NH Weekly Fishing Report - May 12, 2011

Do you have a teenaged child, grandchild or friend with an interest in the environment? Please tell them about "Natural Leaders," an exciting one-week summer camp program for NH teens age 14-17, June 26 to July 1 in Berlin, NH. Info and application: www.wildnh.com/naturalleaders. Thanks!

Brood stock salmon are coming! More than 750 broodstock salmon will be released this spring, including some giants. High water has delayed stocking a bit, but fish will start going in soon, with the first round going in at Bristol by this weekend (May 14-15). The fish will be spread between stocking sites beginning in Bristol and working south to Franklin, Concord and Hooksett. Permit required. Click here for more info and a video.

Fly-fishing weekend: A few spaces are left for “The North Country Experience,” a free beginning fly-fishing weekend on June 4 and 5 at Coleman State Park in Stewartstown, N.H. Click here for a link to the registration form. Lodging not included.

Stocking report: www.fishnh.com/Fishing/Stocking/current.html

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North Country

When we look back on the calendar, I always reflect about how good the trout fishing can be in May and June. Water levels and temperatures are perfect for both fish and fishermen. All of the waterbodies have been stocked and fish are feeding aggressively. It is at these conditions that trout can be found anywhere. They will hit a fly cast in shallow water, a streamer being trolled from a boat, or a morsel of power bait in 30 feet of water. The sun rises before five, sets after eight, and up north, the only bugs flying around are being gobbled up by fish, rather than swarming your head.

Earlier this week, I watched a fisherman and his son walk up and down the Israel River in Jefferson. They seemed to be enjoying a walk and their time together. The fishing was almost secondary, which says a lot because they were landing fish in every pool. Their fishing poles were busy and frequently bent by the struggle of a strong fish in fast water. This type of action may be difficult to find in a few months, and I realized that I was watching typical and spectacular spring fishing in New Hampshire. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region/White Mountains

Lake levels are finally dropping to near normal here in the Lakes Region. Winnipesaukee is slightly below full pool (504.30’) at the Weirs gauge station, while Winnisquam is still a few inches above summer levels (482.94’). This means tributary flows into the lakes are dropping, and becoming more fishable. The Winnipesaukee River in Laconia should be primed for the white perch run, as streams on Winnipesaukee have been active for a while now. We still receive reports of fish flopping on the surface...as I stated in the last report, these are white perch experiencing difficulty in expelling their mass of eggs. The shorelines are warming up; water temperatures at Winnipesaukee are now in the 46-51 degree range, with even higher temps in shallow, sandy coves. This has energized the warmwater fisheries, namely bass and panfish. At this time of year, bass, and later sunfish, seek out shoreline nest areas in 2-6 feet of water, usually near a large rock, log or other underwater object. Smallmouth bass will clear a circle roughly twice the size of their body, by fanning the substrate to clear away silt and debris. This project, accomplished by the male bass, may take days to finalize. Once satisfied with his handiwork, the males await the arrival of the females. It is quite a sight to watch, as schools of bass roam the shorelines, mostly female in their quest for a mate. Often, these schools of bass are accompanied by white suckers, obviously contemplating their next meal of bass eggs! Sunfish will re-create this scene in a few weeks, as water temps rise into the 60 degree range. Bass are protected during their spawning season (May 15-June 15), but sunfish, due to their high reproductive potential and ability to overpopulate, are not protected by a seasonal restriction, only a creel limit regulation (25 fish per species, combined species total 50 fish). Sunfish are a great species for children to learn the sport of fishing. Worms and a bobber, it doesn’t get any simpler than this, will provide hours of enjoyment on a sunny spring day.

Trout ponds in the Lakes Region are hot now! My daughter Holly and I recently fished Saltmarsh Pond (Gilford) and had a great morning trolling nymphs from a canoe. Both rainbows and brookies were active, even more so as we experienced a couple short-lived hatches of phantom midges during mid-morning. We used size 14-16 hares ear and pheasant tail variations, fished slowly on sink-tip and sinking fly lines. As a special treat, we were surrounded by the bird songs of spring. As we trolled the shorelines, we tried to identify as many species as we could. The trees were full of a variety of warblers, while wood ducks, hooded mergansers and geese added to the sounds of spring.

This time of year offers so many opportunities; it’s hard to single out one pursuit. The streams just south of the White Mountains are very fishable now, and small brook fishing is on right now. Don’t forget the fly repellent, as the black flies have made their appearance.

Lastly, good luck to the salmon and lake trout anglers in this weekend’s 29th Annual Winni Derby on Lake Winnipesaukee. If we can rid ourselves of the persistent east wind, I predict some fine salmon and trout will make it to the weigh-in! Stop by for a chat with the fisheries biologists, even if you don’t enter a fish! - Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

This spring I have been mixing things up by pursuing both cold and warmwater species. I started by fishing Nubanusit Lake for salmon and lakers, which I was unsuccessful at catching, but thankfully the Milford Fish Hatchery grows and stocks some beautiful rainbows that kept me from getting skunked. I caught half a dozen rainbows trolling DB smelt on one to two colors of leadcore line in 20 to 40 feet of water. The following day I took my girlfriend and my yellow lab for a little paddle in the canoe on the Contoocook River in Hancock/Bennington. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and after a long winter it was just nice to get out on this beautiful piece of river and enjoy nature. We each brought a spinning rod rigged with Blue Fox spinners, which will catch anything that swims in this river. We were casually fishing, taking casts in promising spots as we drifted down the river. We managed to pick up a couple of stocked trout and a few smallmouth bass. Most recently I got the bass boat out for the first time on Gregg Lake in Antrim for some pre-spawn bass. I didn't pick the best day to go out. It was post frontal conditions with an easterly wind, but I didn't care, I just needed to get out. I only fished for about three hours and managed to catch a few largemouth and a pickerel. I was fishing a perch colored crankbait along the shoreline and near shore drop-offs. I love spring fishing, there are so many options on where to go and what to fish for. – Jason Carrier, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley

We've been busy this week transferring river herring (mostly alewives) from the coastal watersheds of New Hampshire into the Merrimack River watershed. So far, we've reached our targets for the Nashua River and Pine Island Pond. Now, transfers will start from the Androscoggin River in Maine to a variety of lakes and ponds that drain into the Merrimack River. The result of these efforts will not be observed for another three to four years, allowing the juveniles produced this year to head to the Atlantic and return as spawning adults. Flows and water temperatures are now conducive for us to begin releasing the broodstock Atlantic salmon into the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers. Traditionally, the stocking begins below the Ayers Island Dam and continues in a downstream progression. It is expected that at least the Ayers Island Dam area will have broodstock salmon in the water by this weekend (May 14 and 15). Anglers should focus their effort throughout the Coolidge Woods Road area (downstream of the Ayers Island Dam) in Bristol/New Hampton, downstream of the Eastman Falls Dam (Franklin), the Sewalls Falls area in Concord, the lower section of the Contoocook River, and downstream of the Hooksett Dam (Hooksett). These fish are the biggest and in the best condition we have seen for quite some time. The fish stocked this spring can be identified by a red anchor bar tag in front of the dorsal fin. If you've often contemplated going after broodstock Atlantic salmon, this is the year to make the commitment. In order to partake in this fishery, one must purchase a broodstock permit for $11 (which can be obtained online or at any NH Fish and Game license agent) and be familiar with some regulations specific to this program. Angling gear type and harvest regulations vary throughout the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers. For more information about regulations and the history/purpose of this program go to: wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

Did you know...

  • Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they live in saltwater and migrate into freshwater to spawn much like the river herring that they chase up our coastal rivers.
  • The average 28 inch striped bass is seven or eight years old.
  • When they are feeding on one particular food item they will usually ignore all others, much to the chagrin of many anglers.
  • In estuarine waters they exhibit a diurnal feeding pattern (most active at sunrise and sunset); while in open waters they are more active at night. This is why you will see surfcasters lining the beaches during the summer months throughout the night.

The Fish and Game Department conducts an annual Striped Bass Volunteer Angler Survey. Any willing angler who fishes for striped bass in NH state waters can fill out a logbook that gives us information on relative abundance and lengths of caught fish. Some of the information we gathered last year includes:

  • 75% of stripers were caught from a boat.
  • 62% of striped bass were caught using bait as opposed to lures or flies.
  • The catch per trip has remained relatively constant over the past 3 years, but is half of what it was prior to that.
  • The mean length of a striper caught using bait was 27.35 inches in 2010 compared with 21.21 inches for those caught on lures and 23.48 inches for those caught on flies.
  • The mean length of striped bass caught in NH waters has increased from 18.4 inches in 2006 to 26.1 inches in 2010.

Remember, the greater the number of trips reported on, the more representative the information is of New Hampshire’s striped bass fishery. Please consider taking a few minutes the next time you go fishing to let us know about your trip. As an incentive, two lucky participating anglers will win (by raffle) really nice prizes at the end of the 2011 season: a signed and framed, limited edition, First of State Striped Bass print, “Shadow” by Victor E. Young, donated by CCA-NH; and a rod and reel combo donated by Kittery Trading post. If you would like to participate, please email me at Rebecca.Heuss@wildlife.nh.gov or call the Region 3 office at 868-1095. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist


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