By: Joe Lyons
At the same time that waterfront development was escalating, another phenomenon was taking hold. With the rise of eco-tourism, bicycle access, via the construction of bike paths and greenways was, and still is, improving up and down the striper coast. The thinking is that the impact from cyclists, who can only carry a limited amount of future refuse, is far less than that of persons with motorized vehicles. The trend is clear: more access for bicycles, less for motorized vehicles.
All this got my wheels spinning. What if I could use a bicycle to improve my ability to access areas along bike paths, or in areas that provide access but no parking? I had read about modified bicycles being used for fishing, particularly at the Cape Cod Canal, for years. I was intrigued, but looking for more than just a rod holder strapped to the bike frame and a milk crate on a rack behind the seat. Specifically, I was looking for something I could also use for night fishing or a daytrip to one of the islands. Additionally, I occasionally keep a Bass for the table; so total load capacity was a concern as well.
So, several years ago, I purchased a bicycle trailer at my local bike shop’s annual super sale. I then outfitted my truck with a cap and a hitch-style bicycle rack, and have used it with good success over the last several seasons. The model I purchased, a Burley Cargo Trailer, attaches quickly to the bicycle and has a load capacity of 75 pounds. The Burley, with its large inflatable tires, glides along smoothly even on dirt roads. By using a bike trailer and your head you can access spots that others only dream of. For me, the use of bike trailer is a viable option, but it is not for everyone. In addition to fishing I have also used it for day trips to the beach, as one can easily put a small cooler and a couple of sand chairs and beach towels inside. If you rent or own summer home in places like Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, RI or Cape Cod, the trailer can also be quite effective in circumventing traffic jams for trips to the store as well.
For those contemplating the purchase of a bike trailer some considerations including, fitness level, where and when you will be fishing, along with familiarization with the equipment, should all be given careful consideration.
First, how would characterize your fitness level? If you have not walked any great distance or peddled a bicycle in several years, you may want to consider starting before you attempt pulling a trailer to a remote fishing locale. If you have had any heart related problems, the stress of riding a bike while pulling a trailer loaded down with fishing gear and a keeper bass, might prove too much. Additionally, if you have any sight related problems you may want to think twice before you attempt bicycle riding, particularly at night.
Secondly, where are you going to trailer into, and when? I like to pick a spot that I can fish for extended periods, as redressing and pedaling to new spot is a rather lengthy procedure. I find the best time to trailer into an area is early in the morning on weekend or later in the evening during the week. Make sure you know the road; sometimes I’ll even drive down before, to check for debris or potholes. Even with a helmet and gloves, taking a spill can be nasty; you do not want any surprises. I also like to scout out a good place to lock up or hide my bike and trailer beforehand. By taking precautions, and getting a game plan together ahead of time, I’m usually able to get in and out without seeing anyone. So far it has worked nicely, I have yet to be confronted by anyone except an occasional fellow angler asking where I parked.
Lastly, familiarize yourself with the equipment beforehand. Think about how much better we perform most tasks the second time around. By doing a dry run in the daytime or in the off-season, you can get a good idea of how everything is going to shakedown before your first trip. An important note; braking distances with a loaded trailer are considerably longer than without. I also like to write down everything I may need and to double check that list before I leave the truck. Some extra items you may not carry all the time, but are useful when bicycling include: a cell phone in case you get hurt, bike helmet and bike gloves, and a small can of pepper spray in the event you meet up with any mean critters.
For those interested in learning more about bike trailers, there are several companies offering products both in bike shops and on the web. The Burley Cargo Trailer I purchased is available through most better bike shops, it currently sells for $229.00 Another company, Cycletote sells some high quality bike trailers, they are on the web at: http:/.cycletote.com. Wike Products, sells a collapsible bike trailer called the Wike Super Shopper that is available online also at: http:/.wicycle.com There are quite a few more varieties out there, some more expensive some less, I’ve only used the Burley, so I cannot offer any advice to which is preferable. As with all things, you probably want to stay away from the more cheaply made products.
Just where can you use a bike trailer once you have purchased one? Almost anywhere you feel comfortable locking it up. Some favorite spring destinations include, The East Bay Bike Path. The EBBP stretches for 14.5 miles between Providence RI and Bristol, at many points it runs along the waterfront past good striper water and also crosses the Warren River, a hot spot in May and June. The EBBP also intersects with Bristol’s Colt State Park that contains some good spots as well. You can learn more about the EBBP, and other Rhode Island Parks, on the web at http:/.riparks.com.
In the summer, I’ll take the trailer to Block Island and fish the northern part of the island, at places like Mansion Beach or Grove Point. Grove Point, a spot described in the book Striper Hot Spots by Frank Daignault, is particularly well suited for bicycle access because it has a bike rack within sight of where I fish. In the fall I’ll park in the D.E.M. lot at Weekapaug in Westerly, Rhode Island and fish the Atlantic Avenue right-of-ways that provide shore access, but no vehicle parking. These access areas, and many more, are described in the 1993 Rhode Island Sea Grant Publication titled, Public Access To The Rhode Island Coast. Prudence Island, in Narragansett Bay, accessible via ferry from Bristol and Portsmouth RI and part of the RI’s Bay Island Parks System, affords a bicycle riding angler access to some rarely fished waters. The Cape Cod National Seashore’s Bike Path and Cuttyhunk Island are areas I’m looking forward to trying in the future. Drive down any of the seaside roads posted with no parking signs, you will soon find a list as long as you care to make it
In Rhode Island, we have large tracts of oceanfront that are now behind private property. That is sad. But the good part is there is almost always some place to park within a short bike ride. Armed with my bike trailer, some eels and lightweight wading gear, I have been able to access many spots that have become inaccessible due to parking restrictions. Some of these spots were considered prime areas, and were well known to the sharpies of previous generations.
It was in one of these forgotten spots where I had some of my best fishing last year. I would bike in, hide my trailer and have the spot all to myself. I did not catch any giant fish, but that is more attributable to a dearth of big fish than to a lack of effort. If you have been fishing for a while and still have not caught Mr. Big, don’t be too hard on your self. I have it from a very authoritative source that, “You can’t catch what isn’t there.” Keep up the effort your day will come.
Later, while researching for a previous article, I spoke with a fisherman who had fished the same area thirty years before. I queried him with specifics and he provided me with some excellent perspectives on how to fish it. I applied his suggestions the next time I went down, and found that his pointers were just as relevant now as when he applied them in the 60’s. I visited the spot many times last year, and I had some of my most consistent success to date. It started me thinking about how many other great spots are waiting to be re-discovered. The possibilities are exciting. Later, my excitement was tempered with the bittersweet realization of how much hard-garnered knowledge has been lost.
Pedaling in by bicycle is hard work, but the opportunities it provides are worth the effort. Right now, big fish are still few and far between, but in the near future numbers are slated to improve. After using the trailer for a couple of seasons you will find that your repertoire of spots will then include some prime, little fished water. By casting into prime water that gets little pressure, the odds of catching bigger keepers will improve. Don’t be surprised if you find a “new” favorite spot that used to be famous. While still true, the old saying that ten-percent of the fishermen catch ninety-percent of the fish contains some important omissions. What is not said is that those ten-percent that are doing all the catching are doing so in the right place at the right time, whatever ungodly hour that may be, and with far greater effort than the ninety-percent who are not. To get to the best water these Fishing Commandos will do almost anything. Some of the extremes I’ve known or heard of anglers going to include: hiking great distances, fishing from a kayak in the surf, even doing the doggy paddle out to the far rocks dressed in a wetsuit with a surf rod in their teeth. Contrasted against some of these extremes, riding a bicycle to a fishing spot is fairly tame. When the big fish come back in catch-able numbers, it will be these committed fishermen that will have the best success. If you, like many anglers, have a wish list of spots you would love to access, the bike trailer maybe just the ticket to getting there.