No Fluke

Commission to consider value of Atlantic menhaden as forage fish

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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet November 13-14 to consider approval of Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden.

Atlantic menhaden, or pogies, as they are commonly referred to by recreational anglers in Rhode Island are a primary food source for striped bass, bluefish, tuna and other species. Draft Amendment 3, which is currently out for public comment, seeks to manage the menhaden resource in a way that balances menhaden’s ecological role as a prey species with the needs of all user groups.

The Rhode Island public comment meeting is scheduled for October 4 at 6 p.m., at the University of Rhode Island Bay Campus, Corless Auditorium, South Ferry Road, Narragansett.

To this end, the Draft Amendment considers the use of ecosystem reference points (ERPs) to manage the resource and changes to the allocation method. In addition, it presents a suite of management options for quota transfers, quota rollovers, incidental catch, the episodic events set aside program, and the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery cap.
 
The Atlantic menhaden board meeting will be live-streamed via webinar; the details of which will be released at a later date. For more information, please contact Megan Ware, at mware@asmfc.org.                                                                                                                                     

Capt. Donilon keeps on innovating

It was a Saturday morning earlier this month when Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters and mate Lauren Benoit picked up nine passengers in Newport. It was a foggy morning with big rollers from an ocean storm pushing the boat forward through the East Passage in front of Castle Hill Light and into Newport Harbor. I was along for the ride to meet Lauren, her fellow mates and experience another Capt. Charlie Donilon first.

Capt. Donilon is an industry innovator. He was the first charter captain in the area to have a shark diving cage in the 70’s, one of the first to start tagging rather than taking sharks, one of the few with an inspected vessel for eighteen rather than six passengers, the first to run a mate school. And now, he's the first to have a crew of oceanographers, environmental and fisheries graduates that happen to be all female.

Female mates in the charter industry are an anomaly. I was on board to meet and interview mates Laruen Benoit, Katie Viducic and Claire Hodson.

I met Katie three years ago at Capt. Donilon’s mate school. She was an instructor and Capt. Donilon’ s first female mate. She helped encourage Lauren and Claire to serve as they are or were all University of Rhode Island graduate students.
We pulled out of Newport Harbor as Charlie explained the sights to his customers.

“The granite walls of Ft. Adams are three to four feet thick to repel cannon fire.”

“That’s Ida Lewis Yacht Club, she saved 18 people as a lighthouse keeper. Many of them were a bit tipsy when returning to their vessels from town”

“Did you know a million pounds of TNT was stored on Rose Island during the war?”

Lauren, a West Greenwich resident, has a masters degree in Oceanography and works doing research for NOAA. I asked why she wanted to be a mate. “I have a broad skill set but never knew how to fish. So learning to fish was important and above all I wanted to learn more about sharks. I wanted to catch, tag and release sharks and Charlie Donilon is a pioneer and expert in this area. Sharks were my specialty in graduate school,” said Lauren.

Customer John Cinti who organized the charter was getting married last weekend at the Inn at Castle Hill. He asked about job demands. Lauren said, “I work, go home, eat and sleep and do the same thing the next day. It’s a demanding job so I try to stay in shape and work out at the gym.”

Cinti said, “I like the idea of female mates, they are easy to talk to and Lauren’s fisheries expertise helped inform me and my friends about the fishery here in Rhode Island.”

Mate Claire Hodson of West Harford greeted us at the dock as we returned from Newport. She was taking the next charter as the Charter Vessel Snappa often does two trips a day. Capt. Donilon said, “I need to do 120 trips a year just to break even with the fuel, bait, insurance and boat payment costs.” So he expanded his business to do ash burials at sea, shark cage diving, photography, harbor, lighthouse and windmill tours.

Hodson said, “I wanted to be a mate on a charter boat to experience people interacting with the environment and be part of that … I also like going fishing and not knowing what you are going to catch.”

Capt. Donilon’ s new innovation — a crew of female, master-degreed mates — sure seems to be working.

Black sea bass increases to seven keepers

Last month the Atlantic Stales Marine Fisheries Commission decided not to revise the black sea bass fisheries management plan (FMP). Rhode Inland adjusted its catch limit to accommodate requested black sea bass FMP revisions taking the seven fish/person/day limit down to five fish from11/1 to 12/31.

So the Rhode Island recreational black sea bass regulations for the remainder of the 2017 season will be three fish/person/day until 8/31, seven fish/person/day from 9/1 to 9/21, a closed season (when federal fishing is closed) from 9/22 to 10/21, and seven fish/person/day from 10/22 to 12/31. Visit dem.ri.gov for regulation updates.

Where’s the bite

Summer flounder (fluke) and black sea bass. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Good numbers of sea bass around Block Island this week to four and five pounds. There were some fluke limits and a fair number of anglers took two and three keepers home.” Fishing in the bay for summer flounder is not good with anglers landing an occasional keeper in the Jamestown and Newport Bridge areas. Anglers are catching some flounder around Block Island in the windfarm area with reports of several being taken in the 22” to 24” range, however no reports of anglers limiting out. Tony Pocchia of Misquamicut Bait & Tackle, Westerly said, “Customers are catching lots of short summer flounder and black sea bass from shore with a few keepers mixed in.” I found the black sea bass bite to be good this weekend between Beavertail Point and Newport Brenton Reef area. Anglers on board limited out in about 45 minutes with three BSB to 20” in 85 feet of water.
Scup fishing is good just about everywhere in the bay and along the coastal shore. “Customers are catching a lot of scup from the breachways,” said Pocchia. John Littlefield of Archie’s bait said, “the scup bite is very, very good from Sabin Point, Colt State Park and other places in the bay.” I continue to catch a lot of scup when fishing around structure and moving water in the Jamestown and Newport Bridge areas.

Striped bass and bluefish. Angler Joe Prisco landed a 50 pound striped bass fishing the Block Island Southwest Ledge on the charter fishing vessel Reel to Reel. Joe fished with his brother Charlie and friends Peter Szydlo and Joe Servant. Charlie Prisco said, “Joe landed the fish when we were trolling an orange tube.” “Fishing for striped bass at the Cape Cod Cannel has been very, very good," said Littlefield. "Many of my customers are fishing there and landing bass from shore in the 42 to 47 inch range using pencil poppers, mackerel and pogies. However, the bass bite in the Bay is not good with just school bass being landed.” The Newport bite is better with anglers landing small keepers. “The bluefish bite in the Sakonnet River has been very, very good… the fishing in the Bay for blues in spotty.” Block Island fishing on the Southwest Ledge was good this week with anglers landing fish in the 40 pound range fairly common. “The bass bite at night from the Breachways is good with anglers landing keepers just about every night,” said Pocchia.

Cod fishing. Capt. Frank Blount said, “The cod responded relatively well to the fresh shucked clam baits. Sizes varied but a lot of nice fish in the teens with the best right around 20 pounds last week. Hi hook boxed six fine cod fish with a number of other fishers having three to five keepers each.” Cod fishing at Cox’s Ledge has been good this week. Angler Dick Pastore on the RI Saltwater Anglers Association blog said, “I moved around a few times and was lucky enough to come across a school of cod. Used clams as bait and boated seven fish from 6-20 pounds. I am convinced that you just have to drive around and look for sever structure with red and yellow tops on the bottom profile.”

Freshwater fishing has been good. Anglers continue to land largemouth bass with some trout being landed this week. Littlefield said, “We had a customer catch a 4.3 pound largemouth in a pond in Seekonk.” Pocchia said, “Anglers are catching trout in the Wood River. Customers are buying night crawlers and landing Perch and bass in the ponds at the state park.”

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at noflukefishing.com or e-mail him with your fishing news and photos at dmontifish@verizon.net.

Dave Monti

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