Smooth council meeting; Fisherman Chris Brown honored at White House

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The Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) met last week at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (Bay Campus) to review stock status on a number of species and make recommendations on commercial fishing regulations.

Most of the items on the agenda had been vetted (garnering public input and additional regulation options) at a public workshop and hearing held last month. The Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) new public input process seems to be working. Those commercial fishermen in attendance (and members of the council) were aware of the fishing public’s point of view on the regulations discussed before the council meeting as most attended the workshop and hearing. This was one of the desired results when DEM established the new workshop/public hearing format last year.

Meeting highlights

The Council voted to recommend liberalization in the way DEM determines the number of licenses (or endorsements) to be issued in 2017. In the past, it was a one-to-one exit/entry ratio based on active licenses only. The council voted to recommend a one-to-one exit/entry ratio on all licenses whether or not they are active. This formula will net 15 new license/endorsement opportunities in 2017, almost twice the amount issued previously.

In regard to quahog licenses (or endorsements), the council voted to approve a status quo one-to-one ratio between exit/entry licenses, which will net 39 new license endorsement opportunities in 2017.

At Councilman Jeff Grant’s urging, the Council voted to reduce definitions of ‘Actively Fishing’ (fishermen) and ‘Actively Participating’ (crew members) from 75 to 40 days in the preceding two calendar years. This change set the table to make it easier for ‘hardship condition’ license sales when a fisherman (or their estate) sells their businesses due to illness or a death.

Additionally, DEM aims to change the criteria associated with the sale of a business to include the sale of a vessel and/or gear. This change means that a vessel no longer has to be part of the sale as long as gear is sold. RIMFC chair Robert Ballou said, “Gear will be loosely defined and can mean a fishing rod.” Licenses still have to be first surrendered to the Department then DEM, upon application, issues a new license to the purchaser.

In other RIMFC business, I was elected vice chair of the Council, replacing Rich Hittinger, whose term limit expired earlier this year.

Visit www.dem.ri.gov for council meeting presentations and meeting results once meeting minutes are published.

Chris Brown honored as sustainable champion

Chris Brown, one of Rhode Island’s sustainable fishing advocates and Pt. Judith commercial fisherman, was honored Friday at the White House with a “Champions of Change” for sustainable seafood award. This is a highly-recognized honor throughout the nation…there have been “Champions of Change” awards for the environment and climate change, education, diversity, innovation, etc.

Brown, who was one of 12 fishing industry champions honored, still captains his fishing vessel Proud Mary, fishing about 200 days a year. Yet, he finds time to lead and mentor the fishing community in Rhode Island and the nation on sustainable fishing. He serves as president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen's Association, which is comprised of fourteen fishing industry associations. He is president of the Seafood Harvesters of America, representing commercial fishermen from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and north to New England. Under Chris’ leadership, the Harvesters champion accountability, stewardship and sustainability in fishing practices, fisheries science and fisheries management.

Congratulations Chris, this is a well-deserved honor. You have made both the commercial and recreational fishing communities in Rhode Island very proud.

At press time, Bay still closed to shellfishing

Last Friday, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the R.I. Department of Health closed Narragansett Bay to shellfishing and on the weekend Mt. Hope Bay was closed, including the Sakonnet River. This is the first time the entire Bay has experienced such a closing. The harvest restriction does not apply to carnivorous snails such as whelk and moon snails. Check DEM’s website at www.dem.ri.gov for up to date information on closings.

Where’s the bite?

False albacore.

“Albies are running at Watch Hill, Westerly, up the Rhode Island southern coastal shore with fish in the 4- to 5-pound range and some big ones up to 10 pounds,” said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly.

Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, fished with Rene Letourneau of On the Rocks Charters last Friday, along with angler Shirish Nadkarni, who caught a 7-pound albie on a fly rod at The Butterball Reef off Castle Hill,” Henault said. “Customers reported hooking up with Albies in the Sakonnet River and Westport areas, but there were very few fish caught from there to Pt. Judith, and then the bite was on again in the Westerly area.”

Striped bass

fishing remains strong in South County.

“We have a ton of blue fish and large striped bass being caught along the coastal shore. We weighed fish up to 30 pounds this week, and we have a lot of Atlantic menhaden in the Pawcatuck River right outside our door in downtown Westerly. The blue fish and bass have them hemmed in and are feeding on them 100 yards or so down the river. We also have some shad in the river. Striped bass and bluefish are in the upper reaches of the Providence and Seekonk Rivers feeding on Atlantic menhaden. Just like the spring migration, these fish have come into the bay chasing Atlantic menhaden all the way up to the rivers. Anglers are having success with shallow diving lures and pencil poppers. The Cape Cod Channel bite is low in the water column. Actually, much of it is on the bottom with a good number of fish being caught with jigs,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State.

Scup

continues to be good throughout the bay and off coastal shores. Like last year, the scup are in the upper bay too. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Scup are being caught in large numbers all the way up to India Point Park.”

Cod

fishing continues to improve with fish now at the East Fishing Grounds. Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, said, “We are getting reports of cod fish at the East Fishing Grounds. This is great and means anglers do not have to go to the Cox’s Ledge area.”

Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Cod fishing was solid this week – respectable numbers of cod fish on almost every trip. Last week, on Wednesday, during a random late day drop, anglers were put into some fast and furious action with nice green fish in the 8- to 15-pound range and a Pollock just south of 20 pounds. Many of the fishers aboard went from having no cod or one cod to five or six nice fish in very short order.”

Tautog

fishing was very strong this weekend when anglers were able to fish with moving water. I fished this weekend with Kevin Fetzer of East Greenwich in the Newport Seal Ledge and North Kingstown General Rock areas with the bite on during the first two to three hours of the outgoing tide. “We weighed in an 8-pound, 6-ounce tautog last week, so the tautog fishing has picked up. Connecticut’s season opened Monday, the water has cooled and fishing has been great in the area with lots of anglers fishing for tautog,” said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters. “Tautog fishing at Conimicut Light and all the way up to India Point and along the Shipyard bulkhead in Providence has been pretty good, however, the bite in the river has been very soft with anglers having to pay close attention to the subtle bite,” said Henault.

Freshwater

fishing for trout has been good in ponds and waterways stocked by DEM last week. Over 6,000 fish were stocked in Carbuncle Pond, Coventry; Olney Pond, Lincoln; Silver Spring Pond, North Kingstown; Barber Pond, South Kingstown; Round Top Ponds, Burrillville; Stafford Pond, Tiverton; Wood River and Pawcatuck River, Richmond. Visit DEM’s website at www.dem.ri.gov for details on how to get the required freshwater license and trout stamp. “The largemouth bass bite has been the best it has been in the 16 years since I have been in business. I believe it is attributed to the mild winter we had last year that kept bait around, and therefore active fish most of the winter. Best places to fish for bass include: Turner Reservoir and Omega Pond in East Providence,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.

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