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N.H. Weekly Fishing Report - September 2, 2010

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Stocking report: Stocking is done for the season. Previous reports at www.fishnh.com/Fishing/fish_stock_current.htm

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NORTH COUNTRY:
What is a heat-wave and what does it mean for trout fishing?  A heat wave is a period of unusually hot weather.  That is what we have been experiencing these last few days of record temperatures in August and September.  It has been stifling at the very least.  What does this do to fish?  You think they are okay because they are constantly surrounded by water, right?  Wrong!  These oppressive temperatures negatively impact fish as well. 

The habitat that fish live in is directly related to weather.  If the weather is cool and rainy, then rivers and streams flow well and remain cool.  If weather is hot and dry, then rivers without cover tend to be the same.  What is cover?  Well cover can be any structure or thing that provides protection, in this case for the fish.  It may be shade from the hot sun or a deep pool to ward off bird predation.  Knowing this, one can assume fish are either going to venture into deep pools or migrate up or down the stream to areas with more shade or to cooler tributary confluences.  If the fish don’t have that freedom to move, then they have to make do during the thermal stress event.  If they don’t, then they die.  This is what happens during the late spring/early summer when the air temperature warms up rapidly and fish don’t have time to acclimate to their new environment.  We call such an event a fish kill.

So with that harsh lesson, I would recommend letting things cool off before you head out fishing for trout.  They are already stressed and most likely spending their energy seeking cool refuge.  Try focusing on warmwater species like northern pike, large- and smallmouth bass and yellow perch.  Target vegetation beds and log structures.  They will be where the fish are hiding.

I would try Cedar Pond, Martin Meadow, Forest Lake, Pontook and Moore Reservoirs.  If you would like to fish a river, check out the Connecticut.  It remains cool even in hot weather.  These spots also provide some swimming opportunities if you would like to take a dip yourself. -- Dianne Timmins, Fisheries Biologist

LAKES REGION/WHITE MOUNTAINS:
It looks like summer doesn't want to end here in the lakes region. Temperatures have soared back into the 90's and there is not any rain on the horizon, short of a parting blow by hurricane Earl. The big lake temps are currently hovering in the low 70's. A recent trolling excursion on Lake Winnisquam with fellow biologist Ben Nugent turned up several lake trout in the 17-19 inch range, and a fat rainbow trout. Salmon seem pretty rare on Winnisquam, I really don't know why, as the lake has been stocked continuously with approximately 2,000 yearling salmon each year. I did notice several bait pods on the upper (north) end of the lake, lending some hope that the smelt population is on the rebound. I noticed a heavy hatch of flying ants on the lake that morning; early risers should anticipate that the rainbows will begin to gorge on these ants. Trolling for salmon and lake and rainbow trout is about the only show in town; they are still about 30-35 feet down, 5-6 colors of lead core line. We used small single hook streamer flies and a small DB smelt for patterns.

The smelt survey is on-going; we should wrap up Winnipesaukee in a couple nights. We are finding smelt pretty much everywhere. Last night, we worked out in the "Broads" between the Gilford and Tuftonboro shores. It was very encouraging to see a good number of older-aged smelt in the trawl sample. Only one month left to salmon season...get out there and enjoy, I'm sure we will have a long winter! – Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist

SEACOAST NEW HAMPSHIRE:
As I said last week, with the storm going through, things definitely changed. The effects of the unsettled sea were apparent this week when we went diving in Gosport Harbor on Monday for Fish and Game. We were expecting good visibility and sandy bottom -- this is the Shoals after all. Well, what we got was a mucky bottom that was easily stirred up, making visibility fairly low. We did see a few skates and plenty of lobster though!

The changing seas also stirred up some bluefish this weekend. The headboat companies reported a banner day, and I talked with a few anglers on Saturday who had caught them down in the Hampton area as well, so it wasn’t just the professionals that were able to find them! One important tip I got from successful striper fishermen was to get out there early. When I say early, I mean get out before sunrise. Take your time and work your way seaward; stripers' location will move with the tide and the time of day. Poke around in all of the coves, eddies, and anywhere you find a rock pile for them to lurk behind. Things seem to be going well at the moment so let’s all hope that Earl doesn’t cause things to do a 180 on us!  – Rebecca Heuss, Marine Biologist

SOUTHEAST N.H./MERRIMACK VALLEY:
If climate change predictions are correct for the Northeast, then we may have to get used to the weather that we have seen so far this year.  Most models predict more intense and more frequent rain events in the winter and spring, followed by long periods of summer drought.  This year, we saw three flooding rains in early spring, and now we are enduring yet another heat wave.  Anglers familiar with certain rivers, lakes or ponds have been commenting on how low the water is this summer.  Summer can be a stressful time for fish, especially during prolonged periods without rain.  High water temperatures, low flows, and low oxygen levels make life difficult during the hot months of summer in rivers and streams throughout the state.  We experienced the effects of these low flows first hand a few weeks ago, during our electrofishing surveys on the Lamprey River.  Thousands of common shiners, fallfish, longnose dace, and young smallmouth bass were trapped in pools, barely connected by a trickle.   Without the ability to move, these fish are at the mercy, not only of the sun, but also of predators like mink and blue heron. 

While there is not much we can do about the weather, there are things we can do to help maintain healthy summer flows in our rivers.  Water withdrawals for irrigation, drinking water, and other uses can impact aquatic species when too much water is removed during periods of low flow.  The Ipswich River, in Massachusetts, has actually been known to dry up in the summer due to the over use of water.  There is a need to support emerging legislation in New Hampshire that will protect instream flows. 

At the local level, you can support changes in zoning that protect riparian zones along rivers and streams, reduce the total amount of impervious surfaces like large parking lots, and encourage stormwater management that allows water to filter back into the ground instead of running directly into a river or stream.  These practices will help precipitation absorb into the ground and restore groundwater, which ultimately maintains summer river flows, rather than flow as runoff directly into rivers and streams, which worsens flooding. 

Unlike the more developed areas of southern New England, where instream flows are already a chronic problem, New Hampshire has a chance to be proactive on this issue.  If we take steps to protect instream flows now, then we can maintain healthy water levels in our rivers and streams and help prevent that prime spring fishing season from shrinking for future generations. Learn more at the NH Department of Environmental Services Instream Flow Protection Pilot Program webpage:  http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/rivers/instream/index.htm. -- Matt Carpenter, Fisheries Biologist

MONADNOCK/UPPER VALLEY:
Over the next few weeks, the Warmwater Fisheries Program will conduct surveys of young-of-the-year black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass) in Lake Winnipesaukee, Big Squam Lake and the Connecticut River. These surveys are performed annually using our electrofishing boat. During these surveys, shorelines are sampled and all young-of-the-year bass are captured. Landmarks and GPS coordinates are used to ensure that the same area of shoreline is sampled each year.

All captured bass are identified as to species, weighed, measured, and released. Scales are taken on larger fish in order to later age the fish to determine if it was a young-of-the-year or an age-1. The objectives of these surveys are to determine: 1) fish size; 2) relative abundance (# fish captured per hour of sampling); 3) to examine relative abundance by species among years; 4) to compare size by species among years; and 5) to compare size between species among years.

These surveys are important because black bass populations in the state are managed solely by natural reproduction, and size of young-of-the-year bass during their first fall can be an important factor in their over-winter survival. Monitoring young-of-the-year bass size and catch rates allows us to gauge potential year-class strength and can provide for early detection of any needed management options.    – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Federal Aid: A User-Pay, User-Benefit Program:
Researching and managing fisheries and teaching people about aquatic ecosystems are funded by your license dollars and by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program. Your purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels make a difference to New Hampshire's fisheries. Visit www.wildnh.com/SFWR_program/sfwr_program.htm.

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A User-Pay, User-Benefit Program
Researching and managing fisheries and teaching people about aquatic ecosystems are funded by your license dollars and by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program. Your purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels make a difference to New Hampshire's fisheries. Click here to learn more.

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