Shellfish farmer Perry Raso has applied for another lease to grow shellfish, this time in a really wonderful salt pond backwater frequently used by a myriad of recreational users. His lease application, number 2017-12-086, is for suspended and floating gear to grow oysters and bay scallops in Segar Cove in South Kingstown’s Potter Pond.
Perry already leases seven acres in the pond. While it’s true that leases can be written so that recreational users have access, the reality is that when the surface and water column are gagged with gear, rope, buoys and anchors, there isn’t much room to do much of anything there, except grow shellfish. Bay scallops are non-communal and require lots of space to be grown efficiently. That likely means the water column will be full of nets and floating oyster bags will be deployed at the surface. All that gear requires maintenance: bags must be constantly cleaned of fouling organisms and switched out for larger mesh sizes as the oysters grow. This means workers and more boat traffic, perhaps a work area to stage all that cleaning. And if the shellfish grow well, will Raso apply for even more space?
The application’s timing is troubling. There are rental homes surrounding the pond so homeowners likely are not tuned into local news in January. Something as important as a losing access to three acres might go unnoticed until next summer when renters are wondering why they can’t water ski or cast red yarn for stripers blitzing for cinder worms in the same places they have for years. Small boat charter captains who wait all year to take sports into the shallows for epic days and nights of bass fishing likely will know nothing about this until they return to find rafts of floats and black plastic bags. Nearly every late afternoon while fishing that pond, I watch two people turning lazy circles around the cove in a sweet wooden cat boat, leaning back against the rail, watching the sky change, safe in a backwater. Quite often there are kids tubing behind a center console, having a blast. There are fishermen in kayaks quietly hoping for a schoolie to take a fly or pearl Ron-Z or a bigger fish to tow them around the pond. Those who wait patiently for a summertime cinder worm hatch may lose access if the lease is allowed.
Shellfish aquaculture has many positives, economically, socially and environmentally but in my opinion, Segar Cove is not the place to expand a business at the expense of so many recreational users, many of whom are not here to learn about, agree to or oppose the application. The public comment period closed February 2 but you can contact Dave Beutel, the state’s Aquaculture Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 401-783-3370 to be added to the email list for announcements of future applications.
Mark your calendars, it’s time to go shopping at the Narragansett Surfcasters Surf Day & Used Tackle Sale.
This day is a much needed day of winter relief, it’s a room packed with all things fishing, it’s a reminder we need to start cleaning tackle boxes and untangling treble hooks so we can forget about shoveling driveways. The Narragansett Community Center, where the club normally holds its monthly meetings, will be tight with long tables piled high with reels, lures, plugs, and all sorts of gear. Often there are books for sale about fishing, reel repair and rod building right down the aisle from fishing authors, reel repair professionals and custom rod builders. Antique and rare items are always a big draw for collectors; classic hand painted wooden lures, fly reels and creels, tins for holding this or that, maybe even a bamboo rod will be for sale.
Part of the charm is spending a few hours perusing each table, looking for a bargain, for something you’d rather buy used, for a part you can’t find anywhere else, even for something you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. Surf Day is also a really wonderful afternoon to connect with old fishing buddies you might not have seen the since the last bass headed south.
The Surf Day New and Used Fishing Tackle Sale happens Saturday, February 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Narragansett Community Center, 53 Mumford Road in Narragansett. A donation of three dollars gets you in, which the club uses to help support their “Take a Kid Fishing Day”; if you have a few extra bills in your pocket, they’d love to take more young people out on the water. The Surfcasters are an excellent group of real fishermen, the event mirrors the club itself: organized, entertaining, accommodating and fun. Plus, there’s always good food to enjoy while you burn off some calories walking and shopping. The Tackle Sale is a fine excuse to get out of the house, take a drive by the beach, support a local group and head home with an armload of new and used gear to help you through a few more weeks of winter until the first stripers start to move out of the salt ponds.