Less than a generation ago, Newport was busy with working shipyards.
The children who grew up around the yards were called Wharf Rats. Retired teacher Tim Flaherty, one of those Wharf Rats, followed the footsteps of the men before him and started Flaherty Charters.
Captain Flaherty still fishes the waters, but also teaches the younger generation about fishing, as his father once taught him.
“We were the urchins of the docks,” said Captain Flaherty about his youth.
His goal is not only to teach families how to catch a fish, but also how to do it in a way that is sustainable. He knows his subject well; his students are guaranteed to come back to shore with fish.
Flaherty first learned the waters with his father Frank and his father’s best friend Myles Standish, who was the first fishing Captain on Aquidneck Island. Standish, a 12th generation descendant of the Mayflower, also served as a Navy Commander in World War II before he made his living from the waters.
Flaherty and his six siblings all learned to fish on his father’s small fishing boat.
“We all become serious about fishing,” said Flaherty. “I became obsessive.”
He said in his lifetime, he has watched the fisheries grow much more scarce, and believes if changes are not made, the results could become irreversible.
“We have seen so much change, so quickly,” said Flaherty. He said the two biggest causes for the rapid decline are commercial fishing practices as well as climate change.
Two months ago, the University of Rhode Island issued a climate change study that demonstrated the sea level has risen in Newport County and there are measurable increases to the water and air temperatures.
“We have seen entire beaches disappear,” said Flaherty.
He said commercial fishing boats use outdated practices, that haven't changed since the 19th century. Fishing boats drag nets along the floor of the sea, which is destroying the health of the entire ocean, he said.
Commercial boats have recently modified their practice which creates even more damage to the sea floor, said Captain Flaherty. Two boats work together, to drop two doors and use a chain that drags a net across the ocean's bottom.
“It’s tandem trolling. It covers a lot more ground, a lot quicker,” said Flaherty. “Fish don’t have a chance. It will catch virtually everything.”
The Captain said the entire ocean bottom is quickly becoming destroyed and the industry is in rapid decline.
“It’s not sustainable,” he warned.
Flaherty said commercial fishing should be shut down in the bay to allow the waters and the fish population to restore itself. He said recreational fishing, with a line and bait, is the only sustainable practice and is more important to the local economy than commercial fishing.
“People that buy roads, boats, electronic gear, run charter boats,” said Flaherty.
Flaherty’s mates are Brendan O’Neill, a marine biologist and Ted Hayes, a Newspaper Editor. He said 85% of his clients are families and come to Flaherty to learn about fishing, not just troll for fish.
“We use bait, we don’t troll,” which is the way he was taught by his father. He said it is more expensive, but it is more fun and more productive.
If you are interested to learn the sustainable practice of fishing, in same way that was taught to the Newport “Wharf Rats” just a generation ago, Flaherty’s prices art at $500. You can even take your catch Middletown restaurant, Easton’s Point Pub and Restaurant to have it prepared and cooked to your preference.
For more information, contact Captain Flaherty at 401.848.5554 or visit his website at www.flahertycharters.com