Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fishing license, new regulations and tautog season all in play this week

Captain Dave caught two tautog this Sunday at Coddington Cove in Middletown, RI. This 22’ fish took a green crab in about 15 feet of water right on top of the jetty.
This was a busy week for saltwater fishing. Rhode Island’s fishing license law took effect Friday, April 16 along with new 2010 fishing regulations. A new volunteer electronic recreational saltwater fishing logbook was announced by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Thursday, April 15 was the start of the tautog season.

State saltwater fishing license
The license is available online at and will be sold at bait shops starting June 1. The cost is $7 per year for RI residents and $10 per year for non-residents. There is a temporary 7-day license available for $5. The license is free for anglers over 65 years of age and for active military personnel stationed in Rhode Island.
No license is required for anglers under 16 years of age, for anglers fishing on licensed party and charter boats, for anglers who are on leave from active military duty, and for anglers who are blind or permanently disabled.

The RI license enables the holder to fish in RI and federal waters as well as in all state marine waters throughout southern New England and other states that have reciprocal agreements.
The license program is designed to improve the quality of marine recreation fishing data which will in turn help insure that recreational fishing regulations are fair and based on sound science. Data from RI and other states will be put into a national data base allowing the new Marine Recreational Information Program to survey current fishermen.

Here is the part I like… all of Rhode Island’s saltwater license fees will be put in a restricted account and can only be used for marine recreational fishing such as program administration, to improve the management of Rhode Island’s marine recreational fisheries or to enhance recreational fishing access.. This law is good. It was written by DEM in conjunction with the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association.

2010 saltwater fishing regulations
New 2010 saltwater fishing regulations have been announced by DEM The regulations govern fishing for summer flounder, black sea bass, scup, and weakfish (there are no changes for striped bass or tautog); commercial regulations were also announced. Visit for details, here are some highlights.

Summer flounder: The season opens on May 1 and runs through December 31. The minimum size is 19.5”, possession limit remains at 6 fish/person/day.

Black sea bass: Season runs from May 22 through September 12. The minimum size is 12.5”, possession limit remains at 25 fish/person/day.

Scup: The fishery has two modes. For the general mode (everyone except those fishing on party and charter boats), the season runs from May 24 to September 26. The minimum size remains at 10.5” with a 10 fish/person/day catch limit. For the party and charter boat mode the minimum size is 11”; the season runs from June 8 to September 6 with a 10 fish/person/day. The possession limit then increases to 40 fish/person/day from September 7 through October 11.

Weakfish: The fishery remains open year-round, and the minimum size remains at 16”. However, the daily possession limit is t 1 fish/person/day).

Striped bass: The regulations for 2010 are the same as last year: a year-round season, a 2 fish/person/day possession limit, and a 28” minimum size.

Tautog: The regulations are the same as last year: 16” minimum size, the season opens on April 15 at a 3 fish/person/day possession limit, then closes for the month of June, and then reopens from July 1 through October 16 at 3 fish/person/day, increasing to 8 fish/person/day from October 17 through December 15.

New volunteer electronic recreational saltwater fishing logbook

DEM’s Marine Fisheries Program and the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program has developed a volunteer electronic recreational saltwater fishing logbook. Information is presented in graphic and tabular format. Anglers will be able to see their catch history in real time. For more information and to sign up go to .

Where’s the bite

Tautog season opened April 15. Several fish caught at Spindle Rock and Ohio Ledge said Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait and Tackle in Warwick. I stopped by to see Ken for the first time since he was out ill at the end of last season and he is doing well. Ken is an outstanding angler and bait and tackle shop owner. He has helped thousands of anglers with good advice including me. Nice to have you back Ken. I caught two tautog Sunday at Coddington Cove, Middletown (one was 22”). Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, reports a slow tautog bite in the Bay but off-shore fishing is good with thirty fish being taken off Westport. Dave said that turbulent water with a lot of particles is not good for tautog fishing. It keeps the fish off shore in deeper water.

Striped bass season is underway. Steve McKenna of Cranston and an employee of Quaker Lane Outfitters reports an outstanding school bass bite at the West Wall in Narragansett. Most were caught in the late afternoon and just before dark. The fish were primarily caught on three and four inch pearl Cocohoe minnows and the new Bomber mud minnow in the four inch model. Both soft plastics were fitted on ½ lead head jigs for casting weight. Steve said, “There is a lot of bait in the area. More bait than I have ever seen in many a year.” This is encouraging, especially since Steve has been one of Rhode Island’s best shore striper fishermen for over 30 years. Craig Castro of Erickson’s bait & Tackle, Warwick, reports customers catching school bass off Chepiwanoxet Point, Warwick using soft plastic baits.

Freshwater bite remains good. Craig Castro of Erickson’s Bait and Tackle reports a good trout bite at Carbuncle Pond and all ponds/lakes stocked by DEM… Lincoln Woods, Silver Spring Lake and others noted on DEM’s web site ( ).

Paul Eaton of Providence proudly holds up the trout that he and his friends caught thirty minutes after the 6:00 a.m. start of opening day. The fish were caught on Silver Spring Lake in North Kingstown.
A carnival like atmosphere prevailed at Silver Spring Lake in North Kingstown this Saturday prior to opening day for trout season. There were tents, tables of food, grills and plenty of boats and anglers fishing on the lake.
Thank you and congratulations to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and their Fish and Wildlife Division. They managed to pull off a very successful opening day for the freshwater trout season this past Saturday despite all the flooding.

When I last spoke with Gail Mastrati, DEM communications officer, she was working hard to effectively communicate flood activities to the public… shellfish closures and openings, ground water contamination warnings, trout hatchery damage, flooding rivers with fast moving water… all needed to be addressed by DEM and communicated to the public for safety reasons.
Early last week Mastrati related that DEM was moving forward with opening day on Saturday, April 10 with adjustments to allowable fishing areas and a revised trout stocking plan that put fish in lakes and ponds that have safe water levels and good access.

Some lakes and ponds received extra trout for opening day including Barber Pond in South Kingstown and Sliver Spring Lake in North Kingstown. Several fishing areas that were not stocked due to high water and damage to roads and other access included Ashaway ,Pawtuxet, Pawcatuck, Flat and Falls Rivers and Parris Brook. These areas will be stocked later this spring when water recedes and access improves.

Last week Steven Hall, chief of DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement said, “With all the recent rain we’ve had, Rhode Island’s rivers and streams remain at high levels, with quick water action,” Hall continued, “People should make an extra effort to take personal safety precautions… “.

A carnival-like atmosphere was in play at Silver Spring Lake, North Kingstown, when I visited at 6:00 a.m. on opening day. Many anglers had spent the night lake-side to be able to fish at first morning light when the season opened at 6:00 a.m. There were tents, campers, tables of food with breakfast and barbecue grills. Everyone fishing had big smiles … the fish were biting. The fishing action was good at other stocked ponds and lakes too in Lincoln, Cranston and South and North Kingstown.

Rich Browning, a DEM Environmental Police Officer said he and eight colleagues had been working all night covering the lakes, ponds and rivers in Washington County. Officer Browning said, “Our Fish and Wildlife department did an outstanding job… ponds and lakes are stocked and people are catching fish. Considering all the flooding, cold weather and evening rain this is a great turnout compareable with other good years.”

Paul Eaton of Providence and his friends were very happy too. I met them at 6:30 a.m. and the trio had already bagged seven fish, after just 30 minutes of fishing. Paul said, “The fishing has been good, take a look at these.” He was holding up seven fish.

At 5:00 a.m. on Saturday I visited a few bait and tackle shops. Neil Hayes of North Kingstown from Quaker Lane Outfitters said that business had been very good. Popular baits included meal worms, trout worms and Power Baits. Dan Ross of Warwick had been working all night at John’s Bait & Tackle in North Kingstown. Dan said that business had been very good and with warmer weather he and the staff predicted a good weekend and week. Craig Castro form Erickson’s Bait & Tackle said that twelve people had come in during the night but he expected things to pick up.

Where’s the bite
Cod fishing is still mixed. Captain Charlie Donilon of the charter boat “Snappa” said cod fishing off Block Island on his boat has been mixed this past week. “The fish were on and off”, said Captain Donilon. The Francis Fleet is making Cod fishing trips at 5:00 a.m. Captain Steve Sheriff of Fish On Charters said that the Cod fish bite was good five miles off Block Island last week.

Striped bass are here. Steve McKenna of Cranston said, “I caught the first fresh run of school bass of the year this week at the West Wall in Matunuck, RI. The fish were caught on Cocohoe Minnows on ½ oz. jig heads. The 2010 bass season has begun!!!” Other reports of bass being caught on the Pawcatuck and Narrow Rivers with some fish being pretty good size. While testing my new engine, I saw a good size bass feeding on the surface in front of the Old Buttonwoods section of Warwick. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, reports school bass being caught in the Providence, Seekonk and Narrow Rivers.

Tautog season is scheduled to start April 15 unless we hear otherwise form DEM. A limit of two fish per angler per day is expected for the spring season.
Fresh water fishing. See above article. Also trout fishermen at the John L. Curran fishing area were besieged by horned pout as they drifted mealworms and caught 17 of them. The runoff and turbine water have the horned pout on a feeding frenzy said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle.

Opening day in on at press time; how will floods impact fresh and saltwater fishing?

Members of Trout Unlimited help float stock trout on the Wood River. Volunteers float down the River in canoes and small boats and drop a net full of trout every 50 yards from Rt. 165 to Barberville Dam. Water levels must be manageable to float stock because it is dangerous to maneuver vessels in the swift moving water. This year’s effort is scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m. on April 22. Volunteers are welcome.
Most anglers are wondering what impact the flooding will have on fresh and saltwater fishing both short and long term. The beginning of spawning season for many species and opening day for trout season is scheduled for this Saturday, April 10 at 6:00 a.m. and according to DEM it will go on with some adjustments and precautions in place.
I checked in with a few local fishing and environmental experts about high water and flooding and its impact on fishing and here’s what they had to say.
Gail Mastrati, assistant to the director/public information for the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said (at press time) that, “Trout opening day will take place Saturday, April 10 but with some possible adjustments.” She said that the Carolina Hatchery suffered some fish loss and that anglers should check DEM’s web site prior to opening day for current information. New information would appear on their home page in new release form at . Visit the Fish and Wildlife page for specifics originally announced a couple of weeks ago.
Captain George Cioe, Narragansett charter captain. “… newly stocked ponds might have trout swept away. And saltwater eggs may have been swept away from the shallows where the water has gotten warm enough for an egg hatch… worm hatch for example”.
Dave Henault, Ocean State Bait &Tackle, Providence. “I suspect rivers may be high enough that DEM may not stock many of them for opening day in an effort to conserve the trout and as a matter of public safety fishing in some rivers many be discouraged or prohibited.”
Angler Peter Nilsen, Trout Unlimited, Barrington. “How it impacts opening day depends on the streams the State stocked before the rain … if already stocked we will now be fishing for “sea-run trout”. I think they may get to stock ponds and lakes but the rivers might be another thing.” In regard to positive effects Peter said, “This year peanut bunker, juvenile bunker, herring and alewives will have no trouble climbing fish ladders compared to low water levels we experienced for the past three years… this will hopefully enhance stripers and blue fishing in the upper Bay.”
Save the Bay. In a statement released last week by John Martin, director of marketing and communications of Save the Bay, “In summary, the short-term impacts to water quality are serious, but we do not expect any long-term impacts on Bay life or water quality... people should avoid contact with contaminated water…. We do not expect to see fish kills. Most Bay animals and plants are well-adapted to spring floods and wide variations in salinity (the Bay is very fresh now)…we expect that the bacteria counts to go down and the water will clear up within two to three weeks unless we have more major rain.”
Captain Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association. “…most adult resources are very resilient and would have shifted to more desirable places as the conditions worsened… shellfish are impacted by pollution because they cannot move… time will tell how this storm will affect the 2010 season.”
The Environmental Protection Agency cautions fishermen to limit contact with flood water due to elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage (particularly with the failure of Warwick and Cranston sewerage treatment plants) and other hazardous substances. This means all contact so avoid even spray and splashing, where protective gear… gloves, glasses, etc.
Richard Hittinger, member of the RI Fisheries Council and RI Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) board member. “RISAA is concerned that fresh water and contamination … is going to throw off spring striper fishing in the Bay... herring are already coming into area rivers and the bass are right behind…this changes the herring runs and can adversely impact early striper fishing.”
Captain Rob Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters, Jamestown. “I am not a biologist but I would assume the effects of the flood would be short term. There are a lot of flounder, both summer and winter entering the Bay to spawn but they usually do not make it that far up the bay until May or June.”
Steve McKenna, Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown and saltwater shore angler. “I don’t think it has any lasting impact on either (salt or freshwater fishing). More short term on freshwater. Nothing on salt.”
US Coast Guard issued a safety advisory last week for all boaters and paddlers on lakes, ponds and rivers as well as coastal waters. Floods create stronger than usual currents, eddies and rips. Additionally, fallen trees and debris create hazards below the water that could lead to uncorrectable consequences for unsuspecting paddlers and small boats. The water is fast, frigid and unforgiving this time of year. So the Coast Guard advises waiting until things calm down (which I hope will be the case when this column publishes) before venturing out. Check with local authorities, DEM and or the Coast Guard on conditions before launching your vessel.

Where’s the bite
Flounder. Captain Robb Roach of Jamestown related that lobstermen report good numbers of 10 to 12 incude winter flounder in their traps when moving pots. Robb’s lobstermen friends said that there is a lot of life around including a good number of conch.
Cod fish bite still good but spotty during last week’s storms.
Freshwater fishing. On April 22 Trout Unlimited will float stock 600 to 800 trout on the Wood River. This is contingent on the water receding and will be the second stocking, if DEM successfully stocks the first group in time for opening day said Peter Nilsen of Trout Unlimited. Volunteers are welcome and should meet at the "Check-in-Station" on Rt. 165 on the Wood River at 8:00 p.m. Coffee and donuts available.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I like the idea of artificial reefs

Photo: Black Sea Bass found on the artificial reef off Newport, Rhode Island

I like the idea of artificial reefs. Items placed under the water that are there because man put them there to attract fish. Studies show that one square yard of reef can hold 3,500 juvenile crabs and up to 135 immature fish. One square foot of structure just three to four feet high can support up to 100,000 tiny creatures like mussels, clams, crabs, worms and shrimp. Artificial reefs attract bottom fish such as cod, fluke and black sea bass. They also host non-bottom dwellers in areas above the reefs.
An article titled “Reef Madness” by Gary Caputi (January 2010 issue of Saltwater Sportsman magazine) relates that the state of New Jersey is the poster child for artificial reef construction. New Jersey boasts 15 manmade reefs that have been constructed over the past 25 years. The list of items and material that dress the reefs is impressive and includes 7.5 million cubic yard of dredge rubble and demolition concrete, 158 sunken vessels, 397 tanks and armored personnel carriers, 269 subway cars, 31 railroad flatcars, 5,500 concrete reef balls and 16,500 other concrete castings.
Caputi relates that although reefs only cover one percent of the fishable area off the New Jersey coast, reefs account for approximately one of every four fish caught by anglers. Studies in New Jersey show reefs not only concentrate fish, but they help expand stocks. There is eight to ten times more marine life on reefs than on open bottom.
This article on reefs peaked my curiosity. Where are the artificial reefs in Rhode Island? A state roughly 37 miles wide and 48 miles long with over 400 miles of coastline has to have some artificial reefs.
We do have artificial reefs in Rhode Island, however, the program is just three years old. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) began construction of two inshore reef sites in March of 2006 and concluded work in August, 2007. The sites are off Newport to the south and both were built with debris from the old Jamestown Bridge. In 2007 one of the reefs was created off Sheep’s Point. The second reef site is located off Gooseberry. Coordinates of both sites can be found on page 13 of DEM’s 2009 Abstract of Marine Fisheries Rules and Regulations. The publication can also be found on DEM’s website at
I asked Nicole Lengyel, the DEM marine biologist responsible for DEM’s reef project, if anglers are fishing the artificial reefs. I asked if there is sea life and fish on the reefs. Lengyel said, “Few fisherman are aware of the reefs and few are fishing them”. She said that this year DEM hopes to post a form on their website so anglers can report fish that are caught on the reefs.
Richard Hittinger, chairman of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association reef committee and a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, was and has been instrumental in the artificial reef movement in Rhode Island. Hittinger states that last year he brought a diver out to dive on the reefs to check out the sea life. The diver found fish, documenting his findings with photos of fluke, scup and sea bass on and around the reefs. Hittinger said, “Fish are on the reef but divers and anglers must be aware of the dangerous rebar protruding four and five feet from chucks of concrete on the bottom”.
Hittinger finds it disappointing that the State of Rhode Island still has no artificial reef plan in place. On a couple of occasions the RISAA reef committee wanted to continue to dress the reefs by sinking donated vessels on reef sites to add structure, but with no plan in place DEM was unable to grant them permission to sink vessels.
So, yes Rhode Island has artificial reefs, but is lacking the resources to conduct appropriate tests to measure their success and lacks an overall artificial reef plan to facilitate the dressing of already approved reef sites. Reefs are good for recreational fisherman. They attract fish, not only do they congregate fish, but they actually expand fish stocks. Looking at the lengthy list and volume of items used to dress reef sites in New Jersey, compared to the effort in Rhode Island is disappointing. Rhode Island needs an artificial reef plan from DEM so we can start to enhance our approved reef sites. Artificial reefs could have a huge impact on the recreational fishing industry in Rhode Island, an industry that already has a $300 million annual economic impact on the State.
Family ice fishing training
Last Saturday’s DEM family ice fishing training program was postponed due to poor ice conditions. The program has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Carolina Trout Hatchery in Carolina. As of this writing a limited number of spaces were still available. Cost is $7 per person or $5 each for families of three or more. Call Kimberly Sullivan at DEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife at 539-7333 to register or for more information.
Goddard Memorial State Park Ice Safe
As of this writing, DEM has determined that safe ice conditions now exist in designated areas at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick and at Lincoln Woods State Park in Lincoln. The ice in designated areas at both parks in over eight inches thinks.
Rainbow trout stocked in several ponds
DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife stocked about 3,500 rainbow trout in served locations throughout the state this week and last in anticipation of winter ice-fishing. Locations stocked include Carbuncle Pond in Coventry, Olney Pond in Lincoln State Park, Round Top Pond in Burrillville, Silver Spring Pond in North Kingstown, Barber Pond in South Kingstown, Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond and Wood River in Exeter. A current fishing license and a Trout Conservation Stamp are required. The daily creel and possession limit for trout are two per day.
Lowrance Demo Day
Hands on demonstrations and seminars on fresh and saltwater applications on Lowrance GPS/SONNAR/RADAR/SIDE SCANS this Saturday, February 6, 2010, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm at Wood Boat & Motor, 3630 West Shore Road, Warwick, RI. Check out the special pricing on all units, raffles and prices given away all day.
Annual fishing sale and flea market
On Sunday, March 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Wood Boat and Motor will hold its annual fishing sale and flea market. The event is open to anyone wanting to sell their used or new tackle or equipment. All proceeds from admissions fees will be donated to The Homestead Group, a program for individuals with special needs.

How to buy fish

I had coffee with my son Geoff Wednesday and he said, “Dad, I would like to eat more fish but I don’t know how to buy it. Why don’t you write about how to buy fish? I’d bet a lot of people are interested”. So, if you like to eat fish and haven’t caught any to eat lately, here is a guide on how to buy fish, preserve it from the store to the stove and some general guidance on how to cook it.
Buying fish
Ask your local fishmonger (a word of British origin that means fish dealer) how old the fish is you are interested in buying. I often ask what is fresh today, what just came in. Fish dealers, whether at the supermarket or local fish market in your town, expect customers to ask questions. And, they have every reason to be honest because if they say it is fresh, you buy it and it is not fresh odds are you will not be a customer very long. So do not be afraid to ask questions.
Secondly…the old adage is true… if it smells like fish, it is not fresh. When fish starts to decompose (or rot) bacteria forms and the fish starts to stink or smell fishy. Fresh fish should has a water or ocean smell but not a fishy smell. If the fish is just starting to smell you may not be harmed by eating it, however, as we have all experienced, it will stink up your house when cooking. At a fish counter it is OK to ask to smell the fish and it is a common customer request.
Next, look at the fish. Gian Russo, seafood team leader at Wholefoods in Garden City, said, “If the fish is a white fish like cod or haddock, it should be bright white in color not off white or grey. Also check the texture of the fish. It should be firm not mushy or soft looking”.
In summary Russo says, “You buy fish based on smell, looks and texture.”
When looking at steaks like sword fish the blood lines should be sharp and defined. If the fish is whole look at the eyes, they should be bright and clear. Overall the fish should look metallic and clean, if it is dulled or has discolored patches it is not fresh.
How to preserve fish
Fish live in the water where temperatures are colder than the air. They are use to low temperatures that is why they should be iced when caught on the water. That is why you see it on ice or in ice at the fish counter. So, it is also important to keep fish cold when you bring it home.
Fish (to stay fresh) should be arriving at your market in 24 to 36 hours from the time it is caught. Ideally, it should spend no more than three days in the market and in your refrigerator combined. That’s why it is important for fish markets to have local resources to buy from. Gian Russo says “You should plan on keeping it no longer than 48 hours at home”. My wife and I usually try to eat the fish we buy the same day it is purchased (or caught).
Here are a few tips from the Wholefoods web site on how to transport and preserve fish from the market:
Separate raw seafood from other groceries in your cart, shopping bag and refrigerator or freezer.
All seafood should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible after it is purchased.
As a general rule, refrigerated seafood should be used within two days. Live crabs and lobsters should be cooked the same day.
Seafood should be marinated in the refrigerator, not on the counter at room temperature. Discard the marinade after use, as it may contain food-borne bacteria. Do not put it on any other foods unless they will be cooked.
When cutting raw seafood at home, give that wooden cutting board the old heave-ho and instead choose a plastic one, which is less likely to harbor illness-inducing bacteria.
Wash all cutting boards and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with raw seafood. Make sure all seafood is fully cooked at the proper temperature.
Cooking fish
Cooking time for fish is very important. Most people have a tendency to overcook fish. Once this happens the meat loses natural moisture and it gets tough. The general rule is cook fish 10 minutes per one inch of thickness (no matter what the cooking method). I generally bake at 400 degrees. My wife and I usually split 1.25 to 1.5 pounds of white fish filets (cod, haddock, halibut, etc.). I usually cook it for about 15 minutes depending on the thickness.
Family ice fishing training
As of last weekend, a limited number of spaces were still available in the Department of Environmental Management’s Family Ice Fishing Training workshop to be held on Saturday, January 30. Sponsored by DEM’s Aquatic Resource Education Program, the workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Carolina Trout Hatchery in Carolina. The workshop is open to adults and children age six and older. All materials and hot chocolate are provided, and registration is required. Cost is $7 per person or $5 each for families of three or more. Call Kimberly Sullivan at DEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife at 539-7333 to register or for more information.
Striped bass seminar
Shallow Water Striper University is still taking reservations for the March 12th to 14th event. The seminar is being held at the Sheraton Motor Inn in Warwick, RI, the total cost for the three day event is $89. The entire seminar focuses on how to find and catch more striped bass. Twelve local experts show and explain how they catch striped bass. To register send check to Shallow Water Striper University, C/O Wood Boat & Motor, 3630 West Shore Road, Warwick, RI 02886. Attention Debbie Wood. This is a unique opportunity to see firsthand how certain baits should be used, rigged, and worked in the water. The educational value of this seminar series is priceless.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Your fishing stories, comments and questions are welcome… there’s more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at or e-mail him ­­­at .
Photo A Gian Russo
Fishmonger Gian Russo from Wholefoods in Garden City says you buy fish based on smell, looks and texture. Gian (who is the store’s seafood team leader) holds an Atlantic salmon farmed especially for Wholefoods customers.

We need better data… better science… and better hearts to regulate fishing

I love to fish and admire those that have made fishing their life’s work. In its most primitive form fishing takes from the water what God has brought us and we use it to nourish our bodies and for people like me and millions of other fishermen our souls. So in addition to the economics I seek to understand the fishing regulation debate. For example, the fact that federal law limits the type and amount of fish commercial fishermen can take and restricts the natural born right of all of us to fish. There are two aspects of the debate: to limit regulation and to preserve our fishery for all.
This week about 3,000 fishermen rallied in Washington, D.C. at a “United We Fish” rally sponsored by the American Alliance of Fishermen. This group’s mission is “To preserve our nation’s fisheries for all Americans”. On their website at they go to great lengths to discredit just about all of the science-based annual catch data used to set limits to fishing though the Magnuson-Stevens Act (which was reauthorized by Congress in 2006).
Our national fishery is managed by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Their aim is to end overfishing of all stocks. As Eric Schwaab, the Service’s assistant administrator for fisheries, claimed this week in a press release “Ending overfishing is the first step to allowing a fish stock population to rebuild to a level where the stock can be fished sustainably for the long term”.
Fishermen claim stocks are not overfished. For example, fishermen from Galilee, Rhode Island attending the national rally this week claimed species such as dogfish and fluke are not overfished as the National Marine Fisheries Service has claimed. They say data is faulty and basing policy on faulty data does not make sense. It is hurting fishermen, fishing families and fishing communities right here in Rhode Island. Limiting the amount of days fishermen can fish as well as catch limits has caused great economic hardship. Fishermen have gone out of business, sold their boats and to some this means selling a part of their soul.
The National Marine Fisheries Service says that sacrifices have to be made to get fishing under control for significant long-term benefits to the ecosystem and fishing communities. They point to success stories such as the sea scallop industry which has increased from $84.7 million in 1994 to $370 million in 2008. They point to the healthy bluefish stock in the Northeast and off Rhode Island shores and in Narragansett Bay that provides a consistent, reliable fishing opportunity for shore anglers, party/charter boat anglers and the resulting economic benefits. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that once the nation rebuilds all fisheries, a plan they claim is on track and is required by law, the dockside value of our domestic fishery would go from $4.1 billion to $6.3 billion annually.
Additionally, rebuilding the recreational fishery will help improve the economics of our nations' coastal communities. Annually, saltwater angling generates $82 billion in sales and supports more than 500,000 jobs as noted in a most recent NOAA report.
Fishermen and federal regulators alike share a common goal of preserving our fishery so that it is sustainable. Fishermen benefit greatly from and support a sustainable fishery. But we have to be careful about how we achieve sustainability.
I believe we have two key issues that should be addressed by both sides of the debate. First get better science. The fishermen know the science is faulty. They know what is pulled up in their nets. They report catches daily. Federal fishing regulators and fishermen have to focus on getting better data… better science… so more accurate policy can be created.
Second, the federal government needs to strike a better balance between the economic well-being of fishermen, fishing families, fishing communities and the long-term health of our fishery. It is a balance that needs more attention. People are suffering.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Your fishing stories, comments and questions are welcome… there’s more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at or e-mail him ­­­at .

Fish tag reporting and catch & release efforts are good for the fishery

Many anglers have caught fish with tags. So I thought it would be good to review what one should do as well as review a few catch and release tips to ensure the fish you catch and intend to release have the best possible chance of surviving.
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 too 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. Record pertinent information immediately including species, location, length, weigh, the condition of the tag insertion site, and any other comments you have. The date of the trip and your name and address should be supplied as well. Some organizations offer incentives to those returning tags and surveys including cash awards ($5) and prize drawings.
Catch and Release tips
It is important to plan your catch and release efforts carefully to insure the fish you are not taking are released unharmed and have the best possible chance of surviving. This is particularly important with larger egg bearing striped bass. One way to enhance survival chances on the fish you plan to release is the use circle hooks. Circle hooks can be used very effectively when chucking or live lining with menhaden, or fishing with eels (three very popular fishing methods used to catch striped bass in Rhode Island).
Here’s how circle hooks work…after the hook (and bait) are swallowed by the fish and it starts to run, the hook is pulled out of the stomach and slides toward the point of resistance on the fish’s jaw or lip and embeds itself in the corner of the fish’s mouth (and not in the stomach).
The trick is not to jerk the rod to set the hook because you could pull the 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 the fish is hooked so all you have to do is start fighting the fish and reeling it in.
To practice “catch and release “effectively consider these techniques, many courtesy of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management:
1. Land fish quickly to minimize stress.
2. Avoid putting fish on deck and letting it flop around, keep it in the water as much as possible when removing hook.
3. Wet your hand before handling the fish, dry hands remove the fish’s protective slime layer and leave it open to infection
4. Handle fish carefully. Do not use excessive force when grasping the fish. Do not put fingers into gill cavities or eye sockets.
5. Gently remove the hook to minimize damage.
6. Use lures with single hook, barbless hooks (I snap them off), or circle hooks (as noted above)
7. 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 the fish revives, allow it to swim away.
Where’s the bite
Fresh water: With the ice melt the freshwater bite is not active. Not many anglers reporting fishing at press time.
Cod fishing seems to be just about the only saltwater species being taken. Parry boats out of Point Judith such as the Francis Fleet are experiencing good cod fishing off Block Island as the weather has cleared. Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters reports a good numbers of cod coming up in lobster pots these days.
The biggest bite this weekend will be at Shallow Water Striper University being held March 12th to 14th at the Sheraton Motor Inn, Warwick, RI. The cost for the three day event is $89. To register contact Wood Boat & Motor in Warwick, RI at 401.739.4040.

Finally, a trophy bass… and then snap…your line breaks

No one wants to lose a big fish. Not me, yet time and time again I lose fish because the gear is not right for the job, the tackle is faulty or because I wasn’t ready. Last year I lost a monster fluke (summer flounder) under the Jamestown Bridge. I was fishing for that doormat-sized fluke, yet the rig I was using just didn’t have enough muscle. I keep telling myself “You have to be ready, prepare before you drop your hook, before your fishing trip and before the season starts.” So this article focuses on getting your gear ready for the fishing season now so you don’t lose that big fish.

Here’s a guide on what to do to prepare for the season.

Each year, replace most used line. This is a judgment call as to what is meant by “used”. For example I have reels spooled with 40 lb. test monofilament line for fishing live bait. I used them infrequently last year. So I checked the line, it looked good… no nicks, snags or apparent stress so I did not change it. However, I changed just about every other rig with new monofilament, braid, lead or wire. Spool tight enough and then stretch the line, the first 100 feet (of monofilament line) to relax its memory to avoid bird’s nest tangles.

Give your reels a good cleaning, particularly when the line is off. Grease where directed by manufacturer, often times, the reel is marked where to do this. If instructions are long gone do not hesitate to stop by your local bait or tackle shop to ask where to grease. Do not be afraid to ask questions, that is what they are there for, and they want your business. By the way, do not grease the drag, It is not meant to be greased, if you do, it will not work.

Examine the rods for cracks and stress marks. Closely examine the eyes for chips or cuts that could cause line to snag, rub or break. Do not place hooks on the eyes or they will eventually create cracks that will cut line as it passes through.

I get tackle ready in chronological order when certain species are fished… starting with tautog, striped bass, blue fish, fluke, tuna, etc. I then go through tautog rigs first, then the striped bass, etc. Make sure you have enough rigs to fish the species. Hooks should be clean and sharp (no rust), and strong enough for the size fish you are going after. Often hooks that come with lures are not quality hooks so I replace them with stronger hooks.

Leaders/Circle Hooks
Use wire leaders for blue fish and monofilament or fluorocarbon for striped bass. Blues won’t bite though the wire and striped bass will find it harder to see the monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders. Make sure leaders have no nicks or stress marks from fish pulling. If they do, replace them. I switched most of my leader hooks to circle hooks, I did this so I can safely catch and release undersized or unwanted fish (particularly striped bass). Circle hooks are designed to hook the fish at the corner of the mouth and not down in the belly.

Where’s the Bite

Freshwater fishing: Opening day is Saturday, April 10. Get you gear ready. Kim Bissonnette of Portsmouth, RI reported a healthy largemouth bass bite this weekend. On Saturday Kim landed nine largemouths in about 3 ½ hours of fishing. Kim will be reporting regularly on the freshwater bite this season. throughout the season.

Saltwater fishing regulations and license. DEM director Michael Sullivan is expected to announce 2010 saltwater fishing regulations in the next week or two. Rhode Island will also likely institute its saltwater fishing license requirement this year. If they do not a federal license will be required. Stay tuned for 2010 regulations and details on the license law roll-out.

Tautog. Spring tautog season opens, April 15 (if tautog regulations stay the same). The tautog proposal presented by the RI Fisheries Council was status quo with 2009… a minimum size of 16” with a split season… April 15 to May 31 (three fish/person/day), July 1 to October 16 (three fish/person/day) and October 17 to December 15 (eight fish/person/day).

Striped Bass. We still have holdover striped bass in the upper reaches of rivers and bays. The only other news I heard was from Rich Back of On The Water magazine on line ( ). Rich reports
Osprey sightings which traditionally follow the herring up North. And, if the herring are coming north, the striped bass are right behind them. So this is a good sign.

Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association successfully completed their
annual New England Saltwater Fishing show at the Convention Center in RI and is now preparing for their March 29, 7:00 p.m. monthly seminar. The seminar will feature two topics… Light Tackle Fishing in Narragansett Bay with Captain James White (owner of White Ghost Charters) and a discussion of the R.I. ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) which aims to define zones for RI’s ocean waters. David Beutel of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council will speak about RI’s ongoing SAMP initiative.