Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful for the fish, especially Atlantic Menhaden

 Largest bass ever:  Rhody Fly Rodders member Dave Pollack reached a milestone a few weeks ago by catching his largest bass yet on the fly, 42 inches and estimated at over 35 lbs.  Rhody Fly Rodders meet every 3rd Tuesday of the month at the Riverside Sportsmen Association, East Providence.

Tautog fishing still very good:  Gil Barao (in photo) and his son Travis fished near the #2 red can off Newport in 58’ of water Saturday and landed eight tautog.  Fishing weather has been cold and breezy but those braving the weather are catching some nice tautog.

Thankful for the fish, especially Atlantic Menhaden

It is Thanksgiving already.  We have a lot to be thankful for in Rhode Island, we were clobbered by hurricane Sandy but did not experience the loss of life and property that New York and New Jersey experienced.  By no means am I belittling our losses in Westerly, Misquamicut and along our southern coastal shores.  Our residences suffered major losses and we need to continue to help them.
Overall it was a good year for recreational fishing in our bays and ocean.  Fishing this year was better than it has been in a number of years.  The striped bass run in the Bay was moderate, however, the bass fishing continued to be great offshore around Block Island, the fluke season was good and we had an outstanding scup and black sea bass fishery this year.  All this was capped with a surprisingly good fall tautog season that we are still experiencing.  This is a lot to be thankful for.

One species I am forever grateful for is Atlantic Menhaden as it serves as a food source for so many other fish including striped bass. If you fish RI coastal waters, offshore or in Narragansett Bay, now is the time to voice your concerns about this important fish species as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlanta Menhaden Management Board meets December 14, 2012 to consider regulations for this important species.

In addition to being a primary food source for many other species of fish, menhaden serve as roving filters, converting algae into energy and thus reducing nutrient loads in bays and covers. An adult menhaden, through its unique filtering gills, is able to process up to 4 gallons of water per minute or a million gallons of water every 180 days. Multiply this by the number of menhaden in any given area and this is an amazing amount of water being filtered, a reduction of nutrients means fewer algae blooms and ultimately more oxygen for all fish.

The ASMFC’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet on December 14, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland to consider approval of Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The meeting will take place at the Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Center, Chesapeake Room, 5625 O’Donnell Street, Baltimore, Maryland.

At the meeting, the Board will select the final measures to be included in the Amendment as well as an implementation timeline. Draft Amendment 2 was out for public comment until November 16, 2012. The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) and other fishing groups in Rhode Island and Massachusetts expressed their thoughts on these important Atlantic Menhaden regulations at public hearings.  However, even though the public comment period is officially closed it is important to continue to put pressure on the ASMFC committee to regulate on the side of the fish. To make sure this species is here to stay and will not continue to be overfished. Advocating for this species should continue through December as regulations are finalized and implemented.  Watch this column for ways to advocate for this species as we get closer to the December meeting and beyond this meeting date.

Amendment 2 presents a suite of options to manage and monitor the stock in both the short and long-term. These include options to end overfishing; change the biomass reference points to match the fishing mortality reference  points; and establish a specification process to set and allocate total allowable catch (TAC), including  procedures to close the fishery when a certain percentage of the TAC has been projected to be landed. It presents accountability measures to address quota transfers, rollovers, and overage payback, as well as options to allow for a specified amount of the TAC to be set aside for small scale fisheries and episodic events. To address monitoring and data collection needs, the Draft Amendment also presents options for timely quota monitoring and the collection of biological data through catch sampling.  Overall it is a very comprehensive amendment.

BOEM holds stakeholder workshop on windmills
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a workshop at the URI Bay campus Friday to discuss ocean windmills and their impact on fishing.  This was the second of a series of eight workshops taking place on the east coasts to obtain input from commercial and recreational fishers.
This input meeting addressed future potential conflicts between fishing and wind projects within the Ocean Continental Shelf (OCS). BOEM is seeking input from commercial and recreational fishing industries, as well as fisheries management agencies and scientists, relative to proposed offshore wind energy development.

Some of the wind energy/fishing issues discussed included radar performance around wind farms (wind farms can a negative impact on radar), obstruction markings, the ability to shut down the wind farm for emergencies/rescues, exclusion zones, safety zones, electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by turbines and their impact on fish, and financial compensation for equipment loss, liability damage, cable damage, etc.

BOEM intends to process and summarize meeting input for consideration when formulating lease requirements for wind farms.  Recreational anglers recommended such things as added underwater structure around turbine foundations to attract fish, a mooring ball system over the structure so anglers can tie up and fish, reflective markings on structures in addition to lights, radar reflectors, chart markings, mariner notifications during wind farm construction and some type of alert or warning system.  For more information visit BOEM’s website at

Happy Thanksgiving.

Fall fishing is great

Family tautog fishing:  Greg Vespe of Tiverton, RI took his family tautog fishing with Capt. BJ Silvia after hurricane Sandy. (From left to right) Shawn Hayes Costello (Tiverton, RI), Ric Vespe (Little Marsh, Pa), Greg Vespe, and Colleen Hayes Costello (Tiverton, RI). 

Tautog fishing is great: Chris Benn, mate on the Seven B’s party boat out of Point Judith, fillets my tautog catch Sunday.  Some customers limited out, many anglers took home two to four fish and the largest fish that day was about nine pounds.
Big bass migrating: Angler Kurt Rivard of Warren, RI landed this 35 pound striped bass last week drifting and eel in 30 feet of water near the Mount Hope Bridge.

Fall fishing is great

So you think it is all over. You think fishing is done for the season… hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter must have shut it down. Well… you are wrong… fresh and saltwater fishing is great.  Anglers are catching bass and trout in ponds and rivers stocked by the Department of Environmental Management (visit for locations) and saltwater fishing is outstanding.  

Captain Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boast Association said, “This is the best time of year to fish.”  Anglers are catching tautog, cod, scup and striped bass.  Black sea bass can still be caught recreationally in state waters (if you do not have a federal license).  Since Sandy came though many anglers are limiting out with tautog (six fish per angler) and they are catching migrating striped bass too.

Angler Kurt Rivard of Warren, RI landed a 35 pound striped bass last week drifting and eel in 30 feet of water near the Mount Hope Bridge. “The fish pulled 200 yards of line out before it got tired and turned” said Kurt’s fishing partner Corey Smith.

Five days after the hurricane, angler Greg Vespe fished for tautog. “I took my family out with Capt. BJ Silvia… we really clobbered them  (tautog) on the near shore and mid shore humps off of Newport…lots of five and six pounders, five seven pounders and a nine pounder was tops for the day. Picked up at least 40 legal sized tog.” said Vespe.

For anglers who may have put their boats away for the winter (and many did prior to the hurricane) there are a host of charter and party boats still fishing.  Visit the RI Charter & Party Boat Association web site at for a list of boats, fishing times, rates and boat web sites for details.  The smaller boats take two to six anglers and the larger party boats can take over a hundred anglers fishing.

The Snappa from Point Judith is a custom 46’ fishing vessel.  Captain Charlie Donilon, who has been fishing for tautog since Sandy,  said, “We (have been) fishing south of Newport in the deeper water between 50 and 100 ft. The largest fish weighed (about) 14 lbs. Approximately 1/3 of the fish are throwbacks.”  The Snappa has a heated cabin and will provide all bait and tackle. Your cost for an 8 1/2 hr. day of fishing is $130. A private group of six passengers can charter the boat for as little as $700. Additional passengers add $100/person. Visit or call Capt. Donilon at 401-782-4040.

The Seven B’s is 80 feet and is licensed to take up to 120 people fishing.  They are tautog fishing now until December 15 at which time they generally switch to cod fishing. My brother-in-law and I fished with Captain Russ Benn this weekend, at first, the fishing was spotty but Captain Benn was determined to find fish and when he did all rods were bent.  The crew was fantastic. Some anglers limited out and others caught two to four keepers.  I did not speak to any unhappy customers.  We fished out in front a mile or two off shore from Newport to the Sakonnet River.  Seven B’s is now fishing Wednesday through Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Adults $85 and children $45.  Visit them at or call 401.789.9250.

The Francis Fleet vessels are owned by Captain Frank Blount.  He and his family have been running the business since 1978. They are running both tautog and cod fishing trips now.  Visit them at  or call them at 800.662.2824.

Windmill mitigation workshop for recreational and commercial fishers
The second wind mitigation workshop for recreational and commercial fishers will be held November 16, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the URI Bay Campus, South Ferry Road,  Narragansett, RI. For more informationcall 978-465-0492.  RSVP to Elizabeth Castle at .

Fly Tyers to hold annual Christmas Banquet
The United Fly Tyers of RI (UFTRI) will hold their annual Christmas banquet December 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall on Sandy Lane in Warwick, RI.  The event will feature a meal, a guest speaker and raffle.  UFTRI is an educational organization, dedicated to teaching fresh and salt water fly tying. Yearly membership dues are $30 (September of current year through May of next year). Tying vises and materials are available for use by guests (anyone attending for the first time), as well as any paid member. Visit  for details and information.

Rhody Fly Rodders to meet November 20th
The Rhody Fly Rodders will hold their monthly meeting Tuesday, November 20, 6:30 p.m. at the Riverside Sportsmen Association, East Providence, RI.  The presenter will be Alan Caolo. He will 
be presenting a slide program, “Sight-Fishing for Striped Bass”, a comprehensive overview on an exciting style of fishing for taking stripers in the clear shallows, including strategy, stealth, presentation and flies. The presentation will include information for everyone from beginners to seasoned anglers.  Monthly Bucket Raffles with some great items will be held and as usual, the coffee pot is always on, along with a few tasty snacks.  For information call Peter Nilsen, board member, at 401.245.7172 or e-mail him at pdfish@fullchannel.netDirections: From Providence take Rt.195 to Exit 7. Bear right on the ramp & follow Rt. 114 South (Wampanoag Trail) for two miles. Look for WPRO Studios on left, and then take first U-turn back to Rt.114 North. Continue North and look for the Riverside Sportsmen’s Club sign on right side.

Where’s the bite
Striped bass fishing has been good.  Reports of school bass all along the southern shore.  Angler David Sweet reports, “Made our way up to Narragansett Beach and fished just north of the Coast Guard House in about 5-10 ft. of water for 15 + schoolies. Tagged 15… “. Large striped bass being taken in the lower
Bay and along southern Coastal shores.  Neil Hayes of Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown, RI  weighed in a 58.45 pound bass that Nick Gibbs caught while fishing at night off the Narragansett shore last week.  Nick was using a black bomber lure.  
Tautog fishing remains strong in the lower Bay and off coastal shores with a slower bite mid Bay and North.   I fished on the Seven B’s Sunday…  some anglers caught two to four fish, some limited out  and the top fish was about nine pounds.  Anglers experiencing a strong bite at Kettlebottom off Jamestown,  Newport in the Brenton Reef area, off Point Judith Light and off Narragansett on rock clusters.
Cod fishing is starting to pick up.  This past Sunday Captain Letourneau of On The Rocks Charters reported limiting out on Cod.  Captain Letourneau said, “Started out front in Newport with a 24" cod and never looked back…” The Francis Fleet repots an improved cod bite compared to this past week with the top fish Sunday weighing in at about 10 pounds.