General Information

Fishing Regulations Rhode Island Freshwater Fishing

Fish Consumption Advisory

Since 1986, the FDA has issued warnings about mercury levels in various fish including freshwater species. The RI DEM and Department of Health wants our anglers to be familiar with the following information:

Fish is Good

  • Fish is a good source of protein.
  • Fish has many vitamins and minerals.
  • Fish is low in fat.
  • Fish can be part of a healthy diet, A healthy diet helps children grow and develop properly.

Mercury is Bad

  • Mercury is a type of metal found in nature. It is used in thermometers, batteries, lamps, and other products. Sometimes mercury gets into ponds, lakes, rivers, soil, and air through pollution.
  • When mercury pollutes the water, it can get into the fish where they live. If you eat fish with mercury, it can harm your baby when you are pregnant or breast feeding.
  • Babies born to mothers who have a lot of mercury in their bodies may develop more slowly and have problems learning. Young Children can also be harmed by mercury.
  • High levels of mercury in the body can cause harm to an adult’s kidneys and brain.
  • You cannot see, taste, or smell mercury in fish. Mercury cannot be cut away, cleaned or cooked out of fish. The best way to avoid mercury is to know which fish to choose and how much to eat.

Advice for those who fish:

  • Choose stocked trout to eat. See page 9 for trout stocking locations.
  • Vary where and what types of fish you eat.
  • Eat smaller fish (in accordance with RIDEM size limits).
  • Avoid fish with the most mercury: bass, pike, and pickerel.
  • Limit meals of black crappie and eel to one meal per month.
  • Do not fish in private ponds, with no public access and those that are not stocked by the state.
  • Trout from private vendors stocked into private ponds may be eaten.
  • Do not eat any fish from the following ponds (with the exception of trout): Yawgoog Pond, Windcheck Pond, Meadowbrook Pond, Quidnick Reservoir, and the lower Woonasquatucket.
  • Catch and release fishing is recommended in Mashapaug Pond and the Woonasquatucket River along with other urban ponds and rivers.
  • Pregnant women and young children should limit their fish intake to include those fish that have tested low in mercury: stocked trout, salmon, light tuna, shrimp, Pollock and catfish.

For more information:

Visit http://www.health.ri.gov/healthrisks/poisoning/mercury/about/fish/ or call the Health Hotline at 1-800-942-7434.

Freshwater Fishing Area Restrictions

  1. FLY FISHING ONLY: The following waters are restricted to the use of artificial flies, a conventional fly rod, and a single action reel: Deep Pond (Arcadia), Exeter; A.L. Mowry, Smithfield; Upper Rochambeau Pond, Lincoln.
  2. CHILDREN ONLY: The following waters are restricted to fishing by persons fourteen (14) years of age and younger: Lloyd Kenney Pond, Hopkinton; *Slater Park Pond, Pawtucket; Lapham Pond, Burrillville; Silvy’s Pond, Cumberland; *Ponderosa Park Pond, Little Compton; Seidel’s Pond, Cranston; *Cass Pond, Woonsocket; Frosty Hollow Pond, Exeter; Geneva Brook and Pond, N. Providence.Please note the following:

    * Cass, Slater Park, and Ponderosa Park Ponds are restricted only for the first two days of the season, the 8th & 9th of April 2017, FOR CHILDREN ONLY.

Is that algal bloom on my favorite pond harmful?

RIDEM and RI Department of Health are working together to keep your fishing experience safe. During late summer and early fall, when the water levels are low and temperatures are high, scientists sample bodies of water for blue-green algae (also known as Cyanobacteria) toxins. If toxin levels are too high, warnings are issued and signs are posted to refrain from recreational activities on that particular body of water. Here is a little more information about Cyanobacteria:

What is Cyanobacteria?

Cyanobacteria is a blue-green algae that occurs naturally in freshwater systems. High temperatures and excess sunlight can lead to algal ‘blooms’ which have the potential to produce toxins that are harmful to both human and animals. The toxins are released when the algae begin to die off or are ingested.

How do you identify a blue-green algal bloom?

Blooms generally occur in late summer or early fall when the water level is low and water temperature is high. There are no visual signs that a blue-green algae bloom is producing the harmful toxins; however, identifying an algae bloom may help you avoid the chance of exposure. Blue-green algae blooms are normally bright green or blue green in color, but can also be brown, red or purple. Water may appear cloudy and may produce an odor. The color of the algal bloom is a clue; however, confirmation of blue-green algae can only be identified using a microscope. Water samples should be tested for toxin presence.

What are the health risks?

Humans who come in contact with the blue-green algae toxins can develop rashes, blisters, hives, and nose and eye irritation. If swallowed, humans may experience diarrhea, vomiting, or neurotoxicity (numb lips, tingling fingers and toes, dizziness). Pets or livestock that ingest the Cyanobacteria toxins can experience sickness, paralysis and even death. Neurotoxicity in animals is characterized by salivation, weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, and convulsions.

What can you do to avoid Cyanobacteria toxins?

Adhere to all posted signs. Do not drink, swim, or fish in affected water bodies. Avoid contact with water that is discolored or has scum on the surface. Do not drink untreated water, whether algae blooms are present or not.

What does the state do to reduce human/pet exposure to the cyanobacteria toxins?

Not all species of blue-green algae produce toxins and the blue-green algae that can produce the toxins may not. Toxins can be detected through laboratory tests. Water testing is conducted throughout the summer and results are reported to RI Department of Health and RIDEM. If toxins are found, a press release is issued and signage is posted at the pond. RIDEM will not stock affected ponds with trout.

Where can I get more information?

For more information, visit http://www.health.state.ri.us/healthrisks/harmfulalgaeblooms/.

Largemouth Bass Virus

RIDEM, in collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, first began testing bass from Rhode Island lakes and ponds in 2006 for Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV). To date, only two sites in Rhode Island have tested positive for LMBV: Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods State Park (2011) and Echo Lake in Pascoag (2014).

The virus itself is specific to bass and does not impact any other species of fish. Common symptoms of the virus include hyper-buoyancy, spiral swimming and lethargy, which are attributed to damage to the swim bladder. Infected fish may not exhibit any signs of the virus until it is activated by stressful environmental conditions such as high water temperatures, low oxygen levels, droughts, secondary injuries, or bacterial infections. These are conditions that could trigger LMBV and potentially cause fish kills. While fish health biologists have indicated that LMBV is a naturally-occurring fish virus that does not pose a human health risk for people who eat or handle infected fish, all freshwater fish should be thoroughly cooked before being consumed.

DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife advises anglers to minimize the spread of LMBV by not transplanting bass from one water body to another*; draining, cleaning and drying boats, motors and fishing gear between each use; not releasing bait fish into any water body*; minimizing the stress to bass caught and released as much as possible during periods of high water temperatures; and reporting all fish kills to the Department at (401) 222-3070. DEM and its federal partners will continue to test Rhode Island lakes and ponds for LMBV.

*As a reminder, transplanting any fish species from one body of water to another or releasing bait fish is prohibited.

Diadromous Fish Regulations

  1. No person shall land, catch, take or attempt to catch or take any river herring, which includes alewives, Alosa pseudoharengus or blueback herring, Alosa aestivalis, from any freshwater or marine waters of the state of Rhode Island. Possession of any alewives or blueback herring, at any time, is prohibited and shall be evidence, prima facie, that said herring was taken in violation of this regulation.
  2. No person shall erect any artificial obstruction to fish passage in any stream or in any way alter the natural stream bottom to hinder the passage of fish.


    No person shall take any American shad (Alosa sapidissima) from the fresh waters of the state or possess any American shad taken from the freshwaters of the state.


    No person shall take any Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) from the Pawcatuck River downstream of the Potter Hill Dam.


    No person shall take any smelt (Osmerus mordax) by any means from any stream or river system in the state.

    American Eel:

    The creel or possession limit for American eel (Anguilla rostrata) shall be twenty-five (25) fish per day, per person, either singular or in aggregate, and the minimum size shall be nine (9) inches from tip of snout to tip of tail. No person shall take an eel from the freshwaters of the state unless in possession of a valid RI Freshwater Fishing License. No American eel may be commercially harvested from the freshwaters of the state and offered for sale without a valid commercial license per RI Marine Fisheries (RIMF) regulations. If harvesting commercially with a valid commercial fishing license from the freshwater of the state, fishermen must adhere to regulations as set forth in RIMF regulations Part VII (Minimum Sizes of Fish/Shellfish), section 7.16.1.

    Fish Ladders:

  1. Trespass within or any obstruction of the entrance or exit of any fish ladder in the state is prohibited.
  2. For the purpose of regulating diadromous fishes, all fish ladders owned and operated by the state will be set aside as fish cultivation facilities pursuant to Chapters 20-12-1 and 20-12-5 of the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island.
  3. No person shall catch or attempt to catch any fish within one-half mile (1/2 mile) from the outlet of any fish ladder unless otherwise permitted. The areas below each fish ladder where fishing will be permitted shall be designated with an official boundary marker or informational sign.

Protect Our Native Species from Disease and Invasives


By taking fish from either in-state or out-of-state water bodies and placing it in another body of water in RI, you risk introducing disease and parasites to native fish. You also risk introducing invasive species to that waterway. Invasive species overtake the native species and significantly alter stream ecology. For more information or for stocking permits, please call (401) 789-7481.

Rhode Island Environmental Police

The mission of the Environmental Police is to protect our natural resources and ensure compliance with all environmental conservation laws through law enforcement and education.

The history of the Environmental Police dates back to 1842 when the first game wardens were appointed to the Commission of Shellfisheries.

Today, Rhode Island’s Environmental Police Officers are sworn law enforcement officers who are responsible for patrolling and enforcing all laws, rules and regulations pertaining to the state’s fish, wildlife, boating safety and marine resources as well as all criminal and motor vehicle laws within the state parks and management areas. Officers patrol over 60,000 acres of state land, 92 salt and freshwater boat launching and fishing areas, 300 miles of rivers and streams, and 417 miles of coastline. They are also cross-deputized with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. During their patrols, they educate the public on the protection of our natural resources and provide safety for the public while enjoying Rhode Island’s outdoors.

To report emergencies or violations,
call (401) 222-3070, 24hr line.