Monthly Archives: April 2012

Life Abounds Along Rhode Island’s Rivers and Coves

Laptew Chronicles
Rhode Island’s Web of Life

Part 1

River Otter

River otters can live 10 to 20 years.  These three and half to four foot long mammals depend on clean water and a healthy supply of fish, frogs, snakes, mice, birds, crayfish and mussels. 

otter swims along surface of the pond
The river otter is a long, sleek, muscular animal

North Kingstown otter in Annaquatucket River
When otters dive their ears and nose close

River otters digest and metabolize food so quickly that food passes through their intestines within an hour.

The web feet and slim profile allow otters to fly through the water

The web feet and slim profile allow otters to fly through the water

Click to enlarge any of these images

Snowy Egret

The snowy egret stalks the marshes, coves and rivers for small bait fish such as mummichog, spearing, sand eel or sand lance

egret charges mummichog

Snowy egret charges a school of mummichogs

egret strikes

The egret strikes with lightning speed

egret strikes at mummichog

The snowy seizes the mummi behind the gills

snowy egret squeezes a mummichog with its powerful bill

A good squeeze and a shake and the mummi is about to be eaten


Snowy egret gulps down a fat little mummichog

Snowy egret gulps down a fat little mummichog


These semi-aquatic rodents feed primarily on aquatic plants and they can be found in slow-moving-streams, coastal and freshwater marshes, lakes, ponds and swamps.

muskrat swimming to shore

A muskrat swims toward the shoreline

A muskrat heads to a feeding station with a mouthful of weeds
With a mouthful of weeds the muskrat heads for its den

They are prodigious and can  produce up to 3 litters per year, each with 6 to 7 young.  Breeding takes place from late March through July.


Osprey – The Fish Hawk

When the ospreys return to Rhode Island they start tidying up their nests with sticks and grass.  Osprey mate for life and return to the same nest year after year.

An osprey bringing marsh grass to nest

Osprey building nest with marsh grass and twigs

An osprey carries a load of nesting material

A full load of nesting material


An osprey hold a herring in its talons

Osprey grasps herring in its talons

River Herring

Alewives and blueback herring  have an enormous impact on the environment and they are a vital component to the food chain.

A group of volunteers help the Rhode Island Dept. of Fish of Wildlife scoop out and transport herring to an aerated truck.  These herring will be transferred to the Pawcatuck watershed where they will fortify 1300 acres and 8 stream miles.
A group of volunteers help fish and wildlife scoop herring

Herring Heroes scoop and transport fish

River herring stack up in a shallow pool

River herring stack up in a shallow pool

Herring transport truck

Worker dumps herring into transport truck

Check back for Rhode Island’s Web of Life – Part 2

Opening Day – RI Trout Season 2012

Trout Fishing Action – Silver Spring Lake, North Kingstown

Silver Spring Lake was packed with eager anglers

The parking lots were full at Silver Spring Lake

The 2012 RI trout season started at the crack of dawn on Saturday, April 14 and this popular North Kingstown fishing hole was loaded with anglers and fish.

The action was fast and furious as the sun started to climb above the trees.  Every stretch of open shoreline was lined with kids and adults eager to catch their limit of trout.

It was estimated that 20,000 anglers would participate in the annual ritual known simply as “Opening Day.”

Silver Spring is stocked with trout from the nearby Lafayette hatchery where over 120,000 pounds of trout are raised each year.

Within minutes of the start of the 2012 season trout were being hauled in right and left.

The quality and size of the fish had everyone smiling.

Boats jockey for position as the shore is lined with anglers, trucks, tents and RVs

Boats jockey for position and the shoreline is crammed with anglers

Click on any image to enlarge

a young angler with a fist full of rainbow trout

A fist full of rainbow trout

A true RI Veteran Angler

A true RI Veteran Angler

father and son fishing fun

Father and son fishing fun

Boy examines rainbow trout

A young angler's rainbow is worth a second look

another fine fish for the stringer

Another fine fish for the stringer

Father steadies the net for another trout

Another trout comes to the net

There was no generation “gap” here

Anglers line up to catch trout

Anglers young and old fish side by side

A rainbow trout jumps out of the water

A rainbow gets air

A rainbow jumps next to a small boat with two anglers

We don't need a larger boat — just larger trout

Berkeley Power Bait Proved Highly Effective

Jars of Berkely Power Bait

Chartreuse colored power bait was very effective

I didn’t see one kid texting, or on a cell phone, they were actually in the real world and not engulfed in virtual realty.  We just might be able to reel in the younger generation with what we always though was  great fun. 

A wood fire and boxes of pop tarts

Even pop tarts taste better on a wood fire

 Get out there and fish.  Take a kid with you.  Better yet, take an old fart fishing too!  When’s was the last time you took your Dad fishing!

Herring Gull Lives Up To Its Name

Not all herring gulls are at the landfill

It’s nice to see a herring gull actually eating a river herring and not a french fry.

herring gull grabs an alewife

A herring gull grabs an alewife in the Narrow River

With an expandable throat, these most common of all the “seagulls” in our area, are quite capable of wolfing down an entire river herring.

herring gull swallows an alewife in one gulp

herring gull swallows an alewife in one gulp

Narrow River – Wide Assortment of Wildlife

Headwaters of the Pettaquamscutt or Narrow River

Gilbert Stuart Birthplace

Gilbert Stuart's birthplace is the site of a fish ladder

Anadromous Fish Return from the Sea to Spawn

Alewives return to their natal river

Alewives return to their natal river


Catadromous Species Spawn at Sea and Their Offspring Journey into Freshwater

glass eels

glass eels

After hatching in the Sargasso Sea, “glass eels” or elvers infiltrate streams, creeks and marshes in Rhode Island

elvers or glass eels

transparent eels

eel in brackish pond


These resilient animals can live over 20 years in our ponds and lakes before heading back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die

American eel
American Eel

Rhode Island Ospreys Mate Above the Narrow River

This pair of fish-hawks mate high above the Narrow River, also known as the Pettaquamscutt River. After mating,  the male osprey scoured the area looking for suitable nesting material. I hope he finds enough river herring to support his future nestlings.

The “Fish Moon” and River Herring

Herring Return on Full Moon The Full Moon in April Motivates Herring to Move The 2012 herring run started early this year; perhaps due to the unseasonably warm temperatures in March.  However, very few herring ran up the river during the last week–I was getting a little nervous. Did the industrial fleet of pair trawlers [...]

Opening Day of Tautog Season

For New Jersey anglers it’s
opening day of Tog Season 2012

Tautog or Blackfish next to a rocky reef in Narragansett Bay

Tautog or Blackfish next to a rocky reef in Narragansett Bay

 Good luck, but please toss the egg laden females back.

Fishing Our Way Down the Food Chain

The Lion's Mane Jellyfish is the largest jellyfish in the worldThe Lion’s Mane Jellyfish is the largest jellyfish in the world

When does Jellyfish season open?

Look at the RI landings

Top 10 seafood landings (by pounds)


In 2010, more pounds of squid were brought ashore in Rhode Island than any other seafood.


Squid (Illex)
Atlantic herring
Little skate
Squid (Loligo)




When I was young my family and I ate all of the above, but we also had a steady supply of cod, haddock, flounder, halibut, pollock and even swordfish—the majority of which could be called “local” with a straight face. In the fifty years since, overfishing for these prize species—those that fetched highest ex-vessel prices—has done huge and well-documented damage to both our once-abundant groundfish and the habitats that sustain them.

Now that we’ve pummeled the stocks of bottom dwellers and longlining has dramatically reduced apex-predator stocks like sharks, tuna, marlin, swordfish, and so on, the race is on to catch every last critter that can be consumed. Look at the above list of commercially landed species and consider: In my childhood—heck, even now—most would fall neatly under the “bait” heading….

If we don’t get our regulatory asses in gear, we’ll soon be dining on spider crabs and jellyfish. Speaking of the food chain—its bottom links in particular–did you take your krill oil today?


Early squid?

Longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii)

Will the Longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii) spawn early?

I’ll be diving this week to see if I can find the first wave of squid to invade Narragansett Bay for the 2012 squid spawn.

profile picture of a longfin squid

profile picture of a longfin squid

Last year was a mad rush for these valuable eatables, with draggers from all over—some of staggering proportions and horsepower—pummeling the south shore beaches relentlessly, April into July.


two extremely different colored squid

two extremely different colored squid

Squid landings amounted to six times the volume of lobster that crossed the Ocean State docks last season, but both generated roughly the same revenue: $12.4 million.

pink and pearl colored squid

pink and pearl colored squid

By some estimates, Rhode Island’s commercial fleet produces the largest volume of domestic squid landings on the Eastern Seaboard (some would suggest that Cape May, NJ comes close). Pretty impressive for what once was an underutilized resource (a kiss-of-death designation that generally transitions—at a breakneck clip—to “fully exploited” and soon thereafter to “crashed” or “collapsed”).

squid blows jet of water into the sand

squid blows jet of water into the sand

squid eating blueback herring

squid eating blueback herring

squid lined up in a row

squid lined up in a row

macro shot of a squid eye

macro shot of a squid eye

Point Judith is now the Loligo squid capital of the Eastern Seaboard—its product regarded as among the world’s finest, and in constant high demand, particularly in southern European and Asian markets.

For what it’s worth, the old exit sign off Route 1 to Galilee once designated the port the
“Tuna Capital of the World.”

Galilee Tuna Capital of the World

Galilee was home to the Atlantic Tuna Tournament and even Frank Mundus would weigh in a fish or two.