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by CAPTAIN DAVE MONTI
The final agenda and meeting materials for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) 2021 Winter Meeting Webinar (Feb. 1-4, 2021) are now available at http://www.asmfc.org/home/2021-winter-meeting-webinar; click on the relevant Board/Committee name to access the documents for that Board/Committee. For ease of access, all meeting documents have been combined into one document: Main Meeting Materials.
The ASMFC managers most of the fish species recreational anglers like to catch and eat in State waters from the three mile limit to shore and inland. Commission Board meetings that are of particular interest to anglers include the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board; an important American Striped Bass Board meeting where the stock assessment timeline and the new proposed circle hook regulations could be voted on as a final action; as well as an Atlantic Menhaden Management Board meeting and a number of other species meetings.
Supplemental materials were posted to the website on Wednesday, Jan. 27. The Commission may adjust this agenda in accordance with the actual duration of Board meetings. If meetings run late the next meeting may start later than originally planned.
Board meeting proceedings will be broadcast daily via webinar beginning Monday, Feb. 1 at 9: 30 a.m. and continuing daily until the conclusion of the meeting (expected to be 4: 30 p.m.) on Thursday, Feb. 4. The webinar will allow registrants to listen to board deliberations and view presentations and motions as they occur. To register for the webinar go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4886491769864000527, Webinar ID# 151-774-483.
Each day, the webinar will begin 30 minutes prior to the start of the first meeting so that people can troubleshoot any connectivity or audio issues they may encounter. If you are having issues with the webinar (connecting to or audio related issues), please contact Chris Jacobs at 703.842.0790.
Striped Bass Board meeting The Commission’s Striped Bass Board will be meeting to discuss a revised draft of the “Public Information Document” (PID) for Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Management plan, but also to discuss discard mortality and state circle hook mandate compliance.
Capt. John McMurray, ASMFC member and president of the American Saltwater Guides Association said, “Of course recreational discards are high, as they are high in any fishery that is valued primarily as a sport fishery. We need to and we have mandated gear requirements e.g. circle hooks in bait fisheries that will reduce release mortality where it can be reduced, and yes, there should be outreach on better handling techniques, but overall, it is foolish to think we can effectively address high discards in this fishery because people will always practice catch and release, whether it’s voluntary or size-limit driven.”
McMurray continued, “A 9 percent discard mortality rate isn’t terribly high in my opinion, and it’s simply part of the fishery and should be accepted as such. One thing is crystal clear. Turning discards/releases into harvest will drive fishing mortality higher by orders of magnitude, and that certainly isn’t a solution, although some still seem to be hanging onto it.”
The Stipend Bass Board is expected to take a look at a revised Public Information Documents at next week’s meeting before approving it for public comment with public hearings on Amendment 7 likely held in the spring.
A few things to watch include the revisiting of the Goals and Objectives of the management plan. Capt. McMurray said, “This opens the door to completely alter how we manage striped bass, and if we aren’t very vocal about our interests during the public comment period things could go bad quickly. We also need to keep a close eye on the reference point and management trigger comments. These could seriously lower the bar on what a healthy stock looks like and how the board reacts to problems in the fishery.”
On a positive note in regard to Amendment 7 McMurray said, “There’s also a few opportunities to really improve things. For one, we have a real opportunity to improve on how the Commission does Conservation Equivalency (CE) – allowing states to craft their own equivalent (on paper) regulations. Some states clearly use it to liberalize regulations. And for sure we can clarify some parameters around CE regulations and of course ask for some state accountability when they fail, which they often do.” Where’s the bite? Freshwater fishing is focusing on large and smallmouth bass. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, said, “Things are kind of slow. We are in-between ice fishing, shore and kayak fishing. Not enough ice to ice fish in most ponds, but too much ice to launch a kayak or fish from shore in some places… Some anglers are trout fishing in ponds stocked by the states of RI and MA.” For 2021 licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.
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 [email protected] or visit www.noflukefishing.com.
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