Pandemic hits fisheries differently

Posted 8/12/20

To find some good in this pandemic is surprising. Recreational fishing and boating businesses have been doing well in the pandemic. Outdoor activities such as fishing and boating provide individuals, families and friends an opportunity to engage in an

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Pandemic hits fisheries differently


To find some good in this pandemic is surprising.

Recreational fishing and boating businesses have been doing well in the pandemic. Outdoor activities such as fishing and boating provide individuals, families and friends an opportunity to engage in an outdoor activity that supports social distancing yet provides great family entertainment.

However, the commercial fishing industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. No markets to buy their fish. With no travel vacations and still little restaurant dining going on the commercial fishing industry is suffering.

This week I received a press advisory form Freedom Boats. There are eight Freedom Boat locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Rhode Island franchisee said in an advisory, “the boating industry is booming. Boat dealerships across the country have no inventory, which has opened up the opportunity for Freedom Boat Club (you sign one of their boats out for the day).”

This positive boating news spills over to marinas, which are now teeming with business. And recreational fishing has been off the charts good. This is the best year ever for my charter business. Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters said, “Once we were able to take out-of-staters fishing business exploded. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since mid-June.”

Bait and Tackle shops have had an explosive year too. Every bait & tackle shop I speak with to write this column is doing well. It’s hard to find and buy a combination rod in reel in a tackle shop now. The demand for fishing gear, tackle and bait has skyrocketed.

Things did change a bit last week for recreational fishing in Rhode Island. The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut took Rhode Island off their "low risk" state lists and I had two charters, cancel their trips with me. The Connecticut cancellation said, “Happy to go fishing with you once Rhode Island’s numbers get better.”

The real challenge in Rhode Island and Massachusetts has been low demand in the commercial fisheries sector. Fred Mattera, president of the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island (CFCRI), who represents eight commercial fishing trade associations, said, “The biggest need is bolstering markets which is paramount. Fishermen catching fish is one think, but having market demand to buy their catch is another. (This spring) small boat fishing sales are down by 25 to 30 percent, and large boat sales are down about 50 to 60 percent.”

To help enhance fish sales the State of Rhode Island passed a law that allows commercial to apply for a license to sell fish directly to consumers from their boats.

Kenneth Murgo, commercial fishermen, helped spearhead the retail sales effort in Rhode Island. Murgo said, “Overnight our markets closed. No one was buying fish. Eighty percent of our fish in imported. Yet the best fish you can eat is right here. We live in Rhode Island close to the fishing boats but you couldn’t buy the fish. We have generations of fishermen in my family and now finally, local customers can buy fish right off our boats.”

To screen a video "To the Surface" that relates the plight of commercial fishermen visit .

Let’s hope people start eating more fish at home, and as we pull out of the pandemic, more folks go to restaurants to eat. This coupled with great recreational fishing sales will bolster the fishing industry making it stronger than ever before. 56.42 pound cobia caught off Rhode Island Matt Perry of Fall River landed a 56.42 pound cobia this weekend east of Point Judith light when returning from an offshore fishing trip. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina said, “They came across a school of Atlantic menhaden being crashed by what they first thought to be striped bass. Come to find out is was a school of cobia on the surface feeding on the menhaden. The cobia is a possible new State of Rhode Island record.” Where’s the bite?

Striped bass. Matt Conti of Sung Harbor Marine, South Kingstown said, “Anglers are catching large fish and the southwest side of Block Island but are more likely to catch a keeper that fits the 28” to less than 35” slot limit at the North Rip. Anglers are catching fish trolling umbrella rigs, using Jigs, and eels. Just about every method is working.” East End Eddie Doherty of Mattapoisett said, “Capt. Bob Higgins and mate Bill Madden landed a 50 striped bass and a 20 pound bluefish on the same umbrella rig this weekend at the Southwest Ledge. The lucky angler was twelve year old Jack Hazeldine of Walpole, MA.” “One customer caught three nice fish off Newport using eels … a 43-inch, 38-inch and a 36-inch fish. The bite off Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge has been pretty good for anglers,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & tackle, Riverside. “The bass bite in the Bays has not been good as the water is quite warm.”

Summer flounder (fluke) fishing remains spotty. No reports of keeper fluke being caught in the Bay. Anglers are catching a lot of shorts,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & tackle. Fluke fishing off Newport to the Sakonnet River has been slow. Angles are catching some keepers but not their limit and anglers fishing the southern coastal shore from Pt. Judith to Westerly have having difficulty landing keeper size fish. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor said, “This is the first week in a long time we have weighted in a four or five double digit fluke, all caught at the Block Island Wind Farm or south of the wind farm. But the volume of fish has not been great.”

Offshore fishing. Cod fishing at Cox Ledge has been good. Paul Boutiette reports, “We fished about six hours at Cox ledge and caught 12 cod, ten heavy fish and two just legal size, three nice black sea bass and one Pollock and the best part was no dog fish,” Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina said, "Offshore fishing has been great customers are catching yellowfin tuna in the Shipping Lanes trolling and jigging. Bluefin are close too at the Mud Hole and at Tuna Ridge. Shark fishing is good too. We weighed in a 364 pound thresher shark this weekend. And we heard Big Game Charter Fishing had a 70” bluefin on last weekend.”

Freshwater. “Fresh water customers have not been fishing much as the weather has been too warm for them. However, when they go the largemouth bite has been pretty good,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s.

Dave Monti 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, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at or visit and his blog at

BSB limits – Photo D

BLACK SEA BASS LIMITS: Steve Brustein, West Warwick; Billy Di Giuseppe, North Kingstown; and Jim Stevens, Warwick all limit out on black sea bass Saturday 2 miles south of the Sakonnet River mouth.

pandemic, fishing


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