NH Weekly Fishing Report - August 15, 2013

Welcome to the "bass days of summer," as our North Country biologist likes to call them. This week we bring you tips on a variety of angling experiences, from monster rainbows in Squam Lake to squirmy squid on the coast. Enjoy!

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NORTH COUNTRY

Whoever coined the phrase “dog days of summer” must not have been a fisherman. Had they been, it seems more appropriate to label them the “bass days of summer.” This label is not only more accurate, but it instills more positive imagery in my mind than any sweaty dog ever could. I can’t imagine anything more synonymous with my summers than bass fishing! The first advantage that summer bass fishing has over other angling approaches is the simplicity of clothing.  In contrast to trout fishing in waders, a 40-pound vest, and a wading staff, when I’m bass fishing, I’m wearing a pair of shorts and a baseball cap. The feeling is liberating, to say the least. Except for bug spray, my accessories are a fraction of what they are on other adventures and this allows me to prepare less and get to the water quicker.

I also love the amount of daylight afforded to the bass angler. Where ice fishing days end around four o’clock, the bass boat doesn’t leave the water until nine. Watching the sun set over calm water, disturbed only by my casting, provides tranquility to my life like nothing else. If I bring the boat to work and finish around 4:00, I can still get a lot of fishing in before the day ends. Longer days translate to a greater growth period and a good fisherman can find action all day. Fish seem to follow predictable patterns on long days, like seeking shallow water at dusk and deep water during the day. They hold on drop-offs or submerged cover and wait for any feeding opportunity.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of summer bass fishing is the opportunity. Black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) are found in so many waterbodies that I can fish a different spot every week. They feed aggressively, grow quickly, and trophy fish over three pounds are not hard to find. I also have two or three lakes that are so big, I can fish them a few days in a row and always find new water. I never waste time wondering if water temperatures will be cooperative or which spot is fishing better than another. On big lakes, I can keep moving around until I find the fish. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist

LAKES REGION

The bite continues to be hot for landlocked salmon and rainbow trout on Lake Winnipesaukee.  The area between Welch and Rattlesnake islands has abundant smelt, and the fish are taking advantage of this food source.  I continue to be amazed at the smelt population we are observing during our night-time surveys.  Reports from Big Squam Lake include rainbow trout; most are near the 15-inch legal limit, with a few up to 18 inches long.  There are some monster rainbows in Squam; we see them every fall in our trap-nets, fish up to 5 pounds in size.  Smallmouth bass continue to be pesky for lake trollers, as they are turning up on downriggers at 40-50 feet deep!  Cool nights, which we see now, will soon bring a change to salmon tactics.  This is the time of year I relish, as you are able to fish closer to the surface, especially on those cool mornings, when the lakes are enveloped in fog.

Stream fishing is fantastic now, with excellent flows in the lakes region and White Mountain region.  I recently took my two fishing buddies, daughters Holly and Heidi, into a high-elevation watershed in the central White’s and had a blast catching native brook trout on flies.  We hiked a popular trail that shadowed a good-sized brook for a couple miles, then bushwhacked our way down to the stream, and fished it out to the last trail crossing.  If you put a little extra effort into fishing these places away from the trail, you are rewarded with trout that have seldom seen anglers.  We fished hornbergs, size 12, which kept the smaller trout off the hook.  Biggest fish was a 7-inch lunker!  The trout were packed with small caterpillars, an abundant food source in these nutrient-poor streams.  These high-elevation streams have good-sized pools every 100 feet or so, and each pool held several trout.  Short casts, and plucking flies from the trees was the norm in the forested canopy.  If you want some peace and total relaxation, mountain streams offer all of that! – Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist

SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY

I try to fly cast for sunfish species (bluegill, pumpkinseeds, black crappie, etc.) a few times of year. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to fishing, having a successful day with these smaller predators can come close. I enjoy the simplicity of this type of fishing as well as the respect I have for these species in both fight and appearance.

There isn't a need for fish finders, high quality rods and reels or a large assortment of different types of tackle, and a canoe can fish as well as another other type of larger boat. A modest but adequate fly rod and reel setup with a small box of panfish plugs/poppers are all that is needed. I prefer to use floating fly line with a rod's length long leader of 6-pound monofilament and a rod around the 5 weight range. Five weight fly rods could be considered overkill, but it will give you enough support to land a larger fish if you happen to entice a larger bass or hook a larger pickerel in the outer part of its mouth. It is important to size the poppers appropriately to your target species. There are several different kits available on the market that cover an assortment of colors and sizes. It's best to be well equipped with at least a few different options to offer.

When it comes to hook size, 1/0 hooks are suitable for larger fish species but a #8 or #10 size popper should be suitable. If you routinely observe your popper getting struck without a hookup, try downsizing. Some of the recommended ponds to try within southeastern New Hampshire include: Bellamy Reservoir (Madbury), Brindle Pond (Barnstead), Heads Pond (Hooksett), Horseshoe Pond (Merrimack), and Shellcamp Pond (Gilmanton).

Another note of interest for central New Hampshire is that the Merrimack River Policy Committee will meet on Thursday, September 5, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. in the conference room at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department in Concord, NH.  This meeting is open to the public. For more information, contact Joseph F. McKeon of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Joe_McKeon@fws.gov or 603-595-3586. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist

SEACOAST AREA

Squid – it’s what’s for dinner! This cannibalistic creature is becoming more and more common here in the New Hampshire Seacoast, adding an option for those looking for something else besides the typical mackerel and striper fishing. On a recent trip, I was fortunate to land a dozen or more of these critters in about an hour and a half of fishing with a simple hi low rig. For lures, I was running a 4-inch squid jig with a 1oz. sinker or a 1oz. diamond jig. Used the same way you would jig for mackerel, jigging on bottom was producing action for me at slack tide, but I had a difficult time keeping my gear on bottom an hour past high tide. Just about any bridge or dock around the mouth of the Piscataqua River should work. Some anglers prefer to fish at night, illuminating the water with a lantern to draw bait and squid in, but I have found the squid to be just as active in the daytime as at night. If you do decide to try for squid, it is worth mentioning that along with a cooler you should bring a bucket to let the squid purge themselves of their ink; they can really make a mess!

The striper fishing continues and should get better as September draws closer. The mackerel continue to be sporadic with most boats having to go out to the Isles of Shoals to find good numbers. The few bass that I have seen landed in the last week have been really fat, healthy-looking fish. The bluefish still have yet to show up in strong numbers. I did manage to land a few in New Castle’s Back Channel this week, but they were ten inches at the most, pretty consistent in size to the ones that I have seen swimming around the bay feeding on silversides voraciously.

Party boat operators are still running all-day, half-day and night trips for bass and late night trips for squid. On the groundfish scene, operators are reporting consistent fishing that is better than last summer. The head boats are reporting good catches of mostly pollock with a few cod and haddock in the mix. Tuna fishermen are reporting very slow fishing, with no bait or whale activity to speak of. – Shane Conlin, Marine Biological-Aide

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