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Randy Degrace knows where big fish feed

Good news this week, which we always need. The Beaver River is getting a respite from stocking, kids have a slight change to kids-only trout fishing days, blackfish are back on the calendar and our friend Randy Degrace came so close, like within just one inch close, of a state record black sea bass.

We can always use good news

As of July 31, we have new regulations for the Beaver River. RIDEM has established the waterway as a no kill, catch and release only area. According to the Department, “This includes the portion from the confluence of the Beaver River and the Pawcatuck River, located downstream of Shannock Hill Road, Richmond, upstream to New London Turnpike, Richmond. Fishing is permitted with artificial lures equipped with a single barbless hook or single barbed hook that has been crimped, and all fish caught shall be returned to the water immediately. The possession of any trout, salmon or charr while fishing in this section of the river shall be primary evidence that said trout, salmon or charr was taken in violation of these Rules and Regulations.” Clear enough.

The State will also no longer stock the river with hatchery raised, non-native rainbow and brown trout.

This is a watershed moment, pun intended, for everyone to recognize the values of protecting native species while allowing populations to grow in size and number. Anglers can consider refocusing collective energies on the idea of not just parking plastic deck chairs next to ponds and casting out green balls to catch fish accustomed to twice daily feedings but on loving a hike on winding paths to find small fish in wild places. Brook trout will be a pretty introduction to parts of Richmond and New England we might have never known existed.

In the Department’s own words, “Furthermore, this change will provide a unique opportunity for anglers to target wild brook trout and admire them for their natural beauty.”  So many have been raised on a put-and-take fishery, following fish whose only migration was in a tank truck, that understanding the wonderful achievement of finding wild, native fish, that it will take time for sure.  Stocking serves a purpose in some situations but it shouldn’t be seen as an elixir to environmental problems. If more waters are removed from the stocking list, there just might be monies left over from all those license sales to support wild fish through land purchases, angler education, dam removal and habitat restoration.

This is a new day for anglers and thanks are due to RIDEM, the Town of Richmond, whose Beaver River Watershed Assessment report determined the river should be a priority area for preserving wild brook trout habitat without stocking other fish over them, and to Rhode Island’s Trout Unlimited chapter. Led by their unstoppable President, Glenn Place, they worked tirelessly to generate enough steam push this mighty ball forward. Sisyphus would be proud.

Teaching young fishermen and women to wander

The Department also announced a change to two ponds. “In addition to the other children only ponds listed, Cass Pond in Woonsocket and Geneva Brook and Pond in North Providence have been revised to be restricted to children for only the first two days of the trout fishing season.” Stocking there serves a fine purpose as kids learn to love fishing and being outdoors. Maybe one day those young fishermen and women will find new joy in a meandering afternoon casting a three weight for gorgeous brookies under a canopy of maples. They’re out there, all over the state, just an inch on the map away from the side of some back roads.

Thanks Jerry

Starting on Jerry Garcia’s birthday, August first of course, blackfish, aka tautog, season reopens until October 14. The minimum size of sixteen inches remains the same with a three fish per day limit and a ten fish boat maximum per day. Much loved for their hearty fillets and fine taste from a diet of crabs, shrimp, lobsters and such, we are still advised to return females to keep the fishery healthy.

River Rules While A Ruler Rules

Tautog with an Al’s Goldfish Saltwater Series Fish Wrap Writer lure

Sometimes the ruler rules

Randy Degrace came soooooo close!

“When I saw that massive head and mouth coming up I knew it was a trophy, unfortunately not a record but close!” So said Randy Degrace of Ocean State Kayak Fishing fame. This week he landed a hefty black sea bass that measured just an inch shy of the 1981 Rhode Island record of 26”. “Had a dozen of these guys in its stomach, probably a thief for guys togging,” Randy said, showing off a small crab.

River Rules While A Ruler Rules

As the stomach turns in a black sea bass

Jigging a Hogy Green Mac Epoxy jig after some top water striper fishing, it was a personal best, which is always important, but that one inch had to hurt. “Hope to find another one, that was fun; it hit the jig before making it to the bottom,” he said. A tip of the camo hat to Randy, who toasted his good fortune with sea bass tacos, because he’ll be back in his Hobie Kayak with a tackle box full of Hogy lures, looking for that extra inch from his next catch.

Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman and occasional hunter whose writing relies on sarcasm and other people’s honest fish stories while seeing words as puzzle pieces that occasionally all fit together perfectly. You can read more New England fishing reports and stories at www.fishwrapwriter.com.

4 Comments

  1. Robert Maietta

    Happy Birthday Jerome indeed.

    • Todd Corayer

      Missed every day in this house…

  2. Robert Maietta

    And congratulations to the RIDEM for the
    unprecedented move on the Beaver River. Given the status of brook trout populations across New England, it’s a move that all state agencies should consider for any remaining streams with robust wild brook trout populations.

    • Todd Corayer

      Glenn Place and RITU did a lot of work with passionate people like Jim Turek to make that happen. It won’t make big headlines anywhere, except for here, I guess, but it really is big news.

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