Fishermen tackle new bridge ban

May 26, 2020

Last week, a new daytime fishing ban took effect for those fishing off the Padanaram Bridge during the pandemic — and some fishermen and friends are getting crabby.

Signs have been placed on the bridge to let people know that fishing is prohibited from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. until further notice. Cables have also been put in place to prevent casting.

The new rule was suggested by the town’s Covid response team due to an increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the bridge during the pandemic. It was put in place by a May 11 Select Board vote.

Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes noted at the meeting that the ban was intended to alleviate safety concerns associated with the foot traffic. 

“People are walking by, bicyclists are getting hooked by a fisherman as they go back,” said Select Board member Shawn McDonald at the meeting.

The ban will only last as long as the town’s state of emergency does, as McDonald explained afterwards that the new rules are only in place for everyone’s safety during the pandemic. 

For many years, he noted, there have been unrelated complaints about fishing activity on the bridge.

“There’s been trash left behind, there's been people using railings for cutting boards, people leaving fish guts on the bridge,” he said. “Cars getting hooked, people, bicycles getting hooked by castings.”

But some in town are upset by the temporary order.

“Fishing’s an American tradition, more than baseball, really,” said Dartmouth resident Joe Desilva. “It’s been a tradition and a way of life for a lot of people...I think they’re better off getting fresh air than getting stuck around the house.”

Desilva’s father was a commercial fisherman, he said, adding that Padanaram harbor was one of the reasons he chose to live in Dartmouth.

“It’s like anything else, you gotta pay attention,” he noted. “Watch out for each other. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

“I think the fact that people fish on the bridge is wonderful, and I can’t wait to see them back again,” said longtime Padanaram resident Ann Sheehan. “These aren’t professional fishermen. These are people who either have a hobby or who eat their fish...There are very few places they can go to do that.”

“We used to come into the village in a convertible, and we’d roll up the windows so we didn’t get a fish hook,” she remembered with a laugh, adding that there was a bait shop in Padanaram at one point.

Sheehan said that the village has changed “a lot” recently. 

“We have now become very upscale,” she said. “It was a sleepy little forgotten place for a number of years...It was charming and wonderful.” Now, she said, “It’s become so exclusive.”

“When you have something nice, you should be able to let other people see it and appreciate it, and share it,” she added. “I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share.”

“I don’t like the mess, that’s for sure,” said a pedestrian on the bridge who wished to remain anonymous. “But people should be able to fish if they want to.”