Opening day draws anglers to rivers - and to breakfast

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Apr. 18, 2011
Jay John, 6, of Moosup, casts his line in hopes of catching a big one on fishing season's opening day. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Jay John, 6, of Moosup, casts his line in hopes of catching a big one on fishing season's opening day. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

On paper, fishing season started at 6 a.m. on April 16. But the waterways that lace through Pachaug State Forest were dotted with early-birds in the pre-dawn darkness, as fishing devotees staked their claims to choice spots.

“I got here at 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Irving Beauchamp, of Voluntown, casting his line into the Pachaug River at Carroll Street’s WPA bridge. “I wanted to get a spot and I didn’t know how many people were going to be here.”

But Beauchamp’s been fishing for years, and he knows the rules. “I didn’t fish till 6, though,” he said. “Opening cast was at 6 o’clock. I took my book and my chair and I just sat.” His trusty camp lantern provided the light for reading until the sun came up.

By 8 a.m., he hadn’t caught anything, but that’s hardly the point. Fishing season is as much about enjoying the budding beauty of the outdoors at the brink of spring as about bringing home some brook trout.

It’s also about family. Many parents, with kids and grandkids, were out at the water’s edge on Saturday, braving the nippy weather in hopes of hooking a big one.

Rodney Robillard II and his son, Rodney III, of Griswold, were among the father-and-son pairs who renewed the first-day fishing tradition. Rodney III said that he and his dad fish together daily throughout the season, and look forward to going fishing on opening day of each season. He said that his dad taught him to fish “about as soon as I was able to walk.”

Nearby, Mike Millette, of Moosup, helped his grandson, Jay John, 6, cast his line into the water. The two had camped the previous night at Pachaug State Forest’s Mount Misery campground and cooked themselves an early breakfast.

“We always go [on opening day],” Millette said. “[Jay] loves to fish. It’s nice being out there, no matter what.”

Jay said that he’s also gone fishing with his mother. “Me and mom caught fish when we were kayaking,” he said.

As canoes plied the water and lines were cast, local non-profit groups were busy dishing up hearty breakfast fare at their annual fundraising fishermen’s breakfasts.

Cub Scouts from Voluntown’s Pack74 toted trays full of pancakes to hungry fishermen and other locals at the Voluntown firehouse. “We’ve been busy all morning," said Julie Zelinsky, a Scout mom and treasurer of the pack. “We usually do about 200 breakfasts, but a lot of them are for the Scouts and their families.” As of 10 a.m., they had reached the 144 mark.

Church members at Bethel United Methodist Church offered an all-you-can-eat menu of sausage, scrambled eggs, home fries, baked beans and assorted homemade muffins, along with plenty of coffee.

“We had people here at five minutes of 5,” said church member Pat Peltier. “We planned on serving 75 people. It’s a church-wide effort. Everybody participates.” Apart from a brief hiatus, the church has been offering its opening-day breakfast since 2002, she said.

A wave of fishermen came through the doors of the church hall at about 9:45 a.m., ready to refuel for the rest of the morning. Among them were Guy and Ryan Boucher, father and son from Pawcatuck, who had been fishing with their friend Ryan Nagel of Griswold at Pachaug and on the Quinebaug River.

Over eggs and sausage, the trio engaged in yet another time-honored tradition of fishing – the fish tale.

“You should’ve seen the one that got away,” said Nagel. “I don’t know how big it was, but it almost pulled me into the water.”

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