Coastal Zone LawRecent Environmental Legislation: R.I. Recreational Fishing Laws, Regulations

July 10, 20200

Recent environmental legislation related to fishing has mostly contemplated commercial fishing, but recreational fishing has seen its share of updates as well. The freshwater and saltwater fishing seasons are open in R. It is important to know how the recent environmental legislation affects how one may fish, when, and the limits on common species. Today’s blog post will inform saltwater recreational anglers of some of these laws and regulations.

Licenses and Boat Registrations

First, we note that most RI residents and out-of-state fishermen who are 16 years of age or older must have a RI fishing license. Further, you may need an  updated boat registration if you fish from vessels. In years past, most individuals purchased these in-person, but RIDEM has an online portal for these licenses and registrations now! The RIDEM encourage people to use the online system, which is accessible at any time.

The above website link also lists the RIDEM contacts for assistance with licensing and registration. There are some exceptions for individuals who do not need a license. For example, those fishing on party or charter boats, blind or permanently disabled anglers, etc. If you currently have a valid saltwater fishing license from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or Maine, RI honors these (as well as National Saltwater Angler Registrations).

No-cost fishing licenses are available for residents over age 65, and for those with 100% disability status. The older and more recent environmental legislation which requires licensing improve the data collected on saltwater recreational fishing and helps to inform the regulations on fishing. Also, RIDEM uses the revenue from license fees “to administer and enforce the license program, improve the management of RI’s marine recreational fisheries, particularly with regard to developing more accurate assessments of recreational catch and effort, and to enhance recreational fishing access opportunities in the state.” Violations are civil offenses which can result in fines.

For boat registration, the fees are determined by the vessel’s length (which is rounded up to the nearest whole number according to RI law). Rhode Island is a title state, meaning that one generally must possess the title to the vessel in order to register it.

Important Fishing Regulations

Fishing regulations rely on recent environmental legislation related to fisheries for determining the limits on fishing. The limits on how many fish a person may catch and possess are intended to keep the stocks healthy and sustainable. In RI, recent environmental legislation at the federal and state levels led to amendments that were proposed and accepted as of November of 2019.

The recreational limits are sometimes different from the commercial limits, so anglers should be aware of the appropriate limits for them. These limits regulate the size of the fish, the season one can fish for each species, and the number of each species which may be possessed per person, per day. For example, striped bass are often fished for in RI. The current regulations allow for “striper” fishing all year, but the fish must be 28” long and an angler may only possess one striped bass per day. Any striped bass which is 34” or longer must have its entire right pectoral fin removed at the time it is harvested.

As another example, summer flounder are limited to 6 fish per angler per day and must be at least 19” long. The season for summer flounder is only open from May 3 through December 31. Bluefish, another popularly harvested fish, are not limited temporally or by length, but an angler may only possess 3 per day.

Violations of these limits imposed by the regulations are misdemeanors and may result in fines up to $500.00 and/or imprisonment up to 90 days. Additionally, any fish possessed in violation of the regulations may be seized. Recent environmental legislation recognized the importance of striped bass conservation, and so multiple violations of the regulation limits on stripers may also result in forfeiture of any boats, fishing tackle, and other implements used in the violation(s) to the state.

Desautel Browning Law wishes all anglers a wonderful time fishing in RI, which begins with following all of the applicable laws and regulations. For questions on these, or to explore your options if you are found in violation of the laws or regulations, contact our attorneys today. We are available by email or by calling 401.477.0023.

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