Travis Barao of East Providence holds up a summer flounder he caught off Block Island in state waters. Fluke can now be transported legally from Block Island through a special Federal waters transit zone to the mainland.

Last month, NOAA Fisheries made it a little easier to manage scup, black sea bass and summer flounder (fluke) in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The species are managed cooperatively by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in consultation with the New England and South Atlantic Fisheries Management Councils.

NOAA Fisheries announced the implementation of something called Framework Adjustment 14 to the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. The new rule provides more flexibility to commercial and recreational fisheries management.

First, the Framework Adjustment includes conservation equivalency as an annual management option for the black sea bass recreational fishery; second it creates a Federal waters transit zone in state waters around Block Island Sound; and third, it incorporates a maximum recreational size limit in the list of potential specie measures for summer flounder and black sea bass to enable consideration of slot limits as a management tool in the future.

The Framework Adjustment has been praised by state fishery mangers as it provides flexibility for state regulations moving forward. Details of the Framework Adjustment are noted below.

Black Sea Bass Recreational Conservation Equivalency

This action adds conservation equivalency as an annual management consideration for the black sea bass recreational fishery. The conservation equivalency process, which allows federal measures to be annually waived in lieu of appropriate state measures, is identical to what is currently in place for the summer flounder recreational fishery. Under conservation equivalency, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will decide each year, beginning in 2020, whether to use a combination of federal and state coastwide measures or conservation equivalency to manage the recreational black sea bass fishery. Conservation equivalency waives federal measures so long as the states implement appropriate measures.

Block Island Sound Transit Zone

This action also creates a transit area for state-only permitted vessels fishing for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass around Block Island to address issues when federal and state management measures differ. The transit zone mirrors the current transit area for striped bass and allows for transit for state-only permitted commercial and party/charter vessels and private recreational anglers with summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass on board that were legally harvested in state waters. These vessels may transit between the Rhode Island state waters surrounding Block Island and the coastal state waters of Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, or Massachusetts while complying with the state waters measures for those species. Transit through the defined area is allowed, provided that fishermen and harvest are compliant with all applicable state regulations, gear is stowed in accordance with federal regulations, no fishing takes place from the vessel while in federal waters, and the vessel is in continuous transit.

This transit provision does not apply to federally permitted vessels. There is no change to current federal regulations requiring all federally permitted vessels to abide by the measures of the state(s) in which they harvest or land their catch, or the federal waters measures, whichever are more restrictive.

Inclusion of maximum size limit

A maximum size limit can now be set through specifications for the summer flounder and black sea bass recreational fisheries. By including a maximum size, the Council can recommend both a minimum and maximum recreational size limit to allow for consideration of regular slot limits, split slot limits, and trophy fish when setting recreational measures each year. This action does not change any current Federal recreational measures, but adds flexibility in specifying future recreational management.

Where’s the bite?

Cod fishing has been good off Rhode Island when boats have been able to get out in-between high winds.

Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet, Pt. Judith said, “We had mixed cod fishing this past week with some very solid fishing and some very poor fishing. We had good fishing when we were able to drift. The grounds have been loaded with bait. Jigs have been the best bet. High hook boxed five keepers last week. There has been a good showing of shorts as well with some anglers jigging twelve on a trip. We have also been seeing more cunner on the grounds than we have ever seen. These are a great tasty treat in between codfish.”

Freshwater: No ice in area ponds yet so anglers continue to fish from shore weather permitting for freshwater species such as largemouth bass, pike and pickerel.

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 and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.

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