About the Author ~
You can take the girl out of Tiverton but you can't take Tiverton out of the girl. Beth's favorite kind of fishing these days involves napping while fishing, a fine art she perfected under tutelage from her grandfather. It's harder than you might think.
The first in a series of answers to notes sent to us via social media and the website:
Dear Nana & Quaket,
I have a protocol question. We often take our boat out of the pond into the Sakonnet. When we are under power going under the bridge-we are always dodging fishing lines that are cast down the middle of the waterway. Are fisher people responsible to pull their lines up when a craft is passing under the bridge?
Dear Concerned Boater,
You are 100 percent right. Fisherfolk all need to lift their lines out of the channel, or move them aside, and properly yield to boat traffic especially if their fishing lines have fouled the main channel (usually the center of the bridge). Nanaquaket is a small channel and a small bridge and the only way out of the pond. Protocol would dictate that boaters would slow to a reasonable speed to allow fishermen time to lift and move their lines, and that fishermen would make every effort to do so promptly.
We would expect that in the circumstance a fish is on the line at that moment, that boaters would allow time for the fisherman to retrieve her catch.
If it's clear to the fisherman or boater that the other party does not understand this etiquette our opinion is that it is totally appropriate to call up or down to or from the bridge (we hope with a minimum of expletives) and attempt to bring the other party up to speed. It is important to communicate when protocol is not followed in order to pass on the traditions and the protocol. There's no other way for it to happen than to talk to each other. We've seen boaters cut lines, and we've seen fishermen lob sinkers at boats. We're hoping we don't see either at Nanaquaket!
Dear Concerned Boater,
Strangely enough, mid-channel is not always the best place to catch fish at the bridge, but you will always find anglers fishing mid-channel! For those that would like to fish mid-channel (sometimes that IS the best place to fish), you are correct, it is proper etiquette for anglers to clear their lines. A short horn blast on approach to the bridge by boaters is appropriate, courteous, and should be reciprocated by anglers clearing their lines and giving a friendly wave. That’s how it’s “done,” but of course you'll always find some anglers and boaters that don’t get the memo. I’ve found it best to lead by example in these cases, and your question indicates you're a conscientious boater looking to do just that.
Any parent or grandparent who loves fishing dreams of the day the children are finally old enough to pick up a rod. Oh the lucky child with a mom or dad, uncle or aunt, or grandparent who loves fishing. If they all love fishing then it can sometimes mean an arms race: who buys the first rod; who takes them; where do they go?
Let's be clear, children are another excuse to go fishing. Eager youngsters are legitimate cover for an extra fishing trip. "Gee honey, I know I said I'd get to that honey-do list, but I promised the kids." It's good for them, right? We all have big ideas for that first trip, the mentoring moments, the wonder on their faces at their first catch, how awesome it will be to show them how it's done. And well, you get to fish!
So all the gear and snacks are packed and the spouse presses the sunscreen into your hand as you rush the soon-to-be-real-fisherfolk out the door leaving time to stop for bait and get a good spot on Nanaquaket Bridge to line them up with their rods. You can't wait to be their fishing sensei.
The reality bomb drops almost as soon as you get to the Bridge. For me it went something like this. It started with setting the kids up and baiting their hooks. Those sea worms are fascinating in the bait box but one of the kids is not willing to touch them. So, after watching her struggle and fail to bait the hook by impaling the writhing worm from a distance like a matador, I take over the job. With her hook baited, I turn to check on the other one who, unlike the first, is happy to touch the worms. In fact, she's removed them all from the box, named each of them, and is making conversation with them. I wasn't prepared for this. After a brief conversation about the worm's role in the food chain and with two hooks baited and in the water I turn to my own tackle but before I can so much as pick up my fishing rod there's a line stuck way over there somewhere and a child yanking for her life. Meanwhile the other child likes casting too much to try fishing and requires constant eyeballs to make sure she's not presenting a danger to others. Who knows where the worm is.
If you've fished with children you know how this story ends. The not-so-secret secret is, if you go fishing with children you rarely if ever actually get to fish.
I wouldn't call them avid fishermen but my children's association with their grandparents, great-grandparents and our family is deeply tied to their fishing and coastal experiences in Tiverton. As they've grown older, in this day of so many distractions, bridge fishing as a quiet pastime is an easy way to hang together outdoors. We see many other parents on the bridge who have the good sense to value that time with their children, even if they are baiting their hooks for them.
When I was a kid, I caught a flatfish so big at Nanaquaket Bridge that my grandfather who had joined me there had to help me keep other anglers out of my newly designated “honey hole” of a spot. Growing up in Tiverton, Nanaquaket Bridge gave us kids the opportunity to catch adult-sized fish.
Fishing from Stafford pond or the shore was fun (and we did plenty of it) but “Nanaquaket” offered potential that made the trip on my Schwinn Stingray (with the drag slick) or my Dad’s 10-speed well worth it. I tied my rod to the bike with the reel under the seat and the tip pointing out a few feet like a fighter jet. The tackle box got tied across the handlebars. On the way from North Tiverton to the Bridge I’d stop at Bridge Bait under the Sakonnet River Bridge and get a brown box of sea worms and maybe a flatfish rig.
Later in my teen years I’d drive the distance, parking my Chevy Impala by the bridge. The tackle box got a bit bigger and the pole selection increased with the trunk size of that Impala. The parking area at Nanaquaket was many times full and even on slow rainy days had a few dedicated anglers hoping to get lucky with a good Tautog or flatfish. Most were kids like me, Portuguese immigrants, or even families. We loved to fish. I didn’t realize at the time that RI was unique in making sure its residents could enjoy The Ocean State’s namesake resource.
I took the public access points for granted, but I now realize they defined my experience of growing up in Rhode Island. I got to live a seaside childhood despite having only a bay view! I know I’m not the only one. As my kids get older and I fantasize how they or their kids may enjoy the same experience, I hope that Tiverton preserves access to the shore for residents of normal means. I’ve been in many areas where exceptional means, real estate desires, and development plans start to rule shore access providing no opportunity for kids to grow up like I did. Tiverton is a classic bayside Rhode Island town that is truly unique. I hope everyone realizes the role that Tiverton’s water and beach access plays in the town’s bayside character and opportunities for families. I certainly benefited!
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