CONCORD, NH – Welcome to the weekly fishing report from NH Fish & Game. A few notes:
- Trout are being stocked for your Memorial Day weekend fishing enjoyment. Looking ahead, plan to take a friend along on Free Fishing Day – June 6 (no license needed in fresh or salt waters).
- Fishing licenses: https://www.nhfishandgame.com. Kids under 16 fish free!
SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY
This is one of the best times of year to capitalize on the aggressiveness of smallmouth bass. When water temperatures are close to either side of 60°F, smallmouth bass can be found around rocky structure. The smallmouth seem to associate themselves with the shallow areas mostly during low light conditions (early morning, dusk, cloudy days), coincidently right when the black flies are at their worst. I’ve also done well along these same areas on brighter days when there’s a little chop on the water. It doesn’t take much to get these fish to bite during this period. One of the easiest and most effective methods to catch smallmouth bass now is to use top water lures and flies. I get the sense that the action of tackle may supersede lure/fly type selection in most cases. Top water lures and flies are designed to be fished a variety of different ways. Some are meant to be irregularly “popped” slowly while being retrieved while others are intended to be retrieved in a more erratic “walking” pattern, and even other lures work best with a consistent slow retrieval.
Anglers should be aware of the action their lure/fly is designed for and then experiment with variations of retrieval rates and performance from there. Being able to pattern what type of retrieval rates are successful on a particular day can take patience. Some days require painstakingly slow movements with long intermissions between them. Other days the fish seem to want to attack lures retrieved quickly with minimal stoppages in action. Experimenting will pay off once a preferred method is determined. It is important to note that no harvest of bass is currently allowed. Between May 15 and June 15, all bass must be immediately released and only artificial lures and flies (no live bait) can be used to target them.
We recently received a report of a new rod and reel state record common carp caught in the Merrimack River in Manchester. Assuming the paperwork for the catch is approved, the new state record for common carp in New Hampshire will be an impressive 35.82 pounds and 37 inches long. Congratulations to Donald St. Lawrence of Henniker. The previous rod and reel record (33 pounds) was from the Connecticut River and has stood since 2007. That being said, the state record for carp harvest by bow still stands at over 41 pounds from the Connecticut River. Within the Merrimack River, common carp can be found from the Massachusetts state line upstream to the Garvin Falls Dam in Bow. There are a variety of online resources available for those interested in learning how to catch carp.
– Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Hello, my name is Ethan Emerson. I am currently a seasonal employee for NH Fish and Game, working for the Inland Fisheries Division. I grew up, and still live in, Groveton, NH. I spent my adolescent life trailing behind my dad exploring every corner of the North Country and beyond – tracking whitetails, calling coyotes, hunting upland game, and fly casting and angling for the elusive “big one.” I continue to pursue these horizons and many more, with whoever cares to join me. I have worked quite extensively teaching the skills and knowledge I have acquired to youth at Barry Conservation Camp during the past few summers, and I hope to extend my teachings to anyone who loves the outdoors and can stay awake to my jabbering on..and on…and on…
Even though I love the aura of cracking my fly-line through the crisp misty fog of a remote brook trout river adorned with vibrant foliage in late September, these two to three weeks from mid-May to early June are my favorite fishing weeks of the year. Although these current weeks don’t offer the breathtaking scene I just described, they do offer one thing that makes up for it all: monster smallmouth. I started fishing in the NH Jr. Bassmasters when I was about eleven years old, traveling the state fishing all the best bass lakes. I was hooked—and still am. There is nothing like the rugged head-shaking vibrations from a deep-diving, four-plus-pound bronzeback.
This time of year is the pre-spawn for smallmouth. In the North Country, they haven’t quite yet moved up onto the shallow flats to tend to their beds, where they will stay and pretty much fast themselves (except for defensive strikes on predators to their young) for several weeks. Right now they are just on the deep-side edge of these flats preparing themselves for the spawn by eating—aggressively. The biggest smallmouth tend to be found in deep, clear-water lakes. I find the best luck catching them with fast-action baits: crankbaits, swimbaits, or—best of all—big, hard-plastic jerkbaits. One of the more fun things about fishing like this this time of year is that you never know what you are going to catch; I have been in a boat that has caught a big smallmouth, a lake trout, a big brown trout, a giant perch, and a salmon all within an hour on the same baits. In this case of pre-spawn smallmouth, I find the old adage to be true: bigger baits equal bigger fish. Size
matters: the size of the bait, the size of the fish, and the size of the smile on your face when that rod is bent to the last guide. Go big in the next couple weeks—don’t stay home.
– Ethan Emerson, Seasonal Fisheries Technician
We have just finished up the 33rd Annual Winni Derby held on Lake Winnipesaukee, May 15-17. Anglers were treated to good weather, for a change. No howling northwest winds or driving rains. The winning landlocked salmon, at 4.14 pounds, was caught on Friday (15th) and held up to win the grand prize. The lucky angler was from Vermont. Grand prize winner in the lake trout division was a 7.28 pound trout caught on Sunday and entered 15 minutes before the weigh station closed! That angler was from NH. There were reports of numerous salmon caught during the three-day event, with a median size of 3.12 pounds and 20.5 inches long.
Salmon fishing continues to be good on Winnipesaukee, with fish caught down to 30 feet deep. Early morning anglers will still find fish at the surface. Lake trout are active with anglers reporting double-digit catches, especially those anglers that “jig” their spoons. Fisheries Biologists Matt Carpenter and Ben Nugent have been busy trucking alewives into Lake Winnisquam to help bolster short term forage in that lake, and to restore herring in the Merrimack watershed to historical levels.
Surplus Atlantic salmon broodstock (a great surprise for us) were stocked into the Merrimack and Winnipesaukee Rivers recently, and with low water conditions now prevalent, fishing is great!
Trout ponds have been stocked, a few of them multiple times, and fly hatches are in full swing. Remote pond fishing is also excellent at this time. Anglers should know that Jones Pond in Middleton has been restored with a new dam that was finished last fall. The brookies are waiting for those who want to make the short hike into the pond! This is a fly fishing only pond with a 2-trout daily limit. Fishing for native brook trout in White Mountain streams is great, but don’t wait as stream levels are very low for this time of year.
Word has it that a new state record carp has been caught in the Merrimack River, I’m just waiting for the paper work to arrive! This just points to the fact that New Hampshire has a splendid mix of fish to satisfy all anglers. Get out now, and enjoy the beautiful spring weather, I know I will this weekend!
– Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist
The rain on Tuesday was a much needed change to the previous weather pattern and welcomed by anglers and trout alike. Brooks and streams are very low for this time of year, making stream fishing challenging in some locations. Despite this, I have heard of a few positive reports from larger rivers including some nice rainbows on the Cold River and some browns and rainbows on the lower Ashuelot River in Winchester.
A friend brought in a fish for me to identify yesterday that he found in a freshly stocked 8-inch brook stomach from Sand Pond in Marlow. It turned out to be an age-1 smallmouth bass showing that these hatchery trout will take advantage of just about every food source available to them.
I fished a couple trout ponds this past weekend and found small schools of brook trout cruising the shorelines in 4-5 feet of water. Water temperatures were 65 degrees and smallmouth bass were in varying stages of the spawn. Some nests had males on them defending freshly laid eggs, but I also observed some active nests that contained both a male and female bass engaged in courtship rituals.
I have heard that Stone Pond (Marlborough) and Spofford Lake (Chesterfield) have been fishing very well for bass over the past week. I hope to head up to Warren Lake (Alstead) one night this week and find some post-spawn female largemouth bass.
The American shad run in the Connecticut River has been quick and productive thus far. The Holyoke Dam in Massachusetts had already passed over 240,000 shad and the next dam upstream, Turners Falls, has passed over 10,000. Word is that the shad fishing below the Vernon Dam is very good right now. Shad are an incredible sports fish and this would be a great time to try for them if you have never caught one. Please remember there is a catch and release regulation for this species in inland waters.
– Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Time to dust off the poles and get your gear ready for another season of coastal fishing! The river herring have been running pretty hard the last two weeks so with that we should be seeing stripers soon. There have been reports of schoolies but so far nothing sizable. We haven’t heard much on winter flounder so if you do catch one please call our Durham office (603-868-1095) and let us know so we can put it in the next report. If you’re looking for ground fish it is a great time of year to book a charter or jump on a head boat. The charter and head boats are typically getting there limit on haddock right now and then targeting redfish and pollock and cusk. The boats have also seen plenty of mackerel so you may be able to get on striped bass trip soon. Don’t forget to visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/
and federal fisheries biologists to assess the status of the striped bass populations each year.
– Edward Motyka, Marine Fisheries Biological Aide
Federal aid in wildlife and sport fish restoration: A user-pay, user-benefit program
Researching and managing fisheries and teaching people about aquatic ecosystems are funded by your license dollars and by the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Your purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels make a difference to New Hampshire’s fisheries. Learn more at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.