The Finfish Management Advisory Committees of the Marine Resources Commissions of both North Carolina and Virginia have weighed in on cobia. Both advisory committees voted to not close their state waters when federal waters are closed. This federal closure is currently scheduled for June 20 but can change based on what states do. States had been looking at ways to delay this federal closure and could do so by enacting very strict regulations like greatly increasing minimum size limits and greatly decreasing bag limits but even doing this would delay the closure only by a couple of weeks at most. If Virginia and/or North Carolina do not close their state waters, the federal waters closure will likely occur sooner than June 20. While both advisory committees voted to keep state waters open, they did recommend tighter cobia regulations. In North Carolina, the recommendation is to go to a 2-fish boat limit after June 20 (currently, they are at 1 person limit). Virginia's committee recommended to keep the 1-fish per person limit with a maximum of 3-fish per boat with only 1 fish allowed to be 50 inches or greater. Cobia is a discussion item at the April 26 meeting of the VMRC. It will be at the May meetings of both North Carolina's and Virginia's Marine Resources Commissions when the states' cobia regulations will be set. The VMRC meeting will be on May 24. If you have an interest in this issue, you should be there. Comments can also be emailed to VMRC Fisheries Chief Rob O'Reilly at: rob.o'[email protected] This issue is generating a lot of public comment. Chief O'Reilly says that for your emails to be included in the packet presented to the commissioners prior to the May 24 meeting, they need to be received during the official public comment period which will begin on May 10. So if you have sent comment and want it included in the commission packet, resend it May 10-19 to make sure it gets printed up in the commission packet.
Tilefish regulations will be changing. In what was an unregulated fishery in the offshore waters off of Virginia, VMRC enacted proactive regulations on tilefish and instituted, among other measures, a 7-fish per person recreational bag limit. VMRC cannot establish regulations for federal waters but can and did limit what could be landed in Virginia. This was done to protect this fishery until federal regulations were in place. The VMRC regulations were for all tilefish combined, which for Virginia means golden and blueline tilefish. Federal regulations for recreational golden tilefish were established at 8-fish per person but still no blueline tilefish regulations. Last year, an emergency rule was established in federal waters for blueline tilefish at 7-fish per person. For 2016, this bag limit has been continued. So, in federal waters anglers are allowed to keep 7 blueline tilefish and 8 golden tilefish per person but when you reach state waters, you are allowed only a total of 7 tilefish per person. Virginia's regulations are out of sync with federal regulations. This will become even more so in 2017. The Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council has recommended for 2017, a blueline tilefish season of only May 1-October 31 with the fishery closed for the other 6 months of the year. In a bizarre move, recreational bag limits would be 3, 5, or 7 fish per angler depending on what boat you are on. This last may or may not be approved by NOAA but you can expect a 6-month closure for blueline tilefish with a year-round open fishery for golden tilefish in federal waters. VMRC will need to change our state regulations or just remove state tilefish regulations entirely as this is totally a federal fishery with federal management plans now in place.
We finally got some fishable weather and the fish were waiting. Both big red and black drum are being caught on the seaside of the Eastern Shore. Flounder are being caught inside the seaside inlets. Some nice speckled trout and a lot of bluefish are being caught inside of Rudee Inlet along with some flounder and puppy drum. Speckled trout and flounder have been caught on the western side of the bay and more croaker are being caught now that warm weather has returned and it is calm enough for people to get out on the water some. Tautog fishing is very, very good when the weather has allowed. The CBBT is the prime spot but most structures in the bay and along the coast are producing. The tautog season closes at the end of the month so get out there now. The trophy striped bass season opens May 1. Unlike up in Maryland where the springtime trophy fishery is huge, few Virginia anglers target them during this time of year as most of the "trophy" (36 inches and greater) striped bass are gone by May 1. If you are going to fish for them, a free permit is required and you must submit a catch report…even if your catch is zero. There will be more interest in schoolie striped bass when the bay season opens on May 16 with a minimum size limit of 20 inches. There will be sea bass on the ocean wrecks when that season opens May 15. They won't be as thick as they were all winter when the season was closed. Tilefish are available further offshore and the spiny dogfish will not be as much of a nuisance as they were during the winter.
The April issue of Sport Fishing Magazine has an article on Virginia titled: "An Embarrassment of Riches". It covers inshore and offshore fisheries. The PSWSFA is prominently featured with a number of us in it along with Congressman Rob Wittman. There is the "Special Kate", the "Healthy Grin" and the "Get Anet" in there. VMRC and VIMS programs are also featured. Somewhat ironic is a main section on "Chesapeake's Prevalent Cobia" that talks about this great fishery we have June-September. http://www.sportfishingmag.com/fishi...virginia-beach
FMAC-APRIL 18, 2016-6:00pm:
The April 18, 2016 FMAC (Finfish Management Advisory Committee) meeting was called to order at 6:00pm. The minutes from the March 17, 2016 meeting were approved unanimously.
Staff gave a brief presentation on the be updated on the NMFS announcement that the recreational season for cobia will close on June 20, 2016. This closure is part of the accountability measures in place for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council cobia management plan and under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevenson Act. The meeting was well attended by the public and several members spoke. There was a strong sentiment amongst those who spoke to ask the Commission not to close the recreational season in state waters. Reasons to not comply with the federal closure date included: the closure would be an extreme hardship on the charter boat industry and many seafood businesses; large amount of potential catch and release mortality; and, Virginia is already had in place the most restrictive regulations. The committee, staff, and the public discussed various vessel and size limit options, as well as the potential implementation of a cobia recreational harvest permit and requirements to report harvest in order to obtain the permit the following year (this has already been approved by FMAC in the past). Mr. Jack Austin stated that since there is no question that Virginia harvested over their quota last year, it is the management committee’s job to address this problem and make reasonable recommendations for the Commission, not simply recommend to not comply with the federal closure. Mr. Skip Feller proposed a motion that starting at the end of the federal season for 2016 only, in state waters, a one fish per person limit or a three fish maximum vessel limit would be implemented and that minimum size would remain at 37 inches, with only one of the three fish allowed to be 50 inches or greater for the vessel. The motion was seconded by Mr. Scott MacDonald. The motion passed with four in favor and three against. The meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.
Subject: My Finfish Committee vote on the cobia issue.
> Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2016 09:43:22 -0400
> I thought it might help to explain my vote on cobia at the recent FMAC
> meeting. Here are my reasons for my position:
> 1. The stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. The
> trend is obviously in the direction that will lead us to overfishing,
> but it is not there yet and therefore suddenly eliminating the Virginia
> season as soon as it starts is not justified. Steps need to be taken to
> address the increased effort, but that can be done without such a sudden
> 2. Using the new MRIP data as the basis for this decision is also not
> justified. During one of my last meetings as a Virginia representative
> to the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC), we were
> informed that the new MRIP data for summer flounder showed that
> recreational fishermen have been over harvesting that stock by a factor
> of 3 or more for many years. If this were true, it would imply that we
> did not know anything about fisheries management. Removing three times
> the what the 'best available science' calculates the stock can handle
> without being harmed would have resulted in the stock crashing, which
> has not happened. Still, the MRIP team refuses to ask more questions on
> its mailed effort form that would help 'back check' its assumptions.
> There is much more to be done before this system can be taken seriously.
> The same MRIP process is now being applied to cobia, showing a huge
> increase in landings in just one year. To cause such harm to those that
> rely on this fishery based on such assumptions from a new, unproven
> method for determining effort is not warranted.
> 3. To assume that 92,000 cobia trips were taken during a 3 month (90
> day) season in 2015 is absurd. I doubt if there were many, if any, days
> when 1,000 fishermen targeted cobia, much less an average of 1,000 every
> day of the entire season.
> 4. For Virginia to get only 120,000 pounds is neither fair or equitable.
> Throughout both of my terms on the MAFMC, I called for the value of the
> science to be 'weighed' in any decision with respect to its potential
> for being inaccurate. Unfortunately that is never done, the science is
> taken as absolute. It is time to consider the potential harm this can
> cause for the public, especially in cases where a stock is not
> overfished, overfishing is not occurring and the stock is not in
> immediate jeopardy, which is and should be our primary concern.
> I suggest that the Council or the Governor contact Regional
> Administrator Crabtree directly, request that he officially reject the
> SAFMC closure, and require a new solutions that shares the burden
> between each of the states involved in this fishery.
> Jeff Deem
> VMRC/FMAC Chair.
Thanks Ken for fighting. I think 3 per boat with one over 50 is reasonable. It will hit the charters hardest but I think they will survive and have a good season. The one trophy fish should make the tournaments much more interesting as a lot will need to go into which fish you keep.
Since NC is waiting to implement a boat limit later in the season, I don't see any real impact on their catches. Most of the NC catches are in the migration up the coast in the spring before 20 June. One per person is the best thing for NC to actually limit their catch.
Thanks for the update Dr. Neill. Great to see the Finfish committee taking a stand on behalf of anglers and putting forth a reasonable plan of action given the highly questionable data from one year and the inequitable impact of a closure. I will be sending in my comments and plan to attend in May.
Both good articles and worth a read. It's nice to see that our voices are being heard and government agencies responding to the concerns. Much different than the bull$hit, bad government, crookster show we had in Richmond over menhaden last year.