I was in Washington last week with fishermen throughout the country advocating for the fish. The fishermen I was with met with Rhode Island and Massachusetts senate and congressional offices to gain their insight and update them on important issues.

The Rhode Island senators and congressmen do a good job when it comes to fisheries. In fact, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have been on the forefront of not only fisheries issues but climate change issues such as rising water and erosion of our coastline, warming water and its impact on fish and fishing. We are in good hands in Washington.

Key issues discussed included the impact of recreational fishing. According to an NOAA study, recreational fishing has a $200-million dollar annual economic impact on Rhode Island. However, three bills introduced in Congress (with versions soon to be introduced in the Senate) would have a major long-term impact on both commercial and recreational fishing.

House bill H.R. 200 would both liberalize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (the fishing law of this nation), allowing more fish to be taken out of the ocean for short-term financial gain.

These short-term gains would be possible by eliminating the need for Allowable Catch Limits (ACLs) on rebuilt fish stocks. A quick assessment shows that if these bills passed, possibly all but 30 of 400 species would have Allowable Catch Limits. Fish stocks have been rebuilt in the United States in part due to Allowable Catch Limits. To eliminate them on stocks that have rebuilt could take away the gains we have made to rebuild stocks and allow species to become overfished before catch limits can be put back in place.

These bills do not put fish first, they do not grow fish to abundance for all to catch and eat but rather put fish stocks at risk for overfishing, making them available for short-term gain for some.

Summer flounder bill

Congressmen Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., sponsored bill H.R. 1411 that would prevent NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) from implementing regulations that would reduce summer flounder harvest limits.

Summer flounder spawning stock has been down for six years in a row and coast-wide anglers have overfished. With this declining biomass and overfishing, the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which regulates summer flounder coastwide, found it necessary to reduce commercial and recreational harvest levels by about 30 percent in 2017.

The Magnusson-Stevens Act has given NOAA Fisheries the authority to manage the fish in order to grow them to abundance for all. Under this federal fishing law over 40 fish stocks have been rebuilt. Weakening federal fishing laws would allow states motivated by self-interests and short-term gains to manage fish with their best interest at heart and not the best interest of the country or the fish.

Where’s the bite

“Freshwater fishing for trout is starting to taper off as ponds and lakes stocked by [the] DEM are starting to get fished out a bit like Willet Avenue in Riverside.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle. The DEM is scheduled to restock select ponds with trout in time for Free Fishing Weekend May 6-7. However, fishing for other species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass has been good. Angler Dareus Boragine fished the Stafford Pond in Tiverton last week and landed a 3-pound smallmouth bass using a Dirty Jig. He fished Spectacle Lake near his home and landed a nice carp, too.

Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Trout fishing continues to be good with large fish 17 to 20 inches being caught at Only Pond, Lincoln and Silver Spring Lake in South County.”

Tautog fishing is receiving mixed reviews. Most anglers and bait shop owners are reporting a very slow bite. However, some customers of the Tackle Box in Warwick are landing fish. Dareus Boragine of Cranston, a sales associate at the Tackle Box, said, “We have had keeper tautog caught in the upper reaches of the Providence River and at Jamestown and Newport.” Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, “We have sold some crabs but have no reports of fish being landed.”

Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle said, “Customers have had negative results tautog fishing, no one has reported catching anything.”

John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “Three customers fished the Conimicut Light area this week and had no luck. They caught one short fish. Others fishing the Wharf Tavern from shore got no bites at all.”

The hope is that the tautog bite will improve with the warm weather this week.

Fishing for school striped bass has been fair. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, said, “Customers have caught striped bass in the upper portions of the Providence River.”

“School striped bass are in the lower Bay, just north of the bridges out in front to Allen’s Harbor but the fish have not worked their way in mass into Apponaug or East Greenwich Coves yet,” said Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle.

Elisa Cahill said, “There have been more fish on the West Wall [of the Harbor of Refuge] and they have been getting larger but it is still hit or miss depending on the day that you fish.”

Last week Csin and Omar Curi caught school bass in Greenwich Cove. “They were using jumping minnow lures,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle. Fly fishing expert Joe Lombardo said, “We fished the Narrow River Saturday and Sunday and found good numbers of striped bass. These fish were not resident fish but fresh ocean bass. Not only good numbers of fish but some of these bass were in the 20” class, very nice on 7 & 8 [weight] fly rods.”

Cod fishing was off. Still a lot of bait on the fishing grounds so party boat captains fishing for cod are optimistic.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He 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 and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit his website at noflukefishing.com.