Monday morning bus stops will be full of chilly children doing the two-sneaker shuffle dance, hands stuffed in wind breaker pockets, collars turned to the breeze, the air suffuse with old bug spray. These are sure signs of fishermen parents who, forcing the hand of spring, have banished all winter clothing to dark cellar corners, creating precious space for new season valuables. Rods, spare reels, waders, trout nets, selfies with stripers can all reclaim their order in closets and on shelves. Parents will tell their children, “It was so much colder when I was a kid,” “The heat’s on at school,” or “The days are getting warmer anyway.”
This annual transfer, which may possibly occur without the agreement of all household members, is a direct result of this weekend’s New England Salt Water Fishing Show in Providence, organized by the Rhode Island Salt Water Anglers Association. These three days of all things fishing is as good an indicator of spring’s arrival as the osprey’s return or the smell of warm waffle cones at Brickley’s. There are over 250 vendors to visit, including our local Snug Harbor Marina, the Lonely Angler and a personal favorite, the Fluke ‘til You Puke Tournament.
Attending the show is a good logical move as it affords fishermen an opportunity to coordinate networking, purchasing, shipping and even continuing education. We can stock up on staples such as lines and lures, swivels and scum frogs, bunker oil and bait keeper hooks, while conveniently taking stock of new technologies and outdoors-themed fashions. Time should always be allocated for a troll through the worm bar. There really is a worm bar.
Each day offers seminars on catching wicked tuna with captains from the National Geographic TV show, rod and reel care, rigging plastics and dragging umbrella rigs. You can purchase some nutritious black pepper wild boar jerky to enjoy while appreciating the touring replica of an 18 foot great white shark or Peter Vican’s record 77.4 pound striped bass. It’s a lot like taking your family shopping, to college then out for lunch and an art gallery. Parenting can be very rewarding.
This is also a great opportunity to speak with representatives from Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Our government controls how where and when we fish, so if you have questions about stocking, water access, clean water, licensing or regulation changes, this is your chance. They will be at booths 114 and 115.
Women and kids under 14 are free on Sunday. This year kids can practice their casts, discover small gifts as they work through a scavenger hunt and meet the RI Sea Scouts. RISAA folding tables are heaped with used tackle bargains, much of which is just right for young fishermen. The real deal, however, comes when members help kids pick out a rod or lure or offer some assistance with casting. There is a genuine gleam in their eyes. More than just getting together to talk fishing, this group does a wonderful job encouraging young people to be good fishermen.
Our new world puts pressures on children from angles few of us may have imagined; they benefit from natural outlets that keep them grounded. While a light tackle tarpon Xbox battle is a fine recliner chair challenge, real memories are cast on sandy riverbanks, wearing a silly fly fishing vest-just like your Dad’s- or paddling a canoe through water lilies in total silence. A subtle tug on your rod tip can be the greatest of erasers.
Based on my admittedly sketchy science, this show may also be responsible for many spring yard sales, much like my hypothesis tying the increase of yard sales to rising bay temperatures. Closets exceeding their safe carrying capacity, bulging with shoes scarves and bags-belonging to either gender, mind you- might be easily bartered for cash over a Saturday morning early bird table. This frees up necessary capital for inventory replacement well timed for the northern striper migration. There may be a low incidence of minor injuries resulting from poor prior communication.
Regardless, this asset reassignment creates important space for corkers, fly rods, self-help casting books and minnow traps, which over time, develop a patina very similar to fine art. This movement may include a vital collection of camouflaged hats because, for fishermen, there is an obvious difference between too many pairs of shoes and just enough of whatever we need to go fishing in a safe, fully loaded kind of fashion.
After the show there is plenty on our horizon. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is hosting a public workshop on proposed hunting and fishing rule changes on April 2 at the Arcadia Management Area. U.S. Fish & Wildlife is offering classes on tying cinder worm patterns on Tuesday, April 29 at the Kettle Pond Visitor Center. Snug Harbor has early morning party boat trips for cod and pollack. Finally, alewives have returned to the Saugatucket and even as far north as Massachuck Creek in Barrington; they can be seen with decent sunlight at the Main Street bridge.
By Monday, we will have balanced economics, continuing education and art, making for a long but rewarding weekend, while officially welcoming a long overdue season. It won’t be long now until sunrise casting into Deep Hole makes us late for work, squid reappear under the lights and our pickups get that wonderful stale salt water essence. For the bus stop crew, odds are good there is a piece of spicy hot jalapeño turkey jerky in that windbreaker pocket just large enough to take away the chill.
Todd Corayer is a life-long fisherman who lives not far from the Saugatucket with his wife, who supports his fishing just to get him out of the house and a young son who regularly catches more fish than him.