Mate School: Hillary Kenyon of Groton, CT attends mate school run by Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters.
Trout fishing is great family fun
Opening day for trout season in Rhode Island is Saturday, April 13 at sunrise (around 6:09 a.m.). However, the ritual of ‘Opening Day’ will start well before this time and continue throughout the weekend. Often it starts before sunrise with fresh coffee on the banks of a pond or lake, a camping trip the night before, an early morning breakfast at home or at a local diner.
If you should have the desire to participate in the ritual, it does not take a lot of effort or money to get started. April is an ideal time for families to try their hand at fishing as Rhode Island and Massachusetts waterways are stocked well with trout and it is fairly easy for beginners to catch fish. And, fishing can take place from the safety of shore while all enjoy the outdoors.
How to get started
It does not have to cost a lot to gear-up to fish opening day. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, “If you have a rod and reel already all you need is $4 worth of bait and you are off fishing.” Ferrara sells treble hook rigs and sinkers for about $1.50. If a rod and reel in needed you can get a brand name rod (Daiwa), reel and line for about $29. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “We have fresh water spinning rigs that start at $15 for rod, reel and line. We hope to get some push button conventional reels later this week.” John Lavelle of Continental Bait & Tackle, Cranston, said, “Opening day rigs with rod, reel and line range from $16 to $39.”
States stock ponds with hatchery raised trout that have been eating manufactured food so the bait of choice on Opening Day and early April is a prepared or formulated bait like PowerBait by Berkeley. As the trout acclimate to the wild (two to three weeks) they begin to start foraging naturally so meal worms, other natural baits and lures work best then. PowerBait can be purchased at bait & tackle shops as well as sporting goods stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and Wal-Mart.
Ponds being stocked
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Division of Fish & Wildlife stocks about 100 ponds, lakes and waterways with hatchery raised brown, rainbow and brook trout with an average individual weight of one and a half pounds. Visitfor a complete list of trout stocked ponds in RI. There are ponds for children fourteen years old and younger, for fly fishing only, and some ponds are for children only just the first two days of trout season.
For information on fishing laws and regulations in Massachusetts refer to the 2019 Massachusetts Guide online at or pick up a copy at sporting license vendor locations across the State (a similar guide is available in Rhode Island).
The trout season runs year-round in some Massachusetts waterways, however, most ponds, lakes, smaller rivers and brooks have seasons that generally start April 1. In March and April Massachusetts will stock close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout. Visit www.mass.gov/orgs/division-of-fisheries-and-wildlife for a list of stocked ponds and regulations.
Where to get a fresh water license
A 2019 fishing license is required for anglers 15 years of age and older wishing to catch fish in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
A Trout Conservation Stamp is also required in Rhode Island for anyone wishing to keep or possess a trout or to fish in a catch-and-release or 'fly-fishing only' area. Fishing licenses for residents in RI are $18 and the Trout Conservation Stamp is $5.50. They can be obtained at any city or town clerk's office, authorized agent such as bait and tackle shops, can be purchased online or obtained at DEM’s Boat Registration and Licensing Office located at 235 Promenade Street in Providence.
Licenses are $33 for a combination hunting and fishing license, $35 for non-residents, and $16 for a tourist three-consecutive-day license.
In Massachusetts a freshwater residential fishing license is $27.50 and a non-resident license is $37.50. You can purchase an in state or out of state three day license. For complete Massachusetts license information and to apply for one online visit.
Mate school placement is 75%
Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters, Pt. Judith, RI is an industry icon. He was the first in the region to use a shark diving cage in the early 70’s, he has come in contact with hundreds of sharks (and released them all), and he had the first all female crew in a male dominated industry.
And, this month he’ll be holding his third Mate School that will train students on how to serve as a mate on a charter or party boat. The school makes no promises but the last class had a 75% placement rate.
The school will be held Saturday, April 20 and 27 with six hour classroom/workshop sessions. The program culminates with an on the water practicum aboard the charter fishing vessel Snappa the week of May 11.
Capt. Donilon said, “Students receive the basics at mate school with additional training occurring when they get their first job. The school is for female and males of all ages, anyone that wants to learn how to mate on a vessel or wants to sharpen their seamanship skills.”
Mate School teaches students how to prepare the vessel to fish, gear preparation and care, how to customer instruct on how to fish and how to treat customers. Mate School’s aim is to introduce students to what it is like to be a mate and what is expected of them.
The cost of the school is $225. For information and to register for Mate School contact Capt. Donilon at 401.487.9044 or.
Where’s the bite
Freshwater. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside said, “We have a customer that caught eleven fish last week both largemouth bass and pike at Bad Luck Pond in Rehoboth, MA.” John Lavelle of Continental Bait & Tackle, Cranston said, “Some larger fish have been caught in March. As soon as the ice melts the largemouth bass are hungry and when the water warms they start to feed. Our customers are doing well with shiners. Once opening day arrives local customers will be fishing at the kids only Seidel’s Pond and Meshanticut Brook but I like to point customers to southern Rhode Island lakes and ponds where things are not as crowded. I can’t tell you all the maps I have drawn for customers.”
Cod fishing was off last week but as conditions improve the hope is that the fishing will improve too. John Littlefield of Archie’s said, “One of my good customers put his boat in early last week and went to Cox Ledge. They caught more haddock than cod but had a good day.”
Tautog season opened April 1 in RI and MA. The minimum size is 16”. The limit until May 31 in both states is three fish/person/day. Check regulations as they change after May 31.