For many anglers, the second Saturday in April is spring’s greatest day. This year, the opening of trout fishing season is April 8 and the day is about more than just fishing. It celebrates the arrival of spring, afternoons in boats, kids with new rods and fish on the grill. For the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, it means months of preparation, feeding and delivering tens of thousands of trout to streams, ponds and lakes statewide.
RIDEM raises rainbow, brown and brook trout in North Kingstown, Perryville and Carolina. In addition to stockings throughout the year, approximately 80,000 will be delivered for opening day to a hundred waterways. At North Kingstown’s Lafayette Trout Hatchery, RIDEM District Resource Manager Ken Fernstrom carefully tracks the growth of approximately 250,000 rainbow fingerlings, 60-80,000 brookies and browns.
Ken has raised fish for more than 18 years and oversees the hatchery, which was purchased by the state in 1921 and sits ideally between the Narrow River and Queens River watersheds where clean ground water flows at a near-perfect 51 degrees farenheit. Rainbows are natives of hard western US waters, so DEM staff work diligently to balance pH levels for healthy fish. Browns are German transplants, prized for their gorgeous patterns and haloed dark spots. Brookies are our native species; they thrive in cold clean waters like the Upper Wood River and some select streams.
Spawned last October, this year’s class of trout were barely an inch but each week their size doubles. At four inches, they’re moved to outside cement tanks until reaching approximately fourteen inches. As opening day approaches, they’re netted into trucks and released to over 100 locations throughout the state, like Chickasheen Brook, Silver Spring Lake and the Pawcatuck River. And on that second Saturday, anglers will be waiting.