Sunday, February 26, 2012

Playing tag with sharks

Captain Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters, Point Judith, RI, has been taking customers shark diving in a cage (one shown in photo) since 1976, longer than anyone else in Rhode Island.

Playing tag with sharks

Ever since I visited Captain Charlie Donilon at his South County, RI home I felt I had to get this story out, his story, one that has been told by others in the past. He has been been televised on National Geographic Explorer, NESN and Chronicle. Feature articles have written about him in the Providence Journal, Wall St. Journal, Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, Rodale’s Scuba Diving, RI Monthly, and On the Water to name a few. Every now and then you meet a great fisherman… a great charter captain… or a great person. Captain Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters, Point Judith, RI is all three.

He runs the most diversified charter business in Rhode Island. He takes people on harbor and lighthouse tours, shark cage diving , bird watching, underwater photography charters, ash burials at sea, wreck diving, whale watching , fishing of all types and just about anything else you want him too. “That’s why they call it a charter service and not a fishing service. You have to be diversified to make the business work.” said Donilon.

He is an advocate and big supporter of sustainable fisheries. “One might think that I’m in the wrong business. I hate to kill fish.” He continued, “But some customers want to take the fish to eat and I totally understand this. Last year we had about 300 shark contacts and we tagged about 143 of them. I say “contact” because we did not kill one shark and this included nine mako sharks.”

Capt. Donilon said, “I can remember I had six guys on board one day. They were all excited about shark fishing. They all wanted to kill a shark.” But, one by one, Capt. Donilon talked them out of it. He convinced them that they should tag and release as it was a great contribution to science and the sharks.

Being an advocate for sustainable fisheries doesn’t mean he can’t find the fish. This winter I was struck by customer Adam Durant’s comments about cod fishing with Captain Donilon, “We had the pleasure of heading out with Capt. Charlie Donilon on Tuesday… Started on the East Grounds (off Block Island) and landed six keeper cod… another five black sea bass and a couple of good scup… all in all a great day of fishing with an outstanding Captain.”

I asked Capt. Donilon about one of his most interesting days on the water with sharks. He said, “One day we (he and his charter party) came across a 20 foot great white shark (approximately 4,000 pounds). That was in 1983, that year there were many great white sightings off Point Judith. It was July 21st and all on board wanted to kill the shark at first, then most everyone agreed that tagging it would be much better, all except for one guy who was furious with me because he wanted to take the shark and have its “jaws” as a trophy.”

Charlie has been fascinated by sharks for a long time, long before he had a charter business, long before he was the first one in the region (since 1976) that would take you shark diving in a cage. He would study them, read books, articles and scientific studies about them. He met Peter Benchley at a who’s book (and movie) Jaws, characterized sharks as many think of them today. Captain Donilon said, “Peter Benchley said that Jaws vilified sharks, made them out to be bad… almost evil. They are not villains. During our meeting Mr. Benchley said, ‘If I knew back then, what I know today about sharks’, he would have never portrayed them as he did in the movie.”
Donilon sees a fascination in the eyes of those that hire him. “There is something about sharks that attract people; it might be the excitement… the danger… perhaps the image of them as bad. Customers just want to get close to them, to reach out and touch them.”

Snappa Fishing & Diving Charters has been involved in the business of sport fishing for the past 40 years, their web address is .

Chef Dean Scanlon and Capt. Dave Monti to speak about fluke at RISAA seminar Monday

Fluke (summer flounder) fishing tips and fluke cooking tips will be featured at the Monday, February 27, 7:00 p.m. Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) meeting this month. Capt. Dave Monti of No Fluke Fishing charters and noted local fishing columnist will share fluke fishing tips from expert guides, charter captains and anglers. Chef Dean Scanlon, owner of L’attitude Restaurant, Cranston, RI will share tips on how to care for your fluke from the moment you catch it so that it is a safe and delicious meal once you get it home. Dean is a chef and a fisherman, he and Maria Scanlon started their restaurant 11 years ago. RISAA members can bring a friend at no charge; non-members are asked to make a $10 donation. Seminar starts at 7:00 p.m. at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick, RI with optional dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. Visit for details.

Warm winter water holding bait and fish

Tommy Pelto of Tiverton, RI with one of the menhaden he snagged in the Providence River last week.  Warm water has encouraged bait fish to stay in Rhode Island waters in larger numbers than normal this year.
Dolphins in Narragansett Bay like these seen off Jamestown, RI in the fall two years ago were rare.  This year many dolphin sightings were reported.  Warm water has caused bait fish, tuna, striped bass and dolphins to be around in large numbers this year.

Warm winter water holding bait and fish

“I sat there on Beavertail Point, Jamestown with a pair of binoculars looking toward Narragansett Beach. What I saw was astounding, fish after fish, bluefin tuna jumping, one here, and then two over there.” said Captain Jim White. The odd thing is that it was the end of January, 2012.

With many documented reports of tuna, menhaden, and striped bass in Narragansett Bay this winter it made me wonder why. The answer seemed obvious... the weather and the water temperature has been warmer than normal. In fact the Bay temperature has been heating up for nearly forty years, but this is a lot warmer than usual.

How warm you ask? Well it used to be very cold. In 1740 Rhode Island Governor William Green of Warwick said in a note “… the Narragansett Bay was soon frozen over, and the people passed and repassed from Providence to Newport on the ice, and from Newport to Bristol”(Upkike, 1907).

The crew of the Brenton Reef lightship measured water temperature at the mouth of Narragansett Bay every day from July 1878 through January 1942. In the coldest winter recorded (1917-18) the water temperature from December through February was 33.2 F. The average for the whole period of their record (64 years) is much warmer at 39.1 F. (Nixon, Granger and Buckley, The Warming of Narragansett Bay, 2003).

However, even this temperature of 39.1 F is far from the warmer water temperatures recorded this Sunday, February 12, 2012… Conimicut Point, 45 F; Newport, 42 F; and Block Island, 46 F.

I mentioned Newport and Jamestown as this is where bluefin tuna have been crashing schools of herring this winter and a number of dolphins have been spotted off these shores and further into the Bay. And, I mention Conimicut Light because from the Light all the way up the Providence River schools of Atlantic Menhaden have been around all winter along with an unusually large amount of striped bass that recreational anglers have been catching.

This week I asked Jason McNamee, marine biologist, Marine Fisheries Division of the RI Department of Environmental Management his thoughts on the appearance of menhaden, striped bass, tuna and warm water this winter and here is what he had to say.

Jason McNamee said, “… Yes, this is all strange indeed. Our trawl survey has been seeing these menhaden as well, which is quite unique relative to other years. Just as a quick, off the cuff type response, the warm winter we are having has provided an adequate temperature for these species to stay, and survive, over the winter. The bluefin that were spotted (and caught in some instances) I’d say were directly related to the herring population that came in to our area waters. It is a well researched hypothesis that there is a strong correlation between bluefin tuna and strong water density gradients and I have heard people indicate that there was a rapid change in water temperature from inshore to offshore this winter, thus creating a density gradient. What happens at these density gradients is that you get a collection of things like plankton, so species like herring and menhaden will take advantage of the collection of food by schooling and feeding in these areas, and species like striped bass and tuna take advantage of the aggregation of their food source….It has been a very interesting winter to say the least.”

I have to wonder what this might mean for fishing this spring and summer. There is no doubt we can start to fish earlier in the upper portion of the Bay as we can continue to fish the bass that have decided to stay as anglers have done all winter. Also, one might think that our coastal waters, the Bay and estuaries that are holding more bait than usually for this time of year would attract new migrating striped bass more than usual too. We will just have to wait and see.

However, I am also interested in what effect this warm winter water might have on the fish in the summer. We know warm water, excessive nutrients and low oxygen levels have had devastating effects (fish kills) in the summer in the upper portions of the Bay, particularly Greenwich Bay and Cove (see Fish need oxygen too at ).

Again, we will just have to wait and see.

Shallow Water Striper University Cancelled

Captain Jim White has canceled Shallow Water Striper University scheduled for February 18 and 19. Captain White said, “Advanced registrations were slow so we had to cancel the two day event.”

Let your voice be heard, attend public hearing on fishing regulations

Wednesday, February 22, Public Hearing. 6:00 p.m., URI Bay Campus, Corless Auditorium. Agenda to include proposed changes to the Management Plans for most salt water species including fluke, striped bass, tautog, menhaden, scup and more.

Capt. Dave Monti and Chef Ralph Battista to speak about fluke at RISAA seminar

Two topics, fluke (summer flounder) fishing tips and fluke cooking tips will be featured at the Monday, February 27, 7:00 p.m. Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) meeting this month. Capt. Dave Monti of No Fluke Fishing charters and noted local fishing columnist will share fluke fishing tips from expert guides, charter captains and anglers. Chef Ralph Battista, owner of Luigi’s Restaurant and Gourmet Express, Johnston, RI will share fluke cooking tips. When not cooking at his restaurant Ralph spends time with his family aboard his boat Hook’n & Cook’n. RISAA members can bring a friend at no charge; non-members are asked to make a $10 donation. Seminar starts at 7:00 p.m. at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick, RI with optional dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. Visit for details.

Where’s the bite

Cod fishing on both the Seven B’s ( and Francis Fleet (1.800.662.2824) vessels has been good. Larry Norin filed this report on a cod trip he took last Thursday aboard the Island Current out of Snug Harbor. “We left the dock around 5 a.m. and headed to the East Grounds off BI. About 15-20 total people on board. One Captain, two mates, about ten regulars and a few first timers. … We dropped the first clams down while on anchor around 6:30 a.m. Bent rods all over the place with mostly dogfish and the occasional Cod. We moved and re-anchored on the structure and got away from the Dogs. We moved one other time and headed west and very close to the island. It was a slowish pick all day. I managed four dogfish (most caught way more) two conger eels and twelve cod, two were released that were 21 inches the rest were 24-28 inches.”

Get you gear ready for big fish

Tommy Pelto of Tiverton, RI with one of the striped bass he caught this Saturday when fishing in the upper reaches of the Providence River.  Tom said, “There were tons of pogies in the Providence River.”

Get your gear ready

You might say, “I just use this rig for school bass, the small ones, so the line is fine.” However, you can’t pick the time when a big fish hits. So make sure your gear is in good working order at the start of the season and throughout the year.

The experts suggest checking all reels, rods and line before the season starts and do regular maintenance throughout the season. Replace line, repair line guides on rods and perform reel maintenance twice a season if necessary, particularly on those rigs that get a lot of action.

So, to make sure I do not lose a big fish, I perform the following maintenance routine before the season starts. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi the great football coach who said football games are won in the summer when training is done… big fish are caught in the winter when proper maintenance is done.

Reel maintenance

George Poveromo, host of George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing said, “As a rule of thumb, a reel should be brought to an authorized reel center at least once a year.” And, with reels that get a lot of action, perhaps twice a year.

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 grease the drag, it is not meant to be greased, if you do, it will not work. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, RI, said, “Anglers often forget to put oil on the line guide worm gear on bait caster reels as this is can go a long way allowing the gear to perform properly throughout its lifetime.” It costs about $10 to $15 to clean and grease your average spinning reel.

Check the RISAA website at for member bait and tackle shops that repair reels, many of them appear on the member discount landing page.


Each year, replace used line. This is a judgment call as to what is meant by “used”. The braid line I spooled on two rigs at the end of the season is still ok, however, I took line off at the beginning of the reel that was showing signs of wear. Experts say a to cross braid line when spooling onto conventional reels to prevent the line from digging into the spool when a big fish is on. Another tip is to re-spool lead line putting the used portion on the reel first, this way you use line that is new as most anglers rarely use more than three to four colors (90’ to 120’) of line. Replace all the monofilament line on reels at the start of the season. Monofilament line has memory so it tangles easily and creates bird nest tangles when it is old or has been sitting in the cold for a while. Also stretch the line, the first 100 feet (of monofilament line) to relax its memory and avoid tangles. When you change any type of line it is important to spool tight or the line may slip on the spool.


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. Place all baits at the base of the reel as those hooked to an eye brace will bang on the rod and may cause microscopic cracks in the rod blank that could lead to a broken rod..


I get tackle ready in chronological order when certain species are fished… starting with tautog, striped bass, blue fish, fluke, sea bass, 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.


Use wire leaders for blue fish and monofilament or fluorocarbon for striped bass, fluke, sea bass, etc. Blues won’t bite though the wire and other species will find it harder to see the monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders. As a rule I replace all used leaders at the beginning of the season. During the season make sure leaders have no nicks or stress marks from fish pulling. If they do, replace them. I switched most of my 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. All hooks should be sharp and rust free.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fluke Symposium big success

 Fish talk: Bill Macintosh, fisherman and a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, and Jason McNamee, marine biologist for the Marine Fisheries Division of DEM, talk about fishing regulations at the Commercial Fluke Symposium held at the Crowne Plaza, Warwick, RI.
 Fish scientists present the facts on fluke (summer flounder) in Rhode Island at the Fluke Symposium last week at the Crowne Plaza, Warwick, RI.  From the left:  Jason McNamee, marine biologist for the Marine Fisheries Division of DEM; Dr. Richard Pollnac, marine affairs, University of Rhode Island; Dr. Chris Anderson, environmental and natural resource economics, University of Washington; and Dr. Hirotsugu Uchida, environmental and resource economics, University of Rhode Island.

Al Conti, owner of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, RI prepares his notes before presenting at the Fluke Symposium.

Fluke Symposium big success
So imagine you are a fish manager.  Your job is to manage the fish resource.  If fish are plentiful and regulations are too tight the resource may be over regulated as the resource is not being used at its maximum sustainable level.  This makes fishermen furious. And understandably so, because this is the way they make a living.  Often times, it is the way their father, uncles and grandfathers made their living too.
On the flip side, if a species is overfished, if they are on the decline or beyond sustainable levels you are in real trouble.  There may be too many boats fishing for too few fish or the science/data you were given to calculate the number of fish that can be taken was bad.  It is likely a combination of reasons why the species is on the decline, and you just have to figure it out because fishermen, the community and most of all, the fish resource itself, are counting on you.
Managing fish is a difficult job and often times a thankless job.  However, I am happy to relate that here in Rhode Island we are in good hands.  The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) led by Janet Coit, director, and her dedicated Marine Fisheries Divisions team along with the help of marine scientist at the University of Rhode Island (URI) do a good job of managing our fish resources here in Rhode Island.
The complexity of fisheries management and the professionalism of our fish managers were evident this past Friday, January 27 at the RI Commercial Fluke Symposium held at the Crown Plaza in Warwick, RI.  The day-long symposium tackled the issue of commercially harvested summer flounder (or fluke) and the fisheries capacity to provide long-term, sustainable harvest opportunities. The Symposium was sponsored by URI in collaboration with the RI DEM and the Rhode Island commercial fishing community. So this means there were fishermen, fish scientists and fish managers/regulators all in the same room, talking about a very controversial topic… how to manage commercially harvested fluke or summer flounder.
The objective of the Symposium was to examine the RI fluke fishery…  share and discuss what is known based on recent research and experiences of participants, share and discuss issues and perspectives regarding fisheries outside RI that are subject to quota based management programs, and identify and evaluate options for managing the RI commercial fluke fishery in 2012 and beyond.

One quota based management experiment reported on at the Symposium was the RI Fluke Sector Pilot program.  The report drew a comparison between the fishing effort and results of vessels fishing in the experimental RI Fluke Sector Pilot with the effort and results of non-sector vessels. What made the symposium timely is that the RI Fluke Sector Pilot completed its third year a month ago and State fish regulators must decide on whether or not to allow it to continue in some form.

With the Pilot program, annual catch limits were put into place to prevent overfishing and to rebuild stocks rather than a limit on the amount of time (often days) spent fishing.  The idea was to allow fishermen the option of controlling fishing effort.  Fishermen in the pilot sector fished an allocated share of the total allowed catch where as non-sector fishermen fished individually with a limit on the amount of fish and time spent fishing.  Fishing in groups with a total allowable catch offers fishermen flexibility to fish when market prices are highest or fish for species when they are available and other species are not.

Jason McNamee, marine biologist for RI DEM, shared the performance of Pilot sector boats compared to non-sector boats. The results were clear.  The Pilot project was a success. Fish discards (of undersized fish) from Pilot sector boats was about three to four pounds verses thirty pounds for non-sector boats.  Additionally, sector boats did not decrease the results of fishing effort of non-sector boats, but actually increased it allowing all vessels to get more for their catch because the market was not flooded with too many fish of the same species at the same time.  So the sector proved to be an effective way to sustain the resource, enhance fisheries and reduce discards to record low levels. Unwanted fish (due to size or species) are called discards.  Many of them either die when they are dragged through the water or are injured and will likely die when put back in the water.
The RI Pilot Fluke Sector grew over its three year history; new members were added as fishermen saw the benefits of flexibility.  A highlight at the symposium was a paper presented by Chris Anderson, a professor of environmental and natural resource economics at the University of Rhode Island when he published the paper in April, 2011.  Chris is now at the University of Washington.  Chris said, "...the (RI Pilot) sector shifted fluke landings to times when they could maximize price. Comparing revenues… we find the sector program increased fleet wide (twelve boats in the fleet at this time) revenues over $800,000, including benefits of over $250,000 to non-sector vessels.”  So the pilot sector enhanced revenue for its twelve members, but also incurred enhanced revenue for non-sector vessels by spreading available fish over an extended amount of time rather that flooding the market all at one time which reduces their market value.
Both Dr. Anderson and Jason McNamee shared that the Fluke Pilot program also had a positive impact on fishing for other species in that when Pilot boats fished for fluke, non-sector boats were fishing for other species, reportedly getting higher prices for these fish too because there were not as many of these fish on the market at the same time.
Fishermen at the symposium that were in the RI Fluke Sector Pilot related their desire to continue to be managed or regulated in this manner as it proved to be a highly successful way for them to fish. 
Fishermen in general,  including those inside and outside the Pilot sector at the Symposium, were concerned about overarching issues that are challenges for the fishing industry as a whole.  One key issue discussed was providing a way for new entrants into the business.  Jason Jarvis who has fished for over twenty-five year said, “I am worried about my son.  He wants to fish.  If the industry continues on this path, he will not be able to buy his way into the business.”  Dick Grachek from Mystic who use to fish but still owns a fishing vessel out of Point Judith said, “My boat and license use to be worth $500,000, now it worth about $100,000… this is very sad.”
Al Conti, owner of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, RI summed up the discussion of what new regulations should do nicely.  Conti said, “We should abide by two guiding principles as we develop management regulations. First we have to gain maximum economic value from the fishery (making sure it remains sustainable).  And second, we need quotas to be equitable for all user groups.”
The input obtained at the Symposium will be used by Janet Coit, DEM director and her department to develop proposals and regulations for the 2012 commercial fluke fishery.  We should know what direction regulation proposals are going in within the next six to eight weeks.

Fishing regulations for 2012

Fishing regulations for 2012

OK, so most recreational saltwater fishing regulations have not been established at press time, however, we do have a good idea of what they might be. Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) species Advisory Panels (AP) review stock assessments, past fishing activity, regulation options and solicit public comment on proposals. Some of these panels have met and others have not. But thanks to Jason McNamee, marine biologist for the Marine Fisheries Division and his associates at the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), we have a good idea of what fishing regulations will ultimately be in for 2012. I interviewed Jason at press time; here is a summary of what we can expect for 2012 recreational regulations.

The striped bass AP met January 17th to review both commercial and recreational regulations. Stock assessments have been deemed healthy so recreational regulations for 2012 are likely to be status quo… 28” minimum size, no closed season with a possession limit of two fish/ person/ day. Commercial regulations are likely to be status quo too. However, Jason McNamee said, “There was public comment on the start date of the spring commercial striped bass season, so there may be further discussion on this start date at the next public hearing.”

Summer flounder (fluke) recruitment stock assessments used by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission (ASMFC) offered conflicting information last year. The June recruitment was at 80 million fish, and the August was 60 million. Jason McNamee said, “The conflicting data would have created a need for a 2012 adjustment. However, recreational fishing experienced an under harvest in 2011.” The under harvest was so great that even with lower recruitment we may still experience a liberalization in recreational fluke regulations this year. The 2011 regulations included an 18.5” minimum length with a May 1 to December 31 season and seven fish/person/day. An increase to eight or nine fish will be explored, vetted both at the January 31st AP meeting and the February 22nd public hearing. So overall we have good news for fluke in 2012… status quo or a slight liberalization.

Black sea bass are regulated both the ASMFC and States. At a recent ASMFC public hearing, species management plan options discussed included managing the species state by state or by two different regional options. The Rhode Island black sea bass AP discussed these options on January 19th and sentiment came down on the side of the state by state option. Stock assessments have been good so an early season start might be in order along with an increased bag limit of one or two fish. So 2012 regulations are likely to be liberalized with the season starting July 1st, rather than July 11th as it was last year, and run through December 31. The 13” minimum size will likely stay the same with an enhanced possession limit from 12 fish/person/day to possibly 13 or 14 fish/person/day.

The Scup stock assessment is good and the species was under fished in 2011, “Recreational landings were about one half of what was allowed.” said McNamee. The species is managed regionally with CT, NY, MA and RI. The RI season was extended to December 31st last year and this is likely to occur again in 2012. Additionally, there will likely be a liberalization in the number of fish allowed. In 2011 the minimum size for the private angler was 10.5” with a 10 fish/person/day bag limit. However, for party and charter boats the minimum size was 11” with a special season possession limit that jumped from 10 fish to 40 fish/person/day from September 7 to October 11. The enhanced bag limit allows charter and party boats to fish the species when other fish are not as available, yet they have to catch fish at least 11”. McNamee said, “There was some sentiment at the AP meeting to make the season onsistent with one set of regulations meaning a 10.5” fish for party and charter boasts as well as private anglers with a 25 fish bag limit.” This proposed change would likely receive some push back from the charter and party boat industry as they rely on the enhanced bag limit to allow their businesses to function when other species are not aggressively fished. Overall, it is good news for recreational anglers targeting scup in 2012, the season will likely be lengthened and the bag limit may be enhanced.

Tautog harvest numbers were low in 2011, however the assessment does not include “Wave 6” which in November and December. The tautog AP will meet February 6. Liberalization will likely not occur in 2012, regulations will likely be status quo. Split seasons with a 16” minimum size. An April 15 to May 31 spring season with three fish/person/day, a closed season June 1 to July 31 and then a three fish/person/day season from August 1 to October 12. The bag limit increases to six fish from October 15 to December 15 with a ten fish per boat limit in all periods except for charter and party boats which do not have to adhere to the ten fish per boat limit.

Menhaden. Jason McNamee said, “We believe recreational anglers were happy about how things worked out last year.” McNamee was referring to the closed sections of Narragansett Bay… Greenwich Bay and north of Conimicut Light were closed to commercial boats. When asked about the apparent abundance of menhaden in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay in the fall McNamee said he did not think new restrictions and enhanced weekly monitoring (with air surveillance to manage better) had an impact on the volume of fish in the Bay. However, McNamee said, “Perhaps the schools were not fished as often commercially and this kept them together. So less commercial fishing may have created an apparent enhanced volume of fish.” He continued to say that the impact of lower targets imposed by the ASMFC will hopefully be seen over the next few years and menhaden will be more plentiful along the east coast and in Narragansett Bay.

Fluke and tautog tips from the experts

Captain John Rainone says “Keep your tautog rig simple to avoid getting snagged on the bottom... one hook and a sinker.” and you might catch tautog like this one, caught by Matt Medeiros when fishing on Lil’ Toot Charters, Point Judith, RI.

Fluke and tautog tips from the experts
Last week we shared striped bass and tuna fishing tips from expert anglers and captains who appeared on stage with George Poveromo at the Saltwater Sportsman’s National Seminar Series. Here are some fluke and tautog tips from local and national experts.
Fluke fishing tips
· Best place to catch fluke is where you normally fish for striped bass as they both like current, structure, squid, silversides, etc. Try fishing in your favorite striped bass spots and you are likely to catch fluke too.
· In Spring, fluke tend to be in low water, they like feeding on sand eels.
· Captain John Rainone of Lil’ Toot Charters said, “Start shallow in spring and move to deeper water as the water warms.”
· Captain Rainone’s favorite places to fish for fluke include many spots around Block Island… the North Rip area, the northeast side of the Island as well as the south side. Other spots include Cow Cove, Clay Head and the mouth of New Harbor. Off the center wall at the Harbor of Refuge is a great spot too.
· Wind and current should be going in the same direction, ideally start from shore or the high spot and outward toward deeper water
· Use pink squid rigs if squid is in the water, some like to use whole squid in the spring
· Look for bait pods and you will find fluke, just as you would when striper fishing
Tautog fishing tips
· Tautog usually show up in the spring when the water turns about 50 degrees
· Many use soft baits in the string, like worms or grass shrimp and fish in shallow water
· Expert angler “Crazy” Alberto Knie said, “If you get multiple taps the tautog is sensing the bait is not natural. After the first tap I let the rod drop, say the word “barracuda”, and then I cross its eyes setting the hook.”
· Captain John Rainone said, “Keep your rig simple, one hook and a sinker. Two hooks only add additional hardware that can get caught on structure.”
· George Poveromo said, blackfish often take advantage of the slower stages of a tide to feed. The slower stages of a tied also enable anglers to effectively fish difficult structures.
· George Poveromo introduced a simple tautog rig designed to fit in-between structure and rocks… The “knocker-rig” can be used on a 30 pound braid main line with a fluorocarbon leader, an egg sinker (2 oz.) slides on the fluorocarbon that is tied to a circle hook. The sinker and the hook tangle less frequently because they work their way into structure together … and here is the best part… you can attract the fish by tapping on the structure with the sinker and bring it right to your bait… thus the name “Knocker-Rig”.

Important recreational fisheries meetings
Now is the time to let your voice be heard at important Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) meetings that impact recreational fishing. For more information on these meetings contact Jason McNamee, DEM Marine Fisheries Division at 401-423-1943. Meetings take place in the Hazard Room at the URI Coastal Institute (Bay Campus), South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI.
Thursday, January 19 - RIMFC Scup/Black Sea Bass Advisory Panel Meeting - 6:00 PMFriday, January 31 - RIMFC Summer Flounder Advisory Panel Meeting - 6:00 PMTuesday, February 6 - RIMFC Tautog Advisory Panel Meeting - 6:00 PM
Wednesday, February 15 – RIMFC Menhaden Advisory Panel Meeting – time TBD
Wednesday, February 22, Public Hearing for input on policy/regulations for many species. Agenda to include proposed changes to the Management Plans for most species. Visit for agenda, meeting time and place.

Safe ice for fishing and skating
At press time, there were no “Safe Ice” postings on the Department of Environmental Management’s website regarding the three State Parks they monitor including Goddard, Lincoln Woods and Meshanticut State Parks. DEM says it takes five to seven days of temperatures in the low 20 degree range before ice may become safe. And, this is no guarantee that it is safe. Call your local city and town to check local ice conditions or DEM for the State Parks they monitor at 401.222. 2632. Visit DEM’s Parks website for an ice safety guide at .

East Bay Anglers spring fishing flea market
Mark your calendar. The East Bay Anglers will hold their Spring Fishing Flea Market on Saturday, March 31, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. the 12:00 noon inside at the Riverside Sportsman’s Club, East Providence, RI. The cost of a table to sell your stuff is $25, the cost to attend the flea market is $2 (children free). This is for both fresh and saltwater gear. Call Dave Fewster for information at 401.230.8201

RISAA seminar on Clean the Bay and Tarpon fishing
Two topics will be featured at the Monday, January 30, 7:00 p.m. Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) meeting this month… the “Clean the Bay” organization will present on its activities in Narragansett Bay and a humorous view of Tarpon fishing will be given by Al “Gag” Gagliarducci, noted fishing lures maker and popular East Coast presenter. RISAA members can bring a friend at no charge; non-members are asked to make a $10 donation. Seminar starts at 7:00 p.m. at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick, RI with optional dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. Visit for details.

Question and comment from reader Paul Johnson
Question: “Hello Dave, I really enjoy your column… (and) have a question and comment for you. Every day recently you can see several large commercial fishing boats within in stone throw of the rocks off of Narragansett. I assume they are getting herring and squid. Are they under any regulations or can they just take all the bait fish out of that area? No wonder the game fishing as died off Narragansett. I think a couple of the boats are pair trawling…”
Answer: I responded to Paul’s e-mail this weekend… Yes, there were pair-trawlers off Narragansett this past week fishing for herring (we think). Bob Ballou from DEM’s Marine Fisheries Division was addressing the issue, exploring with his legal group what could be done short term, and long term DEM may explore regulating via legislation.