Monday, February 23, 2015

Bill to repeal license law, Fishing Show and 2015 regulations

The New England Saltwater Fishing Show being held February 27 - March 1 at the RI Convention Center will have over sixty seminars and over 225 booth.

Bill to repeal fishing license law meets opposition

Five Rhode Island State Representatives (Filippi, Reilly, Craven, Shekarchi and Price) have submitted a bill to repeal the “Recreational Saltwater Fishing License” that has been in effect since 2010.  The Rhode Island Saltwater Angles Association said they are opposed to repealing the license law.

Steve Medeiros, president of the RISAA said, “If this bill passes it will be a huge set back to fishing access, fish abundance and conservation in RI.” 

In a draft DEM report that will come before the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council next month highlights of funds raised by the fishing license law are noted below with some reasons why the law was instituted in the first place.

·         The license bill was originally developed with support from the fishing community (including RISAA), environmental and conservations groups, DEM and the General Assembly… it was an inclusive process.

·         The License Bill enabled RI anglers to register with the State rather than the federally mandated registry which costs nearly four times as much ($25 rather than $7 for State a license). 

·         Over the past two fiscal years the bill has or will turn $478,397 in license funds into nearly $2-million with Fish & Wildlife Service three to one matching funds.

·         Funds raised are in a restricted account. What is raised by license fees is spent on fishing and access to fishing.  If these funds are eliminated, RI will lose out on Federal matching funds.

Projects in FY 2014 included: an upgrade to the Galilee boat ramp; funds to start an artificial reef project in Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays; production of the Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing Guide; support to the boating/fishing access site maintenance program; support for finfish surveys for stock assessments; management of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Program; and purchase of additional MRIP intercept interviews.

Projects proposed for FY 2015 include:  boating/fishing access projects such as the Godard State Park boat ramp; fish stock assessment support; support for the artificial reef; and enhanced MRIP data collection.

The license law provides funding for important data collection projects that will provide better recreational catch and effort data that leads to more informed recreational fishing decisions on minimum sizes, bag limits and fishing seasons.  Accurate data will lead to greater reliability and fishery management strategies that foster greater fish abundance and liberalized regulations when appropriate.

The State Representatives submitting the bill believe recreational fishermen in Rhode Island do not want a license law and claim it impedes a fisherman’s right to fish. 

In checking reports from when the license bill was passed in 2010, advocates for the law believed that the days of unrestricted fishing were over and that individuals did not have the right to over fish to the point of fish species extinction and the determent of the common good.  

At press time the House Bill (#5352) to repeal the saltwater license law was scheduled for a hearing Thursday, February 26, 2015 before the Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resource committee. Anglers are urged to relate their thoughts on the Bill to committee members, Bill sponsors, and their local State Representative.

2015 saltwater fishing regulations

Last Monday’s Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) recreational regulation workshop and public hearing meetings combined what normally takes place over four different evenings into one night.   

Traditionally participation at specie Advisory Panel meetings held over four different evenings is limited (three to six fishermen, fifteen or twenty if an important issue was being discussed).  At the workshop last week 80 anglers listened to stock status and 2014 fishing activity on a variety of recreational fishing species and then asked fish managers and marine biologist questions.  Fishermen expressed their point of view and support (or non support) for proposed regulation options and some proposed alternative options. 

What regulations look like for 2015?

2015 fishing regulations are still up in the air, but here is a current status report.

Striped bass will likely be one fish/day at 28” minimum size for private anglers… charter boat catch limits are still up in the air.  The first option proposed is one fish at 28” for all anglers; the second option on the table is one at 28” for private anglers and a two fish at 32” option for charter boats.

There has been so much discussion and split thinking about the charter boat catch limit for striped bass that the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) decided to pole its members with a survey, and have petitions available for the general public at its New England Saltwater Fishing Show this weekend.  The Association will use survey and petition results to formulate its final position.

Summer flounder (fluke) quotas were overfished in RI last year. Most at the meetings last week supported the status quo option of an 18” minimum size at eight fish/angler/day with the same season length.  Speculation is that RI will make summer flounder regulations a bit more conservative this year to fend off criticism from other states about our over fishing last year.  Perhaps the bag limit will be reduced a bit, and/or even an increased minimum size to 18 ½”.

Tautog support fell to status quo (the same as last year), 16” minimum size with split seasons… three fish in the spring and late summer seasons with a six fish bag limit in the fall (with a ten fish boat limit which does not apply to charter boats).  However, a new stock assessment has been approved for use but will not likely engage for use until 2016, we may have the same regulations in 2015 as last year but 2016 is likely to bring more conservative regulations.

Black sea bass landings in Rhode Island must be reduced by a third this year.  The solution that received the most support was one that started the season in June (as early as possible) with one fish and then increased the number of fish to five to seven in the fall.  Both 13” and 14” fish are being considered to reduce landings.

Don’t miss the New England Saltwater Fishing Show this weekend

The New England Saltwater Fishing Show is this week at the Rhode Island Convention Center Friday, February 27th, 12 noon to 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, February 28th, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, March 1st , 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.   Visit over 225 exhibitors including tackle, rods, reels, lures, electronics, charter guides, boats, motors, accessories, clothing and much more. Highlights include:

“Wicked Tuna” at the Fishing Show

On Saturday and Sunday Capt. Dave Carraro with mate Sandro Maniaci of the F/V TUNA.COM (top captain/boat on the TV show Wicked Tuna) will be at the show.

Sunday is family day

All women and children under 12 will be admitted free on Sunday, March 1st.  A scavenger hunt for children will be held Sunday.  As a child enters the show with a parent they are given a Scavenger Hunt search sheet that can net them a variety of prizes.

Over 60 seminars

Seminar topics include inshore and offshore fishing, specie specific seminars on tautog, fluke, striped bass, tuna, bonito as well as tactics for jigging, chucking, chumming, skishing (extreme surfcasting) and more.

Ticket discount

Tickets for the show are $10 at the door.  A special $1 discount coupon is available online.  Visit for additional information and a complete list of seminars, workshops and speakers.

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