We need to put the brakes on climate change and its impacts. The last five years were the warmest five years ever. With all the heat warming water is impacting a lot of things including the fish we like to catch and eat.
Cold water fish such as winter flounder, American lobster and cod have moved north or out to deeper water. Warm water fish such as black sea bass, scup and summer founder (fluke) have moved in to the area in greater abundance. And exotic warm water fish like cobia and Wahoo are off the southern New England coast now more than ever. Some charter captains from Rhode Island are actually running Wahoo fishing trips.
So with all this heat we need to slow down and reverse climate change and its impacts. Renewable energy such as solar and wind power are key. That’s why I paid particular attention to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) announcement of a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Vineyard Wind, an 84 turbine wind farm being built off the coast of Massachusetts.
The SEIS in its entirety (all 420 pages, they even have a large print version) is very detailed and appears with illustrations and the public hearing schedule on the SEIS at https://www.boem.gov/Vineyard-Wind-SEIS-Virtual-Meeting .
In regard to recreational fish and fishing the report relates that offshore wind, specifically the Vineyard Wind wind farm will have minor positive impacts on fishing. However, the best science to date and our experience to date with the Block Island Wind Farm, is that offshore wind farms have a major positive impact on fish and fishing. So far, so good
In March 2019, a peer-reviewed study titled, "Meta-analysis of fish abundance at offshore wind farms," was published in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture magazine. The study utilizes a meta-analysis of studies that have examined the abundance of finfish inside European wind farms compared to nearby reference sites development. All studies analyzed were peer reviewed, 100’s of studies were culled out of the analysis as they did not meet rigid study criteria. The study concluded that “The overall effect was positive and significantly different from zero, indicating a greater abundance of fish inside of wind farms” for both soft-bottom and complex-bottom fish species. Block Island Wind Farm a success
Another example of enhanced finfish in a wind farm is the Block Island Wind Farm. More than 50 scientists presented their research findings at the Southern New England Offshore Wind Energy Science Forum held December 2017. The Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF), the first ocean wind farm in America, has had no remarkable adverse effects on the environment, fish, mammals, birds and people. I say “no remarkable adverse effects” because there have been some subtle changes with seabed organisms. This finding still holds up today in 2020 as some of the studies have been ongoing.
Recreational fishing at the BIWF has been good, perhaps a bit better, even though fishing pressure in the area has increased 200 percent by recreational anglers as it is now a destination. At the Block Island Wind Farm there are gillnets set right up to the turbines, commercial fishermen trawl along the side of the wind farm and recreational anglers fish right up to the pylons. Just how fishing in windfarms should be.
Recreational anglers should advocate for the responsible development of wind farms with fish and habitat research conducted before, during and after construction to make sure to safe guard our fisheries resource. But we need to base management decision on facts and not opinions. And the facts are that offshore wind farms create a greater abundance of fish compared to non-wind farm areas. Fish that both recreational anglers and commercial fishermen target.
At press time, two remaining public hearings on the Vineyard Wind SEIS are schedule one on July 7 and a second on July 9. Here are details:
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
1 p.m. ET
Webinar Link: https://boemorep.zoomgov.com/
Webinar ID: 161 545 2574
Webinar Password: BOEM
Phone Number: 888-606-7043
Phone Passcode: 6516733 Thursday, July 9, 2020
5 p.m. Link: https://boemorep.zoomgov.com/
Webinar ID: 160 149 0543
Webinar Password: BOEM
Phone Number: 888-606-7043
Phone Passcode: 6516733 Where’s the bite?
“Striped bass are being taken at the North Rip and Southwest side of Block Island on umbrella rigs (with sand eel baits) and with eels at night. The bite has been very good.” said Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown. In Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays keeper bass are being taken primarily with Atlantic menhaden, both live lining them and chunking with them. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, said, “Bass fishing in the upper and mid Bay remains fairly strong with anglers taking fish on pogies, many fish are below the slot limit of 28” to < 35” and a bunch of fish are above the slot.” Bass fishing along the southern coastal shore remains spotty for keepers but good for school bass.
Summer Flounder (fluke) fishing was a mystery this week. The fluke bite in the Bay was not good. The fish being caught were primarily short. Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor said, “Fluke fishing was a mystery this past week. Any keeper fish being caught were on the south side of Block Island in 80 to 90 feet of water. And the south shore bite was spotty with primarily shorts being caught with an occasion small keeper mixed in.” The minimum size for fluke is 19 inches, and in RI it is six fish/person/day. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Customers are still hooking up with fluke a Warwick Light.” Littlefield at Archie’s said, “At the end of last week the bite at Warwick light was not consistent. One day an angler fished there and caught three keepers. The next day he returned and did not catch any.” My experience this week at Warwick Light was similar. A good start to the week Sunday but by the time Thursday and Friday rolled along the bite seemed off at Warwick Light.
Black sea bass seems to be the hot bite both inshore and offshore. The mouth of the Sakonnet River was hot, yielding some of the largest fish I have heard being caught in the area. “Large balck sea bass are being caught on the southwest side of Block Island and at the Hooter Buoy.” said Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor. Angler Bob Murray of the RISAA board and the vessel Skipjack said, “The bite at the mouth of the Sakonnet was outstanding last week. I caught a 6.58 pound, 25-inch black sea bass there using a buck Some nice keepers but a lot of short fish are being caught.
Offshore. Cod fishing is good at Shark Ledge and at Cox Ledge with some mako sharks being caught at the Fingers and the Dump. Reports of some bluefin tuna being caught there too,” said Elis Cahill of Snug Harbor.
Freshwater fishing remains good. But a big shortage of shiners is staring to inhibit the freshwater bass fishery. “We ran out of shiners again, anglers are starting to by lures to catch bass and we are selling a lot of worms so anglers are switching off and catching other species.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bai & Tackle.
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@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.