Changes in the permitted catch of cod from the Georges Bank, the stock that the local charter and party boat fleet depends upon during the winter months, are to take effect on May 1, but whether local fishermen will feel a pinch, and if so, what form the changes will take — whether minimum size limits, daily bag limits, closed seasons, or closed areas — has not been decided.
Regulations now require cod to be at least 22 inches long. Private boaters may keep 10 per day. There is no bag limit for anglers fishing from licensed party and charter boats.
As of May 1, the allowable catch of Gulf of Maine cod by commercial fishermen is to be cut by 68 percent, according to Maggie Mooney-Seus, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The quota will go from 2,583 to 830 metric tons, and the cut is expected to have a significant impact on New England fishing communities.
However, fishermen working on the Georges Bank resource will see a 3-percent increase in the quota from 1,750 to 1,807 metric tons, Ms. Mooney-Seus said. How this will affect the sportfishing industry is not yet clear.
Meanwhile, the cod haul by local charter and party boats saw dramatic improvement over the weekend. On Saturday, fishermen reported a slow bite in the morning south of Block Island, when electronic fish finders lit up. Images of a large, dense school of the bottom feeders coincided with excited hoots from anglers grinding cod in the 10 to 15-pound range to the surface.
Capt. Carl Forsberg of the Viking Fleet reported better and better fishing as the day progressed despite some rough weather, with the addition of a number of fat ling in the mix. Viking party boats are now sailing daily for Block Island cod. The boats leave the dock at 3 a.m. and return at 3 p.m. The cost is $120 per angler.