First Aid for anglers: Gary Johnson (with appreciation plaque), a 26 year veteran with the Coventry Fire Department, presented “First Aid for Fishermen” at a Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association meeting last week.
Black sea bass stock status and regulations in question
The stock status and 2013 quota for black sea bass, a species often targeted by local anglers, is in question. The quota may be reduced as much as 39% to 46%. It is likely that regulations for both commercial and recreational fishing will change imposing new and more severe catch restrictions for 2013. These restrictions may include limiting the number of fish that can be taken, the length of the fishing season and/or the minimum length of fish allowed to be taken.
In 2012 the RI recreational black sea bass season ran from June 15 to December 31 with a minimum size of 13” and a catch limit of fifteen fish.
Anglers say we have plenty of black sea bass. In fact, more and larger black sea bass have been caught in the past couple of years. And, some science seems to support this. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) sets coastwide quotas for the species. The ASMFC stock peer review set the rebuilding goal at 27.6 million pounds of spawning stock biomass and the current spawning stock size is at or above the biomass goal. However, limited information on black sea bass was integrated into a mathematical model called a statistical catch at length model (SCALE). Despite the applied modeling approach, black sea bass is still considered a “data poor” stock said Jamie McNamee, marine biologist in Marine Fisheries for the RI Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Fish & Wildlife Division.
Last week at an advisory panel meeting for the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) McNamee said, “There are still gaps in critical life history information for black sea bass and the current sampling gear may not be optimal to assess the population.” Presenting on black sea bass recreational performance McNamee said, “The crux of the problem is and remained an exceptionally small quota for what appears to be a healthy stock, which was in place in 2012.”
Recreational black sea bass landings and targets were analyzed on a coastwide basis until 2011. Landings were in check until 2009, when the harvest target was exceeded by 104%. In 2010 we experienced a 70% overage with led to the ASMFC allowing states to manage targets and landings.
In 2012 harvest targets are projected to be exceeded by well over 100% (data still being analyzed). So, this year the ASMFC is working on Addendum XXIII which will come forward to establish harvest targets for 2013 which are expected to translate into more restrictive recreational (and commercial) fishing regulations.
The good news is that the ASMFC realizes that the health of the stock and target catch limits are not in sync.
At a special Science and Statics (SCS) committee meeting on January 23rd, the constant catch reference period was raised, increasing harvest targets for both commercial and recreational fisheries and likely avoiding a complete fishery shut down for 2014. Some other good news is that black sea bass in about to have an ASMFC “operational assessment” in 2013. This assessment is expected to enhance analysis which is expected to put harvest targets more in line with the health of the fishery that everyone seems to be experiencing. But for 2013, more rigid regulations are coming.
Black sea bass facts
Black sea bass (BSB) is a delicate, sweet-tasting saltwater fish. The firm, white flesh of this species is a favorite of many. They have the ability to adjust their color to blend in with the bottom in colors ranging from grey, brown and black to a deep indigo hue. They spend most of their time around the bottom and can be found near rocky areas, jetties, rips and, like a lot of bottom fish, they like structure. BSB are hermaphroditic fish… they begin life as female then turn male. They put up a good feisty fight but do not grow to be huge fish in the Northeast. The largest black sea bass caught was 9 pounds, 8 ounces and about 19.7” long. Ideal water temperature for black sea bass is 59 to 64 degrees.
Other RIMFC news
Scup advisory panel (AP) met last week. Stock is considered rebuilt and is not considered overfished and is not currently experiencing overfishing. The AP recommended a reduced minimum size from 10.5 to 10” and a possession limit of 25 (form 20) with a season from May 1 to December 31. For party and charter boats the AP recommended a minimum size of 11”, a limit of 20 fish with a special 45 fish season running September 1 to October 31.
Summer flounder (fluke) is not overfished and the stock is considered rebuilt. Current recruitment is slightly below average (and has been in each subsequent stock assessment update). Target recreational landings for RI in 2012 were 157,855 fish; projected landings for 2012 are 103,669 fish. This is approximately a 36.6% underage. The AP recommended a minimum size of 18” (rather than the current 18.5”), a catch limit of eight fish and a May 1 to December 31 season.
Tautog stock is considered overfished with the regional stock assessment looking like overfishing is not occurring in 2012. A benchmark assessment is scheduled for 2013. DEM proposed no changes for commercial and recreational tautog for 2013. There was an AP proposal to start the season March 1. Minimum size still 16” with a catch limit of three fish from April 15 to May 31 and August 1 to October 19 (season closed during spawning from June 1 to July 31). Catch limit increases to six from October 20 to December 31 with a vessel limit of ten fish in all open periods (which does not apply to party and charter boats).
The next RIMFC meeting to discuss AP and public hearing recommendations is scheduled for March 4, 2013. In the meantime there is an Atlantic Menhaden advisory panel meeting scheduled for February 11 and a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, February 19 to consider management plan recommendations on striped bass, spiny dogfish, sharks and lobster management plans. The hearing will take plans at 6:00 p.m. in the URI Bay Campus Corless Auditorium, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI. Check AP and public hearing details at www.dem.ri.gov.
Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar big success
The Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series held Saturday was a huge success with approximately 700 people in attendance. George Poveromo, host of George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing on the NBC Sports Network, and editor-at-large for Salt Water Sportsman ran an informative and entertaining seminar. He was assisted by Tom Richardson, noted New England angler and a prominent fishing writer and editor. Eleven captains and fishing experts were on and off the stage addressing how to catch species such as striped bass, fluke, tuna, black sea bass, tautog and more. I had the honor of being on stage with the pros as a local captain and couldn’t have been happier talking about fishing with anglers for the entire day.
Where’s the bite
Ice fishing. Tom Mooney of Johnston said he was taking advantage of the good ice fishing weather last week. He landed some nice perch and pickerel in the 3 to 4 lbs range fishing at Indian Lake in South County. Bill Gill on the RISAA blog this week reported that two ice fishing tournaments have been rescheduled for February 9, 2013. They are the Between the Cracks Tournament at Crystal Lake/Sucker Pond in Maplesville, RI (call 401.651.5680 for information) and the Valley Angler Jig and Pig tournament at Candlewood Lake in New Fairfield, CT (call 303.792.8324 for information.
Cod fishing. Andy Dangelo has been captaining the Seven B’s party boat this winter. Andy said, “The cod bite has been excellent but with high winds and seas we haven’t been able to get out much.” Visit www.sevenbs.com or call 401.789.9250 to check sailing schedules. Visit www.francesfleet.com for the sailing schedule of Frances Fleet boats.