2015 was our second year bringing you the voices, pictures, memories, losses and sure, a few lies from our favorite characters: fishermen. We walked through many meetings, hearings, debates and contests and watched a few tackle stores go dark. For this year’s highlights, we offer some laughs balanced with some sad goodbyes and, of course, an ample serving of sarcasm.
A few observations from last winter: Barber Pond appeared as a painting, with light snows hanging on the pine boughs and mirror images below. A thousand clear acres of wind have been tearing through the seams and zippers of ice fisherman on Worden Pond. A lone ice fisherman relaxed there in his easy chair, watching tip-up’s, sipping something fine and waiting. Over at the Post Road dam, RIDEM’s Andres Aveledo has answered all my emergency questions with details even I could understand, faster than you can possibly imagine. Cheers to you, Andres.
We extended some well deserved praise to RIDEM while asking them to consider some important changes and occasionally what we considered grievous errors. Keeping shiners in the bathtub can put a quiet but significant strain on a relationship… While some were out fishing this past weekend, the sweet sound of gunfire was echoing from the newly purchased Peacedale Shooting Preserve. It’s good to hear a reminder of the many different users of our South County waters and skies.
From deep snows, legions of mailboxes not already decapitated, balanced precariously on crooked posts, sticking out their tongues. RIDOT was spending approximately ten million dollars per year to salt our roads and just last winter used about 130,000 tons. Burying suitable locations for laying fish and animal eggs with a layer of fine sand can reduce populations and considering how we are taking up almost everything inch of everywhere, losing even a few small pools throws nature’s population plans out of balance. Only about 5 to 10% is recovered. Underneath all that ice and snow are the fishes we love to chase, like brook trout, which can tell us so much about the state of our natural condition.
When Spring came, Opening Day was a green flag for excuse making, tackle buying, road trip planning and getting back to holding down the pickup truck with your fishing buddies after a long day sitting in a canoe. The real star of opening day was a young Cole Hosey.
Cole landed a beautiful trout with colors matched only by the smile on his face and could not have been more proud to show off his catch. Beach Pond was closed for a few weeks, apparently leaving its rough-plowed parking lot the only place to hang out, steam up the windows enough to duck down, sip PBR’s and throw cigarette butts out the window. Considering a change to the striped bass regs: let’s just say this: we all burned the stock and we all need to build it back up. One fish does not mean the sky is falling or that customers will not return but it does mean that they can be educated on the stock’s health, learn that most large bass are females and are needed to sustain the population.
In New England alone, there are an estimated 27,000 run of the river dams over three feet tall, partially or completely obstructing moving waters; RI has 671. Alewives and blueback herring have returned to our fresh water rivers for thousands of years, continuously knocking on dam doors under bright spring moons, even though some have been shut for two hundred years. Dr. Robert Behnke, who authored the seminal book, Trout and Salmon of North America, wrote that 3 forms of brown trout have sufficiently intermingled to be genetically considered “the American brown trout”. writers note: the previous quote and my innocent observations would come back to bite me at the end of the year.
We met Brown University’s James Corbett who developed a cell phone app to track local jellyfish. Man, how our world is changing fast.
There are too many signs telling us what we can or can’t do. Then The Man made us line up and get a license to fish the ocean. Representative Blake Filippi, Constitution in clenched hand, said the whole concept is wrong while reminding us it costs approximately $3 to produce and manage this license but we are charged $7. Is this a tax?
Summer was all about stripers, the RI Bass Nation,
Block Island-which should never be referred to as “Block” of course-lots and lots of fluke, an epic year for warm water loving sea bass and piles of squid. We met ESPN’s Don Barone,
a most amazing man who started the Tackle The Storm Foundation.
Don is a positive force we humans really need. We kayaked the Narrow River and stood under bridges late at night to meet characters like Chris Chagnon, a real fisherman’s fisherman. We counted tuna with Brenden McGonagle and the crew of Patriot Six then rode for a shift with Environmental Police Officer Michael Schipritt, who taught me so much about all this understaffed department does to enforce the laws with courtesy and patience.
Fall and winter are a time when some are happy to be relieved of the tourist crush and those shiny signs telling us to go somewhere besides where we have always gone.
We met Narrow River Custom Rods’ Howard Reed, Jamestown’s Joe Tex,
floating cameraman Josh Edenbaum
and the fantastic, courteous, entertaining, Mr. Bass, Andrew Lavoie. Man what a kid!
By year’s end, stripers migrated south and we had said goodbye to Ron Mouchon, the “Mayor of Charlestown”. Matunuck’s Spud Mack and Block Island’s Allen Hall also passed on, leaving a significant void, I would offer.
Lots of new folks will drive by or move in, possibly never appreciating how the land and people have changed, how what they see of both is so different and has been scarred by time and man. Maybe we are slipping into a state of “used-to-be’s”, which is fine for giving directions but not for living. Just as the Protect RI Brook Trout folks are telling us,
the time is now to take stock of our place in nature, to study the past, apply it to the present in order to prepare for the future. I, for one, see great hope and promise for rebuilt fisheries, common sense rules, returning alewives and another year of meeting more characters who make my job so absolutely enjoyable.
Thank you all and Happy New Year.