Much to the relief of recreational fishermen, the black sea bass fishery opens on July 2. Fishermen have been reporting strong numbers of them since mid-spring, although many have been juveniles, below the fourteen inch minimum. They are part of the grouper family and like so many Florida plates, they summer here then head south for deeper, warmer waters. Fishermen know to target them around rock piles or harbor jetties as they feed on protein-rich clams, mussels and crabs, in addition to many small fish. Because of this diet, their flesh is prized for being firm and sweet.
Sea bass can be caught with strips of anything from their diet attached to metal jigs; the problem there is that if you get into a school you may also get cleaned out by quick-tongued scup. If you do get some good sized scup, try this. Gut and ice them. When they have been washed out back home and you cut away the gills and fins, place it on baking sheet. There are a few variations of this recipe for you to investigate but the deborah gist of it is to cake the fish in a paste of flour salt and egg whites, bake for 25 minutes and then peel off the crust. What you are left with is a perfect specimen of a skinned fish that’s perfectly seasoned and perfectly ready to eat. You can stuff the cavity with herbs like rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes but that’s all window dressing. The crust holds in the sensual flavors of a fish with a diet we all wish we had.
Black sea bass are born mostly females but with age, they start identifying as males. Between August and April, they spawn and then make the switch, without the benefit of tabloid press, an ESPY or far too revealing frosted glossy photographs. Many have caught the big males, the ones with the fantastic electric blue coloration and humped head. Preservation minded fishermen will toss back the females, even the legal sized girls, to help keep the population stable. We can keep one fish per day until August 31 then the limit changes to seven per day until the end of the year.
Just for the sake of argument, there were some big changes in fishery regulations for this year and now that waters are warming and fish are arriving, there also comes the usual arguments for or against laws which are now codified and won’t be revisited until next year. If you feel strongly enough, pro or con, when it comes to a bag limit, a minimum size or the length of a season, please take a few minutes and make your voice heard. RIDEM, NMFS, the ASMFC and the MAMFC have many email services onto which you can sign up for information on hearing dates, proposed regulations and changes in the laws. The one fish at twenty-eight inches for striped bass really bit a few folks in the stern so if you want to turn your on-deck words potentially into action, go to any of these sites to receive information. Each vote does count, especially in a small room where the regulators are listening.
Renovations on the Sakonnet Point Boat Ramp in Little Compton have been completed and the ramp is now open to the public. Engineering was designed by RIDEM and according to Conservation Engineer Andres Aveledo, the construction was handled by East Coast Construction. This project wraps up as work begins on the ramp at Beach Pond in Exeter, a waterbody shared with Connecticut. That ramp is in tough shape and based on the amount of Marlboro butts in the parking lot, there’s a whole lot of hanging around going on and not much fishing. Fortunately, the pond is full of largemouth bass and a rarity around here, walleye.
Boats have been plastering Block Island’s south and west side chasing stripers chasing sand eels. The sea water has warmed a bit, averaging about 64º, which is right in that magic ten degree range where bass like to feed before things get too warm and they look for cooler waters. Blues and bass are around but no one is really bragging about any trophy fish just yet.
Over in Green Hill, the tenth annual Fluke ‘Till Ya Puke was held last Saturday. Skies were just overcast enough, winds were light for the morning and there were lots of fish around. It is a tough day to fish because it seems to annually coincide with the RI Salt Water Anglers Take A Kid Fishing Day. For a group completely focused on preserving not only the right to recreational fish but the many positive benefits of a lifetime near the water, it’s unfortunate that two high-profile events, both with good intentions-fish donated at the fluke contest gets donated to the RI Food Bank-can’t settle on different days.
The McCusker brothers reported good amounts of sea bass near the Charlestown Breachway as well as lots of fluke near the Five Cottages and Nebraska Shoals. There also have been schoolie stripers to be caught from the beach in that area. Fluking continues to be steady around the Newport and Jamestown bridges with most of the success coming in the deeper waters. Since there are some bluefish around, you can try strips of their oily flesh as teasers for fluke in addition to your squid baits. With menhaden still in the bay, there are opportunities to snag a few and live line for stripers.
Our resident jelly fish expert, James Corbett has logged more moon jellys near Goddard Park and Norton’s Marina. He mentioned, “Seeing a lot of small zooplankton that almost look like miniature translucent shrimp swimming around in the area”. This, combined with an increase in some eel grass beds, should mean improving water quality and hopefully, even better fishing. Nice work James.