PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Certain Rhode Island lakes, ponds, rivers and streams are now open to trout fishing, as long as all social distancing protocols are followed.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced Monday that trout fishing season is open early this year.
The traditional opening day, the second Saturday in April, often attracts large crowds. The DEM hopes that in opening the season earlier, it will limit the number of people.
“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,” DEM Director Janet Coit said. “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.”
In another effort to limit crowds, the DEM will be staggering the days when licensed anglers can fish. Those with last names starting with A through M can fish only on even-numbered calendar days and those with last names starting with N through Z can only fish on odd-numbered days.
During the pandemic, Coit said people fishing are expected to follow social distancing rules, staying at least six feet from others and in groups of five or less. She asks that if a parking lot is full, or if crowds are forming, to either find a different fishing spot or to come back later in the day.
DEM environmental police officers and staff will be at the fishing locations to answer questions, help anglers and ensure compliance, Coit said. They will also impose strict parking restrictions during the first two weekends of the 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,” Coit said. “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.”
DEM’s Fishing and Wildlife Division will only stock trout in places that allow anglers to practice social distancing. Since state parks are temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, ponds in these parks will not be opened until later in the season, Coit said. Restrooms have also been removed from fishing locations, as a public health measure.
Restocking will occur, but stocking locations will not be announced in an effort to minimize crowds. Coit asks that people do not approach their staff while they are stocking fish.
A 2020 fishing license is required for anglers 15 years and older. During the pandemic, Coit urged out-of-state anglers to fish in their own state and to not drive into Rhode Island to fish.