The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which manages fish in federal waters (three to 200 miles offshore), and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), which regulates fishing in state waters (from the coast to three miles offshore), have scheduled a series of scoping hearings in light of the new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) data.
The aim of the hearings is to gather public input on the range of issues and information to be considered in the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment.
The amendment will consider potential modifications to the allocations of catch or landings between the commercial and recreational sectors for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. The commercial and recreational allocations for all three species were set in the mid-1990s based on historical proportions of landings (for summer flounder and black sea bass) or catch (for scup) from each sector.
In July 2018, MRIP released revisions to its time series of catch (harvest and discards) estimates. As noted above, these revisions resulted in much higher recreational catch estimates compared to previous estimates, affecting the entire time series of data going back to 1981.
In a Jan. 7 press advisory, the Council and Commission said, “Some changes have also been made to commercial catch data since the allocations were established. The current commercial and recreational allocation percentages for all three species do not reflect the current understanding of the recent and historic proportions of catch and landings from the two sectors. This amendment will consider whether changes to these allocations are warranted.”
All fishermen are encouraged to submit comments in person or in writing on which options may or may not be useful or practical for meeting the goal of the amendment.
To learn more and how to comment on the Scoping and Public Information Document, visit the Council website at http://www.mafmc.org/actions/sfsbsb-allocation-amendment.
Massachusetts hearing: Thursday, Feb. 13, 6:00-7:30 p.m. — Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Admiral’s Hall, 101 Academy Drive, Buzzards Bay, MA 02532; Contact: Nichola Meserve, 617-626-1531.
Rhode Island hearing: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 6:00-7:30 p.m. — University of Rhode Island Bay Campus, Corless Auditorium, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882; Contact: Jason McNamee, 401-423-1943.
Can electronic recording provide better recreational data?
I believe that recording our catch and effort electronically on cellphones could be part of the long-term answer to gathering more timely and accurate catch and effort data from the recreational anglers. We have a good idea of what commercial fishers are catching, as they by law have to report fish they catch or release. However, recreational fishing catch and effort is estimated as noted above.
Getting a better idea of what fish recreational anglers are catching by scientifically valid electronic recording will take all or most of the guesswork out of projecting recreational harvest. Initially it could be a portion of the recreational sector that is engaged in electronic recording — a geographic area, or select species. Pilot electronic recording programs in other states that have used this approach have been successful. The aim is to complement MRIP data as we learn the best way to implement electronic recording.
I have been recording catch and effort on my charter boat for the past eight years electronically on an iPad, and this year I plan to switch to a cellphone. The software I use (by Harbor Lights Software) has been approved by NOAA in the Greater Atlantic Region. The software allows captains to take a cellphone, iPad or tablet on their vessel and record catch, effort, released fish, fish saved as food, and the size of the fish in real time. The system is GPS-based and can also track trips as an option, reporting the exact locations the fish are caught.
The software generates electronic reports that fulfill NOAA reporting requirements, and reports are also sent to the State of Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Division to fulfill reporting requirements such as the charter boat requirement this year to record all fish electronically. The software can also be used to fulfill reporting requirements for commercial rod and reel fishermen.
Electronic recording for me has been fun, educational for my customers, and has saved me a bunch of time. My hope is that the lessons learned reporting charter boat recreational catch and effort can be transferred to recreational fishing in general. We need to continue to fund electronic reporting projects, particularly those that explore using smartphone electronic reporting of recreational fishing in general. Better recreational catch data is needed so accurate harvest limits can be established that give anglers greater access to the fish.
This year NOAA has formed a task force to explore electronic recording in the recreational sector and to come up with a plan to integrate it into the fishery. Find out more at NOAA electronic recording.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater. Angler John Migliori of Aquidneck Island has been hooking up with trout and salmon at Melville Pond in Portsmouth, RI. Last week he caught his largest trout ever: a 25-inch, seven-pound 13-ounce rainbow trout using a Rooster tail lure. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle in Riverside, RI, said, “Fishing is good for trout, bass, even salmon at Only Pond, Lincoln, where a customer caught a small salmon this week from shore near a broken spot in the ice.”
Saltwater. Capt. Andy Dangelo of the Seven B’s party boat said, “We did OK this week, as the weather was good. Everyone caught at least one or two cod, with the mackerel and herring bite pretty good too. We are fishing Friday, Saturday and Sunday and any day that we have 10 or more interested in fishing, so call ahead to see if we are sailing.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “The end of the week saw much-improved cod fishing. Saturday we saw action all day long on every drop. Biggest fish of the week was in the mid-teens. The fish seem to have spread out from piles and we are finding fish on open ground again. Fingers crossed, hope we can chip away at them all winter long.” Party boats (inspected vessels that take more than six anglers, often 50 to 75 anglers) out of Rhode Island fishing for cod this winter include: the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, and Island Current III at www.islandcurrent.com. Rates per angler for cod fishing are about $100.