Tag Archives: boating

Get hooked on your next adventure

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of reeling one in. Sun-shining, cool breeze on your face, the excitement of feeling the line tug, and the delicate art of reeling in your prize.

Whether it’s trout or bass, or if you’re like me, a teeny tiny sunfish (if you’re lucky), fishing is more than just a pastime. It’s spending quality time with family and friends, getting away from our ever present devices, and connecting with nature.

Whether you’re a rookie or a coach, you need a spot to cast your line, a dock to stand on or a boat to launch.

Or maybe fishing isn’t your thing, and you’d rather enjoy your local pond, lake, or saltwater via kayak, canoe, motorboat, or even a sailboat or yacht.

It’s National Fish and Boating week, seven days filled with free fishing days – where you can fish without a license – kid’s fishing derbies, and how-to demonstrations.

Perhaps you’re new to it all and just wondering where to get started. Fortunately, finding a spot to do so will be the least of your worries.

Across the region, public access to recreational boating and fishing is increasing. Thanks to efforts by the Service, state wildlife agencies and other partners, more boat ramps, fishing platforms, trails, and other outdoor recreation opportunities are cropping up.

There are over 1,600 boat ramps throughout the northeast region and each year, between 5 and 10 new boating and fishing access areas are constructed. These projects are funded and maintained through Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program, the granting arm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Though grants like the Sportfish Restoration Act, Clean Vessel Act, and the Boating Infrastructure Program might sound technical, but they are important tools that allow state agencies to provide fishing and boating access to the public.

So where does the money come from?

The program is funded by fishing manufacturers, along with boaters, and sportsmen and women, through taxes on the sale of fishing tackle and boat fuels.

However, its benefits reach far beyond the the boating and fishing communities.

In its 75 year partnership with state and local agencies, this program has contributed more than $14 billion for fish and wildlife conservation and public access to the lands and waters that support fish and wildlife, making it the most successful conservation program in U.S. history.

And it doesn’t end there. In addition to fishing and boating access, Sport Fish Restoration funds are used to conduct fish research, reintroduce declining sport fish species, restore wildlife habitat, and provide education about aquatic resources.

If this all sounds awesome, but you’re still wondering where and how to get started, you’re reading this at just the right time. Visit us at https://www.fws.gov/fishing/ for everything you need to know before you start your adventure.

Yield of Streams: If you remove it, they will come

Little feet tread through slushy April snow and approach the railing, peering over the edge of the bridge into the cold, flowing water of the Shawsheen River in eastern Massachusetts.

“I see one!”

They counted them 1,2,3.

The Joshi family children shouted out numbers as silver blue blurs glided through the dark water.

“We counted 95,” recalled Andover resident Jon Honea. He explained that this meant that as many as 425 passed by when volunteers weren’t watching.

They were counting river herring­­ – alewives and blueback herring, two closely related species of migratory fish that hadn’t been seen in the river for nearly two centuries.

And while river herring are no Shoeless Joe Jackson, their homecoming to the Shawsheen points to the success of the recent removal of the Balmoral and Marland Place Dams.

“All you have to do is make space,” said Honea, member of the Andover Conservation Commission and an environmental science professor at Emerson College.

Tracking the herring’s return to the Shawsheen River was a community affair, drawing over 250 volunteers. Residents from the Atria assisted living facility – whose residence was threatened by increased flood risk from the dam – joined the fun, alongside Andover high school students and dedicated families like the Joshi family, who counted multiple times every week.

“The removal of these two dams not only increases the resiliency of the Town of Andover, but reconnects the community to the river by restoring lost recreational opportunities and natural ecological processes upon which we all rely,” explained Bill Bennett, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist.

Not only were these dams a public safety hazard – heightening flood risk and threatening paddlers – they also blocked the travels of migratory fish throughout the river.

Dams prevent rivers from flowing naturally, impairing water quality and interrupting natural stream processes that both people and wildlife populations rely on.

Partners and volunteers have already documented a steady reappearance of river herring in the Shawsheen, but other wildlife such as American shad and American eel are also expected to arrive.

These removals opened up 4.1 miles of the river and restored 16 acres of wildlife habitat, allowing these fish to reach spawning grounds that are critical for their survival.

Though these smaller fish aren’t coveted by anglers, they are eaten by other wildlife such as larger game fish – like striped bass – shorebirds, raptors and river otters.

Snapping turtles and great blue heron have also been observed enjoying the free-flowing state of the lower Shawsheen River, below the remaining Ballardvale Dam.

Jane Cairns of the Andover Historical Society explained the rich history of the Shawsheen River, mentioning that the Marland Place Dam supported mill operations in the town, even powering a site that at one point supplied gunpowder to George Washington’s Continental Army.

She, like Honea, is also a member of the Shawsheen Greenway, an organization focused on making the Shawsheen River corridor a vital recreational, cultural, transportation, and educational resource for the entire community and region.

“We’ve been reminded, as many other communities have before us, that a clean and healthy, free-flowing river is a significant asset for the town, and can provide a boost to both our recreational and business resources,” Cairns said.

Nick Wildman, a restoration specialist from the Massachusetts Department Fish & Game, has been involved with these removals since 2009. He called the projects a “public investment for public benefit,” adding that the dam removals along the Shawsheen River represent a resurgence of the place that rivers have in our lives.

It doesn’t end there. Though public safety and stewardship of the river and fisheries were paramount to community leaders, fewer dams are a home run for experienced paddlers, who no longer have to transport their boats around the dams on land.

“The newly opened stretches of the river are quite beautiful and exciting,” Honea said. “There are long stretches with just forest on either side and several newly accessible drops, including a couple very exciting rapids.”

“These projects are not possible without strong partnerships between the federal, state, and local communities,” Bennett said.

Some of these partners embarked on a celebratory paddling trip in May to explore the newly free-flowing Shawsheen River.

Three canoes set out on the river. Eric Hutchins of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bill Bennett of the Service in one, Nick Nelson of Interfluve – a national firm focused on river restoration – and his son in another, and Andover’s Conservation Commissioners, Jon Honea and Floyd Greenwood, in the third boat.

While paddling, Hutchins and Nelson noticed a gizzard shad also exploring the newly restored river.

“Rivers are the lifeblood of our nation and their stewardship is of the utmost importance,” Bennett said.

The town sees it the same way.

“The Town of Andover is very excited about the removal of the dams – many people see this as the start of a real renaissance of the Shawsheen,” said Bob Douglas, conservation director for the Town of Andover. “Our residents are looking forward to being able to paddle the unbridled Shawsheen from the Ballardvale mill district, through the center of town, all the way to the mighty Merrimack.”

“User pay – public benefit” funding supports boating and clean water in Connecticut

The Service recently awarded $16.6 million to support recreational boating and clean waters in 21 states. States receive this funding under the Clean Vessel Act to support the construction, maintenance and renovation of sewage disposal facilities – or pumpout stations – for recreational boaters. We had an opportunity recently to talk with Kate Hughes Brown, the state of Connecticut’s CVA and Boating Infrastructure Grants coordinator, about the state’s decision to take the CVA program a step further on Long Island Sound.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection received $1.5 million from the CVA program this year, and $16 million to date. This “user pay, public benefit” funding returns revenue from taxes on boats, engines, motorboat fuel, and fishing equipment by investing it back into resources for boaters.

The state is taking their commitment to recreational boaters and clean water a step further. It recently announced that all recreational pumpout stations in Connecticut now offer free service to boaters. It is the first state to make these services fee-free, and boaters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts are praising the decision.

Demonstrating boat pump out

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Kate Hughes Brown says the state wants to “provide the best possible service for boaters by eliminating one more obstacle to having clean and healthy waters for people and for wildlife.”

Big Al on Thames #3

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Since 1993 the Connecticut DEEP has worked with the Service, marinas, yacht clubs, boatyards, municipalities and non-profit organizations to install 141 pumpout stations and complete more than 525 projects in the state. The CVA funding helps small marine business owners and other local entities serve boaters, and ultimately protect the waters of Long Island Sound.

“This is now part of doing business in Connecticut”, says Brown. “We have people who are dedicated to boating, fishing and swimming in clean water and preserving the marine environment for future generations. Business owners are providing cost share matches to help fund the individual projects.  In this way, they show that they are committed to providing improvements over time, and maintenance of these facilities for a continued successful program.”

Beacon Point Marina 4

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Brown says to check out the state’s new interactive map, making it easy to locate all pumpout stations in Connecticut.