The weather has been a wild ride this week! Plan to take a friend along on Free Fishing Day – Saturday, June 6 (no license needed in fresh or salt waters).
SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY
We received some recent positive reports about some smallmouth bass outings at Bow Lake (Strafford) and Massabesic Lake (Auburn/Manchester). Anglers used wacky rigged soft plastics and top water lures and reported good sizes and numbers. These folks did well right before last week’s warm days with the actual time of day not appearing to matter. It’s likely the recent rain and cold weather slowed things down for a bit but we really needed the rain. We have netted both of these lakes to target trout growth and survival but also always found impressive largemouth, smallmouth, pickerel, white perch and black crappie (in Massabesic Lake) in the nets as well. Massabesic Lake was stocked with northern pike in the early 1990s but we haven’t seen a confirmed specimen being caught there. Forage fish at both of these lakes include golden shiners and juvenile white perch and panfish species.
These are two of the largest waterbodies in the area. They both have public access and are worth checking out if you’ve never fished them. The launch at Bow Lake is on Water Street but vehicles must park down towards the dam at the Grange Hall. Massabesic Lake has two launches for trailered boats. Clair’s Landing is in Auburn Village near the town hall and on Rte. 121 near the Auburn/Manchester town line. There is also a car top access facility off of the Rte. 28 Bypass at the Deerneck bridge. The Massabesic Lake launching areas are maintained by the Manchester Water Works. The lake has a provision that prohibits swimming or wading in order to protect the waterbody to serve as a drinking water source. Part of the lake is also closed to public access but this is well marked.
There are plenty of areas to target warmwater species in both lakes. There’s ample rocky shorelines and islands, a lot of complex shoreline and some vegetated coves in select areas. I think you’d be hard pressed to fish the entire shoreline in a single day. Navigational buoys are present in most of the rocky areas of both lakes. Bow Lake has a maximum depth of around 65 feet and Massabesic Lake has a maximum depth around 50 feet. These two waterbodies are also stocked with yearling rainbow trout and brown trout. While our netting surveys did not reveal superior growth of hatchery trout, we occasional here about a trophy sized trout being caught in both of these lakes.
Also of note, the river herring and American shad runs are well underway. These species spend most of their lives in saltwater but ascend the coastal rivers and Merrimack River to spawn in freshwater. It’s interesting to note the presence of both herring and shad as far upstream as the Amoskeag Fishway in Manchester this year. Counts at the Essex Dam lift on the Merrimack River in Lawrence, MA indicate good returns for shad and herring this year with over 40,000 and 120,000 returns so far, respectively. The Amoskeag Fishway Learning and Visitors Center is having their annual Sea Lamprey Appreciation Day this Saturday (June 6). – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Over the last two weeks, the weather has been unpredictable to say the least. We saw near-drought conditions followed by two inches of rain. We saw 90 degrees followed by early morning frost. What were clear and low water conditions last week are now high and muddy. All of this variability can make a fisherman’s life difficult, but the good ones will accept the volatility of New England weather and greet it with optimism. Changing conditions mean changing strategies. Those anglers who catch the most fish are those that are prepared to abandon the tactics that aren’t working and try something different. Sometimes this means a new location, sometimes new gear, and sometimes, a new attitude.
For me, June fishing means fly casting for trout and salmon in the Connecticut River. My favorite locations are found from Pittsburg to Clarksville and the Stratford section. There is an abundance of fishable water and enough distance to rarely see another angler. As spring flows drop and water conditions begin to recede, a defined river channel becomes noticeable and the locations of fish become easier to guess. In most areas, I wade across 30 yards of ankle-deep water to cast into a deeper channel that is only 15 feet wide. A good drift allows for dry flies to cover long distances. It also allows for droppers or nymphs to do the same. A final approach is to position myself at the head-end of a run and rip streamers back toward me. Using these simple methods, it is possible to catch brook, brown, and rainbow trout in fast water. With a four-weight fly rod, fish in the river offer an awesome fight. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Over the past three days the Lakes Region has seen over three inches of rain, cold temperatures, and a hard east wind. This has not been conducive to lake fishing, to say the least! Saturday (sunny and bright) found us out on Lake Winnisquam, at the northern end, casting top-water poppers to the deep-water edges of the many rocky shoals found there. We spotted several bass on their nests near shore, and we didn’t bother them as we fished the edges/drop-offs for cruising bass. We saw several nice smallmouth slam at our lures but we had no hook-ups! A little slow on the trigger, I guess.
After a seemingly endless dry period, river flows have increased to the point where it will take four or five days before they are fishable again. But when that happens, fishing should be great after the huge influx of water and food brought into these systems. Trout stocking continues in central NH, and the rainfall was just what we needed to keep pond and stream temps and levels at optimum conditions.
Brook trout fingerlings (~3 inches) took annual flight on Friday, May 29, as 47 remote ponds statewide from Newbury to Pittsburg were stocked via contracted helicopter services (JBI Helicopter Services, Pembroke, NH). Spawned and raised by New Hampton State Fish Hatchery staff, the fingerlings’ journey starts when trucked by New Hampton and Berlin fish culturists to predetermined rendezvous sites across the state. The helicopter is consecutively reloaded with fingerlings at each landing site, until ten full sorties are completed, with over 70,000 total fingerlings stocked. Thanks to the efforts of these dedicated hatchery personnel and an experienced pilot/helicopter team, this highly-coordinated, cost-efficient operation allows all the ponds to be stocked in just one day! This methodology also ensures the fingerlings are stocked into the ponds in the best possible condition, where, in these relatively less-pressured environs, they are afforded the ability to grow to
catchable size – these holdover, “naturalized” brookies exhibit many wild characteristics, including striking colors and a feisty disposition!
If you’re seeking an adventure that uniquely melds light hiking, scenery, solitude, abundant birds, insects, and other wildlife – and of course, eager, vibrant brook trout – look no further than a visit to New Hampshire’s remote brook trout ponds. Visit the Remote Trout Fisheries in NH page to begin your adventure. – Don Miller and John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologists
With the much-needed rain, area streams and rivers are returning to more normal levels and trout fishing should improve greatly. Some area streams and rivers to try to for trout include Beards Brook (Hillsborough), the Ashuelot River (Marlow, Ashuelot, Hinsdale), Mill Brook (Westmoreland), the South Branch of the Ashuelot River (Fly fishing only; Swanzey), Blackwater River (Webster), and the Nissitissit River (Brookline).
You might remember me mentioning in the last fishing report about the great American shad run the Connecticut River is having this year. To date, the Holyoke Dam in Massachusetts had passed over 350,000 shad and the next dam upstream, Turners Falls, has passed over 40,000. There are huge numbers of shad right now below the Vernon Dam and I was able to experience the fishery first hand this past weekend. Although I haven’t fished for shad in over 15 years, it didn’t take me long to remember the light bites and incredible fight these fish put up. They call them “poor man’s salmon” for a reason!
The best location to fish for them below the Vernon Dam is on the Vermont side. There is a parking area and large beach where you can launch a boat or canoe. There is also room for two to three shore anglers to fish from the rip-rap just below the cement wall near the dam.
Shad fishing requires little in the way of tackle. A 6- to 7-foot spinning rod and a shad dart or inline spinner (Mepps, Blue Fox, etc.) is all you need. They also readily take small streamers if you like to fly-fish. Simply cast out into the current and slowly reel in, keeping your lure or fly in the top few feet of the water column. A long-handled net is useful as these fish are difficult to handle due to the body shape. Early morning and evening are the best times to fish for them, although they often bite all day during overcast conditions.
Given the current water temperature in the river, this year’s run will be over soon so get out soon if you can. Please remember there is a catch and release regulation for this species in inland waters. – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
The summer is off to a slow start here on NH’s coast. River herring, striped bass, and now mackerel have all been delayed in their arrivals. The first mackerel are still hanging around off of the coast, with no large catches yet. Winter flounder have finally started biting in Hampton Harbor and boat anglers are reporting good catches. Anglers at Rye Harbor State Park reported luck fishing from the Jetty, nearly catching their limit. Schoolie stripers are being caught in small numbers in the Piscataqua and Hampton Harbor. – Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist
Stocking report: http://www.fishnh.com/fishing/
Fishing licenses: http://www.fishnh.com. Don’t forget – kids under 16 fish free in N.H.!
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