NH Weekly Fishing Report - July 19, 2012

Stocking report: www.fishnh.com/Fishing/fish_stock_current.htm. Note that stocking is winding down and is almost done – today’s may be the last of the season (7/9-13).

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North Country

If you have never experienced the Alder fly hatch on the Androscoggin, you may be missing out on an amazing angling experience. Because of the unusually warm spring, insect hatches have been starting early in 2012. In fact, I saw my first Hex mayfly on the morning of June 8, which is 3 weeks earlier than normal. As I was driving South on Rt. 16 in Errol around the same time, I began to ask myself how the alderflies might be affected this year. It was dusk and I was watching the sun set on the Androscoggin. My inquiry was soon realized as I encountered small clouds of these insects splattering across my windshield.

Of all the insect hatches that anglers try to imitate, the Alder fly on the Androscoggin is perhaps the most difficult. The fish seem to rise only to that specific fly, and are not quick to be outsmarted by an elk-hair imitation. Some of the older and smarter fish will gorge themselves on this abundant food source. So, hooking one carries with it a great sense of accomplishment. It honestly takes the already difficult task of dry fly fishing to a more difficult level.

Fortunately, access to the river is abundant and I can fish an entire evening without seeing the same water or another fisherman. Even when my luck is slow, it fascinates me to watch these bugs land on the trees, my hat, or on the water. When a fish finally rises and eats one, it gets my adrenaline pumping and my casting arm flailing around. – Andy Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region

Our hot summer continues, and as I write we’re in day 3 of a 90-degree heat wave. The big lakes are down considerably, Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam are near fall levels. Brooks and streams in the area continue to suffer from low water levels.

That being said, a distinct thermocline has set up in the lakes, generally 35-45 feet down. Reports from Winnipesaukee are good for salmon up to 19-20 inches and approximately three pounds. This is the “gravy train” time of year for our coldwater species including salmon, lake and rainbow trout. At no other time of year are their growth rates any better. The trick to catching these fish is to get on the water well before that bright, red ball ascends the sky in the east! We had a surprise on Winnisquam the other day, a nice 20 inch, three-pound salmon decided to hit my tiny Mooselook wobbler at 10:00 in the morning! Goes to show you, being in the right place at the right time is true! That salmon put up a great fight, jumping several times, including the last jump which took her right into the downrigger ball hanging from the arm! Needless to say, we were lucky to land that fish! Several lake trout and a few small rainbows also occupied us that morning. Schools of alewives are now starting to appear at the surface; it will be exciting to follow their development through the summer and the feeding frenzy that will occur when the rainbows decide to key in on them.

I’ve had some great fun at night, generally from 7:00 to 9:00, chasing smallmouth bass along the rocky shores. Small balsa poppers chugged along the shorelines does the trick. Otherwise, bass have gone deep, as the surface temps of the big lakes are all well above 80 degrees!

The hex hatches continue on area lakes and ponds. I find some big cream-colored Hex’s on our screen doors, and their cases are numerous on the lake surface in the morning. – Don Miller, Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

I had a question the other day that might be relevant to some of our readers. I was talking to a local bass angler in the office and we were throwing around some bass techniques such as drop-shotting, shaky head jigs, and chatterbaits. Another gentleman waiting to purchase a fishing license heard our discussion and said, “I fish for bass and have heard people mention those techniques before, but I have no idea what they are.”

Given that discussion, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss one of my favorite “newer” bass fishing techniques, the drop-shot rig. The drop-shot rig is nothing more than a line with a weight on the end and a hook tied anywhere from 5 to 20 inches above the weight. It is a great method for fishing water that is 2 to 50 feet deep.

Equipment is simple. A 6-1/2 to 7 foot spinning rod, 8 lb. fluorocarbon or superline (ex: Berkley Fireline), a size 1 or 2 drop-shot hook, and a non-lead casting sinker (I use a 1/8 or ¼ ounce depending on water depth). If using superline, use a small barrel swivel to connect a 5 foot section of fluorocarbon to the end of the superline.

To tie your drop-shot rig: Hold the hook horizontal so that the point of the hook is on top and then tie the hook onto the line using a Palomar knot. You want the hook about 12” above the end of the line. Once the knot is secure, take the tag end and run it down through the eye of the hook again. You want to make sure the hook stands out straight from the line and that the hook point is up when the line is taut. This will take a few tries to perfect so don’t get frustrated. Now tie your casting sinker to the end of the line. (If you’re having trouble envisioning this, just type “tie a drop-shot rig” into any search engine; there are several useful videos and diagrams available on the web.)

Typically, you want to use a small, wormlike 4 to 5-inch plastic bait on the drop-shot rig. Zoom Meatheads and Mayo’s Hand Poured drop-shot noodle worms are just two examples of the many baits that will work. You want to make sure to just barely hook the bait about ¼-inch from its head. I put the hook point under the bait and come straight up with it till the point comes out the top of the bait and the plastic sits on the bend of the hook. The bait now should stand straight out in the water and move with the slightest twitch of your fishing rod.

My favorite way to fish the drop-shot is to simply cast the lure towards likely looking areas along the shoreline (note that this is not something you want to be casting directly into wood or vegetation). Once the weight hits the bottom, tighten up the line till you can feel the weight and then give about an inch of slack and lightly jig your rod tip. If you don’t get a bite with in 10 seconds, reel in 10 feet of line and repeat. Most of my bites come on the initial cast. - Gabe Gries, Fisheries Biologist

Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley

In an effort to better understand the accumulation of atmospherically deposited mercury in freshwater fish in the southeastern part of the state, we have been busy collecting largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as white and yellow perch samples to be analyzed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. With the use of boat electrofishing, samples were collected at Bow Lake, Mendums Pond, Northwood Lake, Pawtuckaway Lake, and Swains Lake. This survey equipment not only allows us to be very efficient at collecting the required number and sizes of fish needed, but also gives us a sense for what features in a lake or pond are important to several different fish species. Without question, the value of aquatic vegetation cannot be understated. I am always impressed by how we find trophy sized largemouth bass and pickerel and the sheer number of smaller fish in some of the densest vegetation in a lake or pond.

This habitat feature provides necessary shelter for juvenile development for countless fish species, food for larger fish, as well other benefits to bird and wildlife species associated with aquatic ecosystems. Aquatic vegetation is also helpful in maintaining good water quality of a lake or pond. By uptaking chemical elements existing and introduced into the water, plants convert nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous into growth. If plants are absent or nutrients too plentiful, conditions may present situations that are less desirable to us. Without shade created by vegetation and nutrient uptake by plants, conditions are such that algal species may benefit. High concentrations of algal cells can create blooms that offer little benefit to the ecosystem and in some cases can be harmful. These root structures increase clarity by holding together substrate that would be released into the water column by waves created by wind or boat wakes. The stems and stalks of some plants can actually trap suspended materials, making the water even more clear. – Ben Nugent, Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

Stripers are still being caught in good numbers, primarily from the river mouths and along the coastline. This would be a good time to try beach fishing; remember that the optimal time to fish the beaches is at night, especially when there is an on-shore breeze. The east winds will consolidate plankton and other forage material in close to shore, attracting the baitfish and thus the predators. Stripers will wait in the calm waters adjacent to turbulent waters (breaking waves, currents, etc.) for their prey to become disoriented and then attack.

With all of the heat we have been experiencing, some fish will be seeking deeper, cooler waters. For some this means leaving the harbors, but for others they will find a deeper part of the bay or harbor and sit in the cooler water while still enjoying the benefits of the tidal action. Take some time looking for one of these areas (deep, sandy bottom for flounder) and you may be surprised with what you find there. Other uncommon species are caught every now and then when an angler happens upon these isolated holes, if you can find a spot with structure (there are a few to be found in the Piscataqua and off of the jetty in Hampton), species like tautog and black sea bass may be lurking in there. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist

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