Good fishermen can read a pile of bait under a few circling gannets at four hundred yards but can’t read a note about cleaning the gutters even when left on their favorite Duck Dynasty coffee cup. Right now that is very true because we are two weeks from opening outdoor showers, one week from trout season’s Opening Day and today is the home opener at Fenway. We are all about preparation now. We are stocking up on soft baits crank baits and frozen baits. Knives are being sharpened, coolers cleaned and tackle boxes neatly and logically organized or possibly just jammed tight with a hundred guaranteed fish catchers in key colors, hooks hopelessly interlocked. Under this new light of spring we must prepare, which means we must leave all types of other things undone because, easing so quietly out of our dark driveways, steady as the sunrise, we are finally going fishing!
Preparation separates successful fishermen from those telling last year’s stories. Waiting for stripers to return, there are fish to be protected and fish to be caught. We know the buckeyes have made their return through Point Judith Pond, just the first of several legs of their arduous travels. Volunteers have cleared several historic alewife passages long gagged with bull briars dragging down crooked choke cherries and invasive Russian Olives. Large piles of flood tossed stones still impede some upper turns, remnants of broken walls weakened by nature’s heavy rains. One lost pond led to another, then another and in the end, old map blue lines were carved again, perhaps deep enough to carry amorous anadramous Alosa again to waters in which they once summered.
Overlooking a trash filled section of a Saugatucket tributary, poised for some cleanup and log lifting, a blur of a car passed me by, leaving behind an awful asthma of bargain brand cigarettes, the driver oblivious to the minor miracle swimming along the road. This is exactly why we prepare: not just to catch fish for fun and table but also to help restore a little bit of natural balance to our small town while other lives go on, sometimes completely unaware.
This balance also affords us fish to land. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has started stocking trout prior to opening day next Saturday. They estimate 80,000 brookies, rainbows and browns will be trucked and pumped into more than one hundred ponds and streams throughout the state. Here in South County, the usual hotspots will get attended to, like Barber and Tucker Pond and the Chickasheen Brook and Wood River. The pond behind Old Mountain Field also gets a shot of fish, just in time for the Family Fishing Derby sponsored by the South Kingstown Parks and Recreation Department. Kids from ages 3 to 14 can fish from 5:30-7:00pm on Friday, May 9 and win prizes as well. With the important sponsorship from Snug Harbor Marina, this is fun family trout fishing time under the watchful eyes of newly nesting ospreys.
Some of these waterways will be restocked later in the year, which helps for Fall and ice fishing. By DEM’s own reporting, freshwater fishing brings in just north of thirty-seven million dollars annually and with something like 42,000 freshwater fishermen in our state, you can expect all ponds and streams to be right full of eager anglers perched on damp seats in all types of boats, some challenging the laws of displacement, casting for that important first trout of the year.
If the crowds of excited, caffeine and very early beer-fueled sportsmen is a bit over the top for you and your young ones, there are a few ponds set aside just for the kids. Try fishing Frosty Hollow Pond in Exeter or Lloyd Kenney Pond in Hopkinton. The experience is just as rich and the pressure will be down a few notches. Young and old can dip a line on May 3 and 4, which are Free Fishing Days, so locals and those from away will need no fishing license or trout conservation stamp for those two days only. As a perfect complement, the RISAA holds their annual Take-A-Kid Fishing Day on June 14. Last year, more than 300 members in 69 boats provided 200 new fishermen from area Boys and Girls Clubs, group homes and the Providence Recreation Department to a day on the Bay.
RIDEM is also working their way through the permitting process to purchase 6.9 acres of land across from Worden Pond for additional parking. As the state’s largest body of fresh water at more than one thousand acres of shallow waters and a home for excellent bass, pickerel and northern pike fishing, the state wants to clear lots of trees to make way for lots of vehicles and boats.
Those of us who fish to live and sometimes just to avoid yard work, surely understand the importance of clean waters, full stocks of forage fish to support the web of sea life and having many more generations of outdoorsmen not only to enjoy all that we have but also to work hard for its protection. Public access to waters, fresh and salt, seems to be getting harder to find and we are all far too familiar with the growth of chain link fences and those yellow signs reminding of us what we cannot, or can no longer, do there. Conservation, protection and management are all keys to maintaining our Ocean State and with that, preparing a few words for our State House law makers can go far to ensuring we will enjoy full lives here in the woods and on the waters. No preaching here, but as my young son often adds, “just sayin’…”