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Article Published March 11, 2021

Catch Limit Allocation Amendment Under Attack

To say that most of the attendees at the combined Connecticut and New York Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission virtual meeting presentation were energized is a major understatement. During the public hearing addressing the Public Information Document (PID) regarding the joint Draft Allocation Amendment for summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, and porgy (scup), reactions were swift and uncurbed, but generally not divisive between the commercial and recreational sectors.

Although the majority of attendees represented the commercial and for-hire sectors, it was still expected that the balance of comments would have more of a mixed reaction. However, they didn’t. Had more recreational fishers attended, that might have changed. Nevertheless, when something is taken from one and given to another, you can expect ill sentiments to develop.

Even though lot of good science went into the formation of this PID, the reliability of the assessment numbers, their age, and the belief that the Marine Recreational Information Program numbers were skewed was the bone of contention. It was difficult for many in attendance to believe that redistribution of the existing annual quotas of certain species from the commercial sector to the recreational one was justified. Black sea bass, for example, are caught recreationally by hook and line, many of which are close to shore and will run smaller. Therefore, more will be discarded, affecting mortality.

Even after the document was thoroughly presented with all the corroborating graphs, statistics, and assessments, including discard mortalities, to many the numbers just did not add up. The commercial sector is charged with supplying our country with seafood and, in the process, protecting that valuable resource. That priority is dictated by federal mandates and takes precedent over recreational fishing. However, when it comes to fluke, black sea bass, and scup, few recreational fishers fish for them solely for sport, but rather for food.

After all the questions were taken and answered, the microphone was open for comments. In the end, both written and oral comments were taken and, overwhelmingly, they revolved around maintaining the status quo. The takeaway was that the commercial sector didn’t feel it could absorb any more economic and financial losses considering what were, in their opinion, questionable assessment numbers. Once all of the public hearings are completed and the data is compiled and digested, a final organizational decision as to Annual Catch Limits will be made.

Following developing striped bass regulations involving the use of circle hooks and bait, the second meeting of the Ad Hoc Circle Hook Committee attempted to drill down on exemptions, the definition of bait, and the implications to law enforcement. Certain issues were able to be decided by consensus, while more complex ones were not, and a recap of those issues will be forwarded to the Striped Bass Management Board. In the end, it was decided to recommend the following language: “Circle hooks are required when fishing for striped bass with bait, which is defined as any marine or aquatic organism live or dead, whole or parts thereof. This shall not apply to any artificial lure with bait attached.”

Additionally, where there were issues of non-consensus, a summary document will include discussions about active fishing, proposed language, law enforcement concerns, what to do with incidental catches, rigged eels, and potential individual state exemptions. It will encourage simple definitions and encourage states to support research and work with industry to determine if potential exemptions align with the intent of the circle hook mandate. All in all, there was a lot of ground covered and many in-depth discussions and decisions made within this cordial, diverse, and well-informed committee.

On the Water

Leading into the weekend were sunnier conditions, gusty winds, and negative tides caused by the most recent full moon. Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures hovered around the mid-30s, while air temperatures climbed from bone-chilling up into the 40s. At this point, much of the ice along the shoreline diminished, while farther north, Connecticut residents still found enough ice to jig or set tip-ups, albeit slushy at times.

Along with the assorted species normally caught, there were more pike and pickerel caught this time around. Wind continued to be a key factor on many lakes and ponds, although protected coves presented ice fishers with fewer challenging conditions. Cold water fish are in their element and, to keep up with their metabolic requirements, live shiners have been a big motivator. Even a jig with half of a shiner attached often did the trick. As temperatures fluctuate, ice thickness will vary, especially during the month of March. Take the necessary safety precautions, including testing the ice and having a pair of ice awls handy.

According to a press release, Governor Ned Lamont signed Executive Order No. 10B, removing prohibitions on fishing for trout and effectively advancing the opening day of trout season from Sunday, April 10 to March 4. The order removes closed seasons for fishing on all inland waters in Connecticut and also opens additional lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams to fishing statewide. All existing regulations pertaining to limits, sizes, and catch and release areas still remain in effect.

Freshwater action has heightened since many of the Trout Management Areas have already been stocked. Catches are being made using natural and scented bait, artificial lures, and flies. Now would be a good time to wet a line for Atlantic salmon in those stocked waters. The season for these fighters runs through Wednesday, March 31, then closes, and reopens again on April 10. One fish per day is the limit. Check the fishing guide for additional info and remember to maintain social distancing and fish with immediate family members—not in groups.

Be sure to keep up to date on the striped bass regulations for 2021 as final circle hook and bait requirements are finalized. For the time being, keep an eye open for early activity in the key tidal rivers for increased activity in our holdover population. Effective this year, the use of inline circle hooks when fishing with bait is mandatory.

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 fly fishing, 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.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

twitter @captmorgan_usa