Sunday, May 10, 2015

ASMFC increases Atlantic menhaden catch limit

Battle of the shirts:  fishermen, charter captains and conservationists with white coalition t-shirts faced off with Omega Protein (who had their own orange shirts) Tuesday at the Atlantic menhaden board meeting where catch limits were increased 10%.
John Migliori with a 4 pound 12 once largemouth bass he caught on Aquidneck Island using a Schadeycreek Chartreuse Dynamite Lure.

ASMFC increases Atlantic menhaden catch limit

In a sixteen to one vote the Atlantic menhaden board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) approved a 10% increase (a total of 187,880 metric tons) in Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.  The vote which occurred Tuesday at the ASMFC spring meeting included Rhode Island representatives supporting and voting for 10% more Atlantic menhaden to be taken from coastal waters and Narragansett Bay.

The vote for the increase came with a lot of drama as Omega Protein employees who are members of Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union testified about the economic impact Atlantic menhaden reductions had on employees two years ago.  A union spokesman had about 40 union members with bright orange t-shirts said, “We brought many more Union members in 2012, the ones you see standing here today represent the number that were laid off due to a 20% quota reduction in 2012.”

Atlantic menhaden (or pogies as they are commonly called in New England) are used as bait fish for recreational anglers to catch striped bass and blue fish as well as lobstermen and crab fishermen as bait in their traps.  However, they are most often caught by Omega Protein, a Texas based company with a big presence in Virginia.  Omega Protein takes over 80% of all Atlantic menhaden landed in the United States to process for fish pills, fertilizers, pet food and a variety of other uses.

Members of the Herring Alliance who formed an Atlantic menhaden conservation coalition and attended the Board meeting Tuesday wore white shirts that said, “Strength in numbers – Fight for the Menhaden.” 

Members of the menhaden coalition included conservation groups, recreational fishermen and charter captains.  They and just one menhaden board member (from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) were opposed to any catch limit increase as ecological reference points had not been established for the species.  Ecosystem-based management practices had not fully been considered in the Board’s recommendation to increase catch limits. 

Patrick Paquette, a charter captain from Cape Cod testified before the committee, “Atlantic menhaden use to be plentiful in our area, but today it’s hard to find any.  The 2014 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment commissioned by this Board could not find enough menhaden anywhere north of Rhode Island to include in the assessment.”

Recreational anglers in Rhode Island fear this decrease in fish is coming their way even though the 2014 stock assessment showed an increase in biomass and said the species were not overfished and overfishing was not occurring.  The assessment also showed that in recent years Atlantic menhaden were not being born (recruited) in the numbers they once were, even though more were in the water.  Many believe the 20% reduction in total allowable catch instituted in 2012 was the primary reason for an enhanced biomass in 2014.

Robert Ballou of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management who heads up Rhode Island’s delegation to the ASMFC said, “We voted to approve the increase, but nothing is straight forward.  Our intent was to approve an increase but believe these catch limits are a bit too high as they will have less than a 50% chance of reaching our desired targets.  It’s a matter of what degree of risk you want to take to establish catch limits.”’ 

Ballou said “We also voted for the increase because the second part of the motion called for the initiation of Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Menhaden Fisheries Management Plan for the development of Ecological Reference Points (ERP) and allocation.” 

“What this means is that the Board will fully consider the value and impact that Atlantic menhaden has as a forage fish (food for striped bass, bluefish, tuna, whales, etc.) and not just consider its value as a species target by directed fisheries (commercial processors and bait fisheries).” said Ballou. The motion also referenced allocation.  Once ERP are established, adjustments in total allowable catch may be made and the Board would look at allocating more fish to states like Rhode Island that have very small quotas.  Ballou said, “This is another reason why we supported the vote to increase quota.”

Dave Borden, one of three RI ASMFC representatives said, “We voted for the increase but I found eight things wrong with this (Atlantic menhaden) Fisheries Management Plan (FMP).  One major item is the bycatch provisions. It does not make sense to allow boats in some states to have a bycatch allowance that far exceeds Rhode Island total allowable catch limit for directed fisheries.”  Rhode Island’s catch limit is approximately 66,779 pounds; Virginia’s catch limit is 318,066,790 pounds.

“I am voting for an increase in Atlantic menhaden because the assessment shows that there are more fish in the water.” said Eric Reid, who is Rhode Island Senator Susan Sosnowski’s newly appointed proxy to the ASMFC.  Reid, general manger of Seafreeze, Ltd., a fish processor located in Narragansett, RI, replaced Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association as Senator Sosnowski’s proxy.  All ASMFC state members voted for the Atlantic menhaden catch limit increase.
NOAA seeks comments on bluefish quota reduction
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council recommended a 12% decrease in the Annual Catch Limit (ACL) of Atlantic bluefish.  The reduction recommendation in quota was done to account for changes in the stock size outlined in the 2014 stock assessment update. 
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking input on the planned commercial harvest limit of 5.12 million pounds, a 31% decrease from the 2014 quota, and the proposed recreational harvest limit of 13.07 million pounds, a 3% decrease from 2014.  In recent years state landings of bluefish have typically been below their allocated quota so the proposed quota reductions may be partially mitigated by a state’s ability to transfer quota.
Based on the estimates from recent updated stock assessment, the bluefish stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
Read the proposed rule, and submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking portal online by May 12, 2015. Comments may also be submitted in writing to: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Please mark the outside of the envelope: "Comments on Bluefish Specifications." 
Striped Bass American Heritage Act
Noted underwater photographer Mike Laptew has teamed up with the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) to advocate for the Striped Bass American Heritage Act.  The Act is a bill put before US Congress last week to designate the striped bass as the National Fish. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Tom MacArthur.  Mike Laptew who is noted for his underwater filming of striped bass (and other species) is urging all to call or write members of their congressional delegation asking for their support for the Striped Bass American Heritage Act.
Where’s the bite

Freshwater fishing remains strong. “The golden trout program run by DEM was the ticket this weekend.  Any place they put them anglers were catching them including Silver Spring Lake in North Kingstown.” said John Wunner of John’s Bait & Tackle. “Bass fishing has really picked up.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.  The bass bite is good at Stump Pond, Lincoln Woods, and Echo Lake in Barrington.” said Littlefield.

Striped bass. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said “School striped bass are being caught all over the Bay including Apponaug Cove, East Greenwich Cove and in the East Passage.  At Rocky Point a customer was catching school bass on worms and then switched to white soft plastics when he ran out and landed a keeper size bass.” Things broke wide open this week said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren. “We have school bass all over with customers catching keepers mixed it at Colt State Park and other locations in the East Passage.” Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly said “We got a pretty good shot of the striped bass this week with a lot of fish being caught at the West Wall.  Christian who works for me caught fifteen fish, all in the 25” to 27” range using a small bucktail jig with pork rind bouncing it off the bottom.”  Elisa Martin of  Sung Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, “Anglers at the West Wall are catching 10 to 20 fish many in the  24” range.” “Bass are in the Seekonk River and Sunday Capt. Billy Silvia saw a school of bass chasing pogies near Ohio Ledge in the East Passage.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle.  “One of my good customers caught a nice school bass using a pencil popper lure near Jamestown Saturday.”, said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.  Angler Mike Swain of Coventry said “I caught my first bass this morning in East Greenwich Cove on the east side off Godard Park using a soft plastic bait.”  John Wunner of John’s Bait & tackle North Kingstown said, “The bass are in at Chepiwanoxet Point, Greenwich Bay and in Greenwich Cove.”

“Tautog fishing has been good in the low water spawning areas.. Small worms and clams are the bait of chose in spring as tautog like soft baits in the spring.”  said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters.  Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “The tautog bite has been slow.  Those angler targeting tautog are not finding them yet.”  “The tautog bite at Barrington Bridge was pretty good this week.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle. Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “Keeper tautog have been cauth off Newport and north of the Mt. Hope Bridge.”

“Squid are in.”, said Dave Henault of Ocean State.  They arrived at Goat Island, Newport and under the Newport Bridge Friday night.  Capt. BJ Silvia ran into some Sunday while fishing in the Newport area.”  Squid are in from the southern coastal beaches according to Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor to the Sakonnet River said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait.

Forage fish top of agenda for anglers... Mate school big hit

Aidan Olf of Portsmouth, RI learns how to jig at Capt. Charlie Donilon’s mate school Saturday.

It’s all part of the job. Capt. Charlie Donilon tells students in mate school that it is their job to inform customers about Port of Galilee history.
Carlin O’Hare of Cranston, RI with 40 pound tarpon he caught in Puerto Riccio last week.  “Tarpon are great fighters and very hard to hook and land.” said Dan O’Hare (his Dad).

Mate school wraps up
Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters, Pt. Judith wrapped up his first mate school last Saturday with a practicum in the field aboard Snappa Charters.
Mate School teaches students who want to be mates on charter and party boats. For information on future ‘Mate School” sessions contact Capt. Donilon at 401.487.9044 or

Forage fish top agenda for recreational anglers

“Do you want more bait in the ocean for big fish like striped bass, blue fish and tuna?  How about more food for whales and seabirds?  We need to protect our forage fish so they can fulfill their important role.” said Save the Sound, a Connecticut based conservation group, dedicated to protecting Long Island Sound and the rivers and waterways that flow into the Sound.

In an email campaign last week Save the Sound was rallying support for Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) setting new fishery parameters that would allow the species to flourish as a forage fish. The NEFMC manages Atlantic herring, cod and a host of other species in our region.


Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) said that Amendment 8 was “A well thought out amendment that could be an important step for the Council toward a more ecosystem-based approach to managing our fisheries. The inclusion of forage fish’s role as bait for other species of fish and ocean wildlife is critical to the future of New England’s marine ecosystem.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), their regional fisheries councils and fish mangers in general are realizing the value of forage fish.  The fish eaten as forage by species recreational anglers target have greater value being left in the water recreationally than they do being harvested commercially for processing.


According to NOAA, although recreational fishing accounts for only 2% of the landings nationwide it has a far reaching and sustainable impact on our society.  Recreational fishing represents over $70-billion in economic output and 454,500 jobs compared to less than $26-billion in economic output and 305,000 jobs for commercial fishing nationwide.


With this economic impact it is vitally important that the nation, New England and Rhode Island manage the recreational resource to abundance so recreational fishing can continue to thrive in a highly sustainable way and continue to serve as a primary economic engine of growth.


Anglers are also gearing up for the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board meeting on May 5th of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).  The Commission regulates Atlantic menhaden, striped bass, summer flounder and a variety of other species in our region.


A 20% reduction in harvest of Atlantic menhaden was put in place in 2012.  At that time Rick Bellavance, a Rhode Island ASMFC representative and president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association said, “There were diverse opinions and proposals on the issue… industry processors of Atlantic Menhaden (primarily Omega Protein that land 80% of all Atlantic Menhaden) were advocating for a 10% reduction and on the other extreme some environmental groups were advocating for a 50% reduction.  We came to a consensus at 20% and ultimately cast our vote in favor of this reduction percentage.” 

A recent stock assessment by the ASMFC shows that Atlantic menhaden fish stocks are rebuilding and because of this fish processors are asking for their catch limits to be increased.


Conservation groups and fishing associations up and down the east coast are objecting, claiming that Atlantic menhaden (or pogies as we call them in Narrgansett Bay) have far greater value as a forage fish for striped bass (and other fish) than they do for commercial processors and therefore the ASMFC should manage them as a forage fish using ecosystem based fisheries strategies.


Medeiros of the RISAA said, “The 2015 Southern New England Recreational Fishing Symposium was held on March 24, 2015 in Warwick, RI. It brought together NOAA, state fisheries and government officials, marine scientists and fishermen to examine ways of increasing fish abundance through ecosystem based management. The number one driver of change selected by participants was an increase in forage fish management.”


Robert Ballou from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is co-chair of the ASMFC’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board and Jamie McNamee, marine biologist with DEM, is chair of the Board’s technical committee.  ON Thursday, April 30th, 5:00 p.m. the Rhode Island ASMFC representatives will  hold an input meeting to discuss agenda items for the upcoming May 4-7 ASMFC meeting in Alexandria , VA including Atlantic menhaden.   The meeting will take place in the small conference room in the Coastal Institute Building at the URI Bay Campus, Narragansett.  For the ASMFC’s meeting agenda, visit

Free fresh water fishing this weekend

The Department of Environmental Management announces that Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3 are free fishing days in Rhode Island. During those two days, all Rhode Islanders and visitors can fish in freshwaters without a fishing license or trout conservation stamp. The free fishing weekend does not apply to saltwater fishing or saltwater licenses.

For the sixth year, DEM fish hatcheries are offering anglers the chance to catch a coveted golden rainbow trout. Over the past several years DEM’s hatchery staff have been raising and stocking a strain of rainbow trout that is gold in color. This year, the hatcheries will be stocking them at six ponds throughout the state for the free fishing weekend.  Ponds receiving the golden trout include Peck Pond, Burrillville; Silver Spring Lake, North Kingstown; Barber Pond, South Kingstown; Browning Mill Pond, Exeter; Upper Melville, Portsmouth; and Lake Tiogue, Coventry.

Lucky anglers who catch a golden trout during the free fishing weekend and throughout the season will be given a free golden trout pin. Take a picture of your catch and send it to Kimberly Sullivan of DEM’s Aquatic Resource Education program at

Where’s the bite

Fresh water fishing is where the action was this week.  Capt. Ron Mouchon of Breachway Bait & Tackle, Charlestown, said, “Trout, bass, and pickerel are all biting in local ponds and lakes.  We are selling a lot of shiners, worms and the bait of choice for trout is yellow PowerBait.  Bass to six pounds are being caught at Meadow Brook Pond (Richmond) and Worden’s Pond (South Kingstown).  Angler Aiden Olf of Portsmouth said, “The bass bite is very good on the small ponds as the water has warmed.  Move to a larger ponds and the bite is off as the water is to cold.  They take longer to warm up. Angler John Migliori of Middletown caught a 5.2 pound largemouth bass using a Schadeycreek Chartreuse Dynamite Lure last week in an Aquidneck Island Pond. Mike Cardinal of Cardinal Bait & tackle, Westerly said “The trout bite has been good at Carolina Pond and the Wood River.” Visit for a list of ponds, lakes and rivers stocked with trout by DEM.

Tautog fishing is not good.  “Anglers targeting tautog have had little luck. The water is too cold.” said Michael Cardinal of Cardinal’s Bait.  “Customers have been catching tautog but they have been small. Now that the dandelions are up and things are warming up hopefully we will start to have a better tautog bite.” said Frank Mello of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren.

Striped bass have arrived at the West Wall of the Harbor of Refuge, however, many anglers have not been fishing.  “Who wants to be hit with cold and freezing spray” said Capt. Ron Mouchon of Breachway Bait & Tackle.  Customers have caught some small striped bass at the Charlestown Breachway and in the Pawcatuck River, Westerly.” said Mike Cardinal. “We heard reports of one or two small school striped bass being caught in the Warren and Warrick areas.  One customer called last week and said they saw a small school of striped bass working squid near the T wharf at Prudence Island last week.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.

Catch, tag and release... Tournament helps scientists

Capt. Al Anderson of South Kingstown with striped bass is the catch, tag and release King.

Capt. Dave Monti with a Narragansett Bay (East Passage) striped bass caught and released this spring using a circle hook with chunks of Atlantic menhaden.
Tournament helps scientists study sharks

The 29th Monster Shark Tournament will take place in Newport, RI from July 16 to 18.  This year the Tournament is dedicated to founder Steven James who passed away last year.  James was former tournament president and president of the Stellwagen Charter Boat Association. 

"He was so proud of the tournament and was able to institute the highest weight limits, making this more a catch and release tournament.  Only the largest and heaviest sharks are brought in and the tournament is dedicated to gathering information about sharks.” said Doreen Ryan-James, mother of James.  Captains are given the opportunity to tag the sharks they catch and release them. Lisa Natanson of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Apex Predator Program will lead a team on-site to collect data and information on the sharks that are brought in.

Captains will leave Casey’s Marine in Newport before dawn and have lines in at 7:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday morning. The public is invited free of charge for the weigh-ins at 2:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Marina. In addition to seeing the sharks, there will be information on the different types of sharks, their habits and habitat. 

The record breaking purse of $20,000 is up for grabs. "We are still open to registrations," said Doreen James. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association said, "We recognize Steve's contribution to running a responsible, sustainable tournament which has contributed information to better understanding shark migration and habits. We are happy to support and endorse the event.”


For details and comments please reach out to Lisa Helme Danforth at or call 203.321.7635.


Catch, tag and release your fish

Now that the striped bass limit is one fish/angler/day at 28”, it is more important than ever before to use good catch and release practices.  Once you fine tune your catch and release tactics to insure fish you catch have the best chance of surviving, why not consider tagging the fish.  Fish tagging programs provide scientists and fish managers with data they need to manage fisheries more effectively.

Three organizations are responsible for most of the tagging in Rhode Island waters and the northeast; they are the American Littoral Society (, the Hudson River Foundation ( and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (    All three groups use catch and release data to study the species… migratory patterns, growth rates, fish stock projections, etc.  The research helps us understand and manage our fishery.  Striped bass are the most popular species tagged; however, fluke and blue fish are commonly tagged as well as a host of other salt and fresh water species.

When you catch a fish with a tag (usually a dorsal loop tag or a belly tag), return it along with recapture information to the address on the tag (or call the toll free number on the tag).  Record pertinent information immediately so you don’t forget including species, location, length, weight, the condition of the tag insertion site and any other comments.  The date of the trip, your name and address should be supplied as well.  Some organizations offer incentives to those returning tags and surveys, which include cash awards ($5) and prize drawings.

One way to enhance survival chances of the fish you catch is to use circle hooks.  Circle hooks have been used by commercial fisherman for years.  When long-line fishermen using circle hooks would return to check their hooks… the fish would still be alive, hooked in the jaw or mouth and not in the stomach. 

After a fish swallows a baited circle hook and starts to run, the hook and bait are pulled out of the stomach and slides toward the point of resistance on the fish’s jaw or lip and embeds itself in the lip, usually the corner of the fish’s mouth. 

Circle hooks successfully hook bass in the mouth 95% of the time.  The trick is not to jerk the rod to set the hook because you could pull the bait and hook out of the fish’s mouth.   Let the fish run, as it does, it will pull the hook out of its stomach and hook itself on the lip.  Once this happens start fighting the fish and reel it in.

Consider these techniques to enhance your catch and release efforts.

·         Use circle hooks; they successfully hook bass in the mouth (not the gut)

·         Land fish quickly to minimize stress

·         Avoid putting fish on deck and letting it flop around, keep it in the water as much as possible

·         Wet your hand before handling the fish, dry hands remove the fish’s protective slime layer and leave it open to infection

·         Handle fish carefully.  Do not put fingers into gill cavities or eye sockets

·         Gently remove the hook to minimize damage

·         Use lures with single hook, barbless hooks (I snap them off), or circle hooks (as noted above).

·         Return fish to water quickly. Place fish gently in water in upright horizontal position.  Move it back and forth in the water to force water across its gills.  Once revived allow fish to swim away.

Capt. Al Anderson is the catch, tag and release King

In February of 2015, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) held their fifth annual Legendary Captains and Crew Awards (LCCA) dinner. The primary criteria for receiving the award is that the captain or crew member must have provided leadership in their trade and have earned the respect of their peers by making a meaningful contribution to the sport of recreational angling over time.

 Recipients received the Tommy Gifford Award at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and museum in Dania Beach, Florida.  This year, Capt. Al Anderson from Rhode Island received the award.   Capt. Anderson was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame in 2013. He started charter fishing on the PROWLER out of Snug Harbor Marina in 1967 and started tagging bluefin tuna.
 Anderson has tagged more than 60,000 gamefish in his career, and is credited by the IGFA with tagging more fish for science than anyone in the Atlantic.  Anderson has authored five books and over a hundred sport fishing articles for regional, national and international magazines.

RISAA tag & release program

The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) is running a tag and release program for members this year.  Contact committee chairman Bob Murray at  for information and tagging kits.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bill to repeal license law, Fishing Show and 2015 regulations

The New England Saltwater Fishing Show being held February 27 - March 1 at the RI Convention Center will have over sixty seminars and over 225 booth.

Bill to repeal fishing license law meets opposition

Five Rhode Island State Representatives (Filippi, Reilly, Craven, Shekarchi and Price) have submitted a bill to repeal the “Recreational Saltwater Fishing License” that has been in effect since 2010.  The Rhode Island Saltwater Angles Association said they are opposed to repealing the license law.

Steve Medeiros, president of the RISAA said, “If this bill passes it will be a huge set back to fishing access, fish abundance and conservation in RI.” 

In a draft DEM report that will come before the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council next month highlights of funds raised by the fishing license law are noted below with some reasons why the law was instituted in the first place.

·         The license bill was originally developed with support from the fishing community (including RISAA), environmental and conservations groups, DEM and the General Assembly… it was an inclusive process.

·         The License Bill enabled RI anglers to register with the State rather than the federally mandated registry which costs nearly four times as much ($25 rather than $7 for State a license). 

·         Over the past two fiscal years the bill has or will turn $478,397 in license funds into nearly $2-million with Fish & Wildlife Service three to one matching funds.

·         Funds raised are in a restricted account. What is raised by license fees is spent on fishing and access to fishing.  If these funds are eliminated, RI will lose out on Federal matching funds.

Projects in FY 2014 included: an upgrade to the Galilee boat ramp; funds to start an artificial reef project in Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays; production of the Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing Guide; support to the boating/fishing access site maintenance program; support for finfish surveys for stock assessments; management of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Program; and purchase of additional MRIP intercept interviews.

Projects proposed for FY 2015 include:  boating/fishing access projects such as the Godard State Park boat ramp; fish stock assessment support; support for the artificial reef; and enhanced MRIP data collection.

The license law provides funding for important data collection projects that will provide better recreational catch and effort data that leads to more informed recreational fishing decisions on minimum sizes, bag limits and fishing seasons.  Accurate data will lead to greater reliability and fishery management strategies that foster greater fish abundance and liberalized regulations when appropriate.

The State Representatives submitting the bill believe recreational fishermen in Rhode Island do not want a license law and claim it impedes a fisherman’s right to fish. 

In checking reports from when the license bill was passed in 2010, advocates for the law believed that the days of unrestricted fishing were over and that individuals did not have the right to over fish to the point of fish species extinction and the determent of the common good.  

At press time the House Bill (#5352) to repeal the saltwater license law was scheduled for a hearing Thursday, February 26, 2015 before the Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resource committee. Anglers are urged to relate their thoughts on the Bill to committee members, Bill sponsors, and their local State Representative.

2015 saltwater fishing regulations

Last Monday’s Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) recreational regulation workshop and public hearing meetings combined what normally takes place over four different evenings into one night.   

Traditionally participation at specie Advisory Panel meetings held over four different evenings is limited (three to six fishermen, fifteen or twenty if an important issue was being discussed).  At the workshop last week 80 anglers listened to stock status and 2014 fishing activity on a variety of recreational fishing species and then asked fish managers and marine biologist questions.  Fishermen expressed their point of view and support (or non support) for proposed regulation options and some proposed alternative options. 

What regulations look like for 2015?

2015 fishing regulations are still up in the air, but here is a current status report.

Striped bass will likely be one fish/day at 28” minimum size for private anglers… charter boat catch limits are still up in the air.  The first option proposed is one fish at 28” for all anglers; the second option on the table is one at 28” for private anglers and a two fish at 32” option for charter boats.

There has been so much discussion and split thinking about the charter boat catch limit for striped bass that the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) decided to pole its members with a survey, and have petitions available for the general public at its New England Saltwater Fishing Show this weekend.  The Association will use survey and petition results to formulate its final position.

Summer flounder (fluke) quotas were overfished in RI last year. Most at the meetings last week supported the status quo option of an 18” minimum size at eight fish/angler/day with the same season length.  Speculation is that RI will make summer flounder regulations a bit more conservative this year to fend off criticism from other states about our over fishing last year.  Perhaps the bag limit will be reduced a bit, and/or even an increased minimum size to 18 ½”.

Tautog support fell to status quo (the same as last year), 16” minimum size with split seasons… three fish in the spring and late summer seasons with a six fish bag limit in the fall (with a ten fish boat limit which does not apply to charter boats).  However, a new stock assessment has been approved for use but will not likely engage for use until 2016, we may have the same regulations in 2015 as last year but 2016 is likely to bring more conservative regulations.

Black sea bass landings in Rhode Island must be reduced by a third this year.  The solution that received the most support was one that started the season in June (as early as possible) with one fish and then increased the number of fish to five to seven in the fall.  Both 13” and 14” fish are being considered to reduce landings.

Don’t miss the New England Saltwater Fishing Show this weekend

The New England Saltwater Fishing Show is this week at the Rhode Island Convention Center Friday, February 27th, 12 noon to 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, February 28th, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, March 1st , 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.   Visit over 225 exhibitors including tackle, rods, reels, lures, electronics, charter guides, boats, motors, accessories, clothing and much more. Highlights include:

“Wicked Tuna” at the Fishing Show

On Saturday and Sunday Capt. Dave Carraro with mate Sandro Maniaci of the F/V TUNA.COM (top captain/boat on the TV show Wicked Tuna) will be at the show.

Sunday is family day

All women and children under 12 will be admitted free on Sunday, March 1st.  A scavenger hunt for children will be held Sunday.  As a child enters the show with a parent they are given a Scavenger Hunt search sheet that can net them a variety of prizes.

Over 60 seminars

Seminar topics include inshore and offshore fishing, specie specific seminars on tautog, fluke, striped bass, tuna, bonito as well as tactics for jigging, chucking, chumming, skishing (extreme surfcasting) and more.

Ticket discount

Tickets for the show are $10 at the door.  A special $1 discount coupon is available online.  Visit for additional information and a complete list of seminars, workshops and speakers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lots of comments at fisheries meeting… just the way it should be

Mike Bucko of Bucko Bait & Tackle makes his point at Monday’s fisheries meeting.

Lots of comments at fisheries meeting… just the way it should be

If one of the objectives of the Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) new “Lean Initiative” meeting format is to encourage participation at fisheries meetings, Monday night’s meeting at the URI Bay Campus was a big success. 

Over 80 fishermen openly and freely expressed their points of view on primarily recreational fishing quotas, proposed regulation options and user group proposals.  I say user groups because in fisheries management a variety of groups compete for access to the same finite resource (see striped bass example below).

Monday’s meeting combined what normally takes place over four different evenings into one night.  Multiple meetings have hampered angler attendance in the past.  Traditionally participation at Advisory Panel meetings held over four different evenings are limited (three to six fishermen, fifteen or twenty if an important issue is being discussed).  Often times those that participate are industry leaders that can sway votes on important issues without getting perspectives from average fishermen because they are simply not in the room.

There was no doubt at the 4:30 p.m. workshop that different user groups including private anglers were in the room to listen to stock status, last year’s fish landings and proposed regulation options for summer flounder, black sea bass, tautog, scup, striped bass and others.  Anglers were able to ask fish managers and marine biologist questions, express their point of view and support or not support proposed regulation options as well as propose alternative options. 

The workshop was followed by an official public hearing at 7:00 p.m. Fishermen comments were recorded to pass along to the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) for their March 2 meeting and then will be passed along  to DEM Director Janet Coit along with Council recommendations as part of the input she will receive for her decision making process.
Fishermen in the room did not agree on regulation options, however, the points of view of many were heard together in a public setting in a much more robust way than traditional Advisory Panel meetings.

If you missed the meeting, it is not too late to comment as DEM has extended the public comment period. Written comments concerning the proposed regulations may be submitted to Peter Duhamel, Division of Fish and Wildlife Marine Fisheries office, 3 Fort Wetherill Road, Jamestown, RI 02835 no later than 12:00 Noon on February 26, 2015.  Email all communications to  .

Meeting highlights
Striped bass took center stage with nearly an hour and half of discussion at the meetings.  Coastwide the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which sets regulations for east coast migratory species, approved a one fish at 28” for all anglers with the caveat that states could come up with conservation equivalency options that achieved at least a 25% reduction in striped bass landings in 2015.  Striped bass fish stocks, particularly the spawning stock of egg bearing females is on the decline and all agree that something has to be done to reduce landings.

Conservation equivalency was the sticking point at the meeting; many anglers did not know or did not feel that a two fish solution was appropriate even if it reduced landings by 25%. 

Every user group has their perspective on fishing quotas and regulations, particularly striped bass.  Two options were proposed in the presentation Monday… one fish at a minimum size of 28” for all anglers, and then a second option that was one fish at 28” for private anglers and two fish at a minimum size of 32” for charter and party boats.

Some for hire party and charter boat operators at the meeting claimed they earn their living by taking people fishing so they advocated for two fish at 32” for their customers.  Many claim their customers fish once a year compared to private anglers and the impact on the fishery is minimal.  They also say charter boats contribute greatly to tourism and the economy and should be treated differently from private fishermen because it is a business not recreation.
Capt. Denny Dillon, representing the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association said, “Each year our industry contributes about $25-million to Rhode Island’s economy in economic impact. We need the two fish to attract customers.”

Peter Jenkins of the Saltwater Edge, Newport said he was representing a group of ten bait and tackle shops and that he (and they) supported, “One fish at a 28” minimum size for both private recreational anglers and charter boats.”  Many bait and tackle customers practice catch and release, yet many also fish in tournaments and take larger, and larger, egg bearing fish.

Commercial fishermen at the meeting wanted one fish at 28” and did not want their commercial counterparts, the party and charter boats, to have the right to take two fish.
Michael Lanni said, “If commercial boats are taking a 25% reduction and private angles are bound to one fish at 28”, the charter and party boats should be limited to one fish too.”  Lanni continued to say he was not pleased with the new “Lean” meeting format because he did not get a chance to meet with others on the panel to decide how they felt about proposed options.

Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Saltwater Anglers Association said, “It was our understanding that the ASMFC has already approved a two fish at 32” conservation equivalency proposal for RI.”  Representatives on the commission from RI supported that proposal.  The feeling was that proposal was going to be approved anyway.  “So RISAA submitted a proposal option that included a two fish conservation equivalency option with the stipulation that the reduction be 31% (the same level of harvest reduction that private anglers would be bound to with one at 28”) and include the elimination of the captain and mate fish.” said Medeiros.  Historically captains and mates have been allowed to take two fish on each trip. “Adding the mate and captain’s fish to the proposal would at least save four egg bearing fish each trip.” said Medeiros.
Throughout the week and at Monday’s meeting, many charter captains spoke out for and against the two fish charter and party boat options.  One of the proposals that had many heads nodding at the public hearing was made by Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters.  Capt. Donilon said, “Something has to be done, everyone knows what’s going on out there, we have less and less fish.  I recommend that charter boats take 1.5 fish per customer and give up the two fish for the mate and captain.”
This proposal would have a great impact on the fish. Now a charter boat with six passengers, a mate and captain can take sixteen fish (this would still be the case with the RIPCBA proposal).  However, Captain Donilon’s proposal would have that same vessel taking a maximum of nine fish, just one more than a private boat of eight fishermen and the fish are 32” rather than 28”.  So in terms of conservation it could surpass the reduction value of the coastwide solution of one at 28”.

Other species discussed at the meeting

Even though RI overfished its quota of summer flounder, most at the meeting supported the status quo option of an 18” minimum size at eight fish/angler/day with the same season length.
Tautog support fell to status quo (the same as last year), 16” minimum size with split seasons… three fish in the spring and late summer seasons with a six fish bag limit in the fall (with a ten fish boat limit which does not apply to charter boats).

Rhode Island needs to reduce its black sea bass landings by one third.  The solution that received the most support was one that started the season as early in June as possible with one or two fish and then increased the number of fish to five or seven in the fall.  Both 13” and 14” fish should be considered.
More to come on these regulation options as they are reviewed and voted on by the RIMFC on March 2.

Mooring bill would increase fees... Fishing show is upon us

Fishing Show.  The New England Saltwater Fishing Show, being held February 27th –March 1st at the RI Convention Center will have over sixty seminars and workshops.

Mooring bill would increase fees substantially... Fishing show upon us
A new House Bill in Rhode Island would increase boat mooring fees for residents by adding on a State mooring fee ranging from $150 to $500 on top of city and town mooring fees.  This would double the cost of most mooring fees for boaters (some boaters may have their fees triple in cost). 

“Revenue from a State mooring fee would go to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to provide additional services to boaters.” said Representative Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick) cosponsor of House bill No. 5257.  Representative Trillo and Representative Scott Slater (R-Providence) sponsored the bill (dated January 29, 2015) because one of Representative Slater’s constituents was having difficulty getting a mooring said Trillo.
“We want consistent mooring rules and regulations in RI. Now some cities and towns allow you to pass your mooring on to someone else, in Newport some people are even putting them in their wills. And, this is not right.” said Trillo.
Although the proposed legislation provides funding for DEM, the Department did not introduce the bill.  Robert Ballou, assistant to DEM Director Janet Coit said, “This is the first time I’ve heard about the legislation, but from what you are saying I am sure we’ll be hearing a lot more.”

Fees generated from moorings are substantial for cities and towns helping to defray the cost of harbor master programs and harbor maintenance for docks, seawalls, etc.  Newport is expected to collect $409,000 and Portsmouth about $65,000 in mooring fees this fiscal year.
The proposed legislation increases fees substantially.  The written bill is not clear but Representative Trillo said fees would be $150 for vessels with moorings less than 500 pounds, $250 for vessels with moorings between 500 and 1,000 pounds and $500 for vessels with moorings more than 1,000 pounds. 
Towns calculate mooring fees differently; however, they are substantially lower than the fees proposed by Representatives Trillo and Slater.  Fees in East Greenwich are $150 for residents and $300 for non-residents for all sized vessels; South Kingstown fees are $8/foot for residents (or $144 for an 18’ boat) and for non residents $12/foot (or $216 for an 18 foot boat); and the Bristol is $80 for residents and $210 for non residents.
In an email to members the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association (RIMTA) said, “The proposed legislation would be effective at squeezing Middle America out of boating… it would put a strain on local budgets and to the entire community who will be asked to contribute more… it is adverse to our goals as an industry to increase boating and access to Narragansett Bay which contributes to our local economy and job creation.”

 It is clear Rhode Island boaters and fishermen alike are keeping a close eye on this bill as many see it as a restriction to access to the water and fishing with such high mooring fees that would double and triple depending on the size of your boat and town regulations.

New England Saltwater Fishing Show Feb. 27-March 1
The New England Saltwater Fishing Show is scheduled to take place Friday, February 27th to Sunday March 1st. Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA), said, “Our aim this year is to continue to raise the quality of our seminars, demonstrations and workshops with over sixty (60) of them this year.”  The New England Saltwater Fishing Show is being held at the RI Convention Center and will have over 225 exhibitors including tackle, rods, reels, lures, electronics, charter guides, boats, motors, accessories, clothing and much more.

This year Capt. Dave Carraro with mate Sandro Maniaci of the F/V TUNA.COM (top captain/boat on the TV show Wicked Tuna) will be at the show.
Seminar topics include inshore and offshore fishing, specie specific seminars on tautog, fluke, striped bass, tuna, bonito as well as tactics for jigging, chucking, chumming, skishing (extreme surfcasting) and more. Visit for a complete list of seminars, workshops and speakers.

New tautog assessment accepted 
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Tautog Management Board approved the 2015 Benchmark Stock Assessment and Peer Review Report for management use. The 2015 assessment evaluated stock status regionally to reflect differences in life history characteristics and harvest patterns. The assessment is the most comprehensive evaluation of stocks to date and provides multiple alternatives for how tautog can be managed regionally.

After reviewing the results of the stock assessment and peer review report, the Tautog Management Board accepted the 2015 benchmark stock assessment for management use. However, it expressed concern with the preferred stock structure that would split Long Island Sound harvest between two regions.
In the absence of conclusive biological evidence to define the regional boundaries, the Board will consider the management and assessment implications of regionalization and choose its preferred regions for future management. In addition, the Board tasked the Tautog Technical Committee to develop reference points that provide consistent metrics to determine stock status across regions. Results will be presented to the Board at the Commission’s Spring Meeting in May.

 A more detailed description of the stock assessment results is available on the Commission’s website at