Spring is so close.
Colors are changing, pale green buds are patiently peeking out from riverbank maples. Tucked under bony rhododendron skeletons, tiny yellowed shoots emerging from wet leaves missed by fall’s rake tell us everything about the real calendar. River herring, Nature’s beloved harbinger of Spring, have arrived at Gilbert Stuart, swimming for Card Pond. Hardy fishermen know their telltale small bites on soft plastics beneath long, winding oily sheens calming choppy waters.
The Natural History Survey’s wonderful Kira Stillwell has announced the arrival of “quacking and peeping frogs and wiggling salamanders,” along with sightings of wood frogs, peepers, spotted and marbled salamanders in South County and north to Cumberland.
In advance of Spring’s greatest day, DEM has closed fishing for trout in designated trout waters. Keeping with tradition and regulation, trout season opens this year at 6:00 a.m. on April 14. We’ll give you a complete list of stocked lakes ponds and rivers in a few weeks.
Now is the right time to renew hunting and fishing licenses with the state’s new online website portal. Freshwater fishing, recreational saltwater fishing, hunting, and combination freshwater fishing and hunting licenses are all now available online and each sportsman will be issued a Rhode Island Fishing and Hunting ID number to make return visits to the system much easier. Going paperless allows us access to license information twenty-four hours a day so out on the river you can just reach for your smartphone to purchase a trout conservation stamp when a few big rainbows start inhaling your parachute Adams or to extend a visit if you’re from away.
Some retailers will continue to offer licenses and stamps but you’ll pay an extra two dollars per license and fifty cents per permit for the option. This is a welcome technological advancement for RIDEM but I must admit, as someone still lamenting the loss of Benny’s, there’s something really wonderful about waiting in line for a paper license.
It was fun to fill out a new year’s paperwork, to hand over last year’s folded up, worn out license as proof you put your time in, that you could carry a fishing rod or firearm. Those red plastic cases, which usually tore the first time we tried to get our license out when Officer Schipritt came to check, they were part of the ritual.
Buying a new license at our local tackle store on a blustery March day gave us hope again, hope to see some old characters, to whisper about that perfect spot again, to paddle a canoe again, to tie on a fly again, to catch trout again, to take someone very young and very happy fishing on opening day for the very first time, hope for all things to be new again.
Everything changes, I guess.
Another sure sign of spring, The New England Saltwater Fishing Show was a smashing success. A product of 15 years of hard work by the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, the weekend offered everything a fisherman could dream of for getting back on the water. Small inflatables, dories, Hobie and Eddyline kayaks and cloud white center consoles will be on display. The biggest names in electronics were there to help you outfit any size boat. Fishermen shopped for off the rack rods and talked with custom rod builders, like Howard Reed of Narrow River Rods then matched them to a myriad of reels for all situations. Local and federal regulators like RIDEM Enforcement, CRMC, the ASMFC, NOAA and the MA Division of Marine Fisheries had booths so you could ask questions and learn more about what they do and how they support fisheries management.
The best captains, like Snug Harbor’s Big Game and No Fluke Charters were there to offer advice on where and when to have the best day offshore or in the bay. The biggest magazines, sun glass manufacturers and lure makers, like Al’s Goldfish Lure Company, were all on display. Then there were the seminars.
Mike Fotiades helped us through the basics of fly fishing, Dave Morton of Beavertail Rod and Reel advised on how to keep everything in working order while over at The Casting Lane, Matt Bosgraff showed people how to outfit fishing kayaks.
On Saturday and Sunday, Captain Jerry Sparks and yours truly helped anglers extend their seasons in salt ponds and rivers. It was a “If Abbott and Costello Went Fishing” kind of seminar but with The Captain’s tremendous experience, discussions of the best lures and gear, a few witty exchanges and frequent chuckles, it was hour not to be missed.
And thank you Spring, for reminding us about all we have in store; not just the peepers which we’ll curse in a few weeks for keeping us awake the first nights we could sleep with the windows open or the buckies who arrive in such numbers that it’s almost impossible to catch a striper until they’re safely in freshwater but for the reminder that there’s always hope.
In the words of philosopher Bernard Williams, “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”