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If landing a brook trout on a four-weight fly rod gets your blood pumping as much as landing a smallmouth on an ultra-light spinning rod, I have a challenge for you. Why not target one of New Hampshire's most aggressive predator fish that can grow over 20 pounds and 40+ inches long? I'm suggesting a battle with a northern pike. If an angler could create a sportfish from scratch, I can't imagine that the desired characteristics would be much different from that of the northern pike. Imagine a fish that eats anything. Insects, other fish, reptiles, amphibians, ducklings, mice, and any other organism that gets near the water is at risk. This makes your fishing approach as varied as you'd like it.
To add intensity to the battle, downsize your gear! A medium-light action rod and six to eight-pound test line may allow you to really sneak up on these monsters. Whatever your terminal tackle may be, you must anticipate a toothy hook-up and prepare your leader accordingly. One of my most important rules for pike fishing is simple: speed things up. I retrieve spinner-baits at a speed twice that which I use on bass. I will retrieve a crank-bait in the same fashion. It is important to remember to be ready for a strike at any moment. When your lure is a few feet from the boat and you are looking for your next spot to cast, you must still be prepared for a surface-smashing strike.
The best North Country opportunities for pike include Partridge Lake in Littleton, Jericho Lake in Berlin, Moore Reservoir, and Martin Meadow Pond in Lancaster. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Lakes Region/White Mountains
Smelt surveys continue on the big lakes, and so far, everything looks good. Young-of-the-year (YOY) smelt numbers looked great at Newfound Lake recently. Newfound, by the way, is rapidly becoming a wonderful rainbow trout fishery. Reports of some rainbows over 3 pounds continue to trickle in, with numerous rainbows from this year’s stocking showing up, nearly at the 15 inch minimum. We are waiting for this lake to show some nice salmon in the catch…perhaps by this September!
Recent rains have kept lake levels up, and the Hexagenia mayfly hatch lingers on the big lakes, with numerous individuals appearing on our research vessel Forager during our night-time surveys.
The rains are good news for stream anglers as well. Late last week, I ventured north to “stretch” the legs on a hike in the Sandwich Wilderness area. This area encompasses a broad reach of country, Mounts Passaconaway and Tripyramid to the north, and the Sandwich range to the south. There are numerous headwater brooks in this area; I fished one in the southern end of the range up to an elevation of 2000 feet! All you need is a good pair of boots, a fly rod (I use an old Eagle Claw Trailmaster 7 ½ foot), and a reliable companion, mine is a six year old yellow lab, “Miss Penny”, who must be restrained from the pools until I’ve had a chance to fish them! I find total relaxation up here in the mountains, working my way along the rocky banks to the next crystal clear pool. I use a rather large hopper imitation size 6, in order to keep the “little guys” off the hook! Every once in awhile, you will be treated to a monster brookie at 6 inches long! My meal for the night was two trout, one male and female. At this time of year up in the mountains, brookies are nearly ready to spawn, evidenced by the mature eggs in the 6 inch female. Don’t forget the camera, these trout display colors you thought were only found in an oil painting!
I wasn’t that far away (in miles) from my trolling boat tied up on Lake Winnisquam, but I was literally in a different world up in these mountains. - Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist
During the month of August, I am always torn between bass fishing and fishing for lake trout. I love both types of fishing and I tend to second-guess myself a lot when deciding on what to fish for on a particular day. “Will the lakers be on today or are they going to be the unresponsive to my efforts?” “Will there be a good topwater bite for largemouths today?” This past weekend, I decided to not make a decision and just fish for both.
I went to Nubanusit Lake (Hancock/Nelson) on Saturday with my friend Ed, who has never fished for lake trout before. We fished from 10 to 4 and ended up landing nine lakers by trolling and vertical jigging. He was impressed with the fight and how beautiful these fish are. Lake trout in NH are not stocked and we released all these naturally produced fish. Nubanusit, Spoonwood Lake (Nelson), and Silver Lake (Harrisville) all have lake trout and are great places to get your laker fix without having to travel to the Lakes Region. Anglers have been catching some decent rainbows and salmon at Nubanusit in the past weeks as well.
On Sunday I fished by myself at a small bass pond near Winchester. The hot sticky weather in conjunction with being on the water lent itself to numerous swims and a half dozen largemouth. Nothing over two pounds, but still a nice way to spend the afternoon. Fish all came on 4” plastic worms used on either a shaky jig head or a drop shot rig. I didn’t find any fish on downed trees or rocks and the fish I caught were at random spots close to aquatic vegetation. Without any real pattern to go on besides casting to vegetation, I was happy to get as many fish as I did. – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley
Amongst other recent surveys, we've spent some time in the Lamprey River watershed documenting the distribution of bridle shiners and wild brook trout. The bridle shiner is the only state listed threatened species. (Two other fish species are at an elevated level of concern; both the American brook lamprey and shortnose sturgeon are state endangered.) Bridle shiners are an indicator species of healthy and undisturbed warmwater rivers, lakes and ponds. These fish average only two inches in length and they compensate for relatively poor swimming ability by living, feeding, and breeding in dense aquatic vegetation in waters with minimal turbidity. Without densely vegetated habitats, the species can become easy fare for countless predator fish. They have a life expectancy that rarely exceeds two years, meaning if a catastrophic event occurred, the potential for losing the species can be high. Although bridle shiners may not be considered valuable to some anglers, the presence or absence of the species can be used as a gauge on our impacts to aquatic ecosystems and water quality.
Despite a variety of different stream habitats within the Lamprey watershed, the distribution of wild brook trout appears to be restricted only to very small streams. It is likely the larger stream habitats may not offer suitable spawning habitats and reach undesirable water temperatures for the species. In some times of the year, it is likely wild brook trout may occupy these larger streams but during the summer months, the brook trout need to find thermal refuge in cooler tributaries. This emphasizes the need to have aquatic connectivity. Road/stream crossings (i.e. perched culverts) and dams are examples of barriers that would prevent this sensitive species from finding necessary habitats. More and more, we are learning the value of spring-fed streams, especially in the southeastern part of the state, and the need to protect these very small (sometimes only one or two feet wide) streams. To some extent and within reason, the existing impacts to the surrounding landscape of a brook trout stream can be offset by having a steady supply of ground water recharge from springs. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
The fishing is still good on the New Hampshire coast this week. I saw flounder and pollock caught from local jetties. From the open water private boats are still bringing stripers and plenty of mackerel back to the docks.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with several spear fishermen as they returned to land. Most of them were quite successful in getting a creel full of flounder in as little as an hour! If you are going to try spear fishing, remember that fish appear larger as seen underwater. Make sure you’re confident that your quarry is of legal size before you take aim. There is no catch and release in spear fishing.
Hope to see you out there! - Jessica Devoid, Marine Biological Aide