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No one likes to think that summer is coming to an end. The long, warm days are going to transition to cool, shorter ones. Leaves are going to change color and drift to the ground. It is a clear and obvious transition in both climate and lifestyle. Kids will be back in school and the vegetable garden is only one frost away from completing another season in New Hampshire. For anglers, this time of year means that some exciting opportunity awaits. Like the foliage, brook trout are going to change color - displaying deep, orange bellies and bright red and blue spots. As their appearance transforms, so does their behavior. The spawning instinct guides even the smallest fish to seek that habitat which offers the best opportunity to successfully reproduce. In lakes and ponds, fish will cruise the shoreline looking for that delicate balance between temperature, substrate, and a potential mate. In rivers and streams, trout will be found where the gravel is best suited for building a nest (redd) and overhead cover provides protection.
I've often written that one of the biggest keys to successful fishing is understanding fish behavior and how it relates to predicting fish location. The fall may be one of the best times to accomplish this. In addition to occupying predictable habitat, fish are still feeding aggressively in anticipation of a long winter. Casting dry flies on a calm surface always works for me. There are a number of terrestrial insects that hatch in great numbers in August and September. As evening sets and it becomes more difficult to see a fly, I always tie on a grasshopper pattern. I also catch a lot of fish on flying ant patterns. During the day, I bump nymphs like pheasant tails through riffle habitat or rip streamers through pools.
Trout fishing in September has always appealed to me. I bring an extra jacket and leave the bug spray in the truck. Standing in the water with a fly-line zipping back-and-forth over my head allows me to do some of my clearest thinking. As we fish New Hampshire season after season, it makes me realize how lucky we are. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Lakes Region/White Mountains
No report this week. - Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist
During the past week, we have been surveying small tributaries to the Connecticut River in Hinsdale as part of the state-wide Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. Although we have seen the mouths of these small streams while boating on the Connecticut River many times, it is really interesting to hike down a ravine or along the edge of a cornfield for ½ mile and suddenly come out on the banks of the Connecticut River. Our protocol consists of electrofishing one site as close to the mouth as possible and then sampling another site or two further upstream. Habitat measurements are taken in addition to recording length and weight data on any fish we capture.
The mouths of these tributaries thus far are adjacent to agricultural land and very sandy. In most, we have found only juvenile spottail shiners and common white suckers, but in one we did discover a 6” wild brook trout only 100 meters from the where the stream enters the Connecticut River. Moving upstream only mere miles on these tributaries typically gets you into more prolific numbers of wild brook trout. Part of the reason for these sampling efforts is to increase our knowledge of fish presence in these small tributaries; that way, if the need arises, we can better identify which species to protect and where. – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley
In May this year, we transferred close to 5,000 adult river herring into the Nashua River in the Mine Falls Impoundment. These fish were initially trapped in fish ladders within the Cocheco and Lamprey rivers. It is expected that these fish spawned and the resulting juvenile herring will utilize habitat in the Nashua River throughout the summer and then head to sea once the fall rains begin to occur. The goal of this project is to restore river herring returns to the Merrimack River watershed. Recently, we conducted a boat electrofishing survey to evaluate herring spawning success through much of the impoundment. We did not capture as many juvenile herring as expected; we did, however, enjoy other aspects of this particular river stretch. We captured large numbers of trophy sized largemouth bass, yellow perch, and black crappie. The key habitat type these fish were found in was aquatic vegetation (which can be found paralleling much of the shorelines). The primary forage for these species are likely young-of-the-year sunfish and golden shiners. Golden shiners were found to be very abundant in lengths up to seven to eight inches. Although the impounded area begins in Nashua, this influence on the river is seen well into Hollis. Despite one of the state's largest cities being nearby, once on the river, there is a sense of remoteness as the shorelines consists primarily of mature forest. Anglers using either boats or paddle craft should have a somewhat easy time navigating this section. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
By now you have probably heard that the bluefish are in! Over the past week they have been taken by charter boats, party boats, and private boat anglers alike. No word of any taken from shore yet. With their late arrival the question is, how long will they grace our waters? Don’t wait because they may not be here for long! We still have a bit of warm weather ahead of us and near-shore temperatures are still hovering around 60 degrees, but as the waters cool the bluefish will work their way south and as you all know it is starting to feel more and more like fall is fast approaching. NH’s party boat companies are targeting bluefish on their half-day trips, and many charter boats are taking bluefishing trips as well; a list of licensed charter and party boats can be found at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/marine/charter.html. When blues are near-shore, NH’s jetties are a perfect place to find some action. These voracious carnivores will strike most anything, but baits like herring and mackerel are always a good choice. If you can manage to get some live bait (mackerel are still around) - that is even better. For those of you with short attention spans like me, swimbaits and poppers are generally the most effective lures. Remember, these fish have a nasty bite, so use a wire leader and watch your fingers! - Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist