFC used flawed data that measures the Atlantic Striped Bass stock based on the entire eastern seaboard.”
First, the recommendation to reduce the striped bass catch limit was based on a stock assessment that was peer-reviewed by respected fisheries scientists, not a U.S. Representative that wants to take more fish to satisfy constituent fishermen in his district. Striped bass migrate and they tend to spawn in the same places so it is important to have a coastwide assessment and not just use local ‘alternate data’.
In regard to fishing in the Block Island EEZ, Representative Zeldin said he would like to use “Alternative data that shows the Striped Bass stock is in a better place outside the 3-mile limit”. We should all be concerned about ‘Alternative data’ developed locally as it often comes to a conclusion that is in line with the local political situation.
Don’t get me wrong, an abundance of data is a good thing (local and national). However, when Congressman Zeldin uses the term ‘alternate data’ it raises a red flag as it sounds like the term ‘alternative facts’ we often hear today.
Sacrificing environmental concerns for short term economic gain is characteristic of Rep. Zeldin. Whether you like to bird watch, be outside in open spaces, or fish… beware of Rep. Zeldin’s environmental record. His lifetime score (voting record) on environmental legislation has earned him a score of 10 percent (out of 100) which is the lowest score of any NY Congressman from the League of Conservation Voters (scorecard.lcv.org/moc/lee-zeldin). By comparison twelve of the fifteen congressmen from New York have lifetime scores of 89 percent or better.
The ASMFC’s next meeting in August will consider addendum options that will go out for public comment. The goal is to have an approved Addendum in place for 2020 regulations. Anglers need to comment on the Addendum when it is put out for public comment after the August meeting and oppose an Amendment that would move the goal post on Spawning Stock Biomass.
Visit www.saltwaterguidesassociation.org for a four part striped bass article series and for Rep. Zeldin’s May 21 press release and a more detailed rebuttal to his claims visit www.oneanglersvoyage.blogspot.com.
Where’s the bite?
Striped bass. Mixed reports on fishing for striped bass. Anglers catching keepers are working for them, but nothing is easy. Lots of school bass in the 25” range, and some large quality fish. Anglers are catching them live lining pogies or working jigs. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, “We have weighted in some large fish, Sunday we had a 39.6 pound fish caught with a live pogie on light tackle between Hog Island and Prudence Island. But the fish are in Mt. Hope Bay too off Common Fence Point and they are catching bluefish too in the 18” to 20” range.” Elisha Cahill of Sung Harbor Marina said, “Bass fishing at the Island and along the southern costal shore is still not great. A lot of smaller fishing being caught from the beaches. And the worm hatch at Potter Pond is just about over. Let’s hope the big fish start to come along soon.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “Capt. BJ Silvia had Al Gag of Al Gag’s Lures out fishing this week and he caught a 40 pound fish with one of his Whip-It lures. Most anglers catching large fish are south of Conimicut Point and the pogies are down deeper than usual. Boat fishing is better than shore fishing which is unusual for this time of year.” Angler Mike Swain of Coventry said, “Catching bass with live pogies seems to be working this year. I worked the area between Prudence Island and Poppasquash Point, Bristol Saturday and caught a nice 35” fish, but I had to work for it in an area where no one else was fishing.”
Fluke fishing is good off Block Island. The south side is yielding some big fish too. Angler Dereck Koloa said, “Saturday we picked up a 22" and 29" fluke and some shorts but a slow day overall due to wind and tide not being in line. We had success using bucktails with gulp and spearing.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Last Wednesday we had the best catching of the week with nearly a full boat limit of keepers to 10 pounds.” Macedo said, “Most fish are being caught in the lower bay, we have a lot of customers now targeting them since tautog season closed.” Henault said, “Fish are being caught south of the bridges both in the east and west passages. Squid fishing has been on and off too.” When squid are in fluke fishing is usually enhance. Cahill said, “Some large fluke are being caught on the south side of Block Island, in the Fishing Lanes and off Carpenter’s along the southern coastal shore. Anglers are working for large fish. Customer Richard Browning caught an 11.5 pound fish. But caught a number of smaller fish before catching a big one.”
Offshore fishing for tuna is starting to percolate. Cahill said, “School bluefin and yellow fin are being caught on both the east and west ends of Atlantis Canyon. And, we have heard reports of some giant bluefin being caught in commercial nets at Cox Ledge. So stay tuned we may have giants soon at Cox Ledge.”
Freshwater fishing continues to be good for largemouth bass in ponds that have warmed nicely. Henault said, “Freshwater temperatures seem seasonal for this time of year so the largemouth bass bite is pretty good. The saltwater fishing seems to be a bit behind with colder water temperatures than normal.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.