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Icy Dreams

To say it’s been cold these last weeks would be a complete understatement. Unless you enjoy fishing with frost bitten body parts, there was not much to do in the way of fishing. After prepping and re-prepping my gear, all that is left to do is dream of what this season will bring.

I have an ongoing list of “dream fish” I would like to catch. Most of them are carp but there are some that are not. This list continually inspires me to do whatever it takes to potentially encounter one of these fantastical creatures. Sometimes these thoughts consume me. I hate to admit it but I have missed exits off the highway due to being in some sort of fish inspired trance. These trances may be triggered by catching a glimpse of some unexplored water on my way to work or simply recounting a previous day’s adventure. I think local legend Kevin Wasilewski said it best; carp fishing and obsession go hand in hand (paraphrasing). I’ve set my sights on some dream fish for this year but I won’t divulge those. Instead, I’ll give you a list of some of the more unlikely candidates. These are fish that I may or may not pursue at some point in my life. You may have already experienced some of them and others we may never experience.

1. Native Brook Trout

True wild brook trout are rare these days. Hatchery raised brook trout have been stocked into RI waters for the last 100 years and how “pure” a given population is can be hard to know by the average person. Once or twice a year is about as much trout fishing as I care to do at the moment but encountering one of these rare beauties would be a real privilege.

2. 3lb Yellow Perch

While visiting my in-laws at a Connecticut lake side camp ground a few years ago I was stopped by an angler as I made my way to the water. “What are you fishing for?” he asked. “I don’t know”, I replied. “He was out earlier, he caught a small perch, that’s about it. Good luck…” his wife interjected. As we parted ways, her words reverberated in my head. “A small perch… That’s it…” As if a perch was some sort of undesirable, unimpressive fish. I’m gonna assume what they were after was a bass. What you have to realize is that all fish are impressive. To me a perch is particularly impressive. Perch are “predatory” fish. They are ravenous little monsters, gobbling up minnows like there is no tomorrow. They are a native fish, yes; they were here even before our precious bass. Running into a shoal of perch makes for an action packed morning of fishing. I go out of my way to catch perch every year. Our rivers and lakes are full of them. The current record of 2lb 4oz has stood since 1987 and catching a 3lb perch would be a dream come true.

3. Cod from the Shore

Ok so I’m not much of a saltwater angler so maybe this is already a thing in Rhode Island. Here is my fantasy. Early December trip to Block Island. Wife and kids are staying nice and toasty in a rented beachfront cottage. Meanwhile, I am on the beach surfcasting for cod. Is it possible? Maybe this dream can be made into a reality sooner than I realize.

4. Alex G. Sanford’s Carp

This one is a bit of an obsession of mine. On August 29, 1883, Alex G. Sanford of Warren, Bristol Co., RI reported the following to the fisheries commission:

I received 75 carp about November 1, 1881. My pond is 100 feet long by 50 feet broad, and flows back 300 feet in length by 25 feet in width during about 9 months of the year. It has a muddy bottom. Plants and enemies. — It contains lilies, flags, and several other kinds of water plants. It also contains frogs, and we have seen small turtles and small eels in it. Food. — No food has been given, the pond seeming to contain enough. Growth and reproduction. — I should think there were about 50 original carp from 1 to 2 pounds weight each. The young when last seen were about ? of an inch long.

Naturally, my first thought was to locate this pond. I asked DEM if they knew anything about this particular document and unfortunately they could only tell me some general information about the initial introduction of carp to Rhode Island in 1880. So, the question remains… where is Alex G. Sanford’s pond? I imagine finding it would be like uncovering some hidden treasure. Then again, maybe we’ve already found it. Catching one of these ‘original’ carp is a dream I hope to make a reality some day.

5. 40lb Carp

Whether or not Rhode Island waters hold a 40lb carp is questionable. I think the going thought is, no. It seems unlikely to me that every single piece of water in our state has been thoroughly fished for carp. In my opinion it would take a lifetime of fishing some of the bigger lakes to truly understand what is or is not lurking below the surface. I’ve read that bigger carp tend to be “loners” and they tend not to follow other shoals. Could it be that some of our bigger fish has simply gone uncaught? I personally think a 40 is gonna happen. Someday, someone’s dream will come true.

6. Acipenser sturio

Lastly, I present to you, Acipenser strurio, the sturgeon. I don’t believe I’ve heard much in the way of people catching sturgeon in Rhode Island. According to the 1906 document written by Henry C. Tracy, sturgeon were trapped by accident off of Sakonnet and common at Block Island and in the Tauton River. A sturgeon can weigh anywhere from 50 to 300lbs. So, are they still there? Can they be caught? Does anyone fish for them? Are they simply unattainable dreams?

What will this season bring?

We’ve had a mad winter. Two weeks ago, I was convinced I’d be fishing by the end of February. Two days ago, the wind chill was -32F and my early spring dreams were crushed. Today it was 52F and raining. Whenever winter decides to end, I’ll be ready. Till then, I’ll keep on dreaming.