Newport This Week

Fishing Poles Get New Use – Social Distancing

Shore fishing has always been a solitary pursuit.

Whether salt or freshwater angling, the vast majority of fishermen trudge off alone to their spot, away from the prying eyes of others, to land the fish they know are there or are apt to swim by soon.

Unless they are elbow-to-elbow on the Cape Cod Canal because they know where the keepers run, normally the anglers want to keep their distance. Now, they must.

Last week, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) announced that the state’s lakes, ponds, rivers and streams are open to fish for trout. While freshwater fishing is open year-round for other species, trout are stocked by RIDEM each winter in preparation for a season that traditionally opens on the second Saturday in April.

But for this strange spring season, RIDEM adopted an emergency regulation, opening early in order to eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional opening day.

“Fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience, with just the members of your immediate household, and not as a group activity,” a RIDEM statement said.

When the shores fill with anglers later this month, timed to the arrival of the first striped bass and bluefish from the south, RIDEM recommends using fishing poles as a distance marker, extending them to keep anglers apart. Anglers must maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and be in groupings of no more than five. If they arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming or the parking lot is full, they should choose a different location or return at another time or day.

And if they catch a fish? No high fives.

To reduce the number of people fishing at any given time and mitigate crowds in freshwater, RIDEM has implemented a system that staggers the days when licensed anglers with trout stamps can fish. Those with last names beginning with A-M can fish on even numbered calendar days, and those with last names beginning with N-Z can do so on odd numbered days. (RIDEM law enforcement officers will use their discretion for family groups of five or less who routinely fish together but have different last names).

RIDEM will also impose parking restrictions during the first two weekends of the season, and porta johns have been removed from fishing sites. RIDEM environmental police officers and staff will be present at fishing locations to assist licensed anglers, answer questions and monitor fishing spots for compliance.

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