Horn-pouting, anyone? NH Fishing Report is up and kickin’ it old school

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White perch are plentiful at Lake Massabesic in Manchester/Auburn.
White perch are plentiful at Lake Massabesic in Manchester/Auburn.

Try going “old school” during the waning days of August and give “horn pouting” a try –  or a re-visit if you haven’t done it in a while. Plenty of opportunity for “pouts” to be had in the Granite State! Also in this week’s report are some tips for catching tasty white perch. Everyone should have fish at least once a week as part of a nutritious diet and white perch can fit the bill. Get in some fishing before the kid’s go back to school!

fishingSoutheast NH/Merrimack Valley

The pound-for-pound fight and table fare of white perch can receive high praise from many of New Hampshire’s anglers. This species is not a true perch and actually is within the temperate bass family (Moronidae). This makes white perch more closely related to striped bass than to yellow perch.
Although once found primarily in brackish and salt water, white perch have been introduced into several lakes, ponds and rivers in the state. Anglers should take great care that this species is not introduced into other waterbodies, for the species may have a negative impact on native fish species.
When it comes to fishing for white perch in New Hampshire, I get the sense most anglers look to our larger lakes in the central part of the state. However, several lakes in the southeastern part of the state contain healthy populations of white perch, including Bow Lake (Strafford), Harvey Lake (Northwood), Northwood Lake (Northwood), Massabesic Lake (Auburn), Pawtuckaway Lake (Nottingham), Pleasant Lake (Deerfield) and the Suncook Lakes (Barnstead). Some of these waterbodies have what is considered a stunted population of white perch. This means you may be more likely to catch smaller fish, and more effort may be required to target larger white perch.
White perch primarily feed on insect larvae and smaller fish. They routinely migrate to shallow areas in low light periods and spend their time in areas with greater depth throughout the day.
Generally, white perch are very aggressive, hitting countless different presentations when put in front of them. That being said, I’ve observed times, particularly during ice fishing, when the perch key in on one particular presentation and disregard everything else. In the peak of the summer, I have routinely, but incidentally, caught them while trolling around the thermocline. This is usually while targeting rainbow trout and salmon. I’m not sure if larger white perch prefer somewhat cooler temperatures, or if the species is targeting forage species that live there. While trolling, virtually any smaller spoon can work. Finding the right depth for a particular day may take some time. Casting along areas with sharp drop-offs, working the presentation into greater depths can also be productive.
A variety of different panfish jigs, small deep diving crank baits, and spinners can be effective for white perch. There may be times when attaching live bait or imitation live bait to a panfish jig may help. Often, the species schools together by similar size, so be sure to continue focusing on the area once you confirm their presence. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist

North Country
Jeez folks, my work schedule has got the best of me lately. I’ve been gearing up for our annual “Grant Weekend” where we’ve been monitoring brook trout populations for a number of years in the Dead Diamond River watershed, primarily located in the Second College Grant just north of Errol. Hope to be back next time with a full report.  – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region

Horn PoutWith more and more requests for “casual” family shore fishing, a prime opportunity for a relaxing, late summer’s eve is the often overlooked “horned pout,” technically brown (and also yellow) bullhead – the nocturnal, small “catfish” common to abundant in so many New Hampshire lakes, ponds, and even rivers. “Horn pouting” seems to have become a somewhat lost art; back when as many fished for the table, Friday night meant rounding up the family and hitting the local “pout” pond. Maybe such simplicity is just “too much” for modern anglers! No fancy boat, no getting up before dawn, no $300 reels, we are talking (as the “pout” will once caught, hence the latter portion of their name) down and dirty, lawn chair, forked-stick fun where the entire family can line the shore by lantern light – with minimal expense and effort. Special bait concoctions work, but plunking out a couple night crawlers on a slip-sinker rig (large, long-shank hook best for removal) will catch all the pout you want. With biting insects waning in late summer, one less excuse to get the family to water’s edge. And what better way to instill the wonder, magic, and mystery of a starry August night – the bullfrog’s jug-o-rum; a cricket chorus; an amplified, unidentified splash! in the distance; the Milky Way; a shooting star, or maybe many more, if correctly timed with the Perseid meteor showers.
Many, many ponds can provide “pout” paradise, but an overlooked location is the fertile bays of large lakes, where some of the largest bullhead can be caught…that said, smaller pout lightly battered and pan seared, the fried “chip” tail an additional delicacy, is the real trophy! One note of caution: the “horned” part of the name derives from the dorsal (top) and pectoral (side) fin spines, which can give a noticeable sting! Simply hold the pout from the locked pectoral fins (the pout locks them outward as defense) with a “forked” index and middle finger grip…sounds complicated, but not really! A couple grips and you’ll be an expert…
Large-lakes “trollers,” at the risk of the proverbial broken record, the summertime thermocline pattern remains, with some adjustment slightly deeper into the 38-45 foot range (although as many anglers still report success at 30-35 feet, especially at daybreak) for landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, and active lake trout. Some anglers find success even deeper, especially later into morning on the brightest, sunniest days. As always, lake trout seem to cooperate anywhere from these depth ranges (daybreak) to bottom – they really are a different “critter” entirely, with knowledgeable anglers employing very specific techniques that can produce lake trout all day long….maybe a future report, if time allows…  – John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

My last report, which lacked any substance due to my lack of time on the water, was met with an outpouring of sympathy from local anglers who provided me with some great updates on local fishing. Thank you, all! I especially want to thank Mike Bulgajewski, Brad Burnett, Mike Canter, and Chris Russo for their emails.
Silver Lake (Harrisville) has been producing some bigger smallmouth bass during early mornings with lots of 1-pound bass being caught during mid-day. Rainbow trout have also been cooperating there along the eastern shoreline. Swanzey Lake is good right now for smallmouths as well and suggestions including fishing plastics deep and slow during the day and switching to topwaters at dusk.
Bronzebacks are also hitting in the evening at Spoonwood Lake and in the Connecticut River in deep shaded holes and around downed trees. Walleyes are reported to be hitting jigs and deep running crankbaits in deeper holes in the Connecticut River.
Largemouth action is good in numerous small ponds in Marlborough, Fitzwilliam, and Troy. At Forest Lake in Winchester, try deeper water, docks, and the channel near the campground. One motivated angler who likes to target trophy largemouth from dusk to midnight reports catching lots of big largemouth in Hubbard Pond and Contoocook Lake.
Finally, another reader reported catching a limit of yellow perch at Spofford Lake and some nice white perch up to 2 1/4 pounds!
Thanks again for all your reports and please continue to email any updates on fishing in the Monadnock Region to gabriel.gries@wildlife.nh.gov.  – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

The striped bass are not biting but there are many other options on the seacoast. The tides are right this coming weekend to find surf clams along NH’s beaches. With these larger clams you can make chowder, strips, or fritters and you don’t even need a license! To plan your trip you want to consider the tide and make sure the area you intend to harvest from is open for shellfish harvest. Visithttp://xml2.des.state.nh.us/CoastalAtlas/Shellfish_Map.html to check which areas are open to harvest and call 1-800-43CLAMS to get up to date information on current open/closed status which can change within season, often due to heavy rainfall. The key is, find a sandy beach and go at the lowest possible tide. Start looking in the sand near the low tide mark, you will be looking for small holes, they may become more evident if you stomp around on the sand. You can use a clam rake, but I find that my hands work just fine. Dig a couple inches down and you should find a clam. If you aren’t having luck, try moving up the beach a few feet, or you may find them under the surf depending on the water level, keep moving up and down the beach until you find one, and this is the line of beach you want to stick with.
Cunner is an often overlooked fish, but historically there was a commercial fishery for them. You may know them by the name perch, or sea perch. They are a reef fish that is closely related to the popular tautog, or blackfish. They are a small fish and are generally caught at 6 to 10 inches in length, but can grow to around 15 inches. Larger specimens provide fillets that are white and fairly firm. These are good fried or in a chowder. The cunner is ubiquitous in our waters and can be found anywhere there is structure. They have small mouths so you want to use a small hook, small pieces of clams and sea worms both work well, cunner are generally not caught on artificial lures. – Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist

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About Carol Robidoux 5783 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.