Saturday, December 31, 2011

New cod fillet law in effect January 1

What a difference a year makes… Francis Fleet mate Ted McDermott fillets cod fish for passengers on a January 1, 2011 cod fishing trip. This year (1/1/2012) we have a new cod fillet law in place.
New cod fillet law in effect January 1
We have a new recreational cod fishing fillet regulation that takes effect January 1, 2012. The minimum fish size is the same at twenty-two inches (22”), however, no angler shall possess a cod fillet measuring less than fourteen inches (14”) and the fillet must have at least two (2) square inches of skin left intact. The skin will help assist enforcement authorities identify the species. This means that if you fillet at sea you need to keep some skin (at least two square inches) left on the fillet.
The new law pertains to fish caught within “this state or otherwise”. “Otherwise” means that if you catch fish in federal waters outside the three mile limit, like at Cox’s Ledge (the popular cod fishing grounds off Rhode Island), and bring it back through Rhode Island waters or back to a Rhode Island port the cod fish regulation applies.
Both support and criticism of the new fillet law has come from private anglers and the charter/party boat industry.
Those opposed to the new fillet law say it will not stop the taking of undersized fish occurring offshore at popular fishing grounds where vessels from Montauk New York and other out of state party/charter boasts and private anglers keep undersized fish then fillet at sea and return to other than Rhode Island ports.
Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat association said, “Filet laws are not the solution. They are not going to stop people from taking undersized fish, what is needed is enhanced enforcement.”
Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) said, “Personally, I'm against it. For the past several years DEM enforcement has proposed a total fillet law in the state. While I was on the fisheries council I helped to defeat it time after time. This time it's about out of state charter and party boats fishing on the cod stocks south of Block Island. Reportedly they keep everything, including all undersized fish, fillet them on the spot, then cut back to Montauk. If caught with only fillets there is no proof to charge them with undersized fish.”Medeiros continued to say that he understands the new laws intent but was concerned that it would lead to fillet laws for all species. He said, “…I fear this will be used to open the door for an across-the-board fillet law. I'm not on the Council (Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council) anymore so I can only fight from the audience.”
However others feel the fillet law will have a positive impact on the fishery. Dick Pastore, a noted long time Rhode Island recreational angler and fisheries advocate said, “ I’m probably a lone voice here but I don’t have any problem with a total fillet ban on the water… and lastly, a fillet ban will deter people from taking shorts. “

Brian an avid recreational angler on the RISAA blog said, “I believe it is a very good solution. It's also a lot better than not being able to clean fish at sea. I can't think of a better way for DEM to enforce limits on fish. It's been like that for years on the west coast and it keeps people honest and allows DEM to do their job.”

When advocating for the filet law, Captain Frank Blount, owner of the Francis Fleet party boats, said, “I was the one who recommended this fillet law and … support (the) option that would allow filleting of cod at sea but with fillets equal to the a specified size. Fourteen inches, if that translates to the minimum size fish (of 22 inches)”. Blount advocated for the law to prevent private anglers, party and charter boats from taking undersized cod and then filleting them at sea with no minimum size.

The new regulation becomes effective this week, January 1, 2012 and will remain in effect through June 30, 2012. The hope is that DEM will assess the effectiveness of the new fillet law and reconsider whether or not we should continue to have one. The new law it its entirety is as follows.
2.22.2 – Cod – Recreational Harvest
7.22.2 – 1 Minimum Size – No person fishing recreationally shall land or possess any cod measuring less than twenty-two inches (22”) total length, or any cod fillet measuring less than fourteen inches (14”) in total length, whether caught within the jurisdiction of this State or otherwise.
(a) Filleting of Cod – The fillets or cleared cod (head and tail removed) shall measure at least fourteen inches (14”) in length, and each fillet shall have at least two (2) square inches (5.1 square centimeters) of skin left intact to assist in species identification.
(b) This section shall remain in effect through June 30, 2012.

Who is fishing for cod?
The Seven B’s party boat (80 feet) out of the Port of Galilee, Narragansett, RI will be sailing for Cod fish this week December 28, 29, 30 and 31. The boast leaves the dock at 6:00 a.m. and return at 3:30 p.m. Cost for the tip through the end of this year is $85 per person. Call 401.789.9250.
The Francis Fleet vessels will be fishing this week too. They have been catching black sea bass to five pounds as well as scup and blue fish with cod mixed in. The Francis Fleet runs cod fishing trips from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The cod fishing trip rate is $85 per person until 12.31.11. Rates after January 1 are to be determined. Visit or call 1.800.662.2824.

Don't miss the salt water sportsman's seminar... or cod fishing this winter

John Toppa of Newport with the 20 pound cod he caught on a Francis Fleet vessel New Year’s Day, 2011. It was the largest cod caught on the boat that day.

George Poveromo, all smiles after landing this 39-pound striped bass last week outside of Chesapeake Bay, will host the January 7, Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Poveromo is also the host of the VERSUS television series - George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing.

The Seven Fishes illustration (above) by Peter Nilsen was inspired by a No Fluke column on the significance of the Christmas Eve seven fishes meal. More fish and fishing cartoons by Peter are available in his book, "Fish Foolishness" or email him at This makes a great gift for fishermen or your fishing buddy.

Don’t miss the salt water sportsman’s seminar… or cod fishing this winter
OK, this column was supposed to be all about cod and cod fishing. However, I have to share with you that I spoke with one of my fishing idols this weekend, George Poveromo, and he was a true gentleman. George will be in New England next month with his salt water fishing seminar which I have attended three times and will do so again this year (tickets would make a great holiday gift for any angler). The Salt Water Sportsman’s National Seminar Series is one of the nation’s premier educational seminars on recreational marine fishing tactics. It will take place Saturday, January 7, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Casino’s Grand Ballroom (1 Mohegan Sun Blvd. Uncasville, CT). The presentation will be hosted by George Poveromo, host of George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing on VERSUS, and Editor-At-Large for Salt Water Sportsman magazine, and Tom Richardson, noted authority on fishing the coastal waters of New England and a prominent fishing writer and editor. George and Tom will share the stage with nine local charter captains and expert anglers including Captain John Rainone, past president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association and a distinguished Point Judith, Rhode Island based charter captain of the vessel “L’il Toot”. For more information or to order tickets visit or call 1-800-448-7360.
Cod fishing is fun
The striped bass will all be gone soon… on their way south except for a few fish that decide to winter here, tautog fishing is over too… the season ended December 15 in Rhode Island. So how about targeting cod fish. I spoke with three captains that can take you to the cod. But first, here is some information about cod. Cod is an ideal species to target if fishing with children, because all they have to do is drop their line to the bottom. And, it is one of the most popular eating fish in New England. Cod are bottom fish that are basically lazy. They are not aggressively hunting, they pretty much stay on the bottom, often near structure (underwater wrecks, rock piles, holes, humps and drop offs), waiting for prey to come by. So you have to go to where the cod are to catch them. They are not likely going to come to you.
Cod rigs and bait
A hook, sinker weight that holds the bottom and sea clams are often used as bait to catch cod. Jigs of various sizes, color and weight depending on conditions are used too. Cod will generally eat anything that is in front of them, they are not picky, but you have to get their attention and jigs usually do a good job of this. A common rig used is a diamond jig with a colored teaser buck tail tied about 12 inches above the jig. Anglers often tip the jig and buck tail with live bait (a piece of sea clam). Most anglers use a traditional boat rod and reel to catch cod. A short, sturdy 30 to 40 pound test rod of five to six feet is common with a traditional real of similar weight capacity. A fifty pound test line (both braid and monofilament) are used.
Captains that can take you to the cod
Christine Blount of the Francis Fleet
from Point Judith, RI, said Saturday, “We have had a couple of great seasons the past couple of years and this year promises to be good too. I know Captain Cory Blount called in today and said they were hitting a lot of sea bass too.” When Captain Cory returned he called and said, “Once the water cools and the black sea bass leave so will the dogfish and the cod fishing will improve. A real good sign this year is that anglers have been catching keeper cod close to shore.” The Francis Fleet runs cod fishing trips from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The cod fishing trip rate is $85 per person until 12.31.11. Rates after January 1 are to be determined. Visit or call 1.800.662.2824.
Captain Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters, Point Judith, Rhode Island has been getting some great fishing in on Snappa. This past week Adam Durant wrote, “We had the pleasure of heading out with Capt. Charlie Donilon on Tuesday. The weather was perfect, calm sea, light breeze & mostly sunny. Started on the East Grounds and landed six keeper cod with a least three times as many shorts. Another five black sea bass and a couple good scup. All caught on crabs & clam, jigs accounted for two cod. Best part was ZERO doggies!! … All in all a great day of fishing with an outstanding Captain. Charlie runs a very clean comfortable boat and this trip will no doubt become an annual outing. “
Saturday afternoon Captain Donilon said, “We will keep fishing throughout December as long as the weather holds and people are interested in fishing. We are going out this week and hope to the week after Christmas too.” Captain Donilon said, “The cod fishing has been OK, a lot of fish that are just short by a half inch or an inch. Now that the tautog season is over we will likely fish Cox’s Ledge. Up until this point we have been fishing at the East Fishing grounds. Visit Snappa Charters at or call Captain Charlie Donilon at 401.487.9044.
Captain Russ Benn’s Seven B’s vessel is a party boat with a capacity of 120 people and is also out of Point Judith, Rhode Island. The boat has a gallery but you can also bring your lunch. Cod fishing trips started December 17 from 6:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The rate is $85/adult. They sail Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Captain Russ Benn is an outstanding captain, I fished on his vessel this summer during a West Bay Anglers/Seven B’s Take a Kid Fishing trip and he and his crew did an outstanding job of putting the kids (and adults) over fish. Visit or call 1.800.371.FISH for reservations.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fisheries Council recommends cod filet law

Michael Casey, a member of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, poses with an eight and a ten pound tautog he caught last week in the Brenton Tower area.

Fisheries Council recommends cod filet law
Yes…. we could have a cod filet law in Rhode Island in 2012 as the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) voted to recommend one to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) commissioner Janet Coit last week. Captain Frank Blount, owner of the Francis Fleet party boats, said, “I was the one who recommended this filet law and would support an option that would allow filleting of cod at sea but with fillets equal to the a specified size. Fourteen inches, if that translates to the minimum size fish (of 22 inches)”. Blount advocated for the law to prevent private anglers, party and charter boats from taking undersized cod and then filleting them at sea with no minimum size. If DEM Law Enforcement should check their catch nothing could be done if the fish were filled because there is no minimum filet size… we just have a 22” full fish minimum size in Rhode Island.
Captain Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association, advocated for status quo…a 22” size with no filet law. Bellavance said, “Filet laws are not the solution. They are not going to stop people from taking undersized fish, what is needed is enhanced enforcement.” Many anglers and charter captains feel that filet laws are restrictive and burdensome, particularly those that require no filleting at sea or the preservation of racks. Charter boats and most anglers filet their catch at sea on the way back to port and saving racks (of fish skeletons) often creates a burden too. Some of those at the meeting felt that the “saving the racks” option would place a burden on captains and private anglers who have no readily available place to discard racks once at the dock as most marinas do not allow fish racks to be discarded at the dock. Party boat captains related that the number of racks, particularly on long trips, would be impractical to keep due to the mere volume of them and amount of space they would take up.
The final recommendation approved by the council will be sent to Janet Coit, DEM director, for consideration. The recommendation approved was a combination of two options … that is… the vessel would either have to have all 14” and above fillets (possibly with a 1” skin patch left on them to make it identifiable as a cod fish) or the racks of all fish taken. If undersized fillets were on board due to a poor fillet job then both all filets and all racks must be kept.
The new law could get complex. DEM staffers are expected to take RIMFC input and their departmental recommendations to the director for her decision. What seems clear is that some type of cod fillet law may be in place for 2012.

Other RIMFC news
The RIMFC voted to discontinue the fluke sector pilot program
, however, this leaves the door open for some other type of program, perhaps a permanent one which is expected to be proposed.
The Council voted to recommend the elimination of the Friday and Saturday commercial fluke fishing restriction. Commercial rod and reel fishermen in particular felt that this regulation was unfair to commercial fisherman. Recreational anglers advocated keeping one restricted day, Saturday, which would allow recreational anglers to fish Saturdays without the impact of commercial fluke fishermen. However, in the end with a split vote, the Council voted to recommend the elimination of both restricted days.
A Whelk Ad Hoc Committee had convened and reported on draft regulations for the industry. A major topic advocated for by many industry participants is that all Whelk meat be keep in shells so law enforcement officials can check minimum sizes if they should check a fisherman’s catch.
Agendas for a variety of Advisory Panels (AP) were approved by the council including two summer flounder AP agendas, a scup/black sea bass agenda, tautog, striped bass, menhaden, an Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) and a Winter flounder advisory panel agenda. Visit DEM’s web site at for dates and times that these meetings will be held. Fishermen are urged to attend as this is an opportunity to impact fishing policy. Most of the meetings will be scheduled in January, they will set the tables for recreational (and commercial) regulation recommendations that the RIMFC will consider and eventually be sent to the DEM Director in late winter and early spring 2012 for consideration.
Solar panels to be installed at State facilities
DEM has been awarded $1.5 million in federal funds from the RI Office of Energy Resources to install solar panels at nine DEM facilities throughout the state. The solar panels are designed to turn the energy from the sun into electricity that will be used to offset the energy needs at the state facilities. The funding was awarded as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009. Solar panels will be installed at the following facilities starting this week: Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett; Fisherman’s Memorial State Park and Campground in Narragansett; Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly; Burlingame State Park in Charlestown; Lafayette Fish Hatchery in North Kingstown; Dawley State Park in Exeter; Prudence Island Research Reserve; Urban Edge Farm in Providence; and East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown. It is estimated that all work will be completed by the end of February of 2012.
Where’s the bite
Black sea bass and cod.
Cod fishing was fair this week. Private anglers seem to be doing better than the party fishing boats. Cod anglers are catching some great black sea bass. Francis feel vessels reported keeper sea bass in the two and three pound ranges were easily caught with just about all anglers limiting out this weekend on the sea bass. Angler Eric Duda reports on his Francis Fleet trip, “Went out on the Frances Fleet on Friday (7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) for Cod fishing. Well, don’t expect to get many cod yet, but the sea bass fishing was great!!! Within seconds, you would get a hit.” Private angles seem to be doing a little better. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Customers are catching some nice 30” fish in the Brenton Tower area.” Earlier in the week several RISAA members reported a good black sea bass and cod bite at the East Fishing grounds off Block Island.
Tautog bite continues to be good too. Dave Fewster reports catching fish to just under ten pounds off Newport and limiting out in a short amount of time this weekend. Angler Michael Casey said, “Black fishing is still going off of the Brenton Tower and Fountains area off Newport. Bite good off Washington Ledge… in 55 feet (of water) we caught 30 tautog (10 keepers) before limiting out and going home in about 3 hours.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “I have been selling a ton of green crabs, tautog fishing is good, it is a shame the season will end next week (December 15). Fishing from Coddington Cove and Plum Point Lighthouse throughout the lower Bay and out off near coastal shores has been very good.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bring (seven) fish to your holiday table

Chris Catucci of Warwick, RI with two of the twenty bass he caught last week at Warwick Lake.

Dave Fewster teamed up with Rick Sustello to land eighteen keeper cod last weekend at the East fishing grounds off Block Island. Dave said, “The Point Judith jig was the exact size and similar shape of the small rock crabs they were feasting on.”

Bring (seven) fish to your holiday table
As a child I wasn’t aware of the “seven fishes” eaten on Christmas Eve. All I knew is that I liked eating fish and we had a lot of it on Christmas Eve. We had fish because you had to fast (abstain from meat), just as you had to fast every Friday back then. This is what Italian Catholic families did. And, it is where eating “seven fishes” on Christmas Eve came from.
There are many theories why the tradition of “seven” fish came into being. Some say for the seven days it took to make the earth, others say it pays tribute to the last seven of the Ten Commandments, which relate to human interaction, and still others say it reminds us of the seven deadly sins. However, some in Italy do not have a tradition of seven fish but rather one of twelve fish (for the twelve apostles) or a thirteen fish tradition (for the twelve apostles plus one for Jesus). So no matter one fish or thirteen, many Italian families have the tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve.
What type of fish do people eat? My family often started with antipasto with anchovies (no meat), snail salad, fried smelts, baccala (dry cod fish preserved in salt that is soaked for days to get the salt out), stuffed squid in a red sauce over linguini, baked white fish (haddock, cod or hake), baked stuffed shrimp and stuffed quahogs.
As fishermen, it is nice to bring fish to our holiday table. Fishing is such a big part of our lives and is one of the few natural foods we can catch, clean, prepare and eat much the way people have for centuries.
Here are two fish recipes for the holidays.

Sandy’s tasty fish casserole
Sandy Ducharme of East Greenwich, RI is a great friend and great cook. She (and her husband Gerry) prepared a fish casserole for us this past weekend. Not a milky, gooey casserole but a lightly baked dish of rice pilaf, cod, sea scallops and jumbo shrimp. Sandy said, “It is a great recipe for entertaining because you can make it ahead of time and then just bake it prior to dinner.”
Ingredients (serves eight)
2 pounds of white fish (cod, haddock or hake)
16 sea scallops, two per person
16 large shrimp (uncooked), two per person
½ cup lemon juice
½ stick butter or margarine
½ to ¾ cup lemon pepper panko bread crumbs (Sandy uses Progresso)
2 packages Far East rice pilaf
½ cup parmesan cheese
Cook rice pilaf as directed on package and set aside. Melt butter and mix with bread crumbs and set aside. Coat fish and shrimp (not scallops) with lemon juice, set on paper towel and pat dry. Place half of cooked rice pilaf on the bottom of a 9” x 12” baking dish. Place white fish on top of rice, sprinkle half of the butter/bread crumbs and cheese over white fish, place sea scallops and shrimp on top, place remaining rice on top of scallops and shrimp then sprinkle remanding butter/bread crumb mixture and top off with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Sandy said, “When the shrimp turns pink it’s done.”

Captain Dave’s Linguini with white quahog sauce
½ cup virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced (or 4 teaspoons chopped garlic from jar)
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley (plus four to five good pinches)
½ cup dry white wine
½ lemon juice
red pepper
3 dozen (scrubbed) littleneck quahogs (1 ½ to 2 inches)
meat of 6 to 8 large quahogs cut-up and cleaned (optional)
1 pound linguini pasta

Scrub littleneck quahog shells thoroughly and put them aside. Cook linguine while making recipe. Heat extra virgin olive oil in heavy pasta pan over medium heat, cook garlic in oil until golden brown (about one minute). Add and stir in 1/3 cup chopped parsley and all the unopened little necks, let simmer for two minutes. Add wine and let simmer for one minute. Add lemon and the meat of six to eight large quahogs cut up and cleaned (extra quahog meat is optional; if I catch them I put them in). Add red pepper to taste. Cook for eight to ten minutes or until all quahogs are open. Discard quahogs that are not open. Lower heat and put in one pound of cooked linguini and toss the entire mixture, put into large pasta bowl, then garnish with four pinches of fresh parsley. (This recipe is a variation of one I first saw in the May, 2002 issue of Bon App├ętit magazine by Lori Demori.)

Where’s the bite
Chris Catucci of Warwick, RI said, “The fall bass fishing bite reached its peak last week. My friend and I got about 20 bass each, fish seemed very aggressive and the best producing baits were white chatterbaits and chrome lipless crankbaits. The fish were in shallow water fattening up for winter. It was a great day at Warwick Lake.”
Cod fishing is picking up nicely. The East fishing grounds off Block Island continues to yield nice keeper cod fish (minimum size for cod is 22” with a ten fish/angler/day limit). RISAA anglers Rick Sustello and Dave Fewster fished the East fishing grounds Friday. Rick said, “We started hooking up immediately with cod and black sea bass and an occasional dog fish. Cod were 3:1 keeper to short. The cod were beautiful and fat. They were all gagging up crabs and small lobsters…we decided to anchor over (a hot spot) and try crabs, clams and Jigs… In total we caught 18 keeper Cod up to 15 lbs on jigs, crabs and clams and nine keeper black sea bass up to 4 lbs.” Mary Dangelo of Maridee Canvas, Bait & Tackle, Narragansett, RI said, “Shore angler customers are catching cod for shore, no keepers reported, but still this is a good sign.”
Blue fishing. Anglers along the southern coastal shore are reporting great action. Dave Garzolie said on the RISAA blog that he fished the Charlestown Breach way from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Dave said, “The primary baitfish appeared to be sea herring. I caught fish on almost every cast. I was throwing a 2 ounce pencil popper.”
Striped bass fishing is good along the shore. Mary Dangelo said, “I weighted in a 25 pound bass last week that was caught by a shore angler off Matunuck Beach.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, East Providence, RI said, “A customer caught nineteen keeper bass in the 30” range snagging and live lining menhaden under the I-195, I-way bridge at 2:30 a.m. on an incoming tide.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “This Monday customers reported catching keeper bass at India Point Park (Providence) using surface plugs.”
Tautog. Captain John Sheriff said, “(This weekend) we fished for Tautog off Newport area reefs. Limits of keeper Tautog each day. Fished in 55 feet of water on Friday with excellent sea conditions for December. Fished in water up to 90 feet on Saturday which produced three nice keeper cod on crabs in addition to the limit of Tautog.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday gifts for the angler

How is this for congestion? Sport fishing photographer Jim Levison captured this photo titled The Five Horsemen during the fall striped bass run off Montauk, NY this year. Jim’s copyrighted prints make a great holiday gift for anglers and can be seen and purchased on his website at .

How’s this Grouper. Angler (and RISAA member) Ken Robinson of Smithfield, RI with the 20 plus pound Gag Grouper he caught in Florida earlier this month. Gap Groper season had ended so the fish was released.

Holiday gifts for the angler
Wondering what to get your favorite angler for the holidays? Here are some holiday gifts ideas. Gift certificates at your local bait & tackle shop, Benny’s and stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods are always good too.
1. Fishing lures $3 to $20. I’d like to mention three types… surface lures (often referred to as poppers) that stay on top of the water splashing. Second, swimming lures that swim through the water and third, soft plastic baits of all types... all three are used for fresh and saltwater fishing.
2. Saltwater Sportsman Magazine, $30 for an annual subscription of ten issues. My favorite saltwater fishing magazine of all time. Features many how-to articles, regular features on fishing gear, tackle and fishing tactics. Visit to purchase a gift subscription.
3. United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island (UFTRI) annual membership dues, $30. If you know a fly fisherman, fresh or salt water, they will appreciate this gift. Members meet in workshop form and learn how to tie one of five to six different flies each month. Beginners welcome. Meetings held the first Wednesday of every month at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Warwick, RI. Visit .
4. The Striped Bass 60++ Pound Club, about $30 for the hardcover; and $20 for the paperback by Tony Checko at . Both this book and the author’s 2008 version published in 2008 focus on striped bass of 60 pounds or more. The book includes the story of Peter Vican and his first record Rhode Island striped bass of 76 lbs. 14 oz.
5. Fish scales to weigh an angler’s catch, $10 to $50. Combination fish gripper/scale is about $50. Conventional scales range from $10 to $25, and digital fish scales about $50. Can purchase them at Benny’s, West Marine, Dick’s Sporting Goods and local bait & tackle shops.
6. Membership in the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA), $50. This non-profit organization is created by and for recreational saltwater anglers and holds monthly seminars and education programs on fishing techniques and how to improve catches. The Association supports marine conservation and fisheries resource management. Visit on-line at .
7. Saltwater Sportsman’s national fishing seminar, $55. This year there are two New England seminars, the first at Mohegan Sun Casino, CT on January 7 and the second in Portland, ME on March 10, 2012. The Saturday sessions are held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost for six hours of fishing instruction by national and local captains, guides is $55. This includes the seminar, a year subscription or extension to Salt Water Sportsman magazine, plus a goodie bag, door prizes and more. Registration at .
8. “Shallow Water Striper University” seminar $89, February 18 and 19, 2012 at the Sheraton Airport Inn, Warwick, RI. This is the third year for this highly informative seminar produced by Captain Jim White. I attended the past two years and it was great. This year I will be one of many presenters. The seminar focuses on how to find and catch striped bass with local experts as speakers. Visit for information or call Captain Jim White at 401.578.9043.
9. Museum quality striped bass photo prints by noted sport fishing photographer Jim Levison. These beautiful fall run photos taken off of Montauk can be seen on Jim’s website at (click Montauk). Prints are available from 11'” x 14” to 2 feet by 4 feet. Prints start at $99 for an unframed 11” x 14” glossy finish print ($299 framed).
10. General fishing or learn how to fish charters, $350 to $650 (depending on number of people, species targeted, boat size) for a half day. Hire a charter to help teach someone how to fish or to take the experienced anglers fishing. Visit, the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association web site for a list of qualified charter captain members.

Where’s the bite
John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, RI said, “Tautog anglers were out in force this weekend as the weather improved with most fish being caught in the lower Bay, off Newport, Middletown and Jamestown.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Tautog bite has been good off Narragansett where several customers caught nice keepers this week.”
Striped bass bite in the later part of last week slowed after the storm Wednesday. Earlier in the week (and month) shore anglers experienced the best bass fishing yet this year. Although fishing has slowed, Dave Pickering noted on his blog Friday, “On a positive, note, though, I did see (Friday) a lot of gannets hitting the water way out meaning big bait is still around. However, are the big fish (bass and blues) still around?” is the question. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “Some customers have been hitting bass in the Warren River. Last week a 37”, nineteen pound fish was caught in heavy currant using eels.”
Cod fishing is good. No huge fish being taken put anglers are catching keepers. Ken Booth, recreational and commercial rod and reel fisherman said, “The East fishing grounds (east of Block Island) and Cox’s Ledge are holding keeper cod. The fish are not big but there are keepers out there.” Lucas Salem had a great fishing outing for cod (and other bottom species) on Snappa Charters Captained by Charlie Donilon out of Galilee, Rhode Island. Lucas said, “Captain Donilon decided to take us to the East Fishing grounds off Block Island to mix things up. Took an hour to get there (from Newport where they tautog fished), but it was well worth it. Seas were building three to five feet by the time we got there but once the anchor was set it was easy fishing from there. .. Cod, sea bass, scup/porgy, bluefish, baby Pollock, and a few dog fish were all hitting our lines. The biggest cod was around eleven pounds. Biggest sea bass was around five pounds, biggest scup was three pounds. What a great day. It was great to get a mixed bag of fish. They are definitely out there you just have to find the good weather and go. If you want a great time, a good captain and a great boat, fish with Capt. Charlie Donilon… his web site is”
Bluefish. Paul Smith reports that on Thanksgiving Day the bluefish were thick from Green Hill to Charlestown. Paul reports on the RISAA blog, “Along with the blues, an army of gannets accompanied them… Wall to wall fish…. These fish were nice sized to 30+ inches and FAT. Not pudgy, fat. They were pigging out on herring and mackerel.” Captain Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters said, “We had some great late season action in Mackerel Cove (Jamestown, RI) Found the lee of the wind!” Rob captured the action on a webisode video that can be found at .

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful that fishing brings me joy

Steve McKenna of Cranston, RI with the 44 pound striped bass he caught and released in the surf at Matunuck. Fishing along RI coastal shores has been good this month. As Steve said, “Fishing has been really great and nobody is fishing!!!”

Thankful that fishing brings me joy

I am very thankful to be able to fish as often as I do and be able to share in the joy by taking people fishing and writing about it. It is a gift that humbles me this holiday season and throughout the year. Allow me to share ten reasons why fishing brings me… and so many other anglers… joy.
1. When the sun rises and I am on the water it warms my soul no matter if it is hot or cold outside and this brings me great joy.
2. And, when the sun sets it brings me joy too as I know God’s work is done for the day and hope he will bring a good fish bite for the night.
3. It brings me joy when I cast my lure and a striped bass hits it with all the force of nature.
4. Fishing brings me joy when I am trolling and I hear the rapid click, click, click of my reel and know a fish is on.
5. When I see the water, when I step on a dock or on my vessel, my heart is filled with joy.
6. I see the schools of bait, the water boiling with bluefish, the seals and whales and they all bring me great joy.
7. I must admit, I am hooked on the adrenalin rush, my heart beats fast and I am filled with joy when I realize a fish is near and I may catch it.
8. When I fillet my catch I am filled with respect for nature and the fish I caught. I am thankful to God for the food he has brought my way and filled with joy that I am going home with fish in the cooler.
9. When I take pictures of people who have caught fish on my boat they are always smiling. This brings me great joy. My office walls are filled with these trophies.
10. I am an advocate for the sea, the Bay, boating and fishing all for a very selfish reason. I do not want anyone to steal my joy.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Striped bass regulations for 2012 may stay the same
So far the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has not voted to reduce and further regulate striped bass for 2012. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association and an ASMFC delegate at last month’s meeting said, “No change in striped bass regulations so far for this year. The positive “Young of the Year” report from Virginia and data from other states seems to have influenced policy makers to keep things status quo for now.”

RISAA to host author Michael Tougias at November 28 seminar
Michael Tougias, noted lecturer and author of 19 books, will be the guest speaker at the November 28th Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) meeting. He is the author of such books as Fatal Forecast, The Finest Hours and now his latest book, Overboard! which tells of harrowing experiences at sea with the yachts Almeisan and At Ease. The meeting will be held at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick, RI at 7:00 p.m. Non-members are requested to make a $10 donation to the RISAA Marine Fisheries College Scholarship Fund. RISAA members attend free. Optional dinner available between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. for an additional cost.

Where’s the bite
Neil Hayes, a resident of North Kingstown and an associate of Quaker Lane Outfitters in North Kingstown, RI said, “Tautog fishing has been good off Point Judith and Jamestown but fish have left the Bay for the most part. We are hoping for good holiday fishing this week as the weather improves and many anglers have the tradition of tautog fishing on Thanksgiving morning and the long weekend.” Hayes said, “Weather permitting, customers usually fish through the first week of December.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, RI said, “The Tautog are biting on the humps off Newport and Brenton Reef, at Kettlebottom off Jamestown and Whale Rock. In the Bay the Coddington Cove jetty in Middletown is working well for anglers.” Ken continued to say, “Anglers fishing this time of year expect wind and cold, there is always a way to fish out of the wind.”
Striped bass. Shore anglers have had it tough this year, but now striped bass fishing from shore has been very good. Steve McKenna from Cranston, RI, a noted shore angler and an associate at Quaker Lane Outfitters said, “Fishing for bass and blues remains excellent in the surf down around the south shore of Rhode Island. November has been the best month so far of just a so so season. I have over 100 bass this month. The best being a 44 pound fish caught on November 1 in the surf at Matunuck. The big bass hit one of my rigged 9 inch black Slug- gos. Fishing has been really great and nobody is fishing!!!” Steve caught, weighed and released the 44 pound bass in matter of minutes while in the water. Large bass tend to be egg bearing females, so it is always good to practice catch and release as Steve does.
Bluefish. Stephen Katkowski reports on the RISAA blog Sunday, “Fished Charlestown (east beach) to Misquamicut from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. SW wind about 20 to 25 or more with a four to five foot wave rolling on the beach. 12 blues to 10 lbs. or so between two guys, all on gibbs polaris poppers, blue and white. Had to get the popper past the breakers to have a shot at fish...needless to say we used heavy gear!! Arms are tired but a great day overall. Hope this continues for a few more trips.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Menhaden board votes to reduce catch limits

Menhaden purse seine skiffs of the FV TIDELAND in the Chesapeake Bay near Reedville, Virginia. Vessels like these are owned by Omega Protein, a fish reduction company, that many say is a monopoly as they are responsible for harvesting 80% of all menhaden on the east coast.

Menhaden Board votes to reduce catch limits
Last week the menhaden won. They won because the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Menhaden Board voted to reduce the amount of menhaden that can be caught. The ASMFC regulates commercial and recreational fishing on a coast wide basis. This action is expected to put an end to overfishing and allow the species to reach sustainable levels.
Menhaden are used by recreational anglers as bait for striped bass and are harvested commercially for use as bait in lobster pots, sold to bait shops, etc. However, 80% of all Atlantic coast menhaden are harvested by one reduction industry company, Omega Protein of Reedville, Virginia. Last year Omega harvested 404 million pounds of menhaden for use in pet food, live stock feed, fertilizer and fish oil pills.
Over that past month the ASMFC held several public comment hearings up and down the Atlantic coast on menhaden asking for comment on several menhaden regulation options including one for status quo (no change) to as much as a 45% reduction.
The menhaden committee first voted on a new threshold. Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (Rhode Island’s largest recreational fishing association with over 6,500 members) said, “(RISAA advocated) to change the threshold to 15% of Maximum Spawning Potential (MSP). This means if the mature population of menhaden falls below 15% it will be considered overfished.” Over 91,000 individuals and organizations commented in favor of a 15% threshold and only 35 said “Status Quo”.
The second issue was the establishment of a new management target. Medeiros said this means, “How much of the mature fish must be left in the water… the result was a unanimous vote to approve a 30% target which was exactly what we hoped for.”
The next steps for the ASMFC Menhaden Board will be is to recommend ways to achieve the new goals. Regulations similar to the ones in force here in Rhode Island for State menhaden regulations are some of tools ASMFC fish managers will be considering. Regulations relating to boat size and gear, allowed, aerial stock assessments by plane and helicopter, etc.
The vote was a great win for recreational anglers, conservationists and and most of all the menhaden.

New wind turbine for Fishermen’s Memorial State Park
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management cut the ribbon on a new, 100 kW wind turbine at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park and Campground in Narragansett this past Monday. The 117-foot, Northwind 100 kW wind turbine will supply about half of the electrical needs for this popular state park and campground each year. The wind turbine and accompanying online “green energy dashboard,” will show the amount of clean energy being produced at Fishermen’s Memorial and will be available to campers and the general public beginning next spring.
DEM’s Marine Fisheries Division holds public hearing
The Marine Fisheries Division of DEM held a public hearing on Wednesday, November 9 at the University of Rhode Bay Campus in Narragansett. DEM took public comment on a variety of items including commercial summer flounder, scup and black sea bass quota management options. Public comments were also taken on a cod fillet law. Public comment seemed to be in support of the third option presented which was to allow filleting of cod at sea with the retention of cod carcasses so law enforcement can make sure recreational anglers are adhering to minimum size requirements. All species management options will go before the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council for consideration.
Where’s the bite
Tautog fishing
was fair this week as anglers had difficulty getting out and fishing with high winds and seas. The Seven B’s, a party boat out of Galilee, RI reported good fishing early in the week with several customers limiting out with a nine pound tautog taken Monday. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Customers are fishing at the Coddington Cove, Middletown jetty outside and inside the jetty when Coast Guard vessels are not docked there.” Sunday there were fifteen boats fishing the jetty early in the day with most boats leaving as winds picked up to 25 to 30 miles per hour. A quick current and high winds make fishing difficult. Francis Fleet party boat captains out of Pt. Judith, Narragansett reported a fair day of tautog fishing this past Sunday with the largest fish weighing in at seven pounds.
Cod fishing is picking up as the water cools and black sea bass fishing is good. Francis Fleet cod anglers landed all their cod in the first hour of the day Sunday and then the bite was off. The largest cod was fifteen pounds, however, anglers caught at least six black sea bass each.
Striped bass are migrating and on the move, so either you’re on them or not. Shore angler Dave Pickering and his sons landed up to two-hundred school bass this week along southern coastal beaches using Cocahoe Minnow and a variety of swim baits. Isolated reports of anglers landing bass in the Narragansett Bay and the bass site on Block Island has softened said Captain Rick Bellavance.

Fly tying fun for all

George and Michael Fotiades of Narragansett, RI enjoy tying flies at a United Fly Tyers of RI monthly meeting last week. George, eleven years old, has been fly tying for three years.

Four year old Liam Palumbo of North Kingstown, RI with the first tautog he ever caught this weekend off the north end of Hope Island on No Fluke Charters.

Richard Palumbo (seven years old) of North Kingstown, RI caught his first tautog this weekend (and the fifth fish of is lifetime as he was proud to claim) this past Sunday.

Chris Catucci of Warwick, RI with the bass he caught last week at Warwick Pond.

Fly tying great fun for men, women and children
“Just fluff it up, like this, to give it that 3-D effect.” said Mike Maddalena as he instructed saltwater fly fisherman on how to make a Peanut Bunker (juvenile menhaden) fly. The Peanut Bunker fly ended up being about four inches in length. All five anglers at his table including, Jim Mancini of East Greenwich, RI, watched intently as Mike fluffed up his fly strategically being held in place by his fly vice as he instructed the group.
Maggie Grenier of Jamestown, RI has been fly fishing for over ten years with her husband and tying flies for about five years. “We fly fish together, but I do most of the tying. We usually fish freshwater even though we are surrounded by saltwater in Jamestown.” Maggie and the group at her table were tying what you might call a juvenile May Fly… a blue winged olive emerger.
Michael Fotiades and his son George from Narragansett, Rhode Island were tying a bass bug diver fly that used a Stacking Deer Hair technique at an intermediate skill level table. Mike said, “George is eleven years old and he has been tying for three years now. He first started with the United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island’s Junior Program for youth and now has advanced to tie intermediate level flies. We fly fish together, both salt and freshwater so living in Narragansett is ideal.”
I experienced these and other fly fishing and fly tying stories from men, women and children at last week’s United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island’s (UFTRI) monthly fly tying workshop held at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 475 Post Road, Warwick, RI. They meet there the first Wednesday of each month from September to May at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend and try fly tying at no cost the first time, then if you like it, become a member for $30 a year and receive expert instruction and fly tying materials for the entire year.
Each month 40 to 60 members in groups of five or six meet to tie flies. The UFTRI has an online catalog of flies on their web site at . Members who see a fly in the catalog that they would like to learn how to tie can request it as one of the five or six featured flies they focus on each month. The UFTRI meeting I attended last week was great. Club members and volunteers are very welcoming to newcomers and beginners and it was obvious that members enjoy each other’s company, that they meet to tell stories, learn from each other and often end up fishing together.
Peter Burgess, UFTRI vice president, said, “The first thing we tell people when they come in the door is just try it tonight, don’t give us your $30 membership fee until you think you might like to join.” No need to be concerned if you do not have the tools. Peter, UFTRI president Mike Maddalena or one of their fellow club volunteers will greet you at the door and set you up with a fly tying kit for the night that includes a vice. For information visit their website at .

NOAA considers whether river herring should be on endangered species list
NOAA has determined that a petition to list alewife and blueback herring, collectively referred to as river herring, under the Endangered Species Act presents enough scientific and commercial information to merit further review. As a result, the agency will conduct a formal review of river herring population status and trends. If NOAA determines that a listing is appropriate, the agency will publish a proposed rule and take public comment before publishing a final decision. However, if NOAA determines that that listing these species is not appropriate, the process ends.
Both alewife and blueback herring are found in coastal waters and rivers from Canada to North Carolina, although blueback herring’s range extends farther south to Florida. Both species are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Rhody Fly Rodders to meet Tuesday, November 15
Rhody Fly Rodders, the oldest saltwater fly fishing club in America, will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, November 15th. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a short session of fly tying, with Steve Messier tying Atlantic salmon flies and Armand Courchaine tying his favorite Striped Bass Fly. At 7:30 p.m., a slide presentation on Tarpon fishing, and the story of artist, Armand Lamontagne's carving of Ted Williams will be presented by Gene Matteson. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at the Riverside Sportsman Association, Mohawk Drive (off Wampanoag Trail, ¼ mile north of the WPRO radio station) in East Providence.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass
. RISAA angler Joe Petuli said, “Caught about eight fish mid morning (Saturday) around Conimicut Light, all on the troll fishing amongst the birds. (Striped) Bass were deeper (used down rigger)and a couple were in the 32-34" range. Two heavy bluefish came on top… blues were spitting juvie menhaden. All fish released.” Striped bass bite has slowed around Block Island but some great fish still being caught.
Tautog fishing is fair to good when anglers can get out due to rough seas last week. Captain Rich Hittinger said he fished the Seal Ledge area off Newport early last week catching keepers with shorts mixed in with rough water. This weekend I had the pleasure of tautog fishing with Liam (four years old), his brother Richard (six years old) and their dad Richard Palumbo from North Kingstown. The boys caught their fist tautog ever off the north side of Hope Island. Tom Pelletier an associate at Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown, said, “Customers are catching fish off Newport and southern coastal shores.” Dave Howe on the RISAA blog reports, “All keepers on Brenton Point today (Sunday) in 30 to 35 feet.” The Seven B’s party boat out of Galilee, RI reported a good black fishing day Saturday with a few limits on the boat with the largest fish over seven pounds.
Fresh water. Angler Chris Catucci of Warwick, said, “ I was fishing Warwick pond for a couple of hours this weekend and ended up getting a couple nice bass on a finesse jig. Seems like this time of year you don't get many bites but the ones you do happen to get are good sized bass.”

Menhaden hot topic at ASMFC this month

Rich Golembeski with two of the tautog (the largest was 8.5 pounds) that he caught near Whale Rock in Narragansett last week.

Menhaden fishing vessel EARL J. CONRAD, JR. owned by Omega Protein Corporaton idling near seine skiffs of the FV TIDELAND in the Chesapeake Bay near Reedville, Virginia

Menhaden hot topic at ASMFC this month
So who gets the menhaden... the recreational angler, the commercial bait fisherman, the large commercial reduction processor or… the ecosystem and striped bass that eat it as a primary food source?
Being a fish manager is difficult. It is difficult because you have a lot of interests vying for the same resource and when the resource is scare (or on the decline) the challenges get all the more difficult. That is what is happening to Atlantic Menhaden and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) this month.
After a month of public hearings up and down the east coast, the ASMFC closed its comment period November 2, 2011 on Atlantic Menhaden Draft Addendum V which entertains regulation revisions on menhaden. The species, according to 2008 data, and 2010 fish landings is being over fished, new survey data will be available in 2012.
Fishing thresholds and harvest levels are being considered as well as a range of tools to manage the species for all those vying for menhaden. Proposed regulation options have created quite a stir in fishing circles. Recreational anglers have mobilized and attended the ASMFC November 2 meeting in mass. They claim menhaden play a large role in the ecosystem… as a primary food source for bluefish, weakfish and striped bass but also as filter feeders helping to reduce nitrate levels in our bays and estuaries.
Recreational anglers including the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) and the national Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and the environmental community (such as the PEW Environment Group) claim that the decline of menhaden on the east coast (now at 10% of what it used to be) can be attributed primarily to the reduction processing industry. Specifically they have singled out Omega Protein Corporation of Reedville, VA and Houston, TX as the primary culprit. They claim that the reduction industry (with Omega Protein Corporation holding a monopoly) took 27% more fish in 2010 than they did in 2009 and overall the fishery has been fished over quota for the past fifty years. In fact, PEW planned to run an ad in the Providence Journal this week encouraging Governor Lincoln Chaffee and the Rhode Island ASMFC delegation to support and vote for tougher menhaden catch regulations.
The reduction industry (and Omega Protein Corporation) have large capacity “primary” holding ships, a fleet of airplanes that find fish for their fishing vessels, and smaller purse seine net vessels. Purse seine nets allow them to take large numbers of fish (entire schools in a matter of minutes). The purse seine net has been around for over a 150 years. The net is set by surrounding a school of fish, enclosing the lower end of the net (pursing) and then unloading the fish onto a boat. Advocates ask that vessel and gear restrictions be explored as well as reduced thresholds and quotas for the reduction industry. They are concerned that once menhaden start to bounce back, quotas will be increased and the downward cycle will begin again. The historic low numbers of fish and menhaden’s importance to the ecosystem are being cited as reason to develop regulations that restrict the reduction industry and other menhaden user groups as well.
The importance of menhaden to the ecosystem was brought to light in the Chesapeake Bay recently as malnourished striped bass (that did not get enough menhaden because they were overfished in the Chesapeake) developed a disease, mycobacteriosis, which led to a decline in healthy fish up and down the east coast (visit and search “mycobacteriosis” for more information).
The recreational angler uses menhaden for bait (to catch striped bass, either live or cut up in chunks). The commercial bait fishers sell their catch to lobstermen who use it as bait for their traps, they also sell their catch to bait shops, and the commercial reduction industry (primarily Omega Protein Corporation here on the east coast with its monopoly) process menhaden for use as fertilizers, pet food, animal and human dietary supplements and for human consumption of omega-3 fish oil. These are all good uses.
However, it is hoped that fish managers and the ASMFC will consider the ecosystem first as the primary concern… protecting it so that the striped bass, weakfish, bluefish and other species that need menhaden to survive and thrive get their share of menhaden first. History has proven if we do not have enough menhaden for the ecosystem… the system will fail.
DEM delivers on license program
At this week’s Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council meeting the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Division of Fish and Wildlife presented the first saltwater recreational fishing license program annual report. DEM is required to report annually on the program, revenues raised and how it will spend monies to promote the saltwater fishery in Rhode Island. About $250,000 net is expected to be in the license fund account from 2010 and 2011 license fees (it was decided to have funds accumulate in 2010). Most of the money is being spent to match federal fund grants. Suggestions in the annual report that were reviewed at the RIMFC Tuesday night meeting included funds for better data collection, boat ramp improvements and maintenance, funds for recreational fisheries management support staff, the artificial reef program, fish stock assessment support and funds for education, information and public outreach.
NOAA releases final report on groundfish sector
NOAA recently released the 2010 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery. Findings from the report will be presented at the New England Fishery Management Council’s “lessons learned” workshop this week in Portland, Maine.
In a press advisory this week NOAA said the workshop is expected to yield important new recommendations for the groundfish fishery that NOAA and the Council can work to put in place. These actions, coupled with other actions underway at NOAA and through the Council, will help fishermen and fishing communities operate successfully despite low quotas required by Congress to end overfishing and rebuild stocks.
Sector management is part of that effort, as well as actions taken in the 2011 fishing year to improve the industry’s access to fish. Over the last year, NOAA moved quickly to increase catch levels based on new science on fish stocks and allowed fishermen to fish in some previously closed areas, in particular areas close to the shore where smaller vessels fish. NOAA and the Council are considering additional actions, such as allowing fishing in previously closed areas and rolling over unused quota to the following fishing year. Earlier this month NOAA agreed to fund at-sea monitoring through the end of the 2012 fishing year which ends on April 13, 2013.
The report shows that groundfish revenues decreased in 2010 compared to 2009. But overall, revenues to groundfish vessels, including revenues from non-groundfish species, increased. Despite lower catch limits required to end overfishing and rebuild stocks, the groundfish industry obtained more value from fewer fish landed and less fishing effort expended.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass
bite continues off Block Island with reports of fish in the 40 pound range being taken with ells. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, reports a good bite in Apponaug Cove as anglers fish under schools of menhaden for both striped bass and bluefish. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “The Providence River has been producing bass up to 45 inches… pogie and mackerel chunks are the preferred baits… Cape Cod Canal anglers report good fishing with a mix of bass and blues.” Ron Nalbandian reports on Monday, “No more that 30 yards offshore on Weekapaug Beach…(I caught) a bunch of school bass, the largest was 26 inches.” Ron was using 4” white shad as bait.
Tautog fishing remained good this week and last week. Gisele and Rich Golembeski caught several nice tautog while fishing rock piles near Whale Rock off Narragansett. Rich caught a great 8.5 pound fish and five in the 17” to 20” range. They used green crabs, cut in half in approximately 30 feet of water. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Tautog fishing has been good in the Providence River at India Point Park, Conley Dock and structure throughout the river. Tautog fishing at the breakwater in Wickford has been productive as well.” Francis Fleet captains reported a good tautog bite Monday with most anglers catching their limit.
Cod fishing is fair when boats have been able to sail. Steve Medeiros, president of RISAA, who regularly tracks stock assessments said, “Have just received information that the ASMFC's benchmark cod assessment has come in, and it shows a huge drop in the stock. Supposedly 2 year classes have disappeared. If this holds to be true, they are talking about an 80-90% cut for everything north of Cape Cod (Gulf of Maine). I suppose this news will be released at the ASMFC meeting in two weeks.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tautog fishing improving, here are nine tips

Captain Dave Monti with the eight pound tautog he caught near General Rock, North Kingstown, RI this Sunday using green crabs.

Tautog fishing improving, here are nine tips
The tautog fishing is improving with larger fish being caught as the water cools. Tautog (or Blackfish) is a great eating fish with nice tasting white meat. Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management regulates recreational tautog fishing. The catch limit this time of year is six fish/person/day with a ten fish boat limit (the ten fish boat limit does not apply to charter and party boats). The season ends December 15.
Here are nine tips to help you have a great fall tautog season. Some have appeared in previous columns but are worth repeating.
1. Find structure to find tautog. Tautog can be fished from shore or boat and in both cases they like structure (rocks, wrecks, bridge piers, dock pilings, holes along the coast, etc.). So, no structure, no tautog.
2. Fish where the fish are. This is particularly true with tautog because they are a territorial species, you have to find the tautog. They are not going to find you. So if you get no bites move to another spot. When you find them, you find them and the bite is on.
3. Boat placement is important. Find structure, estimate wind/drift direction and anchor up current from where you want to fish and drift back to the spot as the anchor is setting. Once in position fish all sides of the boat. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle suggests casting a bit to cover as much area as you can. If still no bites let some anchor line out to change your position, if still no bites it is time to move the vessel.
4. Green crabs or Asian crabs are the baits of choice in the fall. When using green crabs make it easy for the tautog to bite and take the bait. Break off claws and legs, cut the crab in half and hook it through one leg socket and out another. Tautog rigs are simple many anglers prefer rigs with one hook.
5. Losing rigs is common when tautog fishing due to bottom hang ups on rocks and structure. To save tautog rigs, I use elastics to attach my sinkers so the elastic breaks when caught in structure and you same the rig. I also use egg sinkers depending on the conditions.
6. Fish lodged in structure. Here is a tip from George Poveromo’s “Rock’em Sock’em” article that appeared in this month’s issue of Saltwater magazine. When a fish is hooked and it has muscled its way back to structure, apply pressure forcing a respectable amount of bend in the rod. If the fish is not moving, pull or pluck the fishing line like a banjo or gaiter string. The sharp vibrations emitted work their way back down to the fish through the line and irritate it. The fish in a state of confusion may back out of the hole to free itself from the irritation. Once you sense this has happened start pumping and reeling in the fish so it does not muscle its way back into the structure.
7. Feel the bite… tap, tap and then get ready for a tug of war. I believe with the first tap the tautog is positioning the bait for consumption. So at the second or third tap I raise the rod up firmly feeling the weight of the fish (no need to jerk the rod up hard). Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod up and pressure on so the fish in not able to run for cover.
8. Use braid line with little drag. Braid line allows you to feel the fish tap. Monofilament line will stretch allowing the fish to run for cover, braid line does not stretch. It is important to put little drag on the reel and apply continuous pressure so the tautog comes up and does not go back down to hide in structure once you have it hooked.
9. Where to fish for Tautog. From shore look for rocky coastline like Beavertail Point on Jamestown, locations off Newport and off breakwater rock walls at South County beaches. From a boat I have had good luck at Plum Point light house next to the Jamestown Bridge, the rock jetty north of Coddington Cove in Portsmouth, off Hope Island, around Brenton Reef in Newport, Whale Rock, Ohio Ledge in the East Passage and any other place there is structure, debris, rock clusters, wrecks, etc.
Fly tying meeting/workshop
The monthly meeting of the United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island (UFTRI) will be held Wednesday, November 2, 6:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 475 Sandy Lane, Warwick, RI. President Michael Maddalena said, “We instruct people on how to tie flies of all types, fresh and saltwater as many as five to six per month. This month the popular Peanut Bunker (or baby menhaden) fly will be one of six featured.” Association vice president Peter Burgess said, “The public is welcome to attend, we instruct at the beginner and intermediated levels… if you like participating our hope is that you will join the non-profit club for $30 per year. This includes all the supplies needed to tie at all monthly meetings.”
Banner year for young striped bass
Preliminary results from a 2011 survey conducted by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIM’S) suggest the production of a strong class of young-of-year striped bass in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay. The 2011 year class represents the group of fish hatched this spring. The results are good news for anglers who fish for this prized species. This year’s class is expected to grow to fishable size in three to four years.
Anglers have expressed concern over the health of the striped bass biomass with fewer fish being caught over the past three years, particularly those fishing in Narragansett Bay and along coastal shores. So the news is good as these fish migrate to Rhode Island and the Northeast. The 2011 study recorded more than 27 fish per seine haul, significantly higher than the historic average of 7.5 fish per seine haul. This is a significant increase from recent years, during which catches of young fish were average.
Although survey results show that numbers of young-of-year striped bass in Virginia have been average to above-average since 2003, results from a similar survey in Maryland indicate that numbers of juvenile striped bass there were below average in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Where’s the bite
Striped bass
bite is slow along southern coastal beaches this week. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “The striped bass and blues have followed the menhaden all the way up Apponaug Cove to my bait shop and all the way up to Post Road.” This weekend anglers enjoyed snagging the menhaden and then putting them right back into the school in hopes of catching a bass or bluefish. Some anglers were cutting them into chunks and weighting the line to send it down to the bottom. Bass fishing on the Southwest side of Block Island remains hot with many fish in the 30 and 40 pound range being caught.
Tautog fishing continues to improve. I caught four keepers at Hope Island and General Rock this Sunday. The largest fish was eight pounds. The eight pound fish took a green crab half in about fourteen feet of water. Francis Fleet reports a good tautog bite this weekend. This Sunday Connie Tu from West Warwick, RI caught five tautog including the nine pound pool winner.
Cod fishing is improving with anglers catching some fish in the teens with no large fish being caught yet reports the Francis Fleet.

Fall fishing tips from charter captains, Shallow Water Striper University February 18 and 19

Greg Anthony, East Providence and Charlie Wood, Barrington with one of the tautog they caught on Greg’s first ever saltwater fishing outing. Greg (nine years old) caught three tautog during the first 45 minutes of fishing before the bite shut off.

Chris Catucci of Warwick, RI caught this keeper tautog at Warwick Neck from shore while casting a green crab at rocks using an Eagle Claw 3/0 2x long hook with a two ounce sinker.

Shallow Water Striper University set for February 18 and 19
Shallow Water Striper University will be held February 18 and 19, 2012 at the Sheraton Motor Airport Inn on Post Road in Warwick, RI.

New speakers and new topics are planned including information on how to become a better striped bass angler. In a press release Captain Jim White of White Ghost Charters, event organizer, said, “New this year, will be "Hands On Tables" where on Sunday afternoon, you will learn from the experts how to rig baits, tie knots, read a map, use your electronics, build your own plugs, use and rig live and cut bait, and much more. You will be able to go from expert to expert and have your questions answered, receive one-on-one demonstrations and learn more than you ever thought possible.”
Speakers this year include: Capt Joe Pagano, Capt. Jim White, Don Smith & Peter Vican (two of the best big bass anglers in New England), Dave Pickering, Armand Tetreault (RI Poppers), Roland St. Denis on Kayaks, Capt. Pat Rena (T-Man Tackle), columnist Capt. Dave Monti, Capt. Jack Springel, and Mike Laptew.
The cost of the weekend remains the same as last year, $89.00 per angler. Reservations are now being accepted, Call Captain Jim White with questions at 401-578-9043.
Commercial menhaden boats allowed back in Bay
Jason McNamee, principal marine biologist of DEM’s Fish and Wildlife department said last week that, “We have reopened the Bay to commercial menhaden fishing. We have been monitoring through our independent helicopter flights since the closure and over the past two weeks or so, we have seen the number of schools climb pretty high in the Bay (82 schools as of the last count)… we were able to observe a spotter flight to get a biomass estimate. We also received a spotter estimate over the weekend from an independent aerial survey study… Based on all of this information, we were compelled to reopen the fishery. We will continue to diligently monitor the biomass in the Bay. We have spotter flights and helicopter flights planned, so all of those safeguards are still in place.”
The DEM menhaden species management plan outlines commercial equipment that can be used to fish, quotas, etc. and the fishery is highly monitored.

Corrected opening date for scallop season: the season opens November 5
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced that the bay scallop harvest season opens at sunrise on Saturday, November 5 (not November 7 as previously announced) and continues until Saturday, December 31 at sunset.
Striped bass record holder to speak at RISAA event this Monday
Rhode Island striped bass record holder Peter Vican, Don Smith and Captain Bill Silvia will speak Monday, October 24, 7:00 p.m. at the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association monthly meeting at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick. Captain Silvia will speak about fishing for monster fluke.
Bait and tackle shops are a great resource
I was reminded how helpful bait and tackle shops can be to anglers this weekend when I visited John Littlefield, owner of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, East Providence, RI with my fishing partners for the day. It was the first time Greg (nine years old from East Providence) was going salt water fishing. John took great care of Greg Anthony and Charlie Wood of Barrington, sharing tackle, bait and location tips to make sure Greg hooked up with some fish on his first outing. We fished from shore for tautog and within the first 45 minutes, Greg hooked three tautog, making his first outing a success. I ask a million questions when visiting bait and tackle shops and you should too. They are very helpful. John, thank you for making this young angler’s first outing a success.
DEM releases first annual report on fishing license program
DEM’s Marine Fisheries Section has released the first annual report on RI’s Recreational Saltwater License Program. The report provides an overview of the program, covering the nearly 18 months since it took effect, and sets forth a proposed FY12 programmatic budget, drawing upon the license fee revenues received since April 2010 and projected through June 2012.
The report is being submitted to the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, and will be reviewed at their next public meeting on November 1, 2011 at 6 pm (Corless Auditorium, URI Bay Campus, Narragansett).

Charter boat captains offer fall fishing tips
I asked three charter boat fishing captains about fall fishing tips they might have. Here’s what they had to say:
Captain John Rainone, L’il Toot Charters
Fishes for scup, tautog and black sea bass this time of year
Drifts or anchors up near/on structure… rock piles, jetties, wrecks, etc.
Crabs of all types… green, Asian, fiddler, hermit… whole of cut up for tautog; uses squid or clams for scup and black sea bass
If you are in a spot catching just small fish… pick up and look somewhere else where the fish are larger and the throw-back ratio is better
Prefers using one hook, rather than two, for all three species as it helps prevent bottom tie-ups
Fall fishery is great for children and families… you feel the bite and then feel the fight all the up to the boat or shore
Captain Jim White, White Ghost Chartres
Focus now is black sea bass, scup and tautog in Narragansett Bay
Fish anywhere there is structure
Asian crabs for tautog and black sea bass
Green crabs when there are no Asian crabs around
Fish for black sea bass and scup with squid, small crabs, clams or drift small jigs. Go to bait are Berkeley Gulp products (Sand Ell, Shrimp, Crab, Worm)
Captain Rick Bellavance, Priority Too Charters
• Prime bottom fishing season… many species on same trip… blues, bass, tautog, scup and black sea bass (fishing around Block Island is outstanding)
• Can drift and anchor up to structure using sea clams and squid for bait
• 20 pound Power Pro for bottom fishing rods
• Fishes East Grounds, West Grounds, S/W Ledge, and a lot of rock piles south of Block Island, tends to fish less popular spots

Where’s the bite
Tautog. Windy weather and high seas keep many anglers on shore this weekend and Monday for tautog fishing but the bite is improving as the water cools. Chris Catucci of Warwick caught two nice keepers and a dozen shorts from shore on Warwick Neck using green crabs and Eagle hooks. Tautog being taken at Monahan’s Dock and Hazard Rock in Narragansett said Al Conti of Sung Harbor Marina but bite around Block Island and off shore is slow. Kevin and Albert Bettencourt of East Providence caught nice tautog last week at Conimicut Light but the bite was not as good as the week before last.
Striped bass fishing remains good at Block Island with fish to 44 pounds being taken on eels. Some fish being taken along coastal shores and in the Bay. Key to success on Block Island is getting eels down into the strike zone before the bluefish get them. I caught two small school bass in Greenwich Cove, East Greenwich this past Sunday using swimming lures that mimic peanut bunker. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, East Providence said, “Anglers are catching bass from shore using menhaden chucks or live lining them from Conimicut Point to Warwick Neck.”
Scup and black sea bass still very plentiful in the Bay and offshore. Al Conti of Snub Harbor Marina reports Point Judith, Center Wall, and Nebraska shoals are still producing good numbers of scup and black sea bass. As reported last week the scup have been very large.

Fall fishing in full swing

Chris Bellavance with a black sea bass caught off Block Island on Priority Too Charters out of Point Judith.

Perfect sunset… angler Tom Peters of Warwick caught this 15.6 pound bluefish on his way back from Block Island this weekend in front of Quonset Point, North Kingstown. The bluefish was caught on menhaden that was put back into the school he snagged it from (the school is the circular ripple behind him in the upper right corner of the photo).

Fall fishing in full swing

Bay Scallop season to open in RI
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced that the bay scallop harvest season opens at sunrise on Sunday, November 6 and continues until Saturday, December 31 at sunset. Residents can take up to one bushel of scallops per day without a license, and commercial license holders can take up to three bushels per day/per boat from state waters. Non-license holders cannot offer scallops for sale. Harvesters are reminded that possession of seed scallops is prohibited. Legal scallops possess a defined, raised, annual growth ring.
To protect scallops and bottom habitats from dredge damage, scallops can be harvested by dip-net only from a boat from November 6 through November 30. Dredging will be allowed after November 30 to access remaining adult scallops residing in deeper waters. Additional information on bay scallop harvesting is available on the DEM website at .

West Bay Anglers weekly “Lobster Raffle”
The West Bay Anglers will hold its first weekly “Lobster Raffle” on Saturday, November 5 at the Fraternal Order of Police Loge #7 in Warwick, RI. They raffle off a lot more than lobsters. They actually raffle hundreds of prizes throughout the year; from flat screen TV’s to turkey’s, roasts and lobsters. Lunch for a great price is available throughout the two to three hour event each Saturday. The “Lobster Raffle” events run throughout the fall and winter months. Pam Tameo, president of the West Bay Anglers, said, “We raised about $16,000 last year with our Lobster Raffles, half went to this Take-a-Kid-Fishing initiative and half went to the non-profit Impossible Dream.” For information e-mail Pam Tameo at .
Rhody Fly Rodders to meet October 18
The Rhody Fly Rodders first fall meeting will take place Tuesday, October 18, 6:30 p.m. at the Riverside Sportsman Club off the Wampanoag Trail on Mohawk Drive. The Rhody Fly Rodders is the oldest American salt water fly fishing club. Captain Bob Hines will speak about Steelhead Fishing in the upper New York State area. The meeting will start with a cookout. For information contact member Peter Nilsen at .
Public Hearings on Menhaden
A public hearing on menhaden quotas for 2012 was held Wednesday, October 5 by the Atlanta States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) at the URI Bay Campus, Narragansett, RI. The meeting was held to discuss comments on proposed regulations as the menhaden population has declined by 88 percent in the last three decades. Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Salt Water Anglers Association (RISAA), and RISAA members, proposed a 37 percent reduction for a total harvest of 143,200 metric tons. This is a very important species for salt water anglers. Historically menhaden has comprised 70 percent of the diet of the striped bass. They now account for just 7 percent and bass, particularly in the Chesapeake, have shown signs of malnutrition. One company Omega Protein of Reedville, VA landed over 80% of the menhaden, the remaining 20% was landed by commercial bait boats and recreational anglers as ASMFC records show. The ASMFC will take regional hearing input into consideration as it develops menhaden regulations for 2012 at their November, 2011 meeting.
Public comments can still be submitted until 5 p.m. Nov. 2, 2011. Direct them to Toni Kearns at or by mail at Toni Kearns, AMFSC, 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, Va, 22201.

Clarification of scup and black sea bass regulations
Captain Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association, said some anglers have been confused about scup and sea bass regulations between state and federal waters. So here is the scoop Images are not displayed
Display Images
Scup regulations:
in Federal Waters (Outside of 3 Miles) is June 8th to September 26th open at 10 fish per person 10.5 inches. Closed after September 26th. Scup in State Waters (Inside 3 Miles) October 12th to December 31st shore and private anglers as well as party and charter boats are at a 10 fish/person/trip limit. Fish have to be 10.5 inches for private anglers and 11 inches for party and charter boats.
Black Sea Bass regulations: in Federal Waters is May 22nd to October 11th open at 25 fish per person 12.5 inches, October 11th to October 31st Closed, November 1st to December 31st open at 25 fish 12.5 inches. Black Sea Bass in State Waters for recreational anglers and party/charter boasts is July 11th to December 31st open at 12 fish per person 13.0 inches.
Where’s the bite
fishing has been outstanding. Anglers Rich Jones of East Greenwich and Peter Sousa of Warwick caught several keeper size scup while tautog fishing on No Fluke Charters on the North and South sides of Hope Island this weekend. The largest was a nice eighteen-inch fish. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, East Providence said the scup bite continues to be strong at Colt State Park in Bristol and around Prudence Island. Captain Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters said, “I enjoy bottom fishing and I anxiously await mid fall's approach as this is prime bottom fishing season. The Black Sea Bass, Scup and Tautog fishing around Block Island has been spectacular this year, we even had a couple keeper Cod in the mix already.”
Black sea bass bite has been good with anglers taking fish while tautog fishing as well as when targeting the species directly. They are taking green crabs from tautog anglers and squid stripes from anglers targeting the species. Fair amount of fish being caught off Newport as well, with a few fish in the Bay but the big bite seems to be around Block Island. Captain Rich Hittinger, RISAA vice president, said he fished for black sea bass at Block Island, “The action was non-stop on rock piles in 35 to 45 feet of water. The only problem was there were so many small scup you had to catch a dozen or more of them to get one keeper sea bass. We caught 1 - 20” fluke on a scup rig also.”

Striped bass fishing at Block Island remains good although it is not as outstanding as it has been the past couple of weeks. Anglers taking small and large fish with eels but they are as plentiful. A few fish are being caught under the menhaden schools that are in the West Passage of the Bay. Angler Mike Swain of Coventry related he has been catching bass with chucks and live menhaden in the West Passage from the mouth of the Bay to Quonset Point… anywhere you usually find bass. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said customers have been catching bass by snagging porgies they find in the West Passage, cutting them up into chunks and then sending them down on the edges of the menhaden school to the bottom with sinkers to get them beyond the bluefish.

Menhaden. Dave Henault of Ocean Sate Tackle, Providence, commented on the common reference to menhaden schools as being menhaden pods. He said, “Mammals swim in pods, finfish swim in schools.” So as Dave related, the menhaden pods you see in the Bay are not pods, they are schools.

Tautog fishing reports in the Bay have been spotty. Most anglers are catching fish but the keeper to short ratio has not been good. Some good fish being caught along the coastal shore on rock piles off Narragansett and around Block Island.

Bluefish. No schools on the surface reported yet monster blues are being caught in the menhaden schools throughout the West Passage. Tom Peters of Warwick caught a monster 15.6 pound bluefish under a menhaden school off Quonset Point this weekend. Find a menhaden school and you likely have found bluefish, now all you have to do is catch one.