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Fish access just as important as recreational fishing access

April 30, 2014

It’s all about access now. Hopefully, everything needing to be done has been done because ocean and river temperatures are climbing, ever so slowly. Chris Littlefield on Block Island noticed a 5 degree uptick in seawater temperatures around the island in a week, which might show some positive current changes assisted by a few sunny days. Newport sea water has risen from just over 41 degrees back on April 16 to as high as 48 this week. A big charge of rain can alter that a bit but with stripers seeking that fifty degree line and rivers teeming with herring, I believe it’s time to make time to go fishing.

Galilee head boats are reporting better numbers of cod with some green ones in the mix where the water was clear. Scup, fluke and winter flounder are all open now. Tautog season, which has started very slowly, is open until May 31 then reopens Aug. 1. Be sure to check the regulations as these fisheries open and close throughout the year and you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the line. We are fast on the heels of squid fishing, evidenced by missing 5 gallon buckets, extension cords and flood lights with all the good dish towels having been commandeered for ink rags. Squid fanatics tend to hold really productive spots close to the vest but where there exists decent light over the water, your chances of jigging up some bait or dinner will improve by the week.

Bill at Hope Valley Bait & Tackle knows of some stripers being caught near river outlets and the largemouth bite is strong as they are in the aggressive pre-spawn mode. Look for bass finning out bowls in shallow sandy bottoms and being very protective. When bass are in this attacking mode, don’t pass up using minnows for that live bait strike. The west wall is warming and if the powers above can muster up some southwest winds, we might just see the place really turn on.

Looks like spring rains have hit the Carolina Trout Pond pretty hard which, compounded by a failure in the drainage system, have rendered the earthen dam unsafe. RIDEM has postponed the next round of trout stocking and as they schedule and begin repairs, they ask that you stay off the affected area, which seems reasonable.

For five years, RIDEM has bred a few golden trout, which were released into a single body of water. When a lucky angler landed one, they earned a prize. Due to the success of the whole deal, four ponds are now stocked, with a new golden trout pin prize. Your next chance to catch one will be during the Free Freshwater Fishing Days this weekend. Started almost 20 years ago, these two license-free days are open to Rhode Islanders and those from away. Browning Mill Pond in Exeter will be stocked instead of Carolina Trout Pond, as will Silver Spring Lake in North Kingstown. The other regular rules and regulations still apply so make sure you do your homework before setting out.

The alewives and bluebacks continue to show up in force, although some at RIDEM feel the numbers might be a bit thin. Many inches of this column have been devoted to these relentless forage fishes, whose position at the lower end of the food chain is of almost incomparable measure. Scores of good people have given up hundreds of man-hours, even skipping church on Sundays, to help haul herring above and beyond our local impediments, all with a goal of putting themselves out of business. Fish continue to be transferred to calm waters like Worden, Watchaug and now Factory Pond. PBS television was on hand last weekend to capture images of these volunteers at the Palisades Mill in Peace Dale, a few of whom were drafted right off the street, passing up over 600 nets full of fish.

The efforts circumvent a dated and overly aggressive, though well-intentioned fish ladder. Planned alterations to the upper sections’ pitch and its overall flow velocity will hopefully allow passage of herring and shad to the rest of the river system. Jim Turek over at Narragansett’s NOAA office is confident plans for the new Saugatucket fish ladder at Main Street are proceeding as planned with completion hopefully near years end. The writer Charles Gray referenced rivers and coves along Narragansett Bay where once the fish, “Ran so thick that the English said they could walk across the salmon on the backs of the salmon without getting their feet wet.” Who knows, maybe our kids will someday see a salmon or a sturgeon cruising around a fish ladder. Or maybe we just won’t need fish ladders any more.

Just like those diadramous fishes seeking spawning waters, we too are always looking for water access. South County is blessed with miles of shoreline and several types of boats ramps to fresh and marine waters. The Coastal Resources Management Council uses the ArcGIS system on their website so you can easily identify your rights-of-way.

There are also town protected access points, usually designated by a street sign. Take a drive to Park Ave in Matunuck, it’s a great place to slip in a kayak and check out Segar and Sycamore Coves. There is also a great spot to start surfcasting at the end of Matunuck Beach Road, right across from the Narragansett Salt Water Fishing Club, although there is no road-side parking. It’s a sign of a water use dichotomy: we work hard to keep access open for our own recreational pursuits yet so easily overlook access for the very fish which feed the fish for which we fish. That’s confusing on a few fronts but, just like our water and air temperatures, it’s getting better by the day.

 

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