crappie caught by Gil Bell

Ice fishing has been good this week. Anglers are catching pickerel, perch and crappie like this 14-inch crappie caught by Gil Bell of Rhode Island.

Now that it is cold, everyone needs 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 is safe to fish or skate on and use the safety tips offered on state websites before you walk out on the ice.

Ice must have a uniform thickness of at least six inches before it is considered safe by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. 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.

Visit the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website for ice safety tips by searching for “ice strength and safety” at mass.gov.

In Rhode Island, the DEM Division of Parks and Recreation provides information about safe ice conditions at State Parks. DEM’s 24-hours ice information line is 401-667-6222. An ice safety guide can be found online at riparks.com.

Public hearings on summer flounder, scup, black sea bass

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that provides regulations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for fishing in state waters from shore to three miles offshore, are seeking public comment on the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment. Comments may be submitted at any of five virtual public hearings to be held between Feb. 17 and March 2 or via written comment until March 16.

The Council and Commission are developing this joint amendment to consider adjusting the allocations of catch or landings between the commercial and recreational fisheries for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. The commercial and recreational allocations for all three species are currently based on historical proportions of landings (for summer flounder and black sea bass) or catch (for scup) from each sector.

Recent changes in how recreational catch is estimated have resulted in a discrepancy between the current levels of estimated recreational harvest and the allocations of summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass to the recreational sector. Some changes have also been made to commercial catch data since the allocations were established.

The amendment considers whether modifications to the allocations are needed in light of these and other changes in the fisheries. The amendment also considers options that would allow a portion of the allowable landings to be transferred between the commercial and recreational sectors each year, in either direction, based on the needs of each sector.

Anglers are encouraged to visit the Council’s Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment web page, information on the amendment, the public hearing schedule, how to submit written comments or how to register for the online public hearings, see the press release on allocation public hearings at asmfc.org.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are having a joint hearing on Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. Contact Nichola Meserve (MA) at 617-626-1531 or Jason McNamee (RI) 401-222-4700 for information.

Still time to weigh in on wind farm environmental impact statement

There is still until Feb. 22 to comment online or register for one of the online 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, which is responsible for this DEIS, did not address recreational fishing in this DEIS.

The South Fork Wind Farm, a 15-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, R.I.

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 tethys.pnnl.gov.

I am also a believer in the reef effort, as the science, my anectdotal 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.

One more BOEM public meeting will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. More information, including the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, instructions for comments, and registration for the virtual public meetings can be found at boem.gov. and search for “South fork wind farm DEIS virtual meetings”.

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater: Ice fishing has been good at Massachusetts and Rhode Island ponds where ice is safe. “Customers are catching perch, crappie and pickerel at Stump Pond, Smithfield, R.I., and Carbuncle Pond Coventry, R.I.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence. Ted Oven of Northeast Trading Company, North Attleboro said, “We just starting to get calls for ice fishing as we haven’t had good ice until this past week.” At press time, Pam Quinn of the Attleboro Fire Safety Department said, “We can’t proclaim an entire pond safe for fishing or skating as there is no way of telling if it is safe all around so we tend not to declare an entire pond safe.” For fresh water licensing information in Massachusetts visit mass.gov.

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 dmontifish@verizon.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com.

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