This week’s fishing report from NH Fish & Game

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It’s the middle of July already and the “dog days” of summer are fast approaching if not already here! Unless you’re chasing brookies in a cold mountain stream or hitting the coast, best time to fish is the twilight hours to avoid the heat of the day. Thermoclines are setting up in our “big lakes” so you’ll have to dial down deep for those salmon and lakers. Trout stocking has pretty much wrapped up for the season but plenty of warmwater fishing opportunities out there. Enjoy the weather!


SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY

Sorry folks but I’ve been straight out the last couple of weeks doing field work and I am not able to reporton the current fishing state of affairs in my region. All I can say is stick to fishing the “twilight time” as the summer heat keeps the fish down during the day. Drop me a line at benjamin.nugent@wildlife.nh.gov and let me know where and what’s been working for you.

– Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist


NORTH COUNTRY

Last week was the Fishing Week at the Barry Conservation Camp. It is a week I always look forward to and recognize what a true pleasure it can be to take a kid fishing. Fish and Game’s Let’s Go Fishing coordinator, Kyle Glencross, and I met on Sunday and finalized plans for the week. We made sure the boat was running, the rods and reels were untangled, and we bought enough bait to last a month. We were very lucky to have a team of Let’s Go Fishing instructors whose knowledge and patience are a great advantage when working with a large group. The addition of the Barry Camp staff finalized a team that would give these campers a week of extensive fishing opportunities like they may never see again. Most campers came to us with an interest in the sport and baseline knowledge of it. When they went home on Friday, they were experts. They were a little sunburned, bitten up by bugs, and each were coated by a thin layer of grime that only a week in the woods can bring – but they were experts.

I’ve been told that I have a gift for reaching young people that can only be explained by my own reduced level of maturity. Whether it is a compliment, I can’t be sure but I spent a lot of time that week laughing,fishing, and making friends. We fished the Androscoggin River for a large portion of the week and found fish everywhere they would be expected to be. It is July and as the water warms, smallmouth bass were in water greater than 10 feet deep and seemed to favor a strong, moving current. Whenever we moved into shallower water, we found pickerel and yellow perch. Regardless of the catch, campers were having fun and perfecting their skills. Fishing is like a lot of other sports in that some instruction is clearly needed but experience can bring just as much understanding. By the end of the week, young people were casting, catching, and releasing fish all while dealing with tangled lines or stubborn knots. As I said, it is a week that I will always look forward to and realized that I may have the best job in the world.

– Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist


LAKES REGION

SmeltIt’s that time of summer, when the thermocline starts to become well established at the classic +/- 35 foot depth range in many New Hampshire large lakes. The end of July, August, and early September correspondingly signals the time for pelagic (open water) forage-fish surveys in Region 2 large lakes such as Winnipesaukee, Big Squam, and Newfound. The tool for the job is the Forager, a converted, specifically-outfitted 22-foot Eastern lobster boat. This management tool allows for pelagic forage (prey) fish population trends to be monitored, a key to helping maintain healthy large-lake salmonid (landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, and lake trout) populations. Additional species such as smallmouth bass and the famous large-lakes “jumbo” white perch also depend upon these prey resources on a seasonal basis.

In summary, the survey vessel cruises along transect lines while a sophisticated hydro-acoustic unit (sonar/”fish-finder”) counts the number and size of prey fish targets. To verify species and sizes, a large trawl net designed to catch small prey fish is also deployed. Young-of-the-year (YOY, first year of life) very small rainbow smelt (~1.5-2.5 inches, depending on exact time of summer) typically predominate the catch, along with some larger adult smelt, as well as YOY white and yellow perch – the latter particularly in warmer surface waters. Thus, although experienced New Hampshire large-lake anglers know many different offerings can work in certain situations, they generally opt for smaller presentations from mid-late summer, to mimic these YOY forage fish.

The hydro-acoustic and trawl sampling is conducted at night, when smelt ascend into the thermocline to feed on zooplankton (tiny animals). Most smelt hold near bottom during the brightest daylight hours, to help avoid predators – smelt obviously being “sitting ducks” higher in the water column. Hence, along with the crepuscular (twilight active) nature of the salmonids, low-light periods are usually (but not always…) the best fishing times, particularly in the mid-late summer period. At dawn, they’re particularly voracious and ready to feed. The first traces of light allow for optimum feeding conditions, slashing upward into schools of smelt, which are just beginning to descend to the bottom, after their night of feeding. It’s a relatively brief predator/prey “collision course” with which experienced large-lake anglers are well versed; this is why serious summer anglers will be set up and “ready to go” even before the break of dawn (but within legal hours). Incidentally, YOY perch are also highly sought prey items, and salmonids will even forage outside of their preferred metabolic range for short periods, to consume these additional “groceries.”

As the above work for nearly 25 years has demonstrated, and experienced anglers can attest, the thermocline depth in most New Hampshire large lakes during the mid-late summer period is remarkably similar year to year….30-40 feet has been etched into many downriggers, and lead core lines so often played out to 6-7-8 colors. Slight variations will always come into play, but it’s tough to replace these starters when the boys of summer are playing at dawn. Also consider deeper presentations later into morning can sometimes produce continued action, particularly for lake trout.

An important consideration, particularly given warm surface waters in the summer period, is careful handling/best release practices to help sustain quality large-lake fisheries. Please take a moment to review and then practice the Salmon Anglers’ Pledge (http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/salmon-pledge.html), which is highly applicable to many species in addition to landlocked salmon.

– John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist


MONADNOCK/UPPER VALLEY

With the exception of Sand Pond (Marlow), which has been producing some nice trout in the past few weeks including some holdover browns, reports on area trout fishing have been absent as of late. Bass anglers, on the other hand, have been commenting on some nice catches in water bodies throughout southwestern NH.

Smallmouth hot spots include Nubanusit Lake, Spofford Lake, Dublin Lake, and the Connecticut River from Brattleboro north to the bridge to Westminster, VT. Some nice largemouth have been caught recently in Powder Mill Pond, Warren Lake, Crescent Lake, Highland Lake, and Forest Lake. Take advantage of the hot weather and fish some early mornings or evenings for bass this coming week. It is a great way to start or end a day.

– Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist


SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY

Sorry folks but I’ve been straight out the last couple of weeks doing field work and I am not able to reporton the current fishing state of affairs in my region. All I can say is stick to fishing the “twilight time” as the summer heat keeps the fish down during the day. Drop me a line at benjamin.nugent@wildlife.nh.gov and let me know where and what’s been working for you.

– Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist


SEACOAST AREA

Mackerel and flounder are on the move. Mackerel catches are on the rise as they move inshore, around the harbors and into the Piscataqua, while the warm weather has slowed the winter flounder catch as they move into colder waters outside of the harbors. Reports of squid have started trickling in. These have become a new favorite for some anglers looking for something different. They can be caught during the day but are an easier target at night with a lighted bridge or dock and a specialized squid jig.

The warmth of July has brought in bait with the tuna at its heels! Tuna are a common sight for those out at Jeffrey’s Ledge these days, and reports are in of some big bluefins being landed in NH this past weekend. Fishing for bluefin tuna, as well as other Highly Migratory Species, requires a federal permit. A recreational permit can be obtained from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) permit shop athttps://hmspermits.noaa.gov/default.asp

– Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist

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