NH Weekly Fishing Report - May 10, 2012

Stocking report: www.fishnh.com/Fishing/fish_stock_current.htm

NH Free Fishing Day is June 2

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North Country

smelt runEven though they rarely exceed 4 inches in length, rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) are so important to New Hampshire’s anglers that biologists study them in great detail. They serve as forage for some of our most popular gamefish such as salmon and trout. Because smelt population dynamics are both cyclical and sensitive, they must be monitored very closely. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department operates a boat that uses hydroacoustics to evaluate smelt populations on large lakes. When these fish spawn in the spring, they utilize tributaries to lay their eggs and occupy them so densely that it becomes difficult to see the bottom (see photo). This presents another opportunity for study, as collecting a large sample of fish can be accomplished with one swift swing of a net.

You may be wondering how understanding smelt translates into successful fishing opportunities, and the connection is simple. If you know where the smelt are, you can be sure that bigger fish will be there to eat them. New Hampshire’s spring landlocked salmon fishery is the direct result of congregating smelt. Anglers use live smelt and smelt imitations to trick salmon into biting. Any large fish can be caught at this time of year. Huge rainbows, lake trout, and even smallmouth bass are on a feeding frenzy.

The Connecticut lakes follow a typical pattern and, right now, anglers are taking full advantage. The river systems that connect Lake Francis, and First and Second Connecticut are presenting great opportunities as large fish enter them in pursuit of smelt. It should be obvious that casting smelt patterned flies such as Black Ghosts and Silver Doctors is a great method. Tailwater fisheries such as the one below Murphy Dam in Pittsburg provide good spots to dead drift these patterns. This is a short-lived opportunity and the time to take advantage is now. - Andrew Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region

We certainly have had a change in the weather patterns! Gone are the near drought conditions, replaced with beneficial, soaking rains! The word is out that the white perch are beginning their spawning runs in area lakes. In Lake Winnisquam, anglers have seen the perch staging at the Winnipesaukee River mouth as it enters the lake. Increased flows will draw these white perch up into the river to spawn. Spinning rods rigged with worms and a spinner work well, as will small jigs bounced along the bottom. These fish may be jittery, so low light conditions may be a better time to angle for them. Areas south of Mosquito Bridge on Winnisquam will also have their share of white perch. Work the shorelines with bait or jigs to find them. White perch opportunities also exist at Lochmere Dam (Silver Lake) and numerous bays on Lake Winnipesaukee. The Melvin River (north shore of Winnipesaukee) is a great place to bring children to catch these “whites.” Try near the boat launch, at the river’s mouth, a bobber and worm is all you’ll need.

I had a chance to hit a local trout pond during the east wind/drizzle days and had a blast catching rainbow trout! There was a hatch of phantom midges coming off the pond and these trout were finicky! I tricked a few with a heron fly trolled on a sink-tip fly line, while my daughter Holly did well with a small (size 16) gray hare’s-ear nymph. We didn’t set the world on fire, but I truly enjoy paddling my canoe around a pond and listening to trout slurping emerging midges.

Water temps in the big lakes are still in the low to mid-50 degree range. Bass have had a tough time nesting as water temps are fluctuating wildly. I did notice in Lake Winnisquam yesterday, schools of smallmouth bass were cruising the rocky-shoreline flats. It won’t be long now before water temps begin their gradual rise that will trigger nest construction by the males. – Don Miller, Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

While dog sitting for a friend, I had an opportunity to spend a weekend at his camp on Sand Pond in Marlow. Sand Pond, a designated trout pond, is 159 acres in size and gets stocked with brook trout and brown trout. The pond also has bass, yellow perch and bullhead. If you haven’t visited it before, it is a beautiful waterbody, complete with loons and eagles.

I didn’t bring my boat and was limited to fishing out of a kayak. A heavy breeze maximized my paddling time and minimized my fishing time. The brook trout did not cooperate for me and neither did the bass while in the kayak, although I caught a few brook trout off the dock right at dusk. I was amazed at the number of anglers out fishing in boats over the weekend. Talking with anglers, it appeared that anchoring in shallow coves was the most productive trout method. – Gabe Gries, Fisheries Biologist

Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley

We have been fortunate to get some much needed rain over the past two weeks. Our larger rivers and streams in the area appear to be reaching above average daily flows right now. This is a great time to take advantage of the ideal river conditions we’ve been experiencing this spring to continue to target the broodstock Atlantic salmon. In addition to the normal allotment of large broodstock salmon going in the Pemigewasset and Merrimack rivers, we are receiving more and more reports of salmon with green tags being caught. These were the salmon that we stocked in the Baker River to evaluate their spawning efforts and success rates. It appears these fish have been slowly working their way downstream, migrating during elevated flow events. Reports indicate some of these fish have made it as far as just downstream from the Hooksett Dam. Also, we've had several reports of broodstock with yellow tags being caught. These were the surplus two-year-olds we stocked last fall (2011). Overwintering conditions appear to have been ideal for survival.

The transfer of migrating shad and river herring is well underway. This week, shad were collected and trucked from the Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River and stocked into the Ashuelot River – thanks to the assistance of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, our stocking targets for river herring were met for the Nashua River and Pine Island Pond. It's expected that we will have our first shipment of river herring (primarily alewives) into Winnisquam Lake by the end of this week. Then it's off to the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers and Maine to collect more river herring and stock them into Winnisquam Lake.

This Saturday is the annual Cocheco River clean up and field day in Dover, spearheaded by Great Bay Trout Unlimited. Over the years, this event has expanded beyond a litter pick up day into a day filled with educational activities, river stewardship, and trout stocking. This is a great opportunity to not only lend a hand but to explore a scenic river stretch that is quickly becoming a popular fishery in southeastern New Hampshire. For more information about this event go to: www.greatbaytu.org. Meeting behind the Measured Progress building on Educational Way (off of 6th Street), this event goes from 9am to 1pm. – Ben Nugent, Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

Groundfishing has been up and down recently. This past Saturday we had a “super moon,” the largest full moon of the year, this is also when it is closest to the earth. This caused some extreme high and low tides which continued into the week. The strong tide coupled with the haddock dispersing after they finished spawning made for a rough fishing week. Some anglers were able to overcome these challenges; the most successful groundfishermen I spoke with this weekend went further out than the average, 30 to 35 miles. The good news is, by this weekend the tides will have calmed and the seas will also have subsided from this week’s bad weather, not to mention there will be sun!

This weekend will also be a good time to start looking for stripers; if you haven’t taken your striper rigs out of storage yet, now’s the time. I have now received reports of stripers caught in both the Lamprey River in Newmarket and the Cocheco River in Dover. After a lull, river herring are running strong again and they coaxed a few striped bass up into the rivers, there may only be a few now but in the coming days this number should be growing.

Winter flounder fishing is off to a slow start this year, I have not heard of many people fishing for them, and those that have are not reporting much. This could be a factor of the bait supply. It seems that many bait shops are not carrying worms yet. I wouldn’t call off your flounder trip just yet, I’m sure there are flounder out there to be caught, just make sure to call the bait shops ahead of time to ask if they have sea worms in stock. Also remember that this is the last weekend before the brief closure, from May 15th to May 24th.

To view the 2012 river herring returns to NH’s coastal rivers visit this link: www.wildlife.state.nh.us/marine/river_herring_shad.html -Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist

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