Trout tactics: That opening day (Saturday) catch is no accident


It doesn't look all that scientific, backing a truck up to Stafford Pond and shooting fat rainbow trout out a hose by the hundred.

But plenty of science and thought went into it before state Department of Environmental crews did just that in recent weeks, says Pete Angelone.

"Time it wrong, put them in the wrong place and you can be pretty sure that most of those kids who head out on opening day with such high hopes will go home without a fish," he said.

For instance, there was all that rain of a couple weekends ago to consider.

"With ponds full to overflowing, the trout would swim right out of there and go pretty much anywhere," he said.

So they held off for a few days after that four- to five-inch deluge.

"Otherwise it would have been wasted effort."

And you have to know your trout, said Mr. Angelone who's been "doing this for 35 years."

Rainbows (which a truck was unloading into Stafford last Thursday) — "they go upstream, they like to move."

"Brookies though, they usually stay within an eighth of a mile of where you put them."

And browns, "they take off too — every direction, up and downstream."

All their scheming is aimed at giving fishermen the best odds possible when they show up this Saturday at dawn for the opening of trout season in Rhode Island (the Massachusetts season opened April 1).

In the weeks leading up to the big morning, state hatcheries have released 80,000 brook, brown and rainbow trout into streams and ponds, many of the pound and a quarter-sized in this corner of Rhode Island.

And typically, "85 percent of them are fished out within two weeks," Mr. Angelone said.

Does it make him sad to see so many of the fish he and his staff have labored so long to raise in hatcheries last such a short time in the wild?

"Not really. Not when you think of all the youngsters getting out there and having this experience with their families," he said. He added that in this age of video games, "anything that gets them out into the outdoors, gets them to like these things is important … Kids don't always get to experience the outdoors like they used to … Hopefully it's something they grow to like."

To that end, several fishing spots, among them Ponderosa Park Pond in Little Compton, will be open for children-only (age 14 and under) during the first two days of the fishing season. At Ponderosa there will be a special opening day fishing derby on Saturday, April 12.

Mr. Angelone said the chilly 50 degree water at Stafford Pond, Adamsville Pond and Brook, the Trout Pond, Melville Ponds in Portsmouth and other places that are stocked here, "is no shock to the trout. They like it cold." The water is about the same temperature as the hatchery pools where they were raised.

Not so good would be if this had been a warm spring — "They really don't do well being put into warm water all of a sudden.

You even have to take water pH levels into account. Brook trout don't do so well in low pH waters.


Golden surprise

The excitement for fishermen on opening day. A later stocking in early May will deliver some unusual golden trout to the mix.

These "absolutely beautiful fish" are actually rainbow trout that turn out "all yellow except for a red stripe — really bright."

So bright is the color that they stock these specimens at night — "otherwise the birds (hawks, eagles etc.) would pick them right off."

Those lucky enough to catch one will receive a trout pin from DEM for their fishing cap — just need to submit photo and information including catch location and date.

No word yet on where these will be stocked except that Mr. Angelone promised that the East Bay will get some.

The season opens at 6 a.m. Saturday — around sunrise.

A 2014 fishing license is required for anglers 15 years of age and older wishing to catch fish. A Trout Conservation Stamp is also required of anyone wishing to keep or possess a trout or to fish in a catch-and-release or 'fly-fishing only' area.  Fishing licenses and the Trout Conservation Stamp ($5.50) can be obtained at any city or town clerk's office or authorized agent such as bait and tackle shops, Walmart, and Benny’s.  A current list of license vendors is available on the DEM website,, by clicking on “Hunting, Fishing, Boating Licenses” at the top left of the homepage, and scrolling down to “Hunting/Fishing Agents.”

License fees remain at $18 for Rhode Island residents and current members of the Armed Forces. Anglers over 65 must have a license, which for them is free, but do not need a trout stamp. The license is also free for anyone with a 100 percent disability.

Anglers are reminded of the prohibition of the use of any wading foot gear with external felt soles or other natural or synthetic porous material capable of absorbing liquid, statewide on freshwaters.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.