NH Weekly Fishing Report - August 9, 2012
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July has turned into August and the dog days of summer have officially arrived for the New Hampshire angler. For many people, this conjures up images of barbeques and beaches. For me, August means grasshoppers -- large, high-flying, noisy grasshoppers. For fly fishermen, grasshoppers provide an opportunity to escape the task of trying to perfectly match a hatch. We can forget about tying on a size 26 dry fly and trying to present it perfectly to a finicky fish rising for nothing else.
I am not an entomologist but I have seen grasshoppers in so many different sizes, shapes, and colors that I have to believe New Hampshire has hundreds of species or sub-species. What makes them so great is that, unlike mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis flies, fish don’t seem to care what they look like. One can cast a hopper pattern of any color at any time and expect results. They are usually bulky by comparison and are the largest dry flies in my box. I tie them with deer hair or foam bodies which help them float even after a few hits. I have been using rubber legs which create a lot of commotion on the water’s surface and fish should have no problem becoming aware of them.
Another advantage of grasshopper flies is that, because they are so bulky, they can be drifted over some rapid water. Where a smaller fly may sink or move unnaturally, the grasshopper stands tough and floats well. When mending your line, they may move across the water in just such a way to induce a strike. They are also perfect to throw at last light because they are very easy to see.
It seems that I have been writing a lot about how to make fly fishing easier and recommending ways to cut corners. In reality, as a fisherman, I exist somewhere between an elitist and a full-blown hack. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I outwit a fish and will try anything to make that happen. Casting a grasshopper in August is a great way to accomplish this. The next time you are on the water and have gone through five or six different flies with no results, tie one on and see what happens. – Andy Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist
With lake temperatures in the upper-70-degree range, anglers must go deep for coldwater species. I recently witnessed two landlocked salmon caught in Lake Winnisquam which were the finest looking salmon I’ve seen in years coming from that lake. I’ve seen some great schools of smelt scattered around the lake, in addition to the numerous alewives which can be found on sonar generally 20-35 feet deep. These schools of alewives are scattered randomly around the lake, usually in 40-60 feet of water. One of those salmon (both were 20+ inches and 3+ pounds) contained three alewives, a definite bonus to the stocking program. By the way, downrigger set at 38 feet with a mini Mooselook wobbler (copper/silver) did the job with these salmon.
Back in the mid-1980s, Fish and Game stocked Winnisquam with alewives in an attempt to help strip the overly productive system of nutrients (such as fertilizer from lakeshore properties). This came after years of nuisance algae blooms in the lake, and copper sulfate treatments. During that time frame, I saw massive numbers of alewives leave the lake in the fall on their trip back to the Atlantic Ocean, and with them, they took tons of nutrients (in the form of body mass) with them. At this time, it is hoped that by stocking Lake Winnisquam again, it will result in the resurgence of sea herring (alewives) in the Gulf of Maine, and the return of substantial spring spawning runs into the Merrimack River.
I’ve received reports of some nice brown trout recently caught in Ossipee Lake. This is a unique lake, in the fact that landlocked salmon and brown trout co-exist. It is general policy at Fish and Game that we don’t mix these two species together in large lake systems, because of the difficulty to tell the two species apart. The only other lake where this occurs is Lake Francis where salmon and brown trout are found. In the case of Ossipee Lake, brown trout are not stocked directly into the lake; they instead travel downstream from the Bearcamp River where they are stocked. In addition we have documented natural reproduction of brown trout in the Bearcamp River, progeny of the adult trout that make fall spawning runs up the river. An interesting system to say the least!
The hot sticky forecast for this past weekend made my decision on what to do for the weekend an easy one. On both Saturday and Sunday, I grabbed my swimsuit, mask and snorkel, sunscreen, lots of drinking water, fishing rods and tackle, and took my boat to some southwestern NH bass ponds.
I arrived early on both days and I’m glad I did as the parking spots filled up quickly as the morning progressed. I found ample numbers of largemouth bass patrolling the vegetated coves that were more than willing to bite my top water frog or jigs. I quickly got into a routine of catching a few bass and then getting in the water with the mask and snorkel to cool down and watch some fish.
Snorkeling is a great method to observe fish behaviors firsthand, and in a way you would never see except on a fishing show on TV. Moving slowly is the key to ensuring that you don’t scare the fish away from you. My sightings for the day included schools of yellow perch and golden shiners, snapping turtles, freshwater mussels, largemouth bass and chain pickerel. I was lucky enough on Sunday to see a pickerel dart out of the vegetation in an attempt to surprise a school of small perch, only to have the fish scatter before it could get to them.
If anyone is interested in learning more about invasive aquatic vegetation such as Eurasian watermilfoil, the Washington Conservation Commission in conjunction with NH Lakes Association is sponsoring an Invasive Aquatic Vegetation Presentation on August 25 at 7 PM. The information will be similar to that given Lake Hosts, with hands-on specimens available. Location is Camp Morgan Lodge (Hwy 31, to Faxon Hill, to Millen Pond Rd.). For more information contact Ken Eastman at 603-495-1064. – Gabe Gries, Fisheries Biologist
Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley
The outward migration of juvenile alewives from Lake Winnisquam has begun. About two weeks ago, these fish were first spotted congregating near the outlet of the lake near the hydroelectricity facility at the Lochmere Dam in Tilton. Since then, schools estimated to be in the thousands have begun their migration towards the Merrimack River and eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, resident riverine fish species are taking advantage of this seasonal food source. As the run continues during the next month, more and more predator fish will continue to catch on to the alewife run and pursue these anadromous fish as they make their way downstream. These fish are the progeny from 24,000 adult alewives stocked in the lake earlier this year. The primary goal of this project is to restore runs to the Merrimack River watershed.
Anglers should attempt to capitalize on this concentrated feeding effort by using flies and lures that imitate the appearance of these small fish throughout the mainstem of the Merrimack River. They can do this by matching the length, coloration, and behavior of the alewives. Based on the measurements we've taken, the juvenile alewives range between one inch and three inches. Average lengths are expected to increase over the next month as the fish staying in Lake Winnisquam have longer time to grow before they leave. The alewives are extremely laterally compressed (having a very narrow body shape). This would be very evident if the fish was laid on its side. This physical characteristic makes using streamer and bucktail fly patterns a good match. The alewives also tend to remain very high in the water column as they make their way downstream. Floating or light sink fly lines or light weight lures tied to monofilament will help keep your presentation in similar depths as the natural prey. The appearance of the juvenile alewife consists of a silver bottom with a slightly darker top. The silver coloration really radiates to a flashy appearance when the fish turns. This makes silver spoons and flies with a lot of flashing a likely choice. It appears wounded alewives are more favorable prey. They tend to act more erratic in their swimming style. Mimicking that behavior with retrieval may also help.
One more piece of advice is to look for surface activity. Schools of alewives can be very visible by their surface "dimpling" behavior that looks similar to a large insect hatch. This may be more common at dawn or in the evening. Also look for signs of predator fish crashing the surface as they pursue the schools. – Ben Nugent, Fisheries Biologist
Dog days for sure. The fishing has really slowed down, very few people were bringing fish in this weekend and when they did it was all mackerel, but most anglers had a tough time even finding them. The people we spoke with that caught macks were well offshore, past the shoals. Fishermen that stayed at the mouth of the river only found a few squid this weekend. The party boats are still finding bluefish but we have not had any shore reports of them in the past week, staying offshore or to the south. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist