Welcome to 2023-24 Rhode Island Freshwater Fishing
On behalf of Governor Dan McKee, I am excited to welcome you to the 2023 Freshwater Fishing Regulation Guide, a resource for Rhode Islanders and visitors who enjoy our great lakes, rivers, and streams. We hope this guide will help both novice and seasoned anglers. It offers current freshwater fishing and recreational boating regulations and highlights the research and survey initiatives, fishing access improvements, and fishing opportunities provided by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists, development, and hatchery staff to support freshwater recreational opportunities in the Ocean State. It even has information on how youngsters can get a First Fish Award for their first catch!
Fishing is a popular outdoor activity for Rhode Islanders and tourists alike. Rhode Island is known for its excellent and varied angling and boating opportunities. In the pursuit of largemouth and smallmouth bass, trout, northern pike (our largest freshwater game fish), or a variety of warm-water species and pan fish such as black crappie, yellow perch, sunfish, and pickerel, freshwater fishing in Rhode Island is a year-round activity. The excitement of fishing for trout on Opening Day and throughout the year, including fall trout fishing and winter ice fishing, ensures a terrific family activity for people of all ages.
A highlight of this year’s guide is an article about the giant burrowing mayfly (Hexagenia limbata) by one of our esteemed fly fishing volunteers, Ed Lombardo Sr. Ed describes the almost-surreal “hex hatch” of two-inch-long mayfly nymphs on the Wood River during the summer months, when hordes of mayfly nymphs swim up from the river bottom, shed their skins, dry their wings, and take flight. Three days later, they converge above the surface of the water to breed and eventually die. This well-known hatch is a trout’s – and a fly-fisher’s – dream and Ed shares plenty of information to make your “hex hatch” fishing experience a success.
DEM’s hatchery program stocks over 100 fishing areas with brook, rainbow, golden rainbow, brown, and tiger trout several times a year to accommodate the growing demand by resident and non-resident anglers. Lucky anglers may even catch a Sebago salmon during one of our special fish-stocking programs. Throughout the year, our dedicated hatchery personnel are busy with initiatives to provide varied and plentiful fishing opportunities for recreational anglers. For those who would like to try the sport, we encourage you to participate during Free Fishing Weekend on May 6-7, when you can fish without the purchase of a fishing license or trout stamp (ordinarily $5.50). New or experienced anglers also may participate in one of our adult or children’s Aquatic Resource Education (ARE) programs to hone their fishing skills or learn new ones like spin-casting or fly-fishing with our friendly and experienced instructors.
Recreational fishing is important to Rhode Island’s economy, contributing more than $130 million annually. There are an estimated 175,000 recreational anglers (age 16+) in Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. We appreciate Rhode Island’s anglers and boaters. This publication is made possible with your support and belongs to you. Recreational freshwater fishing and boating programs are funded by the USFWS Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act (Wallop-Breaux Amendment) through contributions from anglers and boaters on the sales of equipment, motorboat fuels, license sales, and Trout Stamps. As DEM Director, I sincerely thank all sportsmen and sportswomen who have contributed to this valuable conservation program.
We hope this guide enhances your fishing and boating experiences and that you feel encouraged to get out there to one of Rhode Island’s picturesque fishing areas and drop a line. The tranquility and connection to nature that one feels when fishing and boating can’t really be measured. Whether you have been fishing all your life, are getting back into the sport, or trying it for the first time, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Remember: a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work. Have fun!
Terry Gray, Director, DEM