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Rules and Regulations

RI Freshwater Fisheries COVID-19 Updates & Frequently Asked Questions

trout season 2020  

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that Rhode Island lakes, ponds, rivers and streams are now open to fish for trout. While freshwater fishing is open year-round for other species, trout are stocked by DEM each winter in preparing for a special trout season that opens traditionally on the second Saturday in April. DEM today adopted an emergency regulation opening the freshwater fishing season early this year in order to eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing season in April.

At the beginning of the season DEM implemented a system that restricted the days when anglers can fish based on their last name. As of Monday, May 4, this restriction has been lifted. Anglers should still follow social distancing practices and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and in groupings of no more than five persons. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming or the parking lots is full, please leave and choose a different location or return at another time or day.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience, with just the members of your immediate household, and not as a group activity. Anglers must follow social distancing practices and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and in groupings of no more than five persons. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming or the parking lots is full, please leave and choose a different location or return at another time or day.

This webpage will have the latest information. Please check back often using this easy to remember URL: www.dem.ri.gov/fishing.

Page content last updated May 4, 2020


Freshwater Fisheries FAQs

How can DEM square allowing Opening Day or trout fishing this year? Isn’t it inconsistent with the Governor’s and DOH’s guidance to protect Rhode Islanders from COVID-19?

With the controls and protections we’ve put into place at the direction of the Rhode Island Department of Health – and above all with the cooperation of Rhode Island’s trout-fishing enthusiasts – we believe that we can offer trout fishing in a safe and controlled manner. DEM is only stocking trout in larger waterbodies and locations that allow anglers to adhere to social distancing rules, and for now, areas in our popular parks are closed.

We will not have an Opening Day, per se, this year. Opening Day was originally scheduled for this Saturday, April 11, but obviously there cannot be an Opening Day because of the unacceptable risk of crowds. So starting today, we will phase in the start of the trout season over the next two to three weeks in April. We will reduce the number of people fishing at any given time by staggering the days when licensed anglers can fish. We will increase monitoring of the 28 most popular fishing access locations. If social distancing rules are being ignored, we will disperse those anglers not following the rules. We will have signage at all access sites and freshwater boat ramps urging social distancing guidance – the length of a typical fishing rod is 6 feet.

We will encourage anglers to safely enjoy the outdoors, stay local, and be respectful. Offering a softer, longer trout-fishing season is an approach that has worked well in Connecticut, and we believe it can work in Rhode Island too. The benefit of this approach is avoiding Opening Day crowds while still offering a healthy activity that people can engage in by themselves. DEM stresses, however, that if Rhode Islanders do not comply with the rules governing safe trout fishing during the COVID crisis, we will likely have to shut down trout fishing areas. This happened in the case of state parks and beaches – which were kept open until Friday, April 2, but had to be closed due to crowds.

Q. Why is fishing being opened early?

A. Opening the fishing season early helps to limit community spread of COVID-19, by eliminating the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of fishing in April. During this time of social distancing, fishing should be enjoyed as solitary experience or with members of your immediate household, not as a group activity.

Q. Can I fish for trout as of 4/6/2020? 

A. Yes, if the first letter of your last name begins with A through M. If the first letter of your last name begins with N through Z, your first day of fishing will be April 7. DEM adopted an emergency regulation opening the freshwater fishing season early this year in order to eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing season in April. New this year is a rule requiring that licensed anglers with last names beginning with A through M can only fish on even numbered days, and with last names beginning N through Z can only fish on odd numbered days. The regulation opens certain inland waters to trout fishing, but does not modify or change any other existing regulations about daily limits, size, gear, method, etc.

Q. What is the open season for trout, salmon, and charr?

A. Opening day, in a normal year is, 6:00 AM on the second Saturday of April every year and continues until midnight the last day in February annually. On April 6, 2020, DEM adopted an emergency regulation opening the freshwater fishing season early this year in order to eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing season in April.

Q: Do fishing restrictions for when an angler can fish still apply?

A. At the beginning of the season DEM implemented a system that restricted the days when anglers can fish at trout-designated waters based on the first letter of their last name. As of Monday, May 4, this restriction has been lifted. Anglers should still follow social distancing practices and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and in groupings of no more than five persons. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming or the parking lots is full, please leave and choose a different location or return at another time or day.

Q: Can out-of-state anglers fish for trout in RI

A: It is important to note that during the current stay at home order, out-of-state anglers should fish in their local state and are not allowed to drive into RI to fish for the time being. If you are an out-of-state angler who is staying in RI and has passed your quarantine period, you may fish in a waterbody nearby to where you are located as long as you have a non-resident fishing license. For waterbodies that border a state line, it would be best for anglers to find fishing locations on the side that is in their state of residency. Once the stay at home orders are lifted, non-resident anglers will be welcomed back to RI with a non-resident fishing license.

Q. Will bathroom facilities be opened or port-a-johns available at fishing locations?

A. No. Please plan ahead: stay close to home and keep your fishing trip short.

Q. Are State Parks open for fishing?

A. No. State Parks are temporarily closed due to COVID-19. These areas only represent a small proportion (less than 8%) of the overall stocking locations in Rhode Island. Trout stocked waters within state parks are:

  • Lincoln Woods State Park, Lincon
  • Pulaski Park, Chepachet
  • Meshanicut Pond Park, Cranston
 
Q. Are you still stocking trout? 

A. Yes. DEM began stocking trout in early February and have continued to stock the trout produced at our state hatcheries. DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is only stocking trout in larger waterbodies and locations that allow anglers to adhere to social distancing rules. Smaller waterbodies, private areas, including children-only fishing ponds, are not being stocked. View an up-to-date list full list of trout stocking locations. These locations may change, and do not include ponds in certain state parks and in children-only fishing ponds as they tend to be areas that attract crowds.

Q. Can I keep the trout that I catch? 

A. Yes, as long as you are following all other regulations for the place you are fishing (the daily limit and any size limit). The daily creel and possession limit for trout is five from April 6, 2020, through November 30, 2020, and two from December 1, 2020, through February 28, 2021.

Q. Has [insert waterbody] been stocked with trout yet this year?

A. Restocking may occur, but stocking locations will not be announced in advance to minimize crowds. For the safety of Fish and Wildlife staff, people should not approach staff while they are stocking fish.  View the interactive map of trout stocked locations for the 2020 season.

Q. Can I fish in a lake/pond that crosses state lines?

A. That depends.  There are several boundary waters, waters that cross state lines that have Rhode Island fishing regulations.

Connecticut Border:

  • Beach Pond is subject to Rhode Island trout regulations.
  • Peck Pond (Keach Pond) is located in a State Park which is closed.
  • Hazard Pond and Killingly Pond are open to fishing as there is no closed season. They are non-trout waters.
 

Massachusetts Border:

  • Wallum Lake is subject to Rhode Island Regulations. Massaschusetts does not have a closed season.
 
Q. Where can I get a copy of the 2020 Fishing Guide?

A. The 2020 Fishing Guide is available online at http://www.eregulations.com/rhodeisland/fishing/.

Q. Where can I get my fishing license and trout/salmon stamp? 

A. We encourage you to get your fishing license online 24/7 through our online licensing system: https://www.ri.gov/DEM/huntfish.

Q. Does the Governor’s Executive Order Closing State Parks and Beaches impact saltwater fishing? 

A. All existing saltwater fishing regulations are in effect. The Executive Order closes the parking areas and vehicular traffic at state parks and beaches. DEM asks the public not to drive to parks and beaches. DEM will be patrolling these sites and dispersing groups of people. Please consult with the 2020 Fishing Guide or our webpage for the Marine Fishing Regulations in effect in 2020.

Q. At what age does an angler need a fishing license?

A. Recreational Freshwater Fishing Licenses are required of anglers fifteen (15) years of age and older. Recreational Saltwater Fishing Licenses are required of anglers sixteen (16) years of age and older.

Q. How much does a freshwater fishing license cost?

License fees are $18 for Rhode Island residents and current members of the Armed Forces, $33 for a combination hunting and fishing license, $35 for non-residents, and $16 for a tourist three-consecutive-day license. Licenses are free for anglers over 65 (Trout Stamp not required) – as well as for those with a 100-percent disability.

Q. When does the freshwater fishing license expire?

A. Freshwater fishing licenses expire at midnight on the last day of February annually.

Q. What are the dates of the FREE FISHING DAYS?

A. On the first full weekend of May each year, neither a Rhode Island resident nor a resident of any other state is required to possess a freshwater fishing license or a trout conservation stamp. Given the serious nature of COVID-19, DEM will continue to provide any needed updates regarding changes to this guidance.

Q. Do I need a trout stamp?

A. A trout conservation stamp ($5.50) is required of any person wishing to keep or possess a trout, salmon, or charr caught in Rhode Island waters or by any person fishing in a "catch-and-release" or "fly-fishing ONLY" area.

Q. Who DOES NOT need a trout stamp?

A. Minors under 15 years of age; RI residents over 65 years of age; persons with a 100% disability; landowner and members of their family when fishing from property on which they are actually domiciled; persons possessing trout taken from a lake or pond which shares a border with a neighboring state; persons possessing privately-owned trout caught in privately-owned ponds.

Q. Can I use corn for bait in any trout waters?

A. NO.

Q. Can I chum in trout waters?

A. NO.

Q. Where can I find bait and tackle? Aren't all stores closed? 

A. Many bait and tackle shops, as well as big-box stores that carry bait and tackle, remain open for online sales, curbside pickup, or limited indoor sales. Please call ahead for more information.

Q. Are fishing tournaments/derbies cancelled? 

A. The Division of Fish and Wildlife has cancelled or postponed all fishing tournament/derby permits through April 30, 2020, and will not issue more during that period. This situation is dynamic and permits for fishing tournaments after this date will be evaluated as we get later in to April.

Q. What else is DEM doing in response to COVID-19?

A. Please see here for more information on DEM’s COVID-19 response at www.dem.ri.gov/covid19.

Fish Smart
fish safe. follow social distancing rules  
Help us keep fishing areas open! Anglers must follow social distancing guidelines:
  • If you’re not feeling well, stay home! Signs and symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Stay close to home and be flexible. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and see that crowds are forming, choose a different location, or return another day or time.
  • Observe the CDC's minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people. Practice it and know what it looks like – basically a fishing rod distance apart.
  • Follow the CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene. Wash your hands, carry hand sanitizer, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as streamside trees, boulders along streamside trails, handrails on fishing piers and docks.
  • Bring water or drinks and a trash bag. Leave no trash, take everything out to protect others.
 

Learn more

Trout Stocking Map

interactive map

DEM urges anglers to avoid fishing areas if they are crowded and encourages them to visit less popular fishing areas to help avoid crowding. Anglers must maintain social distancing while fishing at ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. It may be helpful for anglers to download a map of fishing sites on their phones before heading out to fish.

Access Map

Contact
Freshwater Fisheries & Wildlife
Great Swamp Field Headquarters
Great Neck Road
West Kingston, RI 02892
Phone: (401) 789-7481
Directions