Now that it is cold, all need to be mindful of ice on ponds and lakes that may look safe, but is not. Check with local cities and towns to find out if ice on a local pond or lake is safe to fish or skate on.
Ice must have a uniform thickness of at least six inches before it is considered safe by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). It generally takes at least five to seven consecutive days of temperatures in the low 20s. However, safe ice is determined by a number of factors such as the size and depth of a pond, presence of springs or currents, and local temperature fluctuations.
DEM advises the public to check with individual communities about safe ice conditions before ice fishing or skating. DEM has an ice safety guide that can be found online at www.riparks.com.
Wind farm environmental impact statement out for public comment
Recreational anglers and conservationists need to speak up and be counted in the planning of offshore wind farms. Anglers have felt recreational fishing takes a back seat at the fisheries table and are never given their due for the economic impact they have in this nation. Both commercial and recreational fishing are important to the nation. According to NOAA recreational fishing in some states like Florida and Rhode Island, has a greater sales impact on the state’s economy.
There is still time (this week and next) to participate in public hearings on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the South Fork Wind Farm. All will get an opportunity to weigh in on BOEM’s work….what they missed, and what they got right on how the wind farm will impact the environment. BOEM, who is responsible for this DEIS, did not address recreational fishing in this DEIS.
The South Fork Wind Farm, a fifteen turbine offshore wind farm being built by wind farm developer Ørsted (owner of the Block Island Wind Farm), will be built on Cox Ledge 19 to 24 miles southeast of Point Judith, Rhode Island.
Cox Ledge has long served as fishing grounds for a portion of the recreational fishing fleet for bottom fish such as cod, tautog and black sea bass as well as pelagic fish. Sharks and tuna are commonly targeted and caught on Cox Ledge.
I said a ‘portion’ as according to NOAA most recreational fishing trips (90 percent) occur within the three mile limit and in our Bays and estuaries. This wind farm is 20 miles offshore.
Offshore wind and fishing can work together and coexist just as both have flourished at the Block Island Wind Farm. And, in the United Kingdom where wind farms have been built for years, science is telling us that fish abundance in wind farm areas is greater than in control areas outside of wind farms, visit https://tethys.pnnl.gov/publications/meta-analysis-finfish-abundance-offshore-wind-farms.
I am also a believer in the reef effort, as the science, my antidotal fishing experience and video footage at the base of the pylons at the Block Island Wind Farm tells us. New habitat and fish have been created, mussel growth has attracted scup, black sea bass and tautog and now anglers are targeting large striped bass and blue fish at pylon bases.
Offshore wind farms are badly needed as renewable energy to help combat the negative impacts of climate change on fish, habitat and sea level rise on our coastal shores.
Fixed commercial fishing gear and trawlers, for-hire charter boats and private anglers have fished in the Block Island Wind Farm area after construction. And, with enhanced fishing pressure, fishing in the area is good, arguably better than before construction.
NOAA said $ 2.3 million in commercial fishing took place over twelve years in the South Fork Wind Farm area. That’s $197,000 on average/year. This number should be used with a multiplier for land based impacts during the construction phase. As related, fishing occurs at the Block Island Wind Farm and in European wind farms after construction with a greater fish abundance. See NOAA data on South Fork Wind Farm area fishing at https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.
The New England Aquarium has done some great work on pelagic fishers and fish caught in wind farm areas, and electronic recording efforts in the nation have added insight and supplemental informational that gives fish mangers a better idea of who fishes in areas and what they catch. So although we have no recreational data on South Fork fishing there are ways to identify it.
In the meantime wind farm developers like Ørsted are doing what they can to reach out to the angling community with recreational representatives, identifying and partnering with organizations that can act as information conduits, running Fishinars that aim to education anglers about fishing in wind farm areas with hundreds of participants, as well as the development of an angler survey to try to identify who fishing in their wind farm areas and what the catch (a job that BOEM and/or NOAA should do, as they do for commercial fishing).
Let’s not hold up the development of renewable energy for all the people of the United States of America as we need it badly to combat climate change. Let us reimburse commercial, for hire and private recreational fishermen for any true loss of fishing. And look at this DEIS and other environmental impact statements to come on there scientific merits and not for mitigation posturing.
BOEM is seeking public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Fork Wind Farm Construction and Operations Plan. More information, including the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, instructions for providing comments, and more information on the public meetings is available at www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/south-fork-wind-farm-virtual-meetings. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 22.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater. For licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit http://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.