Ed Langon of California caught this striped bass using a tube and worm rig in Rhode Island.

Non-offset, inline circle hooks will now be required when fishing for striped bass using natural baits. This new regulation takes effect Jan. 1 coastwide and there are no gear or mode-type exemptions allowed.

Changes to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) implemented coastwide harvest reductions in 2020 as striped bass were overfished and overfishing was occurring. Changes in the plan also required the mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait to reduce release mortality in recreational striped bass fisheries. As per the FMP, states are required to implement circle hook requirements by Jan. 1.

The new circle hook requirement includes, but is not limited to, such angling techniques as live lining or fishing with chucks of Atlantic menhaden, tube and worm, fishing with eels, eel skin rigs, as well as the addition of pork rind, or squid to a bucktail jig and all other scenarios where a natural bait is added to an artificial lure when targeting striped bass.

The recreational angling community was, for the most part, in support of more restrictive striped bass regulations to rebuild the stock as quickly as possible. A reduction from a two fish to a one fishing limit occurred and last year a slot limit was established… one fish more than 28 inches and less than 35.

However, the circle hook regulation applying to tube and worm fishing took many anglers by surprise as fish caught by this mode are usually hooked in the mouth, particularly when the bait is moving though the water when trolling. The fish generally hooks itself on the mouth as the bass hits the bait on the run with little time to swallow it before it is hooked.

Anglers coastwide believe striped bass hook themselves in the mouth when trolling with tube and worm, they do not hook themselves in the gut or throat so release mortality is reduced when using this method.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) would have to approve a change in the Fisheries Management Plan to change the law and then states would have to amend their regulations. The ASMFC winter meeting is schedule for Feb. 4-6. At press time, members of fishing organizations throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other New England coastal states planned to petition the ASMFC asking them to adopt a circle hook provision exemption for tube & worm rigs.

East End Eddie Doherty to speak in Falmouth

Big Ditch Productions in association with Ballyjamesduff Entertainment announced last week that East End Eddie Doherty will be presenting a Cape Cod Canal surfcasting seminar for the Falmouth Fishermen’s Association via Zoom on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.

The free event is open to the public, but attendance is limited, so send your name to falmouthfishermens@gmail.com for registration.

Doherty is a retired Massachusetts District Court Clerk-Magistrate and the author of “Seven Miles After Sundown’, which was announced on Amazon as the No. 1 new release in fishing and selected as an award-winning finalist for American Bookfest in the sports category at the 2019 International Book Awards in Los Angeles.

Fisheries bill addresses climate impacts on fish

Hats off to U.S. Congressmen Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, and Ed Case (D-Honolulu), subcommittee member. Last week the Congressmen introduced a discussion draft of a bill to reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary fishing law of this nation, that addresses climate change impacts on fishing as well as other important fisheries conservation issues.

As a charter captain and recreational fisherman, I know that the Magnusson-Stevens Act has served us well to rebuild fish stocks, however, with climate change impacts, warming water and fish stock movements the fish I catch today are different in type and abundance than the fish I caught 10 years ago. The fishing laws of this nation need reauthorization to provide management and fishers with the tools they need to address stock shifts, habitat degradation due to rising water and a host of other climate change impacts.

Cold water fish in our region such a as winter flounder, American lobster and cod have left for colder deeper water north and further offshore. Yet warmer water fish stocks have moved up the coast such as black sea bass, scup and summer flounder in greater abundance.

This draft reauthorization bill is the culmination of a year-long listening tour Rep. Huffman led to get feedback on the legislation — part of the Congressman’s effort to foster a uniquely transparent, inclusive, science-based approach to updating this important law governing fisheries in American waters.

“This draft includes important and timely updates to the MSA, as well as provisions to strengthen communities and support those whose lives and livelihoods depend on healthy oceans and fisheries,” said Reps. Huffman and Case. “With the growing impacts of climate change, difficulties due to the ongoing pandemic, and rapidly evolving needs in fisheries management and science, amending and reauthorizing the MSA remains a top priority. We’re looking forward to the next phase of this process and receiving constructive commentary to inform and shape the bill’s introduction next year.”

In an effort to include as many opinions and viewpoints as possible, Rep. Huffman and Rep. Case held eight listening sessions and covered seven management regions on their nationwide fisheries listening tour. They heard from 80 different experts and stakeholders, in addition to public comments from dozens of members of the public in person and online. I was one of 80 people nationally who testified at congressional hearings held by Congressman Huffman’s subcommittee.A copy of the nearly 200-page MSA reauthorization discussion draft and a link to a bill summary can be found on Congressman Huffman’s website at https://huffman.house.gov.

Where’s the bite?

Cod fishing off Rhode Island and Massachusetts south of Cape Cod is a good bet this holiday week and in January. Party boats fishing for cod this winter include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.

Freshwater: Anglers are targeting largemouth, pike and trout this week. In Rhode Island, the DEM restocked ponds and select waterways with trout last week. For updates on stocking in Rhode Island, visit DEM’s Facebook page or call 401-789-0281.

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 dmontifish@verizon.com.

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