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This week, part two of the 2021 Fish Wrap Review. Coastal access and total characters made for a big year. 2021 comments are in italics and as always, thanks for reading Fish Wrap.

Coastal Access

Sunset over a PUBLIC South County beach, photo by Bill McCusker

Public Access bill H5469 was introduced as a direct result of landowners attempting to stop people from “trespassing on ‘their’ beach. It’s difficult now to determine high tide lines, especially given that “hoax” of global warming and rising sea levels so new property owners can stake out gaudy, obnoxious KEEP OUT signs to prevent the common person from doing precisely what they want to do with their new money second home. H5469 should go a long way to reminding people with waterfront property that the beach is shared by all of us, at least below the weed line, which can stink as badly as some of the arguments against public access.

Conservation and protecting shoreline access will be a huge part of 2022

In November, the Special Legislative Commission to Study and Provide Recommendations on the Issues Relating to Lateral Access Along the Rhode Island Shoreline listened to more than three hours of people offering personal stories, concerns and encouragements about shrinking public shoreline access. People lined up to share stories of being blocked, mostly by new transplants who thought little of those who walked before them and honestly, the people are pissed. While many were incensed by the gall of those so adamantly opposed to walkers, anglers and, well, according to our Constitution, we don’t need a reason or purpose to walk the beach. Provided we are on “the beach”, we should never have to even acknowledge a statement like, “This is private property.”  You can watch the testimony here.

Best dressed fisherfolks ever. Photo courtesy of Susan Estabrook

Over at Sprague Bridge, In the cleanup spot this week, pun intended, possibly the best dressed trash crew ever waded the lower shores of Narragansett’s Narrow River on a recent cold April weekend. Members of the Rhody Fly Rodders and RISAA supported the Narrow River Preservation Association. Members ascended the dirt path down the edges of a pretty estuary, after risking their lives trying to cross a busy Boston Neck Road where vehicle speed often outweighs driver courtesy. Carrying bright orange five gallon buckets, their small angler army worked both shores to clean up what has washed up or just been callously tossed away.


Jose for the win!

Jose Agustin Vinas-Vasquez launched at an Ocean State Kayak Fishing event for the first time, only to win the day. “This is my first time in the kayak,” said the tournament’s real star. Standing proudly alongside his blue 13’5” Feel Free kayak, Jose spoke about being new to kayak fishing with a sense of purpose and genuine confidence. There was something about the way he said hello, announcing his virgin voyage into pea soup fog, clearly thoroughly excited about his chances.

Fish were hard to find. At 33”, the winning bass exploded on a Shimano Coltsniper Splash Walk topwater lure in 9’ of water. The 29”second place fish also fell for a top water plug cast from newcomer Jose’s kayak. This will not be the last successful fishing story we tell of Jose Vinas-Vasquez.

Shimano lands the big bass

Shimano lures were a big part of our success in 2021

One shining moment for sure was meeting Frank and Joyce Daignault. Frank is a legend in the outdoors writing world and his wife Joyce has helped him achieve such notoriety. Frank Daignault started writing about fishing in 1969. With Joyce working the red pen, he built a reputation as a world-class fisherman and outdoors writer. That growing notoriety drew attendance at fishing shows with large crowds waiting in long, weaving lines to buy his books like The Trophy Striper, Eastern Tides, Twenty Years On The Cape and Fly Fishing The Striper Surf.

One night, Frank tied the striper fly fishing world record at 43 pounds. He sold the bass in the morning and went back to work fishing that night. Not surprisingly, Frank begins most sentences with “she,” announcing respect seasoned with true affection. Meeting them was a 2021 highlight.

Joyce and Frank Dignault

We met and lost Clover, one of the prettiest American Field dogs you might ever see. Properly named Colonials Four Leaf Clover, she was an AKC black Labrador, a loving companion of Bruce Leduc and a memorable hunting dog. Clover joined Bruce for visits to his Dad’s nursing home, quickly bringing smiles to Bruce’s father’s face but then the nurse would come in and out went Clover, out to visit other residents who needed a pet, a smile and wave as she wagged her tail room to room.

Farewell Clover. You were a sweet, smart, pretty and much loved companion who retrieved with the best of your breed. I was blessed to see you work, never resting, straining to run and return, looking up at Bruce with your happy face, feathers hanging from your mouth, asking with your eyes why it was taking so long to drop more birds. “They are so much a part of your life and then all at once, it’s gone. She went out on top of her game.”

Clover. So missed. Photo by Bruce LeDuc

2021 Fish Wrap Review

Captain Sprengel with a big, healthy striper fooled with a Shimano Splash Walk

We met Captain Jack Sprengel, casting a Shimano Current Sniper SplashWalk lure. “Patience isn’t a luxury I usually have,” he said and that’s precisely why he’s always moving, adjusting, looking to understand what’s changed in ten minutes and where fish are or might be. Basic boat decisions are smart and quick and if you didn’t catch his drift when he made one, he’ll take that rod out of your hand to do what needs to be done for that moment. Arrogance is a far distant cousin from confidence. He hooked up on his first cast.

Saving Beaver River Brookies

John Vander Werff, fishing around the world

We met Jon Vender Werff, who studied and snorkeled the Beaver River to identify brook trout populations and habitat. “Brook trout are an American icon,” he said. “A hundred years from now, someone will be able to catch a brook trout. That’s what fuels me every day.”  In Richmond, he found catchable sized fish, over six inches, tallied numbers and dropped pins to secure GPS locations. Remarkably, he saw potential for sea run brookies, although we was not able to document their presence.

Dig those Klondike Kustoms baby!

Lure creator Matt Thayer was a 2021 standout. “Yeah, I eat, sleep and breath fishing,” he said. That’s not unusual in our part of the world, where we enjoy easy access to fresh and salt waters but Matt’s equally immersed in the sport and business. He’s a woodworker, boat builder, fisherman and from his home base shed and six foot workbench, a world class lure creator. “I started making my own spinner baits because I couldn’t find the single Colorado blade type that I liked.” His spinner baits are in high demand now.  “I’m known as the spinner bait guy,” he said with a laugh. 

Matt Thayer, fisherman and artist

Warren Winders’ book “Wild River” was a fish Wrap favorite and our review was shared by Trout Magazine. A fisherman and lover of moving waters, Warren paints for us; room to room, porch to field, river rock to open sea. Trout swim throughout  as he carries us to The Cape with her dismantled salter brook trout populations, over Mount Bald Cap and along the Neponset River where his father jumped across on the tops of icebergs. It’s his remembrances, some sewn tightly with grief, loss, pain and past joys which gripped me because he reminds us this is our lives, these are our struggles and that ultimately we are just human after all, infallible and fragile.

Wild River Warren Winders

Warren speaks about waters while Geoffrey Day gets pulled in by them

Angler Jason Anctil had a banner year. “My brother Keith calls me a lure pirate,” said angler Jason Anctil. “I do my very best to keep the economy going by buying fishing gear. Every season I start with the bare minimum in my boat, but within a few trips, my boat is overflowing with more gear and then some more from our local bait shops.”  Jason summer up the year, saying, “Every winter I plan on getting more organized but instead I go fishing.”

Always One Bite Away

Finally, sadly, we lost Steve Medeiros. Steve was a proud Vietnam-era Navy veteran, retired West Warwick Police Department Sergeant, owner of Medeiros Studios and Ex. Director/Founder of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association. Steve was at every meeting, with his trademark jeans and RISAA polo shirt, managing an army, or navy as it were, of officers, ensuring monthly seminars were class acts: finely tuned, informative, entertaining and purposeful in intent to bring members together to enjoy each other’s company and learn about fishing. Fish and fishermen in abundance, that was his mission. Fair seas Steve, I bet you never would have imagined how much you would be missed.

Gone but certainly not forgotten




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