Atlantic menhaden valued as forage fish

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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) 75th Annual Meeting wrapped up last week and meeting summaries are available on their website at www.asmfc.org. The ASMFC regulates migratory species on the east coast, many of them we fish commercially and recreationally here in Rhode Island, including striped bass, summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, bluefish and tautog to name a few.

One of the meeting highlights was the Atlantic menhaden board’s meeting. Atlantic menhaden are an important forage fish for striped bass, bluefish, tuna and other species. Recreational anglers claim that fishing for these game fish is often off when the quantity of forage fish is down. Additionally, Atlantic menhaden are filter feeders with each fish processing 100s of gallons of water a day, taking plankton out of the water helping to clean our coves and Bays.

The number of fish allowed to be taken by fishermen, as well as considering the specie’s ecological value as a forage fish, are important factors when developing a Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic menhaden.

Robert Ballou of the Rhode Island Department of Environment Management is chairman of the ASMFC’s Atlantic menhaden board. Although the stock is rebuilt and overfishing is not occurring, this is the first year that ecosystem-based management strategies are on the table to help inform the FMP for Atlantic menhaden.

Robert Ballou said, “The Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved a total allowable catch (TAC) for the 2017 fishing season of 200,000 metric tons, a 6.45 percent increase from the 2016 TAC. According to Technical Committee analysis, this increase has a zero percent probability of resulting in overfishing. The TAC will be made available to the states/jurisdictions based on the state-by-state allocation established by Amendment 2.”

“Given the healthy condition of the resource, this modest increase provides additional fishing opportunities while the Board proceeds with the development of Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan,” stated Ballou.

Additionally, the Board approved the Public Information Document (PID) for Draft Amendment 3 for public comment. As the first step in the amendment process, the PID provides stakeholders with an opportunity to inform the Commission about changes observed in the fishery and provide feedback on potential management measures. Any additional issues that should be included in the Draft Amendment are suggested at this time as well.

The PID presents a suite of tools to manage the menhaden resource using ecological reference points, as well as options to allocate the resource among the states, regions and user groups.

The PID is available on the Commission website. It is expected that Rhode Island will conduct a public hearing over the next couple months. For information, contact Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mware@asmfc.org or 703-842-0740.   

Not so famous places to fish in Montana

The Rhody Fly Rodders will host Dan Spedding and his presentation “The top 10 places to fish in Montana you’ve never heard of,” on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Riverside Sportsmen’s Association, 19 Mohawk Drive, East Providence. Spedding will present his travels to the back roads of

Montana, as he traveled to some of the West’s non-famous rivers for fish and adventure. Contact Peter Nilsen, club president, for information at pdfish@fullchannel.net or 401-245-7172.

Where’s the bite?

“Bluefish and striped bass fishing

is still very good along the southern coastal shore from Watch Hill to East Matunuck, with very large bluefish and school bass with keepers mixed in. We had one customer weigh in an 11.6-pound striped bass,” said Elisha Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina. The Atlantic menhaden showed up big time this week and last, with blues and striped bass pushing them up against the shore, in some cases they were jumping in the surf and onto the beach. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait and Tackle, Riverside, said, “Customers are catching keepers in the Warren River at night, drifting in and around Blount’s depending on the drift. This weekend, they caught 12-, 15- and 17-pound keepers.”

Tautog

fishing is good with anglers working for their catch. “Some report a 12 (short) to 1 (keeper) ratio and others a 20-to-1 ratio. Fishing is good, but hit or miss in some places such as Conimicut Light, Ohio Ledge, the Barrington Bridge and in the Warren River,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait. “We had a customer weigh in a big 15.3-pound, 29-inch tautog he caught fishing from a boat off Beavertail, Jamestown,” said Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren. “David Arruda weighed in the fish. He is a spear fisherman too, but caught this one with a rod and reel this weekend. Customers seem to be catching tautog anywhere there are rocks,” said Macedo. “This Saturday, Max Dispoto weighed in an 11.2-pound tautog he caught this weekend from a boat,” said Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor. I fished off Newport in the Brenton Reef/Seal Ledge area this weekend and boated four keepers to 21 inches, with about a 7 (short) to 1 (keeper) ratio. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Tautog fishing was good last week, with anglers reaching their limit on many trips.”

“Cod

fishing has been mixed, with anglers often catching their limit of large black sea bass when fishing for cod. However, some large fish were caught last week. Notably, a 32-pound cod caught with a jig by Eddie Grant of Hartford, Conn.,” said Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet. Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor said, “Cod fishing has been mixed. Anglers haven’t been able to fight their way through the black sea bass and scup on the East Fishing Grounds, so no one has reported catching cod there.”

Fresh water

fishing has been good. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “We ran out of shiners and sold some night crawlers too. One of my customers had a great fishing outing at Stump Pond, catching a nice mixed bag of nine fish, including pickerel and largemouth bass. Others are still targeting trout at ponds such as Lincoln Woods, where DEM stocked last month.” Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “We had a run on night crawlers from a Scott Troop, and for the next week or two we had a lot of customers coming in asking for them, but overall our freshwater business has slowed down.”

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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