On Thursday, February 21, my good friend Peter Jenkins at The Saltwater Edge will host another excellent Surf Night. Peter is bringing in Dave Anderson and Gerry Audet to walk us through finding fish on a make-believe spot theyâ€™re calling Mystery Island. The deal is, based on all kinds of parameters which easily will transfer to your favorite spot or one youâ€™ve thought about hitting, theyâ€™ll help you understand currents, boulder fields, eddys and other places big bass lurk. These two experienced surfcasters will also help you understand winds and tide so critical so catching fish. Peter always does a fine job with the appetizers and an icy cold white cooler behind the counter so if youâ€™re feeling the mid-winter burn of no fish on the line or horizon, visit the shop at 1037 Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown. The fun starts at 6 p.m.Â
The Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries is considering, â€śtwo new conservation measures for the striped bass fisheries aimed at minimizing the number of fish that are killed through hooking and releasing. The proposed measures would prohibit the use of gaffs and mandate the use of in-line circle hooks when using live or cut natural baits.â€ť
Stripers are a favored fish around here and conservation is becoming more critical as we get new data showing stocks are in rough shape. Tony Friedrich has an excellent article in the January edition of The RI Saltwater Anglers Association newsletter. Using the latest data and numbers from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), Tony wrote that itâ€™s clear, â€śStriped bass are overfished and overfishing is occurring to those numbers.â€ť Thatâ€™s the last thing anyone who cares wants to hear about a population.
A few weeks ago we wrote about the unconscionable damage Maryland anglers are doing to striper stocks. To be specific, we wrote, â€śItâ€™s disgusting that Maryland fishermen kill 19â€ť striped bass.â€ť We failed to mention they also exceeded their quota last year. So all this means that we Yankees need to step up and stop the slide to another moratorium.Â
There are a few specifics to this proposal but circle hooks make releasing fish easier. Yes, itâ€™s getting to be an almost annoyingly PC world but the data shows that 93% of their recreational anglers release stripers so why not use the right equipment? Part of the stateâ€™s concern is, â€śStudies have shown that about 9% of released striped bass will die from the effects of hooking and handling.â€ť According to their official statement, â€śThe latest catch estimate from the revised MRIP indicates that Massachusetts recreational anglers released almost 13 million striped bass in 2017. If we apply the release mortality rate of 9%, that means over 1 million striped bass died after being released.â€ť This is not where we want to be.Â
The other proposal is a no-gaffing rule. Let logic prevail here: if chances are good youâ€™re not going to keep the fish, why would you lance the gills out of it so that you could get a firm grip to throw it back overboard? Of course there will be hearings, heated arguments and some enforcement issues but at least Massachusetts is moving the ball forward. When you have a moment or ten, read anything from Charles Witek; wrap your head around how he sees the future of our fisheries, how regulations, industry pressure and how a logic vacuum can suck the life out a sane argument built on facts and then, a year or two later, the health of a fishery. So what does all this mean since weâ€™re talking Massachusetts here? It means itâ€™s time to act no matter where you live, especially if you hail from Maryland.
Ralph Craft of Crafty One Customs is hosting a customer appreciation day on Sunday, February 24 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The big deal here is how much of a dedicated customer base Ralph has built over the years and now heâ€™s taking an afternoon to say thanks. Good fishermen appreciate rods carefully constructed for specific fish and circumstances; Ralph builds precisely that and itâ€™s showing in his popularity. If youâ€™re looking to just go looking or if you have something in mind to make 2019 your banner year for catching and releasing, this is the perfect opportunity to look at his cases.Â
Tom Adams is a customer and believer in Ralphâ€™s art. â€śI like Crafty One Custom rods for a few reasons,â€ť Tom said, adding, â€śitâ€™s veteran owned and itâ€™s a local business. Having a fishing rod that is designed from your thoughts…what I mean is; my first custom rod I wanted red, white & blue and I wanted it to say â€ślive free or dieâ€ť because Iâ€™m originally from NH. My latest custom rod was designed specifically for albies. I used a picture of an eye that had the coolest color green and another picture of the back of the albie which had greens and blue. Ralph is a true artist who loves fishing; he took my thoughts and pictures and created the most amazing rod from them. Support veteran and locally owned businesses!â€ť Enough said.Â
Ralph will have food treats, some door prizes and a team of rod builders ready to help you create the perfect setup at his shop located at 1980 East Main Road in Portsmouth. And if all that wasnâ€™t enough, Dave Morton of Beavertail Rod and Reel will be there to help you get your reels cleaned and greased because fishing season will be here before we know it. Having Dave there is a real bonus especially when you consider that means you can walk in with a hand full of dirty, salty reels from last year and walk out with a new tuna rod. Done and done.Â
Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman who lives not far from Rhode Islandâ€™s Saugatucket River with his wife, who supports his fishing mainly to get him out of the house and a young son who catches more fish than him.