Greetings, anglers! Welcome to our first fishing report of the year.
Fish and Game stocking trucks are rolling. See where the fish were delivered last week on our weekly Stocking report at fishnh.com/Fishing/fish_stock_current.html
Discover WILD New Hampshire Day is this Saturday, April 20, 2013, in Concord. Stop in and say hi to the fisheries biologists and check out the electroshocking boat; details at wildnh.com/Newsroom/2013/Q2/DWNH_Day_040513.html.
Trout ponds: As several of our regional authors note, designated trout and fly-fishing-only ponds open Saturday, April 27. (You might have noticed we goofed and had the date wrong in the Freshwater Fishing Digest.) These ponds are managed specifically for trout and fishing is allowed through October 15. Info and suggested locations: fishnh.com/Newsroom/2013/Q2/trout_pond_opener_041113.html
Purchase your fishing license online at fishnh.com or from any Fish and Game license agent. Don’t forget -- kids under 16 fish free in N.H.!
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The winter of 2013 has held a much tougher grip on Northern New Hampshire than those of the past few years. Most of our ponds are still frozen and could remain so in the far northern reaches of the state awhile. Our rivers and streams are still running cold enough to support an occasional ice chunk, and some are still framed in snow. These conditions might make it hard to find enthusiasm for early season fishing, but don’t give up hope. There are opportunities to get the dust off your fishing gear and get the 2013 open water season off to a good start.
By the first week in April, hatchery trucks started rolling out with brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Conditions have dictated that most of them have been stocked in rivers and streams. Water temperatures are cool and natural foods are not yet abundant, but fish still have to eat. If one were to cast flies at this time of year, it is best to think small and slow. Bead-head caddis patterns are a good choice, and repetition is a good approach. Don’t worry about casting to the same run three or four times before moving on. If you find an egg pattern in your fly box, give it a try, as it seems to be an early season favorite of river fishermen.
Our designated trout ponds open on Saturday, April 27. Biologists, Conservation Officers, and hatchery technicians in the North Country don’t let winter get in the way of their duties and have stocked fish through the ice this year. As a result, your favorite opening day pond will have plenty of fish in it. There are many approaches to catching fish in these waterbodies with the most popular being trolling live bait. I’m not sure why small, orange, beads and a flicker spoon attract trout, but their effectiveness can’t be ignored. A snelled hook tied in this fashion can be tipped with a worm, Powerbait, or almost anything else and has become a trademark approach to catching fish.
Of all fishing opportunities we will see this season, right now may be the best time to catch northern pike. Their early spawning season makes their behavior and habitat preference predictable, and they can be caught with some consistency. Shallow, flooded areas should be fished with quick retrieves. Spinner-baits or large in-line spinners can trigger an explosive strike. Moore Reservoir, Partridge Lake in Littleton, and Jericho Pond in Berlin can offer these scenarios perfectly. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
This spring has seen a return to a more normal spring with “ice-out” occurring in mid-April, compared to the last few years that saw ice-out in the last week of March. I had a chance to fish Lake Winnipesaukee last Wednesday, April 10, with fellow biologist Ben Nugent. I believe we were some of the first anglers to make it out on the water, as the ice was still in the process of clearing out. We fished from Ellacoya State Park all the way to Glendale and the Lockes Island area. We dodged floating ice as we trolled along the shorelines. Fishing was slow, especially near Poor Farm Brook, where snowmelt from the Gunstock ski slopes had sent snowmelt and silt into the bay. We didn’t spend much time in this area and trolled up the Belknap Point shoreline into clear, but very cold water.
With the water temperature in the 39-degree range, we were surprised to see it rise slightly as we neared the “gut” between Lockes Island and the Glendale town docks. You guessed it; a two-degree change in temperature was the key, as we got into the salmon immediately. Trolling live shiners (lip-hooked), we were able to catch several nice salmon in the 19-21 inch range. A fellow angler in the area reported that he caught a couple nice rainbow trout also using the same technique. Leaving the area, we were treated to a “double” on lake trout. It’s always a treat to catch lakers on short, light lines!
Area lakes have cleared of ice now, with the possible exception of Big Squam Lake, which usually lingers a bit longer. Winnisquam cleared of ice on April 13.
Trout ponds will open on April 27, 2013, and if this weather holds, it should be a great opener. – Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Once again, early April finds many southwestern New Hampshire anglers filling their pans, fryers, and ovens with fresh walleye fillets from the Connecticut River. Despite recent high-water conditions, anglers have been catching walleye below the Vernon and Bellows Falls Dams for the past month. Either of these locations, or the mouths of major tributaries such as the Cold, Sugar and Mascoma Rivers, are a great place to cast a jig and minnow in pursuit of these fantastic fish.
If weather and river conditions cooperate, the next week or two should hold some excellent fishing opportunities. Added bonuses at these locations also include smallmouth bass and northern pike. The walleye spring season can be a short one, so get out there while the fishing is good! – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist
SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY
Being aware of subtle changes in water temperature can be key component of success during this time of year. A difference of a degree or two can cause fish to be present or not in a particular area. In the period after ice out, anglers who seek out areas with warmer temperatures will likely have a greater chance of finding both warm and cold water species.
Often, forage fish and, subsequently, predators, forgo their traditional summer protective habitats to seek out more desirable temperatures. Electronic fish finders with temperature sensors can be a useful tool to find these warmer areas, but other physical features can be used to find these locations. Focus on areas that receive a larger amount of sunlight throughout out the day. These are often associated with northern portions of waterbodies. Shallow areas are more responsive to daytime solar warming than deeper areas.
Also look for areas where warmer tributary streams enter, or flooded areas in backwaters or along floodplains if the water levels are high. As these areas warm throughout the day, fish will migrate to them. This makes sunny days during the mid-afternoon an opportune time to fish for them. Stream temperatures are approaching mid-50’s and local anglers in Southeast New Hampshire have been having good luck on the Isinglass and Exeter Rivers. Trout stocking has begun in earnest, so get out and wet a line this weekend if you can! – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist
The spring fishing season has just begun, and anglers are starting off the year with a bang. The party boats have been groundfishing for a few weeks now and are reporting large catches of haddock, as well as redfish and a few cod. Cod fishing is open as of April 16. The Cod Spawning Protection Area is in effect again this year from April through June, see page 9 in the Saltwater Fishing Digest (at http://www.fishnh.com/pubs/fishing.html) for more details.
Winter flounder fishing season should be starting up, as well. I have not heard any reports from flounder fishermen yet, so if you go, let us know how the fishing is! It is still early in the month, so check with bait shops before heading out; they don’t always have seaworms (the preferred bait) this early in the season. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist
FEDERAL AID IN WILDLIFE AND SPORT FISH AND RESTORATION:
AUser-Pay, User-Benefit Program. Researching and managing fisheries and teachingpeople about aquatic ecosystems are funded by your license dollars and by the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Your purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels make a difference to New Hampshire's fisheries. Learn more at http://www.wildnh.com/SFWR_program/sfwr_program.htm.