New Hampshire Fishing Report #15

Greetings, anglers!
The “hex” is on in New Hampshire! No, not some evil spell cast upon the waters by some disturbed witch, but a wonderful natural event in the world of aquatic insects. This is the time of year when the huge mayfly, Hexagenia limbata, makes its appearance on some New Hampshire lakes and slow-moving rivers. The nymph stage of this mayfly lives most of its life in burrows in the substrate then swims to the surface to “hatch” into the adult stage to mate then die within a day. This cream-colored mayfly is slightly more than an inch long, with a little brown coloring on the abdomen. It offers a tasty meal for trout and bass. It is more prevalent in the Midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin, where hatches can be so prolific that snowplows have been called out to remove the dead adults from roadways and bridges!

NH1If I had to define the most important aspect of successful angling in one word, it islocation. If you don’t find the fish, it doesn’t matter what tactics have been employed, you simply won’t catch one. My second buzz-word for the day is timing. Once you dabble in the world of fly-fishing and insect identification, timing becomes crucial and understanding it will reduce the difficulty in this often-confusing science. With the date, weather patterns, and other variables in the forefront of my brain, I can now begin this fishing report by stating that I should have written it two weeks ago — my timing is a little off.
I’m referring to the annual Hex hatch. In Northern New Hampshire, this large mayfly (Hexagenia limbata) typically emerges at the end of June and can peak around the Fourth of July. This season, reports started coming in around the second week of June that these huge insects were hatching and triggering the feeding behavior of fish. I have seen everything from a 3-inch brook trout, to a 3-pound smallmouth rise for the hearty meal that the hexes provide. When fish start eating these bugs, there seems to be nothing else that gets them to strike.
There are many advantages to fishing with large, dry flies and I have written about them many times. First, a big foam-bodied fly will float very well. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to replace a soaked fly with a new, dry one while fish are rising around you and daylight is disappearing. Second, these big mayflies are lightly colored and can be seen easily even after sunset. Finally and most fortunate for me, it is hard to mess up the presentation of a fly like this. If it gets twitched or retrieved in an unnatural way, the fish are not spooked but attracted to what they consider a struggling or susceptible insect. The time to take advantage of this hatch is now!
– Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Large-lakes smallmouth bass have or will soon be moving to a “post-spawn” pattern, with guardian males offering their last protection to this year’s fry, and then ravenously patrolling for forage thereafter. This is a perfect time to throw topwaters of your choice early and late in the day, and for a real treat, poppers or deer-hair “divers” on a fly rod. Although no secret, portions of large-lakes such as Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, and Big Squam will offer boundless opportunities. Don’t forget some alternative waters for exploration such as Waukewan and Wentworth. Get in on the surface/shallower action while it lasts, before many of the quality-sized specimens make their annual move to deeper water.
The “Hex” hatch (Hexagenia mayfly) has been in full swing on many area lakes and ponds, including large lakes such as Big Squam. Seasoned anglers know just about every species in a particular water body relishes this annual feast, from bass to brookie to bluegill, with the surface waters literally “boiling” in dusk feeding frenzies. Witnessing the intensity of this hatch/feeding can leave you wondering just where all these fish were seemingly minutes before… Big, bold, and floating will usually get a look!
Some fantastic “oversized” yearling and two-year-old brook trout upwards of 1.75 lbs. — courtesy New Hampton Hatchery – were recently stocked for “holiday weekend” anglers to enjoy in the White Mountains and vicinity. Some of the area designated trout ponds and major rivers such as the Pemigewasset and Saco are well worth exploring! Also keep in mind, if your favorite “stocked trout” river or section is not producing, work back into the smaller tributaries, which often produce wonderful catches of wild brook trout. Look for the “thin blue lines” connected to the major rivers on the map!
As noted in previous reports, some excellent opportunities for panfish exist in both the large lakes and smaller water bodies, testimony to the fact two recent panfish state records have been broken in as many months. Most recently Dustin Bucklin (age 18) took an incredibly plump 10.0-inch, 0.94-lbs. pumpkinseed, with Brian O’Day breaking the black crappie record now set at 17.0-inch, 2.99-lbs. As summer progresses, look for more of the quality-sized panfish to reside in slightly deeper waters away from the shoreline, particularly at midday.
– John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist

I regret that I don’t have a report for you this week, but did want to let readers know that I will be taking a job as a Fish Biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, effective July 11. I have enjoyed writing these reports for the last 14 years, and wish good fishing to all. ><{{{“>
– Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist

The American shad run on the Merrimack River is winding down for the season. As of June 28, they are only counting a few hundred fish per day at the Essex Dam fish lift in Lawrence, MA. The 65,000 shad counted so far is the third highest number of returns recorded since 1991. You can see many shad circling above the dam looking for the downstream bypass chute that provides safe passage back to the ocean. Low water is good for upstream passage because migratory fish can more easily locate the entrances to upstream fishways, but it can delay downstream passage. With no water spilling over the dam, the only exit is through gates or chutes designed to pass water and fish at low flow. This can cause quite a traffic jam as thousands of shad finish spawning and begin to make their way downstream.
Freshwater fishing in southeastern New Hampshire can be tough this time of year. Many people are heading to the Lakes Region or farther north. Others are making their way to the ocean for striped bass or haddock. The shallow waters of rivers and lakes in southeastern New Hampshire are feeling more and more like warm bathwater with each 80+ degree day. Species that prefer cold or cool water are moving to deeper water or areas of upwelling groundwater. If I’m fishing locally in July or August, I’m usually content to take the kids to the northern part of Pawtuckaway Lake or the western shore of Swains Lake to cast for pickerel and sunfish between patches of pond lily. This year I think I’ll take the advice of my more experienced angler friends and try drop shotting. Drop shot fishing allows you to fish structure in water that is a little too deep for casting. There are many tutorials available online (Bass Resource is one example). Bow Lake or Massabesic Lake would be good places to experiment with this technique for catching smallmouth bass during the summer. Both lakes have shallow, rocky points that extend into deeper water. The idea is to follow the point until you find the depth at which the fish are feeding.
The Merrimack River can also be a productive place to fish right through the summer months. Places where tributaries join the Merrimack River provide an easy source of food for fish lurking in the deeper water just downstream. The mouths of the Soucook or the Suncook River are two examples. These rivers join the Merrimack River in the reach upstream of the Hooksett Dam. In a few weeks, the Merrimack will be teaming with juvenile river herring and shad. At dusk, you will see thousands of ripples on the surface, often called dimpling, which is a sign that juvenile river herring are feeding in large numbers. Lures that imitate juvenile herring could be very productive for bass and pickerel in the upper Merrimack River starting in mid-July.
– Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Fishing on the seacoast is great, with flounder still hanging around inside Hampton Harbor and mackerel coming inshore and also piling up around the Isles of Shoals. As luck would have it, this is exactly what the big stripers are being caught on — live mackerel. Haddock fishing is still strong and large pollock are even making an appearance. On July 1, the Cod Spawning Protection Area south of the Shoals, will once again be open to groundfishing. Cod will remain closed until August 1.
– Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist

Courtesy of NHFG on June 30, 2016

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