Being a writer often puts you in the receiving end of random judgments from readers, pigeonholing you as decent, mildly above average or worse, worthless. With that in mind, it’s interesting what we learned while sitting with my young son, across a table from a few old men at a fisheries meeting who had determined my skill level and without ever having met me, spoke of my striking resemblance to a human’s posterior relief vent and a travelling artist sporting a big red nose. Such was the occasion a few weeks back when two members of a local Trout Unlimited chapter discussed my failures, not realizing my aforementioned posterior was so close by. Based on their other conversations, it seems their skills were better honed to chasing rainbows than knowing with whom they were sitting. Even after a few years with my caricature in newspapers statewide and a fair social media presence, being anonymous suits me, and that’s just fine. To be clear, TU has a strong membership of dedicated and passionate volunteers who can see the light of environmental conservation in the dirtiest of waters.
The Waldorf and Statler routine on my literary malpractice stems from a 3 part series we published last year on protecting some brook trout habitat in the Upper Wood River. Among other discussions, it raised the issue of brook trout, by the State’s own Wildlife Action Plan, being a Species of Greatest Conservation Need and of stocking non-native trout over populations of native brookies, a practice TU national prohibits. Several months later they still seem bitter that someone called them out in light of the obvious and more important needs of protecting, even considering protecting habitat, not just making arrangements for a shady pool full of pellet-filled stockers. Occasionally, tremendous unknown benefits come from those who take the time to consider something different instead of embracing the cozy confines of tradition.
What a wonderful opportunity they missed, as leadership of the very civic minded group that is Trout Unlimited, to extend a hand across a table and introduce themselves to a young fisherman, who also happens to be a TU member. How’s that for irony? TU recognizes the next generation is key to the groups survival and to sustaining a mission of preservation, but they ignored that chance meeting, a meeting with a young man who has fished more rivers lakes and shoreline-and landed more fish from small mouth to striped bass than many adults- to talk trash about their own members, one of which was his father. What an embarrassment.
I accepted their poorly timed insults, callously spoken in front of my young son, as a price of writing and expressing a well-researched opinion but then a few days later, accepted a First Place award for Best Newspaper Column from our country’s oldest regional outdoor writers organization for the same series. After the presentation, when we writers, of all skill levels, shared a meal and conversations at long common tables, we all took time to say hello to everyone, so we would know exactly with whom we were sitting. Enough said.
A fine example of Trout Unlimited’s volunteer effort is the involvement of local chapter 225 as they partner with RIDEM, United Fly Tyers and the Wood River Fly Fishing Club for a Family Fun Fly Fishing Day on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Carolina Trout Hatchery. This is a great chance to learn from some very generous fishermen about the gear, tying your own flies, some basic for good casting and where to fish. Even better, lunch is included. The United Fly Tyers and Trout Unlimited offer a similar fun day, the Kid’s Fly Fishing Event, on April 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Addieville East Farm in Mapleville. Reservations are required for both, so call 401.539.0019 to save a seat for you and the kids.
In an effort to reduce opportunities for deception, RIDEM has instituted a new law requiring striped bass fishermen, commercial and recreational, to completely remove the right pectoral fin of any bass larger than thirty-four inches. This simple snip will prohibit their possession or sale by fin or shellfish dealers. The one fish per day with a minimum size of twenty-eight inches still applies. You can spend countless hours in small rooms with really smart people night after night trying to develop balanced regulations to preserve stocks and keep fishermen happy, then someone comes up with such a simple fix. Fantastic.
Brown University’s James Corbett has been studying jellies in local waters and just documented a bloom in the Seekonk River. He said, “I personally observed lion’s manes, moon jellies, and comb jellies while standing on the shore of Blackstone Park”. Jellies this time of year can be indicators of some negative environmental conditions but when pressed for any connection between the jellies and spring fishing, he noted that likely those lion’s mane jellies were dining on the comb jellies, which eat zooplankton and fish larvae. Since the zooplankton eat phytoplankton, which thrive in areas of nutrient mixing, typically a result of strong spring or fall winds, their return can be a harbinger of other fishes migrating back here. James added, “The spring jellyfish blooms can be thought of as “aquatic groundhogs” that indicate the presence ecological factors necessary to support planktivorous baitfish such as silversides and menhaden. Of course, the stripers and blues should follow shortly after.” So if James’ hypothesis is correct, those jellies are signs we are on the heels of real spring fishing. Cheers to James for his work; it adds an interesting dimension to our understanding of Nature’s signals and we will follow his work closely.