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.
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!
Please submit your Nanaquaket Bridge or Tiverton fishing stories, memories or photos for our fish stories blog. You may use a pen name but please tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to Tiverton. We prioritize retaining the voice of the original author so only lightly edit for major grammar, spelling and clarity. We reserve the right to reject any submissions without explanation.