No Fluke: Fresh RI fish coming your way

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How would you like to buy fresh Rhode Island cod, striped bass or flounder for dinner tonight and know where and when it was caught and a little something about the captain and crew that caught it? This is what the Local Catch Pilot project of Farm Fresh Rhode Island and Local Catch, Inc. is doing. They aim to bring fresh local fish to market at competitive prices.

Hannah Mellion of Farm Fresh Rhode Island said, "We are applying the same model we used to successfully bring fresh RI produce to restaurants, farmer markets and supermarkets and are applying it to fresh fish caught in Rhode Island." Efforts to bring fresh RI fish to market were outlined last week by Local Catch, Inc. and Farm Fresh RI at the Special RI Senate Task Force on Fisheries chaired by Senator V. Susan Sosnowski (D-South Kingstown and New Shoreham). Larry Mouradjian and Ken Ayers of the Department of Environmental Management also spoke. Ken was responsible for helping to start the "RI Fresh" movement and said his department has set aside $20,000 in grant money to start a RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative whose purpose will be to market fresh Rhode Island fish.

Another speaker a last week's hearing was Eric Reid from Deep Sea Fish of Rhode Island, a RI seafood wholesaler, who said stable markets are needed to bring fresh RI fish to market, "We can't have derby fishing." Relating to the way fisheries are often managed by dictating that they must only fish on a limited number of days taking away their flexibility and ability to bring fish to market in a consistent, reliable manner (see below story on successful fisheries sector management techniques).

Steve Brustein, chef/manager of The Met, a Rhode Island School of Design campus restaurant, is a Farm Fresh Rhode Island customer. He said, "We loved it when Farm Fresh RI organized farmers and offered fresh produce to chefs, now we are very excited about the opportunity to purchase fresh fish."

Branding Rhode Island fish as fresh, wholesome, nutritious and reasonably priced is something that I think is a great idea. Branding RI fish in this manner will help recreational fishing in RI as well as commercial fishing.

NOAA points to success of "sector" fisheries management

Under a new fisheries management program effective since last May, revenues increased for the Northeast groundfishery during the first nine months of the 2010 fishing year compared to same period in 2009.

Higher average prices for all species accounted for the increased revenues. These are among the findings in an interim report released by NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Researchers looked at gross revenues, fishing effort, average vessel performance, distribution of revenues, and employment for the first nine months of the 2007 through 2010 fishing years. Among the new trends are increased revenues and prices. Revenues from all species on all trips by groundfish vessels in the first nine months of 2010 were up about $24 million over the same period in 2009.

New England groundfish management measures which took effect in 2010 include annual catch limits to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks and two options for controlling fishing effort. Fishermen can either form groups and fish an allotted share of the total allowed catch (like the RI Fluke Sector Pilot mentioned below) or fish individually with a limit on the number of days spent fishing.

Another successful example of "Sector" management is the commercial RI Fluke Sector Pilot which is now in its third year. Since its inception this Pilot Fluke Sector has grown, new members have been added as fishermen saw the benefits of flexibility… being able to fish when other species were not available or when market demand is highest. The sector has proven to be a very effective way to sustain the resource as well with record low discard rates compared to the days a sea method.

Rhode Island recreation saltwater fishing license challenge

Last week I received an e-mail from reader Tom Poirier who said he supported the Rhode Island bill that would "make the fishing license free", Rhode Island House Bill # 5584 introduced by Rep. Gallison of Bristol. Tom said, "The state of NY just put a two year moratorium on their license… (In RI) we are paying for something (data collection and research) that is not going to happen."

The Federal Government mandated that all coastal states have a registry (or license program) that supplied contact information on all saltwater anglers for surveys and data collection to obtain more accurate fishery data to manage better. The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) worked with DEM to write the Saltwater Fishing License law we presently have. Funds raised by the license will go into a separate fund that must be used to enhance the fishery. It does not go into the general fund. The Federal Government will use the data collected by the State to study recreational fishing.

Last week Gary Leatherberry, an avid angler and associate at Erickson's Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said during a NBC Channel 10 interview that he supported the existing State license law, saw the need for data collection to better manage and had faith that the funds collected would be properly used. This is a view shared by many anglers including RISAA, an organization that represents over 6,000 recreational anglers in Rhode Island. The State of RI is in tough fiscal condition. Funds to implement a state registry with no fee would likely make the situation worse.

Where's the bite?

Striped bass fishing continues to improve. Rich Di Giuseppe of North Kingstown caught a nice keeper bass (very clean fish) in Greenwich Bay on No Fluke Charters Friday night. John Wunner of John's Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown reports keeper bass being caught by customers at Mt. View in North Kingstown and in Greenwich Bay. Craig Castro of Erickson's Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said school bass are being caught in Apponaug and Greenwich coves. Bob Oberg fished the East Bay Friday night from his kayak, at sundown on an outgoing tide, he said "Caught four fish in about twenty minutes, including a 29-incher and a 27-incher… using tube and worm with a light rod."

The squid are in and are being taken at Goat Island and Ft. Wetherill said John Wunner of John's Bait & Tackle. Charlie Santos of Tiverton said, "The squid fishers are shoulder to shoulder at the Calamari Causeway (Goat Island) Newport…(they are also likely) at Fort Getty in Jamestown, Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, Pt. Judith docks, on the Cape in Falmouth and the Woods Hole town docks."

Fluke. Bruce, an associate at Breachway Bait & Tackle in Charlestown, said customers have been catching small fluke with some keepers off southern coastal beaches. Similar reports from Francis Fleet vessels.

Tautog bite remains good in the bay with hot action taking place in the upper bay. John Wunner said, "Bullocks Point, Rocky Point, Conimicut Light and other East Bay areas are producing good sized tautog."

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. Your fishing stories, comments and questions are welcome… there's more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave's No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com or e-mail him at dmontifish@verizon.net.

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