These are unprecedented times. We as fishers on the East Coast have three fishing Amendments to Fisheries Management Plans (FMP) that will eventually be applied to the management and regulations on striped bass, bluefish, as well as summer flounder, scup and black sea bass. These five species (and tautog) are the most popular targeted by recreational fishers.
The Amendments are highlighted below with information links and input opportunities for anglers. What makes these Amendments even more important are the climate change impacts occurring on habitat and fish in our area which are not even in the forefront of these Amendments.
So for now anglers are encouraged to read up, educate themselves about some very complex issues and actually weigh in on how they feel about proposed Amendments.
Even if you do not commented on all amendment questions, providing even a minimum amount of input will help our fisheries and give you as an active angler the satisfaction of having provided input into the fishery.
Summer founder, scup and black sea bass. All three species are being treated in one Allocation Amendment to each specie’s Fisheries Management Plan (FPM). The Amendment is from a joint committee of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that managers fish in State waters in our area. The Amendment talks about allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors that have been upended by new scientific data.
Rich Hittinger, 1st vice president of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) said, “I feel that this Amendment is a critical move to undo a major injustice that was done to recreational fishing by recent updates made to the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). These changes resulted directly in the increase of commercial quotas for fluke by 49 percent in 2019 and for black sea bass in 2020 by 51 percent.”
New MRIP estimates increased the recreational landings estimates over the last 25 years by up to double previous estimates. This was without any new fishery data, but just the result of different estimating procedures. The higher landings estimates then led fisheries managers to conclude that there were more fish in the sea than thought, so landings could increase.
Hittinger said, “I say that it is the same ocean over the last 25 years; just changing estimates didn’t change the ocean, why should landings be allowed to increase so substantially? The result is that greatly increased commercial pressure on fluke and black sea bass has led to fewer fish for recreational fishers to catch (and fewer fish for commercials too because of greater fishing pressure).”
For background and RISAA positions on the allocation amendment for Summer Founder, Scup and black Sea Bass see Rich Hittinger’s article at https://www.risaa.org/newsletter/0321/Mar2021.pdf.
Striped Bass. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) issued a request for comment on a Public Information Document (PID) for Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic striped bass. This comment document will be used to put together an amendment on striped bass that will rewrite its Fisheries Management Plan. Key issues include lowering the bar on biological reference points such as the Spawning Stock Biomass targets and thresholds that would allow anglers to take more fish. The stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring and a rebuilding plan has been mandated but has not been delievered.
The American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) is a coalition of recreational fishing guides, small businesses, and conservation-minded anglers who find greater value in long-term stock abundance rather than simply maximizing harvest. I am a member of their board. They are committed to taking a precautionary approach to fisheries management based on the best available science to provide higher-quality fishing opportunities that bolster recreational fishing.
The ASGA has done an outstanding job presenting its conservation focused perspective on the striped bass public information document at https://saltwaterguidesassociation.com/a-guide-to-the-striped-bass-amendment-7-public-information-document-your-comments-needed/. Visit their website for a two page summary on this public comment document as well as links to the actual public information document.
Tony Friedrich, vice president and national policy director for the ASGA, said, “In principle, we are concerned with the initiation of a comprehensive amendment process when the striped bass fishery has far more urgent needs. The stock was declared overfished nearly two years ago, and while the Commission took action to end overfishing through Addendum VI, there has not yet been any discussion of a rebuilding plan.”
Comments are due in writing by April 6.
Bluefish. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) are seeking public comment on management options under consideration in the Bluefish Allocation and Rebuilding Amendment. This amendment contains alternatives to revise the Fishery Management Plan for bluefish including allocations, allocation to states and a rebuilding plan.
Comments can be provided at a public hearing on Thursday, April 1, 6 to 8 p.m. for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Anglers are encourage to visit the Council’s Bluefish Allocation and Rebuilding Amendment web page at www.mafmc.org or the Commission’s Public Input web page, where you can read the Public Hearing Document, the Draft Amendment, and watch the public hearing presentation. Watch for comments on the bluefish amendment from recreational fishing associations to come in further articles.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater. Warm weather and rain may weaken ice in many areas, so be safe and check ice thoroughly before you fish or skate. Checking with local authorities is a good idea too. Bruce Miller of Canal Bait & Tackle, Sagamore, said, “When we had decent ice anglers were doing well at Great Herring Pond, Plymouth, catching white and yellow perch, largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as pickerel. And, at Wequaquel Lake in Hyannis anglers have been hooking up with pike with shiners.” For fresh water licensing information in Rhode Island visit www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.
Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting include) the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.