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Tautog Fishing Event

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On a cold and windy Veterans’ Day morning, five charter boats carrying scientists and Narragansett families braved the weather and left the Port of Galilee looking to catch tautog. They steamed through the Harbor of Refuge and took the turn past Point Judith Lighthouse and continued heading north. In no time, the vessels stopped several hundred yards off of Scarborough Beach and anchored above scattered rock piles. Green crabs were prepped and put on the hook — the hunt was on! Using 3 to 5 ounce sinkers, the bait plummeted to the bottom and disappeared out of sight. The strong west winds caused the vessels to swing back and forth, making it difficult to keep the bait on the bottom, but surprisingly the first bite occurred almost instantly. The captains apparently knew exactly where to go, as fish started being caught left and right, in a matter of minutes. After several hours of fishing and buckets full of fish, the vessels pulled anchor and returned to port. The families had fresh fish for dinner; the scientists had samples to study; and everyone left with a smile and cold fingers.

This was the second year in a row that the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in conjunction with the RI Party and Charter Boat Association and the Narragansett Department of Parks and Recreation, helped turn a scientific fish monitoring survey into a recreational fishing experience for Narragansett families.

The popular event began last year as a pilot program, when Dan Costa, port manager in DEM’s Division of Coastal Resources, suggested that DEM’s annual tautog collection would provide the perfect venue for a collaborative charitable event with the RI Party and Charter Boat Association. Every year, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is required to collect 200 samples of tautog in a diverse range of sizes for analysis in its scientific monitoring program. The samples collected are measured and aged, and the resulting data are used in the age structured stock assessment for that species.

Several partners worked together last year to bring the idea to fruition, including supervising marine biologist Jason McNamee of DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, John Rainone of the RI Party and Charter Boat Association, and Steven Wright and Tom Tessitore of the Narragansett Department of Parks and Recreation. One lucky family from the Narragansett Parks and Recreation assistance program was chosen to participate in a free tautog fishing trip aboard Captain John Rainone’s “L’il Toot” charter boat on the day after Thanksgiving. The family had an opportunity to enjoy a fun day of recreational fishing for tautog, and also helped collect fish samples for DEM’s monitoring program. Nicole Lengyel, a principal marine biologist in the Division of Fish and Wildlife, was onboard the vessel to coordinate the scientific collection.

“In addition to the scientific benefits, this special project is providing several Narragansett families with an opportunity to take part in a fun-filled day of fishing on a charter vessel and to bring home some freshly-caught fish,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “All in all, this collaborative project is providing a boost to our science and a deepened appreciation for the variety of marine life in our seas for the participating families.”

Steve Wright, director of the Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department said, “This annual program provides a unique opportunity for deserving families from Narragansett to go fishing on a local charter boat and at the same time help DEM collect important scientific data. The Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department is pleased to partner with DEM and the RI Party and Charter Boat Association to offer this opportunity to local families.”

This program would not have been possible without the generous contributions of the RI Party and Charter Boat Association and its members, who donated their time and talents to help local families participate in this collaborative event.

Due to the success of last year’s event, the program was expanded this year. Five vessels from the RI Party and Charter Boat Association, all of which are docked in the Port of Galilee, participated in the event and accommodated several Narragansett families. They include charter boats “Priority Too,” operated by Captain Rick Bellavance; “Sea Devil,” operated by Captain Kelly Smith; “L’il Toot,” operated by Captain John Rainone; “Bare Bones,” operated by Captain Steven Anderson; and “Carol J,” operated by Captain Paul Johnson.

Several DEM staff members volunteered their time for the event, including Dan Costa, Jason McNamee, Nicole Lengyel, Kevin Smith, and Chris Deacutis.

If you would like more information or have any questions about the Annual Collaborative Scientific Tautog Fishing Event please contact the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife – Marine Fisheries at (401) 423-1920.

Regulations in red are new this year.

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