New Hampshire Fishing Report #11

Greetings, anglers!
Wind from the East, fish bite the least, wind from the West fish bite the best!  It seems a persistent east wind has dampened fish appetites of late but you can be sure things will change soon as the weather warms and insect life bursts forth.  Bass are starting to stage just off the spawning flats and will be on nests before too long.  Trout stocking is in full swing and some bonus broodstock salmon have been released in the Merrimack.  Lots of opportunities out there!
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NH13An outdoor writer must take advantage of certain literary freedoms. Not many readers want to hear about poor fishing conditions and I sometimes add a little flair to otherwise monotonous conditions that I encounter in my adventures. In my last fishing report, I wrote about the good pike fishing opportunities that should exist in the Connecticut River. At the time of my writing, I had not actually had much success…but knew it was safe to forecast it. It was a gamble that paid off. By the time my report went to press, the conditions that I predicted had materialized and pike fishing in northern New Hampshire really turned on! During one visit to the Gilman Dam tailwater, my friend Matt caught a fish on his first cast that fought him for 10 minutes and rolled around like a crocodile for the last five (after having shot a 23-pound turkey that morning). It was awesome. More fish were caught, including a pike/pickerel hybrid, and by the time the rain made things uncomfortable, we were all fished out.
As water temperatures rise, photoperiods increase and lifecycles continue. With this, new opportunities present themselves to fishermen. As quickly as the pike finish spawning, for example, different species begin to prepare for their turn. This is a predictable change in behavior and the educated angler will be the most successful. In the Connecticut Lakes, landlocked salmon will begin to stage at the mouth of the incoming rivers as they gorge themselves on spawning smelt. In a few weeks, small and largemouth bass will visit shallow, warmer water looking for potential nesting sites. The opportunities just keep arriving. As we all know, the month of May brings a resurrection of diverse insect life. While we are slapping at black flies, aquatic insects like stoneflies and mayflies bloom and make themselves available for hungry trout. Holdover trout had a long, hungry winter and this food source is welcome and heartily consumed.
As the 2016 season continues, fishing will only get better and my reports will need less colorful enthusiasm. The great experiences will speak for themselves and inspire all readers to get out and fish.
– Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist

By looking at the forecast for next week, it appears we are slowly breaking out of a long stretch of overcast and showery days.  There’s no doubt that both anglers and several warmwater fish species are ready for a change.  The advancement of warming water temperatures has been nonexistent over this week and it’s difficult to find parts of the large lakes like Winnipesaukee pushing much past 50°F.  In the large lakes, smallmouth bass are slowly but surely progressing into the shallows pleasing the bass anglers and their suspended husky jerk baits.  This migration often means a closing door on those who have spent the greater part of a month targeting salmon and rainbow trout with their fly rods and flat lines in the shallows requiring a switch to lead core lines and down riggers.
Fishing the shoals before the smallmouth bass settle in for spawning can be a very worthwhile pursuit.  The window for this is right around the corner and will likely be in full swing after a few consecutive days of sun and warmth.  Smallmouth bass 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.   Also consider targeting these areas during brighter periods when there’s some wave action.   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.
Little can go wrong by fishing parts of the large lakes where marker buoys warn boaters of shallow rocky areas but there are several other lakes and ponds that are often overlooked.  Angers should consider trying Lake Waukewan (Meredith), Winona Lake (Center Harbor/New Hampton), Highland Lake (Andover), Wentworth Lake (Wolfeboro) and Pleasant Lake (Elkins/New London).

– Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Bass fishing has been challenging at times over the past two weeks as water temperatures have been quite variable.  Ponds I have been visiting have gone back to 50 degrees after spending a number of days in the mid-50s.  Based on these variable temperatures, it is not surprising bass have lockjaw on some days.  Some fish that moved shallow with the expectation of spawning have retreated back to deeper water and will likely stay there until temperatures warm again.  Smaller jigs (1/8-ounce) combined with a small plastic trailer are one of the best choices when facing such conditions.  Water temperatures are trying to creep up again, but this week’s overcast cool weather won’t help any.
When the conditions are like this, I concentrate on bass in smaller water bodies, which typically warm up more quickly.  On Saturday, I fished a small pond where largemouth bass were already spawning.  I caught a few nice pre-spawn fish in deeper water, but had an even better time watching pairs of bass circling each other on their beds, tails occasionally sticking out of the water, as they spawned.
If stream fishing for trout is your interest, now is the time to get out there.  The upper and lower Ashuelot River and Cold River have been fishing well.  Fly anglers should try the South Branch of the Ashuelot River along Route 12 in Troy.  Beard’s Brook, the North Branch, the Souhegan River, and the South Branch Piscataquog River are other good locations to wet a line.
– Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist

The month of April was cooler than average with below normal rainfall.  For anglers, this translates into good trout fishing weather with easy wading in the larger rivers.  I’ve received reports of good looking brook trout in the lower Lamprey River and in the Suncook River in Epsom.  Some nice brown trout have also been caught in the Cocheco River in the reach below the Watson Dam.
People have been catching broodstock salmon on the Merrimack River in Franklin and at the mouth of the Contoocook River in Penacook.  I’ve heard quite a few stories of broken lines and lost fish, so make sure your tackle is strong enough to handle a six pound salmon.
By mid-April, largemouth bass were congregating in the shallow backwaters of the Merrimack River.  As long as water temperatures remain cool, the more active fish will be found along shallow, south facing shorelines of lakes and ponds and in the shallow coves of larger rivers.  The rocky shorelines of Massabesic Lake and Bow Lake provide some good early season options for smallmouth in southeastern New Hampshire.
– Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist


Dipping water temps are slowing the river herring runs, but there are reports of stripers as far north as Boston Harbor, so it won’t be long now! May 1 was a big fishing day on the coast with a new federal rule on haddock taking effect.  The season opened with a large increase in the bag limit, it is now 15 haddock per person with a minimum size of 17 inches.

Bait shops are beginning to carry sea worms for the white perch and winter flounder fishermen, but call before you head out.  Flounder anglers did very well in the Hampton/Seabrook Harbor last spring and into early summer fishing sea worms.  Fishing for flounder is generally more productive in a boat, mainly because the subtle bite can be difficult to detect when shore fishing, but that doesn’t mean you should rule it out.  Areas like the Hampton jetty, Seabrook town pier, or the shoreline along Route 286 in Seabrook would be prime spots to try, as well as any (legally) accessible dock.

– Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist
Courtesy of NHFG on May 11, 2016
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