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How winter snow and cold could impact fishing

Captain Dave Monti
Posted 3/26/15

With all the cold and snow we had this winter many are wondering what impact it might have on fresh and saltwater fishing. It is not the snow but the snow melt combined with rainfall that could …

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No Fluke

How winter snow and cold could impact fishing


With all the cold and snow we had this winter many are wondering what impact it might have on fresh and saltwater fishing. It is not the snow but the snow melt combined with rainfall that could create an abundance of water and lead to flooding. It's the flooding that can impact fishing. And the cold water just slows everything down.

"We might be ice fishing in spring. The way things are going, we're lucky if the water warms by June." said Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet. No doubt cold water can impact fishing greatly. 55 degrees has been the target temperature for many for striped bass and colder for tautog… two of the species we target in early Spring.

Historically when the water has been cold in winter things seem to come alive all at once rather than picking up slowly. The water warms and bait fish such as squid, silversides, Atlantic menhaden and more all arrive at the same time. And, right behind the bait are the striped bass and summer flounder. Things explode, all at the same time. Let's hope that is the case this year.

In regard to high water, NOAA says on their Northeast River Forecast Center website that "Flooding can occur at any time of year… However, the largest floods in the northeast have generally been caused by two large storms falling in a seven day period… A six inch rain in April, accompanied by snowmelt and wet soil conditions will have a much larger impact on the rivers than a 6 inch rain in August…"

We had some historic flooding in Rhode Island in spring 2010. The flooding had an impact on water quality and fishing short term, however, there seemed to be no long term negative impacts. Here are what members of the fishing and environmental communities had to say about the impact of flooding in 2010… much of it applies in 2015.

Captain George Cioe, Narragansett. "… newly stocked ponds might have trout swept away. And saltwater eggs may have been swept away from the shallows where the water has gotten warm enough for an egg hatch… worm hatch for example".

Peter Nilsen, president, Rhody Fly Rodders. In regard to positive effects Nilsen said, "This year peanut bunker, juvenile bunker, herring and alewives will have no trouble climbing fish ladders compared to low water levels we experienced for the past three years… this will hopefully enhance stripers and blue fishing in the upper Bay."

Save the Bay. In a 2010 statement Save the Bay said, "In summary, the short-term impacts to water quality are serious, but we do not expect any long-term impacts on Bay life or water quality... people should avoid contact with contaminated water…. We do not expect to see fish kills. Most Bay animals and plants are well-adapted to spring floods and wide variations in salinity (the Bay is very fresh now)…we expect that the bacteria counts to go down and the water will clear up within two to three weeks unless we have more major rain."

Captain Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association. "…most adult resources are very resilient and would have shifted to more desirable places as the conditions worsened… shellfish are impacted by pollution because they cannot move."

The Environmental Protection Agency cautions fishermen to limit contact with flood water due to elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous substances. This means all contact so avoid even spray and splashing, where protective gear… gloves, glasses, etc.

Richard Hittinger, 1st vice president, Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association. "RISAA is concerned that fresh water and contamination … is going to throw off spring striper fishing in the Bay... herring are already coming into area rivers and the bass are right behind…this changes the herring runs and can adversely impact early striper fishing."

Captain Rob Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters, Jamestown. "I am not a biologist but I would assume the effects of the floods are short term."

Steve McKenna, Quaker Lane Outfitters, North Kingstown and saltwater shore angler. "I don't think it has any lasting impact on either (salt or freshwater fishing). More short term on freshwater. Nothing on salt."

We will have to see how April and May, 2015 play out in terms of temperature as cold water will slow down migration patterns. Precipitation and snow melt may cause flooding, however, it will have short term impacts and likely no long term impacts on fresh and saltwater fishing.

Recreational fishing symposium focuses on the fish

As I write this column I am preparing to facilitate at the 2015 Southern New England Recreational Fishing Symposium. The Symposium is sponsored by the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation. The theme this year is fish abundance and how ecosystem based management can helps grow many of our commonly fished species in Southern New England to abundance so there are more fish in the water for all. Rich Hittinger, symposium director and RISAA vice president said, "Recreational fishing contributes $208-million in economic impact each year to Rhode Island and approximately 2,000 full time jobs. It is important to keep this economic engine rolling and this week's Symposium will help bring attention fish and fish abundance." More on the symposium next week.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at or visit his website at


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