Fishing tournaments a threat to Stafford Pond reservoir

To the editor:

I am writing as president of the Stafford Pond Improvement Association in regards to the issue of fishing tournaments with unlimited horsepower and unlimited numbers of boats taking place on Stafford Pond.
Many of the members of our association are upset with the fact that the state decided to change regulations effecting this pond and its many users and residents without any input from town officials, the pond residents or Stone Bridge Water.
In the past few years the character of the pond has been altered by the presence of large tournaments with boats that far exceed the 10 horsepower limit that was established by the town and the state for the DEM-owned boat ramp.
Some of the tournaments are as large as 30 boats or more. Many of the boats have engines over 200 horsepower. There are currently scheduled and have been been in the past, tournaments that begin at sunrise on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There have also been and our currently scheduled night tournaments.
We oppose the unlimited and unrestricted fishing tournaments for the following reasons.
Most of the tournaments are scheduled for five to six hours; with no facilities at the boat ramp or anywhere else on the pond it is inevitable that the pond will be used as a bathroom.
We also feel that the addition of so many boats capable of speeds in excess of 60 mph makes the pond a less safe and a less relaxing environment for many other people. I have had boats come very close to my children and myself while we kayak, paddleboard and boat. I have heard this same complaint from several of my neighbors and other boaters. We have also had fishermen casting very close to where children sit on docks or relax on floats.
When 10 to 35 boats with large motors all leave the ramp within minutes of each other the noise is excessive, especially at 5:30 a.m. Many members and other fishermen have also noticed and remarked that there are many more tournament-style boats on the pond during the week when no tournaments are scheduled. Calling DEM Enforcement has done little good due to the fact that  they are often unable to respond quickly.
The final and perhaps most important issue is that of invasive species being brought into the pond. The larger bass boats that attend most of the tournaments all have live wells as well as bilges that could easily import an invasive plant into the pond. Many of these boats fish at ponds and lakes all over New England.
We understand that many of the tournament fishermen are responsible and thoughtful. I have met many nice folks over the years on the pond, but the problem has become a serious concern lately due to the actions of a small number of the boats.
We feel that the state should, at the bare minimum, place some restrictions on the tournaments for Stafford Pond, such as  a maximum number of boats, starting time, an invasive species check, and portable toilets at the ramp for each tournament.
Thank You,
Brian O’Neill
President, Stafford Pond Improvement Association
Tiverton

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