Cast away: Local fishermen rejoice in social distancing

  • Ken Whitson of New Ipswich fly fishes in the Souhegan River on the Greenville/Wilton border on Saturday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Ken Whitson of New Ipswich fly fishes in the Souhegan River on the Greenville/Wilton border on Saturday. Staff photos by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/28/2020 5:01:28 PM

A man, a fly, a rod and the fish on the Souhegan River.

Ken Whitson’s pursuit of the perfect native brook trout couldn’t be more perfectly suited to the current requirements for social distancing.

Not that he wouldn’t be out there with his pole regardless, Whitson noted. It’s a twice-weekly activity for him, with or without the coronavirus. It does, however, make for a handy extra excuse.

“I’ve been fishing since I was five, but we’re rejoicing in social distancing right now,” Whitson said, only partially joking. “All fishermen like to be alone. We’ve always been respectful, and let other fishermen have their space. If you come across someone in your favorite spot, you just move upstream. People let you have your space, it’s just even more now.”

Larry DeLamarter, a Concord, Massachusetts resident who spent Saturday fishing at the Timberdoodle Club in Temple with his son, noted wryly that it’s hard to socially distance in a boat, but when you’re in the water doing fly fishing, there’s already a pretty strict requirement to be six feet apart, or risk a fishhook in the ear.

“It’s certainly a good way to get out there, and a great way to keep kids busy,” DeLamarter said.

The next generation is already out there, too. Jacob Crawford, 13, of Greenville, said he’s been an avid fisherman since the age of six, usually in the Souhegan River, which is within walking distance of his home.

Just last week, he managed to snag five trout from the river, meeting the state daily fishing limit, an achievement he’s managed to hit a handful of times before.

That’s how most fishermen get started – as children themselves learning to bait a hook and drop a line.

“I’ve been fishing since I could walk and hold a pole,” said Artie Gardiner of Rindge. He started out catching sunfish at Mine Falls Park in his native Nashua, and now pursues trout and bass several times a week.

“Last year, I got carpal tunnel fishing, so you could say I go a lot,” Gardiner said.

His favorite spot is Dublin Lake.

“I like the tranquility. If you get out on a boat, you’re not being chewed up by mosquitoes. We have beautiful mountains and views,” Gardiner said. “I think it’s a certain type of person that enjoys fishing. You can’t be anxious or you won’t be able to fish very well.”

There are times, however, when fishing does get social. Several towns across the Monadnock region have children’s fishing derbies each year, most of which get dozens of participants. However, many of those tournaments are currently in a holding pattern as their organizers try to determine whether it will be safe in late May or early June to hold them.

Greenville, which usually holds its children’s derby on the first weekend of June, during the state’s free fishing weekend, hasn’t officially canceled its derby, Fire Chief Charles Buttrick said, but unsure at this point if it will move forward. The fire department, which hosts the annual derby, discussed the matter in March, and at that point, volunteers were prepared to move forward, Buttrick said. But as the weeks have dragged on, and there is little end in sight for social distancing measures, he said it’s become less likely the tournament will be held on schedule.

“I have no definitive decision on going forward, and no definitive decision on not going forward,” Buttrick said. “But I would tend to err on the side of caution.”

The New Ipswich derby, usually held at the Main Street cemetery pond, is in a similar holding pattern. The event hasn’t gotten the official ax, but it’s likely that all recreation department activities that involve large groups will be put off until late summer or fall, according to Recreation Coordinator Shawn Talbot.

The Bennington Sportsman’s Club has announced it will not be holding its annual derby this year.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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