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The 2018 Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit is being held from March 28-29 in Arlington, VA, while closer to home anglers are looking forward to getting back on the tautog grounds in the weekend ahead.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  March 26, 2018
Capt. Mike Pierdinock will have to wait until the weekend to pick up the toggin' stick as he heads to Arlington, VA as an RFA representative in attendance for the 2018 Recreational Fishing Summit from March 28-29.

This week, a select group of saltwater anglers, angling groups, activists, and conservationists will attend the 2018 Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit, at the Westin Crystal City in Arlington, VA. The March 28-29 conference is being presented by NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

The “invite-only” recreational fishing summit is billed as bringing together saltwater recreational fishing community leaders, federal fishery management council members, interstate marine fisheries commissions, and NOAA to discuss collaborative solutions to challenges facing recreational fisheries management.

In an invitation sent out in January by NOAA Fisheries, the theme of the Summit was described as “Improving Opportunity and Stability in Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” featuring two days of discussion and dialogue focused on four main topics:

• Innovative Management Approaches
• Expanding Fishing Opportunity through Conservation
• Supplementing Recreational Fisheries Data through Collaboration
• Recreational Socio-Economic Data Collection and Application

According to NOAA Fisheries, the Meridian Institute has been brought onboard as an independent facilitator to assist with planning and facilitating the Summit. A not-for-profit organization, Meridian had already conducted a pre-Summit survey among members of the saltwater recreational fisheries community who had planned to attend the two-day Summit outside of Washington DC, and prepared what they referred to as “a robust agenda that focuses on improving opportunity and stability in recreational fisheries.”

Download the 2018 Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit agenda.

NOAA Fisheries held saltwater recreational fishing summits in 2010 and 2014 during the Obama administration in an effort to provide direction and reflect on past progress and current challenges facing recreational fisheries. According to Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), the previous national summits amounted to little more than what he called “a dog and pony show,” but he expects this one to be more productive.

“This administration has proven to be far more helpful to fishermen and more open to the needs of the recreational fishing community overall, and I think under the leadership of NOAA staffers like Earl Comstock and Chris Oliver that we’ve got a good chance to make some headway in Virginia this week,” Donofrio said. “I just hope they listen to the right message, as opposed to an abundance of ideology coming from a few of the Marine Fish Conservation Network operatives expected to attend.”

Donofrio said Capt. Mike Pierdinock will be representing RFA and its members this week for the two-day Arlington, VA summit.

As a reminder, the New Jersey tautog season officially gets underway on Sunday, April 1 with a four-fish bag and 15-inch size limit through April 30. At the most recent meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council on March 15, new limits for blackfish and porgies were established for 2018, though they won’t become official until signed off by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) sometime later this spring. Once in effect, porgy will be open year-round, while the blackfish season won’t reopen again until August 1 with a one fish bag limit through November 15, and then a November 16 to December 31 opening with five fish. As of January 1, 2019, the tog limits through the end of February will be just four fish.

Delaware anglers meanwhile will have a three fish bag limit starting on Sunday, April 1. It’s also expected that Delaware will be lowering its size limit on summer flounder to just 16-1/2 inches for 2018. I would say we are about 95% sure that Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia will be going to a16-1/2-inch minimum size for summer flounder for 2018 and we will retain the 365-day season and four-fish daily possession limit,” said John H. Clark, Fisheries Section Administrator for Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. “We should have the final decisions on summer flounder and black sea bass very soon.” Clark said the next Advisory Council meeting on Tidal Finfish will be on April 18 at 6 p.m.

New Jersey’s next Marine Fisheries Council meeting will be on Thursday, April 5 at 5 p.m. at the Bay Avenue Community Center at 775 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin, NJ at 5 p.m. The final regulations for both summer flounder and black sea bass in the state will be discussed there. Anglers and business owners with an opinion on size, season and bag for these particular species should plan to attend.

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