Fishing Report: Eclectic group gets behind wind farms

Source: By Dave Monti, Providence Journal • Posted: Sunday, August 30, 2020

New England for Offshore Wind, a coalition of 22 regional businesses, academic and research institutes, associations, environment organizations and labor unions, held a kickoff press conference Wednesday. The group aims to “drive New England governors and legislatures to support regional collaboration and more offshore wind procurements, building political will to power every home in New England with offshore wind.”

“Offshore wind energy will help our region fill an energy gap as old, dangerous and polluting fossil-fuel power plants start to go offline,” the coalition stated in a press advisory. “Offshore wind is the biggest lever we can pull to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and boost our economy by creating new jobs.”

I participated in the press conference as one of six guest speakers providing a recreational fishing perspective on offshore wind farms. Highlights of my comments included the successful research and monitoring plan developed and implemented at the Block Island Wind Farm and the reef effect that wind farm pylons have created there.

Fishing at the Block Island Wind Farm is arguably better, even though recreational fishing pressure has increased by about 200%, as it is now more of a fishing destination. It is one of the places to go to fish for large summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass and cod fish, to name a few.

The expectation of many recreational anglers is that additional wind farms and turbines will have a positive cumulative impact on fish, just like the Block Island Wind Farm and as recent studies of European wind farms have shown. See the March 2019 issue of Fisheries Science & Aquaculture magazine titled, “Meta-analysis of fish abundance at offshore wind farms.” The study concluded that wind farms have had a positive impact on the abundance of finfish within their boundaries compared to control areas outside.

At Block Island Wind Farm, commercial fishing vessels trawl parallel to the wind farm, gill nets are set in the wind farm area and recreational and commercial rod and reel fishermen fish right up to the pylons. It is a prime example of how commercial, recreational fishing and offshore wind can coexist for the benefit of everyone.

Other speakers at the kickoff included Susannah Hatch, Environmental League of Massachusetts; state Sen. David Watters of New Hampshire; Sena Wazer, Sunrise Connecticut; and Hillary Bright from the BlueGreen Alliance.

Visit newenglandforoffshorewind.org and click on the Learn More box for an informational video.

Tautog. “Customers are catching some nice tautog early in the season. They are catching them in deeper water off Newport, at Plum Light and the other high structure places anglers catch them in the fall,” said Joe Castaldi of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle in North Kingstown. “Some anglers have started targeting tautog from shore and have been successful at Colt Stare Park, with a lot of short fish being caught,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle in Riverside. The tautog limit right now in Rhode Island and Massachusetts is three fish/person/day, 16-inch minimum size with a 10-fish boat limit that does not apply to charter or party boats. Effective Oct. 15, the limit increases to five fish.

Striped bass fishing is good along the coastal shore from Newport to Watch Hill and at Block Island. “We have never seen so much bait in the water,” said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters in Westerly. “It started with mature Atlantic menhaden, then peanut bunker, large spearing and bay anchovies. All this bait is being chased by a variety of mackerel, striped bass and bluefish. Anglers are catching 12-inch and 18-inch school bass, and right next to them, an angler might catch a 34-inch or a 40-pound fish. The bait and fishing has been epic. I do not know how else to describe it. Customers are catching fish from jetties and the beaches as well as the reefs off Watch Hill and at Block Island.” Littlefield reported: “One customer caught four nice striped bass using ells off Newport near Brenton Reef.” East End Eddie Doherty, Cape Cod Canal fishing expert and author, said: “Fishing has been spotty at the Canal with some large fish being taken.”

Summer flounder and black sea bass. “We weighed in a few double-digit fish caught about a mile south of the Block Island Wind Farm but fishing for fluke has been very difficult this season,” Wade said. “The fish have not come close to shore. The black sea bass bite continues to be good around Block Island at the East and West fishing grounds as well as in the Southwest Ledge area, as well as along the coastal shore anywhere there is a rock pile.” Angler Susan Lema said: “The fluke bite improved off the southern coastal beaches this week. We caught some quality fluke.” On charters, we struggled to catch three to four keeper fluke per trip and the black sea bass situation seemed to slow a bit, too. Scup continues to be caught throughout our Bays and offshore anywhere there is structure and water movement. “Areas producing scup in the Bay include Sabin Point, Colt State Park and the Conimicut Light area,” Littlefield said.

“Freshwater fishing for largemouth is where most of the action is,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle in Providence. “Anglers are hooking up at Stump Pond, Smithfield; Olney Pond, Lincoln Woods; and Turner Reservoir, East Providence.” Littlefield said: “Fishing freshwater has slowed, as many ponds and lakes are very warm.” Wade commented: “Anglers continue to fish freshwater and enjoy the comfort, safety and COVID-19 protection and separation that ponds and lakes have to offer. Chapman’s Pond in Westerly is a popular pond being fished by anglers targeting pike and largemouth bass as it is too warm to restock area ponds with trout.”

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is an RISAA board member, a member of the R.I. Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the R.I. Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Captain Dave at dmontifish@verizon.netor visit noflukefishing.com and his blog at noflukefishing.blogspot.com.