New legislation will be filed in the state house this month making way for a state recreational saltwater fishing license. State Representative Tim Madden said he plans to cosponsor the legislation and that is a good idea for all local fishermen.
“The federal government is mandating that there be a recreational saltwater license. This one, a state version is better, because it keeps the money here,” Mr. Madden said.
The draft copy of the legislation has already been met with a positive response on the Cape.
The impetus behind a Massachusetts recreational fishing license is coming from the federal government. The National Marine Fisheries Service has had decades of trouble trying to give accurate estimates on fishing effort made by recreational fishermen in all the waters of this country. While the fisheries scientists have pretty good data on the commercial take from month to month, year to year they’ve only been able to use computer modeling to estimate recreational effort. On the Vineyard a number of local recreational fishermen have gotten survey phone calls from a private firm trying to get estimates on catch and the concept just doesn’t make much sense.
The new federal requirement that will go into effect next year requires that all recreational saltwater fishermen must be licensed. The only exemptions are those who live in states that have a saltwater fishing license in place.
Massachusetts is moving ahead with a plan to initiate a fishing license that is specific to this state, which raises money for the state’s programs, and is expected to be cheaper than anything the federal government can offer.
The draft legislation contains provisions that will be fisherman-friendly. For instance, children under 16 years of age are exempt from being required to have a license; people fishing in a charter boat are exempt.
Monies raised from the fees collected for the license will be kept apart and be used to support science and conservation programs.
Ed Jerome, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, of Edgartown, is a member of the steering committee that has helped author the license. On June 1 he wrote a letter to Mark Amorello, chairman of the state marine fisheries advisory commission urging the commissioners to work towards having the legislation filed.
Late last month, the Cape Cod Salties, a 200-member recreational and commercial fishermen’s group, voted in favor of the draft legislation at their Wednesday, May 27th monthly meeting in Yarmouth. Ninety-five fishermen and friends were in attendance.
Louis M. MacKeil, (Mac), vice president of environmental affairs and former president of the Salties said: “I always thought the concept was a good thing, but it was important that if money is raised that it be put to good use.”
Mr. MacKeil said he remembered the idea of a recreational saltwater license that was talked up in 1985 and 1986 and it never got off the ground.
On the following night, Thursday, May 28, the Barnstable County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs also met and voted to support the bill in its present form. The league is made up of 15 sports organizations.
Menemsha came alive Wednesday morning. Fishing boats of varying sizes left the dock early at sunrise and were back in midmorning, their fishboxes full. The commercial fluke fishing season opened and there was no trouble catching fish.
Alec Gale operates a 55-foot transport boat called Jane Lee. On Wednesday afternoon he took the fish to Woods Hole to market. Mr. Gale said the fishermen did well on their first day. One dragger left the dock at 6 a.m. and was back at the dock by 9:30 with the 300 pound trip limit.
While it will get better, Mr. Gale said he is transporting the catch of five boats.
One of the boats to join the Menemsha fleet is being given a warm welcome. Tim Broderick of Chilmark has a new 40-foot wooden fishing boat called Four Kids. The boat joins with the familiar fleet made up of locals: Little Lady, captained by Dennis Jason Jr.;Viking, captained by Craig Coutinho; and Mill Point, captained by Michael deConinck.
James Morgan, a retired commercial fishermen, said this week he is pleased to see the Four Kids join the fleet. He said it is good seeing some young local fisherman taking to fishing, knowing it is hard times..
Mr. Gale predicted that the fish caught by the Menemsha fleet will end up in Boston and New York only hours after he has delivered it to Woods Hole.
Fluke are a highly prized local fish. Fluke is a flounder, known as summer flounder and it cooks up nicely. Fluke is the “catch of the day” at Menemsha.
Mr. Gale will be busy this summer transporting the fishermen’s catch to market. Last winter, he tried fishing for sea clams. He did well but the local draggers are counting on his work. Mr. Gale said this is his fourth summer transporting fish.
The boat Jane Lee doesn’t look like the usual fishing boats that are tied up at the Menemsha dock. The 350-horsepower Bruno Stillman 55 was a shrimp boat from South Carolina.
Mr. Gale has added a powerful crane capable of lifting 4,000 pounds. The crane can rise up to 32 feet. Mr. Gale said it was useful when Capt. Tim Broderick was rigging his dragger for the fluke season.