MANCHESTER, NH – Welcome to the first New Hampshire Fishing Report for 2015. Stocking trucks are on the road. See where the fish were delivered last week on the weekly trout stocking report.
Stocking information is updated on the Fish and Game website on Thursday afternoons throughout the season, and a link is posted to the Department’s Facebook page.
Designated trout and fly-fishing-only ponds open this Saturday, April 25, 2015.
Fishing licenses: fishnh.com. Don’t forget – kids under 16 fish free in NH
This winter gave me plenty of opportunities to think about fishing. To clarify, I spent a lot of time on the ice and participated in many hours of fishing. But in hindsight, my mind was often somewhere else. Every time I put on my wool pants and creepers, I wished I were putting on my waders and vest. Every time I held a snow-covered lake trout, I wished it were a wet brook trout. I wanted to be putting on bug spray instead of hand warmers. I think you get the idea.
The long wait is over. Snow has melted, ice has thawed, and open water fishing is available. This morning, I stood knee deep in the Connecticut River and cast into the fast water. I knew the water was high and knew it was cold. It was discolored, and I realized quickly that the likelihood of hooking a fish was small. I didn’t care.
Although it looks like a rainy week, I am looking forward to getting out on the water. I will probably hit some tailwaters at Moore and Comerford reservoirs. Early season brown trout are always a good target, and the high water will mean that they will be ready to feed. I also hope to hit a trout pond this weekend, with Mirror Lake in Whitefield being the likely spot. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
After a long winter and thick ice, the Lakes Region shows signs of ice-out on several lakes. Winnipesaukee, as of today (April 22) has quite a bit of open water, with some ice still holding on. Winnisquam is ice-free from Ahern State Park south, and the Squam Lakes have open water areas that are capable of providing some limited fishing! Smelt runs are just about over in Winnipesaukee, while the Squam run is still days away.
I ventured out on Winnipesaukee last Friday and fished around Lockes Island (after breaking some honeycomb ice) with fellow biologist Ben Nugent and had some great luck on three-pound salmon. We trolled live smelt on sink-tip lines and had a blast! I will soon switch to streamers as the water warms up, using the same fly lines. My early season favorite fly is the Winnipesaukee Smelt, tied in a variety of patterns, depending on the fly tier. Most have a white marabou wing, peacock herl tied into the marabou and a tinsel body. A good bet is also the many varieties of the “Pumpkinhead” streamer, with a hot neon-red, painted head.
Some great rainbows are waiting for anglers in Winnipesaukee and Squam lakes. Both lakes will see catches of 4-pound plus trout this season. Early season anglers are still finding salmon in the Winnipesaukee River from Opechee Lake downstream to Winnisquam. With the recent rains, look for fishing to pick up at the Lochmere dam on the outlet of Lake Winnisquam.
The trout pond opener is fast approaching (Saturday, April 25, 2015) and trucks have been rolling all over the state, even the far north. There was ice on Profile Lake yesterday (April 21), but there may be fishable water on Saturday. Echo Lake was clearing of ice, also. Our Lakes Region trout ponds will be in fine shape for anglers to get out and wet a line. Even if you encounter some ice, pockets of open water can be fished. Streams are a bit high right now, but entirely fishable. – Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Despite the rain and cool temperatures this week, spring is finally here and anglers shouldn’t have a problem finding open water in most locations in southwestern NH. Conservation Officers and hatchery staff are busy getting trout out as quickly as they can. Limited reports have come in so far from local anglers, but I did hear of some nice rainbows being caught at Silver Lake (Harrisville), and a stream angler did well on trout in Otter Brook (Sullivan). Some trout ponds to try on opening day are Dublin Lake (Dublin), Mt. Williams Pond (Weare), Whittemore Lake (Bennington), Willard Pond (Antrim, fly fishing only), Hunts Pond (Hancock), and Millen Lake (Washington). Some other good early season general regulation ponds for trout include Forest Lake (Winchester), Gustin Pond (Marlow), Newell Pond (Alstead), and Laurel Lake (Fitzwilliam).
Reports from walleye anglers below the Bellows Falls Dam have been positive, along with a few fish being caught below the Vernon Dam, as well. The Connecticut River is flowing very high and muddy right now, so best bets are the mouths of major tributaries. Fish the current seam where the clearer tributary water meets the main river. The Connecticut River was 41oF on Sunday, and I predict that walleye will likely begin spawning once the river level goes down and temperatures warm up a few degrees. The males I caught were ripe, while the females were still “hard” and not giving up any eggs.
Anglers are catching some largemouth bass at the Connecticut River setbacks in Hinsdale, along with a few northern pike. Try jigs, chatterbaits, and shallow running crankbaits along the rip-rap. A favorite of mine this time of year is a one-fourth or one-half oz. Rat-L-Trap. Cast the lure out, let it settle into last year’s vegetation, and then rip it out. This is a time-tested lure that works great in spring on bass. – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY
While some of the lakes and ponds in northern New Hampshire look like they could still support anglers and ice shanties, conditions have transitioned nicely for open water fishing in southeastern New Hampshire. It is expected that all designated trout ponds in the area will have been stocked at least one time prior to opening day (April 25, 2015). The somewhat slow progression into spring has required our fish culturists in the area to develop some creative stocking strategies to ensure hatchery fish reach these ponds. The majority of fish stocked in these ponds are yearling trout (brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout). Some ponds receive two-year-old brook trout, as well. These ponds have been identified to offer suitable year-round habitat for these coldwater species, so it’s likely that larger holdover fish, which are more acclimated to the pond’s environment, are also present. No natural reproduction of trout in these waters has been documented, so they require stocking to meet angler demand.
While the emphasis of stocking has focused on lakes and ponds, some slower-moving larger rivers in the area have been stocked. Just as river and stream flows were receding to their average levels, intense rain earlier this week brought some areas back to flood stage. Flows appear to have crested and hopefully, by the time the weekend comes around, most locations will be conducive to fishing again. If anything, the bump in flows likely spread the recently stocked fish in some rivers into scattered locations. This means those who move away from road crossings should be rewarded.
Late April/early May is arguably one of the best times to fish for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. As with other fish species, they are seeking warmer water to feed on congregating forage species and prepare for spawning. Warmwater anglers should have the opportunity to catch some of the largest bass of the year during this time. These fish become vulnerable as they seek out shallow water with warmer temperatures. Anglers should try their luck in shallow flats, entrances to shallow coves, and locations near tributaries that deliver a pulse of warmer water. Suspended husky jerks and shallow running crank baits fished slowly, with erratic retrieval patterns, are two of the most traditional techniques. Even live bait may be worth trying at this time of year. When choosing a color, try to match local fare that bass would be targeting.
Sunfish species (redbreast sunfish, bluegill, and pumpkinseeds), as well as golden shiners and white and yellow perch, are also shallow at this time. Try lures that match the appearance and swimming patterns of these species. Southeastern New Hampshire has a large selection of waterbodies and slow-moving rivers where a trophy largemouth or smallmouth can be caught. I would recommend Bow Lake (Strafford), Jenness Pond (Northwood), Northwood Lake (Northwood), Pawtuckaway Lake (Nottingham), rocky sections of the Merrimack River, and the mouth of the Contoocook River. As the months progress (and more summer-like conditions prevail), I tend to switch to top water lures (poppers, floating frogs, jitterbugs, and other floating stick baits) and try to time my fishing for bass near dusk and dawn. This method can be particularly effective along rocky shorelines and outcroppings. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Spring is getting off to a slow start here on the coast. While we wait for the annual migrations to hit New Hampshire, some have been testing the waters for flounder or perch, but even these resident fish have been slowed by the persistent cold temperatures in our tidal rivers. When fishing this spring, keep in mind the new striped bass limit. NH has implemented a one fish bag limit to comply with a required 25% reduction in harvest. The size limit remains at 28 inches.
The federal haddock and cod closures are still in effect; haddock is closed through the month of April. New federal rules could take effect on May 1, 2015. To sign up for text alerts regarding federal in-season changes and updates to recreational saltwater fishing regulations for cod and haddock, go to: greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/Sustainable/recfishing – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist
FEDERAL AID IN WILDLIFE AND SPORT FISH AND 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 fuelsmake a difference to New Hampshire’s fisheries. Learn more at wildnh.com/SFWR_program/sfwr_program.htm.
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