It is not often that fish science reaches out and touches families. But this Monday three partners will turn a scientific fish monitoring survey into a recreational fishing experience for several Narragansett families.
For the second year in a row, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in conjunction with the RI Party and Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA) and the Narragansett Department of Parks and Recreation, will take families fishing while collecting samples of tautog. Approximately 200 samples of tautog in a diverse range of sizes will be collected annually for analysis in a scientific monitoring program. Data collected during the survey is used in the age structured stock assessment for that species.
Dan Costa, Galilee port manger in DEM's Division of Fish & Wildlife, came up with the idea last year of taking families fishing while the tautog samples are collected. Samples collected include legal size tautog (16" or larger) as well as smaller fish for analysis. Families benefit from the fishing experience and take the tautog filets home to eat. The fish racks are kept for the research study.
Capt. John Rainone of L'il Toot Charters (past president of the RIPCBA) said, "This is the second year we have taken Narragansett families fishing for this study and this year we were able to expand it with more boats." The vessels taking families fishing include charter boats "Priority Too," operated by Capt. Rick Bellavance; "Sea Devil," operated by Capt. Kelly Smith; "L'il Toot," operated by Capt. John Rainone; "Bare Bones," operated by Capt. Steven Anderson; and "Carol J," operated by Capt. Paul Johnson. All participating vessels are members of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association.
"In addition to the scientific benefits, this special project is providing several families with an opportunity to take part in a fun-filled day of fishing on a charter vessel and to bring home some freshly-caught fish," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "All in all, this collaborative project is providing a boost to our science and a deepened appreciation for the variety of marine life in our seas for the participating families."
Steve Wright, director of the Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department said, "This annual program provides a unique opportunity for deserving families from Narragansett to go fishing on a local charter boat and at the same time help DEM collect important scientific data."
DEM staff members that volunteered their time for the event, include Dan Costa, Jason McNamee, Nicole Lengyel, Kevin Smith and Chris Deacutis. This year's program will take place on Monday, November 11, with vessels leaving the Port of Galilee at 8 a.m. and returning to the port at approximately 12 p.m.
Tautog longevity and regulations
Tautog are slow growers… that is why research such as the age structured stock assessment conducted annually for the species is so important. Tautog are long-lived with the oldest male fish examined estimated at 34 years old. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) tautog world record is 25 pounds, caught by Anthony Monica of Ocean City, New Jersey on January 20, 1998. Male tautog can live for 30 years and females 25 years according to NOAA. In Rhode Island the tautog minimum size is 16", six fish/person/day with a boat limit of ten fish, the season ends December 15. Charter and party boats not subject to ten fish boat limit.
Where's the bite
Striped bass fishing has slowed along the southern Rhode Island coastline said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly. Wade said, "The seas were very rough last week keeping many shore anglers off the beaches." Striped bass bite is good in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay with school bass being caught. Manny Sousa of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, "School striped bass with keepers mixed in have been caught in Westport and off Bullock's Point, East Providence." Noted local shore fisherman Steve McKenna of Cranston said, "Shore fishing has seen an upturn even with some bad weather. Traditionally, the last week of October and the first week of November are excellent and some of the best fishing of the season... I know of several nice fish from the mid twenties to close to forty pounds that where landed in locations along the Narragansett shoreline."
Squid fishing is excellent with good numbers of large fish in the area. Manny Sousa of Lucky Bait said, "We sold a lot of squid rigs this weekend. The fishing has been great and the squid are large. A couple came in and between them bought 13 squid rigs form our wide selection of rigs."
Tautog fishing has been good with unusually large fish being taken this fall. A 15 pound fish was weighed in at Lucky's Bait last week which followed the 16 pound fish caught earlier this season weighed in at Ray's Bait & Tackle, Warwick. Greg Bruning of The Tackle Box, Warwick, said, "We have gone through a lot of crabs… tautog fishing is good… I fished at Coddington Cove last week and caught mostly short tautog but the bio mass was great." George Hadfield reports on the RISAA blog, "Went out Tuesday for tautog from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Picked up nine keeper sized fish up to 22 " and four shorts. Slow and steady but never got real hot. Fished in 25 feet over the rocks that extend from the shore north of Narrow River. A lot of birds working as well, very small bait." Wade of Watch Hill said, "The blackfish are on the reefs in shallow water as water temperatures are still fairly warm in the Westerly area. In a week or two when the water starts to cool the fish will move out to deeper water." The tautog bite remains strong off Newport at Brenton Reef and at Seal Ledge. Capt. John Sheriff reports a good tautog bite off Newport all last week with anglers reaching their limit. Steve McKenna of Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown, said "Tautog fishing from shore and boat has been nothing short of spectacular… Last week we sold more than 15 bushels of green crabs. That's a lot of crabs! One boat fisherman that frequents the store and who is an avid tautog fisherman said he has never ever seen blackfishing so good. He has been at it for over 30 years." Anglers fishing the Hope Island area this weekend had poor results managing mostly short fish with very few keeper sized tautog. Capt. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters said, "Fishing was difficult with rough seas Monday as the water was cloudy. We moved west, close to the southern shore fishing a couple of wrecks to get out of the wind and high seas. We did better there as things were calmer." Art Marshall reports a great fishing trip with Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters. "Capt. BJ had spots ranging from inside the bay in 30' (where we walloped nice keeper sized fish) to the deep waters off of Ocean Drive. By days end…(we boated) over 100 fish… most over the size limit, and one trophy fish close to 11 pounds." said Marshall.
Fresh water fishing continues to be good with largemouth bass and pike being caught by anglers at Chapman's Pond, Westerly. "Their bait of choice is mummies and shiners," said Mike Wade of Watch Hill.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.