Summer-like temperatures have really turned the fishing on for trout and bass in the Granite State. Insect hatches are coming on strong in southern New Hampshire, and will soon be in abundance up north. Bass spawning is in various stages depending on the type of waterbody. Many of the shallow warmer lakes in southern New Hampshire have seen bass come and go on the nests and now the sunfish have moved in. Bass are still on nests in some of the deeper, colder lakes in the Lakes Region and on north. Catch and release season for bass continues through June 15. Be aware of those guardian males!
Release Bass: We are in the midst of bass spawning season and all bass (largemouth and smallmouth) need to be released through June 15. Also, you can target bass only when using artificial lures and flies at this time, no live bait, which helps to avoid deep hooking.
New Version of Lead Jig Law: On June 1, 2016, the laws prohibiting the use and sale of certain lead sinkers and jigs changed to include all sinkers and jigs with a total weight of one ounce or less. To learn more, visit www.fishnh.com/fishing/get-the-lead-out.html.
Spring, warm weather, leaf out, biting insects: all signs that the water temperatures are perfect for just about any kind of fishing for any species of fish, in just about any waterbody. I spent part of May 21 fishing in a small stream south of Littleton for wild brook trout (and caught a small wild rainbow trouttoo!). After a morning of hiking, crawling over downed trees in the stream (which are perhaps the best habitat for brook trout) and casting into tight spaces between logs, I moved downstream to the Connecticut River. The flow below the dam was very fast, but I hooked into a nice fallfish and some yellow perch.
Speaking of fallfish, I paddled a river in eastern New Hampshire last Saturday with about 50 other anglers. We discussed fish habitat and water quality, and several folks asked about the mounds of stones in the middle of the river, which I identified as fallfish spawning nests. What is incredible about these creations is that the male fallfish picks up each stone in his mouth, one by one, and moves them into position. Sometimes he finds those stones nearby; sometimes they are a few hundred feet away. He spends several days in May swimming back and forth, moving stones. When a female deposits her eggs on the nest, and he fertilizes them, the eggs fall into the spaces between the stones, where they are protected. Common shiners will also use these nests for spawning. Ever seen a fallfish? They are typically a bronze color, with very large scales. They will sometimes make a squeaking sound as you take the hook out. They are one of the most widely distributed native fish in New Hampshire, they can grow as large as 18 inches long and up to 3 pounds, and one that big can build a nest that is 4 feet wide and 2 feet high. They are enormously important to healthy fish communities and of course to all the other animals that depend on fish (such as fish-eating birds). They can live in just about any type of aquatic habitat, but they spawn only in flowing water.
On May 20, a cadre of dedicated volunteers and N.H. Fish and Game staff electrofished two research streams at Nash Stream Forest near Groveton. This research project was started in 2007 to better understand how wild brook trout use stream habitat and to evaluate our stream habitat restoration techniques. About 15% of the fish we caught had been tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags in 2015. Fifteen percent survival from one year to the next doesn’t seem like much, but that is a pretty typical survival rate for brook trout in these dynamic streams. Although most fish do not see their second summer, those that do grow very well and go on to spawn the following fall. So far, the data we have collected has shown that our restoration work in small streams (most of which is to restore wood to the streams) is having a large positive effect on the wild brook trout populations. Simply said: there are more trout after our restoration work. Go out and fish, and make sure you take a kid with you…you will learn something from them.
– John Magee, Regional Fisheries Biologist
With the arrival of more “summer-like” temperatures on a consistent basis, bass spawning is well underway in the central Lakes Region, with post-spawn conditions already existing in some smaller, largemouth bass fisheries. Male smallmouth bass are vigilantly guarding nests, particularly in the “open” portions of large lakes such as Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, and Newfound. Please remember immediate catch and release is mandatory for all bass caught from May 15 – June 15, and only artificial lures and flies may be used. Also, consider leaving guardian male bass to effectively “do their job” protecting nests against predators, for the future benefit of the fishery. Typically larger, post-spawn female bass are readily available, often not far away in slightly deeper water.
Increased water temperatures also translate to prime time for panfish such as: bluegill; pumpkinseed;redbreast sunfish; black crappie; rock bass; yellow and white perch; and even bullhead (horned pout) at dusk. If there was ever a time to take a youngster from shore or water craft, and simply plunk along the shoreline with worm/bobber or bobber/micro-tube-jig, this is it! Action can be fast and furious for the above-mentioned species in various phases of pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn associated with the early-summer timeframe. Don’t forget a light-action fly rod for the adult, with your favorite panfish popper, to make you feel like a kid again. Back bays/coves of the large lakes, as well as numerous smaller waters scattered throughout the central Lakes Region, can provide endless hours of entertainment. I should also mention a new state record black crappie was taken from Great East Lake recently. The monster sunfish measured 17 inches and weighed 2 lbs 15.84 oz.
Local stocked trout waters continue to fish well, as New Hampton and Powder Mill Hatcheries work hard to distribute this season’s remaining trout. But with warming pond temperatures and seasonally low river/stream conditions, now is definitely the time to head out! N.H. Fish and Game will also soon be stocking remote ponds statewide via contracted helicopter services; “fingerling” (~3 inch) brook trout will make their way into nearly 50 ponds statewide (for more information, visit: www.fishnh.com/fishing/trout-remote.html). If you have not enjoyed the unique experience of a remote pond fishing adventure, June is an opportune time to do so, with brook trout feeding ravenously on plentiful hatches — in fact on just about anything that moves!
– John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Fishing for American shad below the Vernon Dam is fantastic right now. There are lots of fish and water levels are perfect for fishing from shore or boat. I had the opportunity to fish there this weekend alongside two anglers who travelled a good distance to get there.
On Saturday night, I met Drew Price at the dam after a few weeks of emailing back and forth our schedules. Price is from Colchester, VT (right next to Burlington) and is a part time fishing guide. He is one of many Vermont anglers participating in the state’s Master Angler Program where anglers attempt to catch 33 fish species exceeding a minimum qualifying length specific to each species. However, unlike any other angler participating in this program, Price had already caught 29 qualifying fish when he showed up on Saturday night in an attempt to catch a shad over 22-inches and push himself to number 30.
The bite wasn’t great that night and while we did manage a few shad, none were close to the size Price needed. While fishing, we met Dan Marchie from Merrimack, N.H. Marchie had read about shad fishing in one of my fishing reports from last year and decided to give it a try. Pretty good dedication since he planned on spending the night and fishing again on Sunday.
I arrived back at the dam at 8 am on Sunday to find both Price and Marchie casting as if they had never left. After about half an hour, Price started yelling, “This is the one,” and a few minutes later I netted a nice 23-inch female shad for him. Elated that he had caught his 30th qualifying fish for the Master Angler Program, he took a break and went for a well-deserved breakfast. I continued to fish for a bit longer and ended up landing over 15 shad.
Mornings and overcast conditions are the best times to fish for shad. Non-lead shad darts, small spoons, and flies will all work. Either cast into the current and slowly reel in, or use lighter lures that drift in the current on a tight line. Set the hook any time you feel a bump. Shad are great fighters on light tackle and will often jump when hooked. Remember that shad fishing in the New Hampshire section of the Connecticut River is catch and release only.
– Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY
It appears we have a new record run of river herring in the Merrimack River. As of May 31, the official count at the Essex Dam in Lawrence was up to 406,688 fish! The previous high count of river herring was 379,588 fish that occurred back in 1991 (see www.fws.gov/northeast/cnefro/returns.html). The river herring run consists mostly of alewives but also include a close cousin, the blueback herring. I have been putting in some long days the past two weeks, trucking fish upriver from both the Essex Dam and the Amoskeag Dam in Manchester. Now the shad are getting going and we will be moving those fish upriver to spawn over the next few weeks.
Trout stocking is beginning to wind down in southern areas as most waters have received their compliment of trout. We had a report of good catches of rainbow trout from the Souhegan River near the Amherst golf course. You may also want to give the Lamprey, Cocheco, and Isinglass rivers a try. Smaller brooks that hold populations of wild trout and are worth a try are Flint’s and Witches Spring brooks in Hollis and Mallego Brook in Barrington. Stonehouse, Barbadoes, and Lucas ponds are also worth trying. If targeting trout ponds, try fishing the twilight hours instead of the middle of the day for better success.
– Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist
It’s the unofficial start of summer and time to get to the coast! Stripers are moving down from the upper reaches of tidal rivers as the river herring runs slow. The catching is good from Little Bay down the Piscataqua and into and around Little Harbor. Lots of recent reports of good-sized striped bass caught in Hampton Harbor as well. Winter flounder are still shallow in Hampton Harbor and up into Blackwater River and Hampton River, they will soon be moving deeper as the waters warm. Mackerel are arriving in small numbers offshore and a few have been picked up outside of Portsmouth Harbor where harbor pollock have been plentiful. White perch are still being caught in the Squamscott in downtown Exeter.
– Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist
Courtesy of NHFG on June 3, 2016