First day of fishing season draws anglers to Voluntown
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Apr. 22, 2013
Neither rain nor sleet will keep a dedicated fisherman from opening day, and the dismal start to April 20 proved the point. Local fishing holes large and small were packed with fishermen in the rainy dawn, and after the downpour eased up, anglers continued to switch spots in hopes of success.
“You know what? It’s rained on opening day the last 20 years,” said Dave Dickens of Griswold, who was out fishing the pond on Pachaug River at the corner of Sheldon and Lillibridge roads in Voluntown with his brother, Tony. The pair had been out since before 7 a.m., and at that early hour, “it was packed here,” he said. By 9 a.m., though, the crowd had thinned out considerably.
“I’ve fished this spot for 33 years. The same spot every year,” said Kenneth Green of Taftville. It’s a challenge because of the stumps, but that doesn’t stop him. “Opening day, rain, sleet, no matter what, I’m out here.” He said he’d had a few bites but was still waiting to catch a big one. Green said his grandfather taught him to fish, taking him out in his boat every year.
The fishing legacy is still being handed on, as Dean Lautenbach, 16, of Preston baited lines for himself and his stepdad, Ben Slonski. The pair had just come from Quinebaug by way of the state forest. “There was a ton of people out there, plus it was pouring,” Slonski said. But they weren’t deterred. “We love it. It’s nice to get out,” he said.
“Last year I went to a lot of places, but I always come back here. I do good right here,” said Thomas Bialowas of Griswold. He and his wife, Bethany, fish the spot frequently, often with their two small daughters. The girls stayed home in bed this morning, he said.
“I’ve been fishing my whole life,” Bialowas said. Bethany, however, is fairly new to the sport. “I bought her out one day and she was hooked,” he said. “It’s nice and relaxing. You hang out for a couple of hours, catch some fish and have fun, and go home and cook dinner- fresh fish.”
Voluntown’s fishing “command central,” Mike’s Bait and Tackle, hadn’t closed its doors since 7 a.m. on Friday, staying open straight through the night for eager fishing enthusiasts doing some last-minute late-night shopping. Shop owner Tom Quinzer stepped away from the cash register periodically to measure and weigh another candidate for the shop’s annual biggest-fish competition.
It’s not a formal fishing derby, said Quinzer. “It’s just our own little contest,” he said. “We go by the length of the fish.” The kid who catches the day’s biggest fish wins a fully-stocked tackle box; the winning adult receives a gift certificate, he said. Even though he called it “a quiet year" for entries, by 10 a.m. a total of 80 children and 100 adults had logged their day’s catch, he said.
Less than a block away, Cub Scouts from Pack 74 of Voluntown toted Styrofoam plates stacked with pancakes to hungry customers during their fishermen’s breakfast. The yearly event had to move out of its usual digs at the Voluntown fire hall because of remodeling work being done there, said organizer April Florence.
Even so, business was brisk, said committee chair Julie Zelinsky. “The bait shop has been sending everybody over, and we had [the location change] on signs at the fire house,” she said. The crowd included plenty of regulars and even local residents who had not been fishing, along with a Boy Scout troop that was camped out at the Civilian Conservation Corps camp in nearby Pachaug State Forest, said Florence.