Paul Newman of New Jersey caught this 21.57-pound tautog when fishing with Tall Tailz Charters off Newport last week. If certified, it will be a new Rhode Island state record.

It’s no secret: climate-change impacts of warming water, coastal erosion, habitat degradation, low oxygen and acidification are changing how we fish and how fish should be managed.

One has to wonder: what happens when the water warms to the point that even the warm-water fish that have moved into our area like black sea bass, scup and summer flounder leave to go further north to cooler water? Our federal fishing law is not equipped to handle these impacts.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, chaired by Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02), examined the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, authored by Reps. Huffman and Ed Case (HI-01). The legislation aims to update and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary law governing federal fisheries management and conservation that has made the U.S. a global leader in sustainable fisheries.

“America is truly a leader in sustainable fisheries management, but the MSA hasn’t been reauthorized in over a decade. And while it’s an important law that has stood the test of time, it needs some updates, particularly concerning the impacts of climate change,” said Rep. Huffman. “Through our uniquely inclusive, transparent process, Rep. Case and I were able to create an MSA reauthorization bill that meets the challenges of the climate crisis and puts the focus back on the needs of fishing communities. From the listening sessions to taking comments, we have genuinely heard from stakeholders all over the board; I’m excited that we were able to take the bill one step further today with this hearing.”

In an effort to include as many opinions and viewpoints as possible, Reps. Huffman and 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.

“The Fisheries for the Future Act continues this progress by offering comprehensive updates to address current challenges, strengthen sustainable management approaches, and prepare our fisheries for the impacts of climate change,” Ms. Meredith Moore, Director of the Fish Conservation Program, Ocean Conservancy stated in her written testimony at the hearing. “The proposed changes to the MSA contained in the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act would provide a path to address the impacts of climate change on our fisheries and prepare for the changes ahead in the near- and long-term. These changes to the law are needed because every part of the conservation and management of fisheries — the research and survey process, stock assessments, management decisions and fishing practices — will be affected by climate change”

“With the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, Chairman Jared Huffman and Rep. Ed Case have given Congress a good starting point for ensuring that our fisheries management system continues to support American livelihoods and coastal economies, and is ready to meet the challenges of the future — including for the first time addressing the effects of climate change on U.S. ocean fisheries by incorporating climate science and adaptation strategies into management decisions.” said Robert Vandermark, Executive Director of Marine Fish Conservation Network, in a comment after the hearing.

Record 21.57-pound tautog caught off Newport

Paul Newman of New Milford, NJ, caught a 33”, 21.57-pound tautog when fishing on a charter with Capt. Connor MacLeod of Newport. If the catch is certified, it will be a new Rhode Island record. The Rhode Island record displayed now on the state’s website is a 21-pound, 4-ounce tautog caught in 1954 by C.W. Sunquist.

In an On-the-Water magazine online article (by Corey Pollnow), Capt. MacLeod said, “Newman dropped the Snafu Rig to the bottom and said he was stuck in the rocks. But then there was movement, signaling a large tog swallowed the white crab and was burying itself in the rocks. Newman slowly cranked down on the reel, getting the stout tautog 20 feet up from the bottom, until it ran back to the rocks like a striped bass. The back-and-forth battle continued four more times until the gigantic fish reached the surface.”

Congratulations to Paul Newman for a great catch and to Capt. Connor MacLeod of Tall Tailz Charters.

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass. Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters in Westerly said, “Last week we had a wave of large fish come through, and this week it’s a wave of school-size bass. That’s the way it will be until the fall run lets up. But anglers are catching fish from the breachways, the Watch Hill Light and the beaches.” Canal Bait & Tackle in Sagamore reports a good striped bass bite on the Cape Cod Canal, with slot-size fish 28 inches to less than 35 inches being taken on jigs on the east end of the canal. Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box in Warwick said, “The striped-bass bite in the upper bay has diminished, but we still have fish passing through. This weekend a customer caught a 21-inch striped bass.”

Tautog. “Tautog fishing is on fire,” said Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters. “The interesting thing is that shore anglers fishing jetties and rock piles close to shore are doing very well too. They are catching keeper fish every time they go out.” Giddings of the Tackle Box said, “The tautog bite in the mid and upper Narragansett Bay has been outstanding. Ohio Ledge, Rocky Point and Conimicut Light are all doing great. In fact, we had a customer catch a 21-inch tautog at Conimicut Light last week.” Although a record 21.57-pound tautog was caught by Paul Newman of New Jersey last week, tautog fishing in rough and turbid water during much of last week was not good. However, the bite in the bay with calmer waters produced for anglers. This week when things settled down, fishing off Newport was good. Angler Greg Spier said Wednesday, “Fished outgoing tide, in front of Newport with the fleet on Wednesday. Used both traditional rigs and TJ jigs. Jigs outfished 2-to-1. Tide died and so did fishing. Got limit with my record 7.95-pound, on traditional rig, currently first place in Seakonnet Sportsman’s Club in Portsmouth’s annual fishing tournament. Bragging right for a night.”

Freshwater fishing is pretty much focused on largemouth bass. Customers are using spinner baits and live baits (minnows) to catch fish. In the Warwick area, ponds producing for anglers include Gorton’s Pond, Sand Pond and Warwick Lake,” said Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to dmontifish@verison.net or visit noflukefishing.com.