PROVIDENCE – Trout season’s open but crowds are out, so the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has begun a trout season social distancing plan at some lakes, ponds, rivers and streams for anglers on an odd-even schedule.
Trout were stocked by DEM earlier this year in preparation for the season, traditionally opening the second Saturday in April. DEM adopted an emergency regulation opening the freshwater fishing season early this year on April 6 with new measures to eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing.
People whose last names begin with letters A through M can only fish on even-numbered calendar days, and those with last names beginning with N through Z can only fish on odd numbered calendar days.
DEM will also impose parking restrictions during the first two weekends of the fishing season and has removed porta-johns from fishing sites as a public health measure. DEM environmental police officers and DEM staff will be present at fishing locations to assist licensed anglers, answer questions, and monitor fishing spots for compliance, and the Department may adjust the fishing season if necessary.
“Everything about our normal routines has been upended by COVID-19, and we are asking people to take special care to respect a new system this year so that all anglers may safely fish for trout,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “The reason we are opening early on a Monday and imposing a system designed to reduce fishing activity by half is so that we can open at all. In light of the risks and restrictions associated with the coronavirus, we had to design a new approach to trout fishing this spring. We hope that people will appreciate the opportunity to fish during a difficult time and allow us to keep trout season going by respecting the rules.”
Fishing: A solitary, or family activity. No groups
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience, with just the members of your immediate household, and not as a group activity.
Anglers must follow social distancing practices and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and in groupings of no more than five persons. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming or the parking lot is full, please leave and choose a different location or return at another time or day. DEM will keep updating information to guide people and will post this information at www.dem.ri.gov/fishing. And, since State Parks are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, ponds in the major parks – such as Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods, Peck Pond in Pulaski Park, and Meshanticut Park Pond in Cranston – will not be opened until later this season.
“While it may seem strange to some that DEM is allowing fishing during a time of crisis, we feel we can offer this opportunity to enjoy a traditional pastime while meeting health guidance,” said Director Janet Coit. “DEM staff will be out monitoring the next few days and weeks, and we will coordinate closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health experts to make adjustments as needed to maintain a safe atmosphere.”
Trout: DEM stocking up
DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is only stocking trout in larger waterbodies and locations that allow anglers to adhere to social distancing rules. This year, approximately 54,000 rainbow, brook, golden and brown trout are being stocked. Smaller waterbodies, including children-only fishing ponds, are not being stocked. Restocking will occur, but stocking locations will not be announced in advance to minimize crowds. For the safety of Fish and Wildlife staff, people should not approach staff while they are stocking fish. Visit DEM’s website for an up-to-date list of trout stocking locations. These locations may change, and do not include ponds in certain state parks and in children-only fishing ponds as they tend to be areas that attract crowds. For a list of non-stocked ponds, visit DEM’s website.
This year, the Golden Trout promotion will be extended. Anglers will have until September 1st to send in their photos to qualify for a golden trout pin. The list of ponds is posted at fishing locations, www.dem.ri.gov, and www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM [facebook.com].