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New Hampshire anglers have it pretty good. Our waterbodies are healthy and fish of all different types can be found throughout. We don’t have the opportunity to catch a 100-pound catfish like the Ozark Rivers of my youth, but the trade-off seems acceptable to me. This week, I was sampling some very small brooks in the Ammonoosuc River Watershed. To the casual observer, they would not seem like an opportunity to fish. They were literally 6 inches wide in spots, looked warm and were experiencing very slow flow rates. With a touch of my electro-fishing wand, however, brook trout boiled up out of every pool. They were also in undercut banks and woody material. When fishing small brooks and considering the growth rates of these fish, it becomes important to adjust your idea of what a “trophy fish” is. Brook trout 4 or 5 inches in size may be four years old, and should be considered the bullies on their block.
These types of fisheries can present some real challenges to the angler. Most are enshrouded in overhanging vegetation that can make casting difficult. Getting your bait (fly, worm, or whatever) to the fish will require some creativity and patience. An angler in these situations may also have to employ some stealth - the fish spook very easily and once they flee, it will be hard to get them to bite. If everything falls into place, the fish that end up in your net will be among the most beautiful you’ve ever seen. Still months away from spawning season, small-water brookies will still have deep and vibrant coloration and make you glad you brought your camera. - Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Lakes Region/White Mountains
Recently I took the opportunity to check out the new Fish and Game access site on Purity Lake in Eaton. The site is located on the northern end of the lake, right on NH Route 153, about a half-mile north of King Pine Ski Area. The access will accommodate small, cartop boats, canoes, and kayaks and parking for about 10-12 vehicles. The access consists of a gradually sloping set of stairs constructed of gravel and pressure treated lumber. The design of the site uses modern erosion control technology. We launched a canoe and paddled and fished a little. Purity Lake is a gin-clear but productive body of water. Among the abundant submerged and floating aquatic vegetation we observed several bass, as well as sunfish, yellow perch, a pickerel or two, and schools of shiners. There is also a decent smelt population in the lake, as the deeper waters are cold and supersaturated with oxygen. Now that Fish and Game has secured a public access here, we are considering stocking some rainbow trout for anglers to enjoy in the near future. Stay tuned! - Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist
During the last few weeks we have been unable to do much fishing due to our warmwater sampling surveys, which occur at night. We conduct our surveys with an electrofishing boat that sends an electric current into the water and stuns the fish momentarily while we net them and put them into a livewell in the boat unharmed. We start these surveys at dark and can go on until one or two o’clock in the morning, depending on the size of the waterbody and how many fish we collect.
We started our season on French Pond in Henniker where we found an abundance of small bluegills, some golden shiners, yellow bullhead, and to our surprise, fathead minnows, which only occur in a few waterbodies around the state. We were also surprised to not see any pickerel or perch, which are common throughout most ponds and lakes around the state.
We electrofished Harrisville Pond in Harrisville to get a community assessment prior to us deploying Christmas trees for habitat improvement this fall. The bass we sampled were found concentrated in a certain area of the pond where there was vegetation with rocks and nearshore drop-offs. Only one of our five runs produced numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass. We also found common sunfish, golden shiners, and black crappie.
Horseshoe Pond in Merrimack was our most recent outing and it was during the hottest, most humid night of the summer, last Thursday. This pond nearly has it all - bluegill, yellow perch, pickerel, common sunfish, common white suckers, bullhead, black crappie, eel, carp, and largemouth bass. We shocked up some carp that were from 15 to 30 pounds! The bass numbers were good, fish were healthy, and there was a good mix of age classes. Hopefully we can get out on our own time soon and sample some of these waterbodies and others with rod and reel. – Jason Carrier, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley
I try to fly cast for sunfish species (bluegill, pumpkinseeds, black crappie, etc.) a few times of year. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to fishing, having a successful day with these smaller predators can come close. I enjoy the simplicity of this type of fishing as well as the respect I have for these species in both fight and appearance. There isn't a need for fish finders, high quality rods and reels or a large assortment of different types of tackle, and a canoe can fish as well as another other type of larger boat. A modest but adequate fly rod and reel setup with a small box of panfish plugs/poppers are all that is needed. I prefer to use floating fly line with a rod's length long leader of 6 pound monofilament and a rod around the 5 weight range. Five weight fly rods could be considered overkill, but it will give you enough support to land a larger fish if you happen to entice a larger bass or hook a larger pickerel in the outer part of its mouth. It is important to size the poppers appropriately to your target species. There are several different kits available on the market that covers an assortment of colors and sizes. It's best to be well equipped with at least a few different options to offer.
When it comes to hook size, 1/0 hooks are suitable for larger fish species (and it couldn't hurt to carry a few of these if the bass are shallow) but a #8 or #10 size popper should be suitable. If you routinely observe your popper getting struck without a hookup, try downsizing. Some of recommended ponds to try within southeastern New Hampshire include: Bellamy Reservoir (Madbury), Brindle Pond (Barnstead), Heads Pond (Hooksett), Horseshoe Pond (Merrimack), and Shellcamp Pond (Gilmanton). – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
This week we finally got some relief in the form of cool air. Thankfully the fishing is still hot! If you really want to have some fun, there have been numerous reports of bluefin tuna just past the shoals, about 8 miles out. Bluefin tuna is a highly migratory species and the fishery is regulated by NOAA Fisheries. Participation in this fishery requires a permit issued by NOAA Fisheries, for more information call (888) 872-8862 or visit http://www.nmfspermits.com.
The bluefish are finally around but they have been elusive thus far, one caught here and there. We’ve had reports of them in the river and at the mouth of Hampton Harbor, but no real frenzies yet. Try something new and check out your local jetty! These are great spots to find bait as well as trophy fish. There is a list of seashore access sites on the web at www.wildlife.state.nh.us/marine/marine_PDFs/seacoast_TMF_guide.pdf. If you aren’t interested in hiking out over rocks, an easy way to catch some fish and have a great time is on a party or charter boat; these captains have years of experience and can track down where the fish are hiding.
Not sure what to do with those fish once you get them home? Here are a few simple ideas on how to cook your ocean catch, from my colleague Jessica Fischer: Melt about 1/2 stick of butter and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 sleeve of crushed up Ritz crackers and stir to coat the Ritz with the butter. Place fish in a baking dish and pour the Ritz crackers over the fish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the fillets). The fish is done when it flakes with a fork but is still milky looking. This works best with cod or haddock or cusk. If you happen to catch a flounder you can make baked stuffed flounder almost as easily. To make the stuffing take a can of lump crab meat and add Ritz to your liking. I like more crab than Ritz so I only use about a half of a sleeve. Then place the stuffing in the center of the fillet and roll the sides up around the stuffing and place in a baking dish with the seams down. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes depending on the thickness. Serve with a salad and it is a great summer meal. - Robert Eckert, Marine Biologist