NH Weekly Fishing Report - April 26, 2012

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North Country

Mother Nature needs to make up her mind. It seems unfair to tease anglers with 80 degree days in March and follow it up with cold, rainy days in April. Whatever she decides to offer, a good angler is a versatile one – one who can quickly adapt to current conditions.

An example of versatility could be found a couple days ago when warming water temperatures and low lake levels made me think about bass fishing. I went to Lake Umbagog with the hope of finding some pre-spawn smallmouth. The conditions were not exactly what I expected and I had to change my outlook for the day. Bass were hard to find and it wasn’t for a lack of looking. I covered a lot of water. I fished heavy baits like tubes and jigs in 12 to 15 feet and found nothing. I fished spinner-baits near different structure and found a few hungry pickerel. As the wind picked up and the water had a nice chop on it, I threw walk-the-dog topwater baits and was thwarted again.

As I trailered the boat at the end of the day, I thought about all of the places that bass were not. I tried to take some comfort in the fact that all of my equipment worked after a long winter of storage. I assured myself that the water would warm and days would get longer. Bass would begin to metabolize a little more and get aggressive. I also wondered why I hadn’t decided to go trout fishing, instead. - Andrew Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region

Our recent Nor’easter brought much-needed rain to New Hampshire. Prior to the rain, big lake temps were soaring into the upper 50 degree range! Smallmouth bass nesting was evident in the shallow coves in the north and western bays of Winnipesaukee this past weekend. Suspended jerk baits were the ticket for shoreline smallmouth bass. We are still getting reports of salmon catches on the big lakes, though they have descended deeper in the water column. Look for white perch to continue their spawning run in the usual places; Melvin River (Tuftonborough), Paugus Bay and the many shallow sandy back coves like Salmon Meadow, Braun Bay and behind Black Cat Island, all on Lake Winnipesaukee.

The rain will breathe new life into our stream fisheries, streams that were low will run cloudy for a bit but often the colored water will “turn on” the trout bite. Broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing has been good on the Pemigewasset River in Bristol and Franklin. The Winnipesaukee River continues to run on a low flow, as the water is being stored in Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam in an attempt to re-fill these lakes.

The much anticipated trout pond opener is this Saturday (April 28) and it should be a dandy! Excellent water temps for fly fishing and bait will be the norm on just about all these ponds except for the far northern waters. For the fly-fishing anglers, Sky Pond (New Hampton) and Upper Hall Pond (Sandwich) offer some great brook trout fishing, while White Pond (Ossipee) adds rainbows to the mix along with brookies. Spectacle Pond (Hebron), Saltmarsh Pond (Gilford) and Duncan Lake (Ossipee) offer brook and rainbow trout to anglers, using bait, lures or flies. Many of these ponds were stocked with brood fish last fall, so there is the potential for some outsize trout to be caught.

This past week, fisheries staff presented a proposal to the public at the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Club to stock Lake Winnisquam with anadromous alewives. Lake Winnisquam was stocked back in the early to mid-eighties with alewives in an attempt to remove nutrients from the lake. A side benefit was the resurgence of herring (alewife) runs in the Merrimack River. Adult alewives transported to the lake will spawn in tributaries and the young will grow throughout the summer and migrate out of the lake in late summer/early fall. It is hoped that they will supply a season-long forage for large and smallmouth bass and rainbow trout, and help to bolster returns of herring to the Merrimack River. Click here for more information on the proposal. Don Miller, Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

I have a “love-hate” relationship with Forest Lake in Winchester. I love this waterbody because it is only five miles from my house and has a great largemouth bass population. I dislike this water body because my fishing success there has been inconsistent at best.

I had a few hours on Saturday to fish for bass for the first time this spring, and against my better judgment, I decided to go Forest Lake. I arrived at the lake to find a stiff wind and partly sunny skies. A water temperature of 61 degrees sealed the deal as to where I would fish. Assuming the bass would be in pre-spawn mode, I decided to fish my way along a shoreline to a shallow inlet area. I started with a black/blue spinnerbait to try to cover as much water as possible in a quick fashion in order to find some fish. It didn’t take long and as soon as reached the mouth of the inlet I was into the fish. I fished the mouth of the inlet for about 20 minutes with the spinnerbait, picking up 5 nice largemouths. Two of these fish were nice fat females loaded with eggs.

For whatever reason, I decided to change from the already proven spinnerbait to a small buzzbait. Usually switching from a productive lure to an unknown is not a good idea, but I was lucky this time. As I continued up the inlet, I found receptive bass all along the shorelines as well as in the deeper water that still contained remnants of last year’s aquatic vegetation. In just under two hours, I landed 25 largemouths. Most fish were smaller males with a few nice 2-3 lb. females mixed in. – Gabe Gries, Fisheries Biologist

Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley

Conditions are setting up nicely for a good weekend of fishing in southeastern New Hampshire. High flows from the earlier part of the week should be receding after providing a much needed boost to our rivers and streams while helping to fill our lakes and ponds. If I were to offer one piece of advice for the opening weekend of fishing the designated trout ponds in the southeastern part of the state, it would be to get to the water early. These trout ponds can be very popular, particularly during the first few weeks of the season. Both shore and boat anglers eagerly await this time of year for the feel of a nice trout on their line. Designated trout ponds in southeastern New Hampshire include Archery Pond (fly fishing only), Barbadoes Pond, Clough Pond, Exeter Reservoir, Hothole Pond, and Lucas Pond. It will be interesting to see if the traditional methods for the opening weekend of our trout ponds will still be effective this year. In some locations, surface water temperatures are much greater than "normal" years and may have forced trout into deeper waters, possibly making shoreline fishing not as effective. It is also this weekend when the delayed harvest and gear restrictions for trout in the Cocheco, Isinglass, and Lamprey Rivers are lifted.

Warmwater anglers should have the opportunity to catch some of the largest bass of the year during this time. These fish become vulnerable as they seek out shallow water with warmer temperatures. Anglers should seek out shallow flats, entrances to shallow coves, and locations near tributaries that deliver a pulse of warmer water. Suspended husky jerks and shallow running crank baits fish slowly with erratic retrieval patterns are two of the most traditional techniques. Even live bait may be worth trying during this time of year. When choosing a color, try to match local fare that bass would be targeting. Sunfish species (redbreast sunfish, bluegill, and pumpkinseeds) as well as golden shiners and white and yellow perch are also shallow at this time. Try lures that match the appearance and swimming patterns of these species. Southeastern NH has a large selection of waterbodies and slow-moving rivers where a trophy largemouth or smallmouth can be caught. Perhaps try the Bellamy Reservoir (motor restrictions), Brindle Pond, Jenness Pond, Massabesic Lake, Swains Lake, or Turkey Pond. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

The weather has turned yet again but the fish are convinced it’s summer! Everything is happening early this year, with no ice and warm temperatures during the first week of March the rainbow smelt began their spawn early, today the smelt are out of spawning condition already and are all but gone from their spawning grounds at the heads of tide in our coastal rivers. Atlantic mackerel have shown up along New Hampshire’s coast and river herring have arrived in droves. As of Monday we have passed roughly 43,000 river herring through the Lamprey River fishway in Newmarket, this is nearing last year’s total run of 50,000 fish in that river. Keep in mind the river herring run usually lasts from the end of April through June; it will be interesting to see how long the run will last this year. With all of this baitfish activity, I imagine the sportfish are not far behind, anglers have begun fishing for striped bass but I haven’t heard any success stories yet.

Update on the groundfish rules…The haddock limit has dropped back to 18 inches and no bag limit. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist

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