Every year, DEM's Division of Fish & Wildlife is required to collect 200 samples of tautog for analysis in its scientific monitoring program. Under the fisheries management plan for tautog, a diverse range of fish sizes must be captured for the survey. The fish are processed for their age structures; the gill flap, which has annual rings on it like a tree, is removed and then used to determine the age of the fish. Data collected during the fish survey are used in the annual stock assessment for that species.
This year, Dan Costa, port manager in DEM's Division of Coastal Resources suggested the idea for the scientific collection to occur through a collaborative charitable event with the RI Party and Charter Boat Association. Working with principal 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, a tautog collection survey took place on the morning after Thanksgiving. A 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. While the family had an opportunity to enjoy a fun day of recreational fishing for tautog, they also helped collect 31 fish ranging from 10 to 22 inches in length for DEM's monitoring program. Nicole Travisono, a principal biologist in DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife, was onboard the vessel to coordinate the scientific collection.
"Sometimes hard work is a lot of fun. In addition to the scientific benefits, the collaboration provided this Narragansett family – a father and two boys, aged seven and nine – 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. "While they were out in the state's waters, they also saw dolphins – another highlight of their fishing trip! And, I bet this special project deepened their appreciation for the variety of marine life in our seas. All in all, the effort provided a boost to our science and a good day all around."
Steve Wright, director of the Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department said, "The fall tautog charter boat trip sponsored by DEM provided a unique opportunity for a deserving family from Narragansett to enjoy a fun day of fishing on a local charter boat while having the opportunity to bring home some fresh fish. The Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department thanks all involved and looks forward to future opportunities to partner with DEM and the RI Party and Charter Boat Association to offer this unique opportunity to other local families."
The event would not have been possible without the contributions of the RI Party and Charter Boat Association, whose members donated their time and talents to help a local family and participate in this public outreach effort. Captain John Rainone said, "We had a great time taking out a dad and his two boys, as well as a DEM scientist to gather needed data on the tautog species for lengths and age. It felt good to give back to the community and help the State gather the much-needed data, and show the boys how to fish for tautog. I hope this scenario can be open to more charter and party boats next season."
Discussions are already underway between the Association, DEM, and the Town of Narragansett to expand the program next year.