NH Weekly Fishing Report - May 5, 2011

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North Country

Water in the North Country was crazy high at the tail end of last week. It is amazing what a couple of days can do. Levels are still elevated but workable in the rivers and streams of northern NH. Pittsburg is thawing but most of the ponds are still unfishable. The Connecticut River is open and accepting anglers at this point. South of Pittsburg, most low elevation ponds are open and higher elevated ones are continuing to thaw. Weather conditions have been wet and windy so if you plan on heading out dress appropriately. The weather this spring has been turning on a dime.

Get ready for some warmwater fishing as well. The bass are gearing up for pre-spawn action and the pike, being in their post-spawn cycle, are active as well. Try Partridge Lake, as well as the other waterbodies in that drainage. Head up to Fish Pond in Columbia. This time of year can be really fun! Good luck! – Dianne Timmins, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region/White Mountains

The water temperature in Winnipesaukee is currently 45 degrees, with some bays reaching 50 degrees in the afternoon. Salmon are being caught in deeper water now, off the shorelines. Please note: we’ve received reports of two-year-old salmon being caught in large numbers, these fish were stocked in the spring of 2010 and are running about 14-15 inches long this spring. Do your part in conserving and handling these fish, as they are literally the future fisheries for our lakes.

Smallmouth bass are really gearing up for their spring spawning, as reports of bass along the shores are common. We’ve already had one large bass tournament on Winnipesaukee, just this past weekend. With the increase in water temperature, many species of fish have begun their spawning ritual in brooks and streams throughout the lakes region. In particular, the white perch have begun to spawn in earnest! White perch spawn in a variety of areas on Winnipesaukee, a few notable areas are Salmon Meadow Cove, Cummings Cove (Meredith Neck), Smith River (Wolfeboro Bay), Blackey Cove (Center Harbor), Moultonborough Bay (from Melvin Village north to Greens Basin), and the Melvin River in Melvin Village. Lake Winnisquam often has a good run of white perch in the Winnipesaukee River in Laconia. As a side note, we’ve received several reports of “bass” flopping along the surface in many coves of Winnipesaukee. These are actually white perch seen on the surface of bays and coves. Because the white perch often has such a large mass of eggs in the abdomen, this creates a problem in regulating their buoyancy through a constricted air bladder. Thus the “flopping” activity we see every spring at this time. Actually, our fisheries would be in trouble if every white perch was able to successfully spawn!

A recent trip to Sandwich Notch found the road closed, and with good reason. We found three culverts damaged beyond repair, numerous wash-outs, and muddy shoulders along the road. The White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) sure has some extensive repairs ahead of them to get this road back in shape. Obviously, stocking is on hold in a lot of areas which are accessed by gravel roads. That being said, good old foot travel will get you into these areas for some really spectacular fishing before access becomes easier.

Early reports from area trout ponds have been great, with numerous large (fall stocked) brookies in the catch. These fall stocked fish are a real treat, as they are real trophies up to 3-4 pounds in size! - Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

Largemouth and smallmouth bass typically spawn when water temperatures are between 62 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a very general range with fish sometimes spawning both below and above this range. Male bass typically start to build nests just before this water temperature range is met and continue to guard eggs and fry for sometime after the spawn. It always amazes me how spring water temperatures in nearby water bodies can be so different and how intently this impacts what stage of the spawn (pre-spawn, spawn, post-spawn) bass are in.

I had an interesting weekend of bass fishing showing these different stages of spawning that many of our bass populations are currently in. On Saturday, I fished some of the setbacks and coves on the Connecticut River in Hinsdale. The river has been running very high for the past week or so and this has pushed a lot of cold, muddy water into the coves and setbacks. Water temperatures in these back areas that previously had been approaching the low and mid 60s now suddenly dropped to the high 50s. Bass that were previously in the pre-spawn stages and eager to hit a jig or crankbait suddenly took a “step back” and got a pretty good case of lock-jaw. I did manage a few largemouth bass during my outing, but it took some work.

On Sunday, I found largemouth bass at the opposite end of the spectrum while fishing a small pond just about 10 miles east of the Connecticut River. Water temperatures here varied from 60 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Finding locations with the highest water temperature was key as those areas held many bass ranging in size from 1 to 5 lbs. I did not see evidence of any nests or any nest building, but it must have been on their minds as bass were continuously cruising by my boat, seeming to be paying more attention to each other than me. Once I was able to locate the fish and key in on a pattern (1/8 ounce Bitsy Bug jigs with a small plastic crayfish trailer), I had a great day boating almost a dozen hefty largemouth. – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley

We have definitely seen a lot of variability in weather patterns lately. Cold fronts and storms mixed with bright sunny days with little to no wind can make it difficult to find fish. Those seeking to target warmwater species (bass and sunfish species) should be focusing on areas near inlet streams, backwaters, and shallow areas that receive a lot of sunlight. This time of year, these species seek out areas that are warmer than the main lake or pond. A difference of a degree or two could mean fish being present or not. A fish finder with a temperature sensor is probably the easiest tool to find these areas. Don't be afraid to go too shallow. Even larger fish can be found in a foot or two of water this time of year. These species seek out warmer locations to increase their metabolism and prepare for spawning. The offspring of fish that spawn earlier and in warmer water will have an advantage over those who spawn either later or in cooler water. Eggs incubating in warmer water will hatch earlier allowing them the advantage reaching larger sizes than their competitors. The importance of backwaters cannot be overstated when it comes to the overall health of a lake or pond's ecosystem. These coves are the hatchery and nursery for several fish species that are both perused by anglers or used as forage for other game fish. Piscivorous (fish eating) birds such as loons and ospreys depend on the success of fish spawning for their own health and survival. The aquatic vegetation usually associated with these areas provides the necessary shelter these fish need to survive and grow before heading into the main lake. That being said, an argument could be made that these areas and the aquatic vegetation found within them are the most important areas of a lake or pond. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

In just a week we have went from 9 river herring returning to the Cocheco River fish ladder over the course of five days to 12,000 fish running up the ladder on Saturday, April 30. Fish are running in several other of our monitored coastal rivers as well due to the beautiful weather we have experienced and rising water temperatures. You know what that means, the stripers aren’t far behind! No reports yet of striper activity in our waters but with plentiful baitfish they are sure to be here soon. I suggest you dust off your gear and head down to one of the great (and easy to access) fishing spots along our coast. Henry Lay Park in downtown Dover puts you right in the action as it is located just downstream of the Cocheco River fish ladder. Another great spot is on the Lamprey River in downtown Newmarket behind the old mill buildings (there is also a high tide only boat launch located here). When the river herring are running you can easily snag one to live line, striped bass will come right up to the head of tide dams to gorge themselves on migrating baitfish. Just beware of the closures around fishways, this information is located on page 21 of our Saltwater Fishing Digest (www.eregulations.com/newhampshire/fishing/saltwater/special-river-restrictions); and don’t forget, fishing for river herring is closed on Wednesdays. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist

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