Recreational angler voices were heard at the East Coast Climate Change Scenario Planning Workshops held Aug. 17 and 23, 2022. The initiative is sponsored by the three East Coast Fishery Management Councils, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and NOAA Fisheries.
The aim of the East Coast Climate Change Scenario Planning initiative is to try to guess, with the available scientific information we have, as to what recreational and commercial fishing will be like in twenty years. How will climate impact us, what can we do to prepare and how should governance and how we manage fisheries be adjusted to accommodate change.
Members of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Associaton and their affiliates attended both input sessions which were designed to garner input on possible scenarios developed by a working group of 75 scientists, commercial fishers and anglers last month.
Greg Vespe, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, summarized member input at the workshops in a letter sent to the Scenario Planning Core Team. Here are some highlights.
First, we believe climate change is and will have a profound impact on recreational fishing. With all the uncertainty ahead, we emphasize that abundant, healthy fisheries should still be the goal of management.
New arrivals. Fish stocks arriving in new areas due to climate impacts will experience an explosion at first, plenty of food, limited predators, but the boom may not last for 20 years, things even out so need a scenario like this.
What will things be like 20 years from now i.e. striped bass spawning in New England, BSB biomass in Canada?, etc. Very hard to predict. Not enough of this visioning was integrated into the scenarios.
Recreational fishing is at a big disadvantage as we have data poor stocks already i.e. bonito, false albacore with little research done to date as they are not commercially harvested versus science now available on summer flounder, scup, black sea bass and other fish that are commercially harvested.
Does all this fish movement mean species will be spawning in different places i.e. striped bass and will we have the habitat and spawning grounds to support them, and how can we get ahead of things and plan for the use of new spawning grounds?
Protected species/mammals are expected to be greatly impacted i.e. whale collisions in northeast with rec boaters/fishers this summer.
In all scenarios recreational fishing is taking it on the chin as access points are disappearing due to sea level rise, habitat degrading, etc. Even with the best case scenario of good/accurate science and healthy stocks access points are disappearing with urban anglers suffering most and social environmental justice becomes a major part of the climate impact discussion as it relates to recreational fishing.
“In summary, as part of the solution phase, we need to identify recreational and commercial climate research needs separately to accomodate recreational species that are data poor,” said Greg Vespe. “We need to assess climate research and stock assessment needs, put a number to them, and work together to seek funding and get it approved being mindful of social environmental justice concerns every step of the way.”
Where’s the bite?
Striped bass, bluefish, bonito, false albacore and mackerel. Harrison Gatch of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly, said, “Striper fishing from the beaches and on Westerly/Watch Hill reefs slowed a bit this week. Many anglers who normally fish Block Island for bass are fishing for tuna.”
Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, “Striped bass fishing is definitely off a bit, around Newport, at Block Island and in front of Point Judith. Patience is the name of the game with striped bass the last couple of weeks. We also have lots of bonito, false albacore, chub and frigate mackerel to play with on the surface too.”
The false albacore bite came alive this week with anglers catcher more of them. The bluefish bite has been good along the coastal shore, in and around the Cape Cod Canal and in Narragansett Bay as well. We casted to blues on the surface feeding on peanut bunker (immature Atlantic menhaden) this week for a couple of days in the West Passage off Quonset Point, North Kingstown. The fish were all over 30 inches.
East End Eddie Doherty said, “The bluefish that had invaded the Cape Cod Canal are now accompanied by enormous schools of striped bass! Last Wednesday brought the first real blitz of the season when hundreds of schoolies, slots and larger striped bass rode by the Railroad Bridge on an east flood tide just after first light. The fish were hanging close to the Cape side where the partial shade provides slightly cooler water temperatures. Expert angler Bob Weir from Taylor Point landed some fish on the beach at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy including a slot at noon that fell for a white Al Gags soft plastic jig half way through the west tide. The boiling surface magic has continued every morning with multiple catches of big fish.”
Tuna. “The yellowfin tuna bite around the Block Island Wind Farm has been outstanding with the bluefin tuna bite good offshore,” said Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle. Harrison Gatch of Watch Hill, said, “Everyone seems to be focusing on hardtails. The yellowfin bite south of the Block Island Wind Farm has been very good.”
Fluke, black sea bass and scup. Large scup are being caught off Newport, in our Bays and at Block Island. Just about anywhere there is structure and water movement. “Fluke fishing has been good the past two weeks at the Block Island Wind Farm with fish also being caught off Pt. Judith and Newport,” said Sullivan. Gatch said, “Fluke fishing has been very good behind the Block Island Wind Farm.”
Tautog fishing reports have been good. Last week Agosto Petrucci of Warwick caught his three fish tautog limit off Newport with his one allowed trophy fish being 26 inches. In a text message Agosto said, “Knot bad for a ninety year-old fisherman.” “Anglers are catching their limit of three fish,” said Gatch of Watch Hill.
Freshwater fishing for largemouth bass exploded the past week or two. “Largemouth bass fishing is the best it has been all year,” said Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle.
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to email@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com
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