ASMFC Says No to Conservation Equivalency for Bass and Blues
Whether fishing from a charter boat (upper left), from shore (upper right), or a party boat (bottom) for bluefish deemed overfished, this year will be different. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Expect these recreational bluefish regulations for 2020: three for private and shore anglers (top) and five for charter and party boat for-hire fishers (bottom). Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
A scheduled meeting of the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection to gain input on proposed conservation equivalency (CE) jointly proposed by Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York was abruptly canceled as a result of meetings of both the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Management Board and the Bluefish Management Board.
After much deliberation, it was recognized “that the effects of combined CE measures had the potential to fall short of the 18-percent reduction needed to achieve F (fishing level) target in 2020.” Therefore, after paring down the number of measures being considered under Addendum VI, a decision was made by the board to address CE proposals on a state-by-state basis, ultimately leading to a failed motion (5 in favor, 6 opposed, 4 abstentions) and leaving Connecticut without any options available to consider. As a result, Connecticut will implement a one-fish, 28- to 35-inch slot limit for striped bass in 2020 as originally adopted by the board. Circle hook implementation plans for recreational circle hook provisions need to be submitted by Aug. 15, 2020.
In December 2019, the Bluefish Management Board approved “a three-fish bag limit for private and shore-based anglers and a five-fish bag limit for the for-hire fishermen,” as coast-wide measures for the 2020 recreational fishery. Bluefish are considered overfished. Under the current coast-wide recreational regulations, landings would exceed the acceptable harvest by 28 percent. Therefore, in order to meet an acceptable recreational target harvest, aggressive measures need to be taken in the form of an 18-percent reduction in 2020 from the harvest in 2019. Alternative CE proposals were also allowed to be submitted.
The joint CE that was submitted by Connecticut and Rhode Island was not below the one-percent harvest quota qualification stipulated in the motion passed and, therefore, was dropped from consideration. That left Connecticut with no other option other than the standard coast-wide regulation of a three-fish bag limit for private anglers and a five-fish bag limit for charter and party boat anglers (no size limit or closed season) in 2020. Keep in mind, this regulation also includes snapper blues since they are a bluefish.
As pointed out in last week’s column, the number of permissible bluefish caught per angler, per trip on a charter vessel is a 30-fish maximum per six anglers. That is considerably less than, for example, a party boat carrying more on board, such as 30 anglers at a 150-fish maximum. In this instance, that translates into 120 more fish per trip or 240 more fish per two trips per day—and there is no closed season! Note that many party boats can carry a lot more anglers than 30, further increasing the total catch per trip. Why should both of these vessel types be under the same set of regulations when one removes many more fish than the other in a vulnerable fishery? This is the same bone of contention reverberated with striped bass and a question often asked when comparing these two for-hire fisheries. Something to think about.
On the Water
More rain pelted the shoreline before sun and a bitter cold snap hit. Inshore Long Island Sound water temperatures remained around 40 degrees as air temps moderated into the low- to mid-40s before taking another dip prior to, you guessed it, some more rain. In between, though, clammers had opportunities to take advantage of some appealing negative tides. However, generally, the Sound has been quieter, even though it battled with intermittent bouts of various craft warnings and unruly seas.
Nevertheless, anglers continued to take advantage of the unseasonable weather, seeking out Trout Management Areas (TMAs) that were recently stocked. Water levels have been on the higher side due to the rain, but the flows are manageable. With more stocking on the way, some of the rivers that have already received rainbows, browns, and brookies (including broodstock) are the Hammonasset (495), Salmon (560), Yantic (700), and Sleeping Giant (530)—enough to put a bend in any local angler’s rod. There is still plenty of good salmon fishing through Tuesday, March 31, so take advantage of those stocked rivers.
We have a little more than one week before all stocked rivers and streams will close until Opening Day, with the exception of the TMA (catch and release), so the rush is on to take advantage of every last day to wet a line through Friday, Feb. 28. After that, only the trout management Lakes will remain open through the end of March, after which the daily creel limit is one fish at 16 inches.
Due to the unseasonably mild winter, fishers are inquiring about what can possibly be caught in the Sound. As of now, striped bass can be caught in a few tidal rivers, along with the occasional ones bouncing in and out of the Big Pond to feed on winter fish like Atlantic herring. Remember, though, that there will be a slot limit instituted for the 2020 season. Do not be surprised if a few small cod are hooked; 23 inches is the minimum. The winter flounder season opens on Wednesday, April 1, but release any caught until then, because some may be in close to shore.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and International fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy including permits, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...