NH Weekly Fishing Report - August 22, 2013

Greetings, anglers. Fishing is hot around the state, with some especially good action in the twilight hours. And did you know that ocean sunfish can top 2,000 pounds?

Access notes:

Stocking report: fishnh.com/Fishing/Stocking/current.html

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I ran into a friend from high school last week and he reminded me of the many fishing adventures we had. At that age, neither of us had much equipment, but we enjoyed fishing and learned a lot from each other. One of our favorite types of angling was nighttime hornpout fishing. We would meet just before dark and gather fishing rods, bait, and some firewood. Most of our locations were on the Merrimack River but we also visited some small farm ponds in the central part of the state. Once the fire was built, we would secure a large sinker and treble hook to the end of our medium-heavy spinning rods. We experimented with all types of bait, including night crawlers and dough-baits. Our favorite was beef liver picked up at a convenience store meat counter. It was cheap and seemed to lure the hornpout in.

After a long cast into the dark water, we would set our poles into forked sticks so that we could see the ends in the firelight. The rest of the night became a waiting game, as we poked at the fire and talked about high school stuff. Eventually, one of the rod tips would start to dance, and someone would reel in a brown bullhead. The hooks were generally secure and a pair of pliers was necessary to get them out. We often kept our fish and cleaned them at the end of the night, but we had just as many catch-and-release evenings. We would fish for a few hours until someone got tired or the fishing slowed down. Occasionally, one of us would catch an eel and argue about who had to take it off the hook. After dousing the fire, we would walk home carrying fishing poles and a bucket full of fish.
I was glad that I bumped into that friend, and he reminded me of such great memories. I made it a point to go hornpouting with my son one night this week. – Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist


Our night-time smelt surveys are keeping us busy right now. We just finished up on Lake Winnipesaukee, and I was pleased to see the level of smelt we have in that lake. Fellow biologists, Ben Nugent, John Viar and Matt Carpenter were nice enough to give me a night off last night, as they surveyed Lake Winnisquam. They found alewives and smelt pretty well mixed together around the depth of the thermocline (30 feet) or so. This is the second year that anadromous alewives have been stocked into Lake Winnisquam, and the results appear promising. I caught a lake trout the other morning at 40 feet on the downrigger, where I assume he was feeding on alewives. This additional, short-term forage will be a boon to Winnisquam’s cold-water fisheries.

Landlocked salmon fishing continues to be hot on Lake Winnipesaukee. Try fishing with single-shank flies in white or copper colors 30-45 feet down, and you should have some luck on rainbow trout and landlocked salmon.  I favor the Maynard’s Marvel or some combination of red-headed flies sporting white or purple wings.  The preponderance of salmon are running up to 19-20 inches, and close to three pounds. These fish, for the most part, constitute the two-year-old age class, stocked in the spring of 2012.  There are also a few three-year-olds in the catch.  Winnipesaukee is a fast-paced fishery, with fewer older fish found in the catch.

River fishing has picked up, with cooler night-time temps…Charlie reported some luck on nice rainbows recently fishing the larger rivers in New Hampshire.  The dog-days of summer are here, but not for long.  Get out and do some dusk-to-dark fishing for largemouth bass on any of our bass ponds in central New Hampshire.  Try Wicwas Lake and the Moultonboro end of Winnipesaukee and work the weed beds at dusk with top-water plugs.  The largemouth are feeding heavily right now after dark. – Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist


A friend of mine just emailed with a report of some great largemouth bass fishing in the Connecticut River over the past couple days.  Sounds like a number of 3+ lb bass were fooled by frogs, spinnerbaits, and shakey head presentations. 

Another friend spoke of a great time he recently had on Loon Pond (Hillsborough) while taking a 12-year-old neighbor fishing.  They started at 6:30 in the evening and fished till dark.  Due to a late Hex hatch, they used small topwater lures and had a blast.  Fish caught included some big yellow perch, 20-inch pickerel, and a number of largemouth and smallmouth bass.  The big fish of the day, caught by the youngster, was a 21-inch largemouth bass that went 5 lbs. 4 oz. on a digital scale.  Remember to try small topwater lures the next time you are fishing for warmwater species on your favorite waterbody when there is a good insect hatch.

I have been having some good largemouth bass outings as of late on local ponds.  My best trips have been in the early morning and late evening.  I too have been having success with topwater lures (frogs and poppers) and have caught good fishing using drop shot rigs, Carolina rigs, wacky rigged Senko type baits, and chatterbaits.  Bass have been spread out pretty well across a range of depths and the edges of stands of vegetation and fallen trees have been particularly productive. – Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist


American eels are arguably one of the least understood species that occupy the rivers, lakes, and ponds of the Merrimack River watershed.  In an effort to better understand the distribution and density of American eels in the Merrimack River basin, we’ve partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to learn more about this reclusive species. 

American Eels are catadromous, the species matures in fresh or brackish water and then returns to the ocean to spawn.  This is the opposite life cycle pattern observed with anadromous species such as Atlantic Salmon, American Shad, Blueback Herring and Alewives.  It is suspected that eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea (near the Bahamas).  They undergo several different morphological life stages throughout their lives.  Initially, the young are called “glass eels.”  They are translucent, having a willow leaf shape and utilize ocean currents to carry them to the coast United States.  This can take as long as a year. 

As the species reaches freshwater tributaries along the coast, their body shape changes to more of the traditional eel shape and they enter into the life stage known as “elvers.”  The goal of this life stage is for the species to ascend freshwater rivers and find a desirable larger river, lake, or pond to grow in.  The elver life stage can last up to three years before the species matures into the “yellow eel” stage.  Once a yellow eel, the species becomes a voracious predator of fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates.  They yellow eel life stage can last as long as 20 years, where lengths of the fish can reach close to five feet.  Eventually, the final maturation stage is reached when the species changes into the “silver eel” phase.  These mature adults then get the urge to try to make their way out of freshwater and return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

Our records indicate the presence of American eels as far upstream as Squam Lake.  We have used both eel pots (similar to a lobster pot) and electrofishing to get a sense for the distribution of American eels in the watershed.  We still need to better refine our sampling techniques to develop a more efficient way to capture them.  It would also be helpful if any anglers who have a location where they routinely catch eels in the Merrimack River watershed to report it to us. – Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist


The mackerel have been pretty quiet recently, with most of the action out by the Isles of Shoals. We are still waiting for the larger bluefish to come into our waters as well; most of the fish we are seeing are less than 12 inches, but there are some of those around in the river as well as the bay. Striped bass are still being reported down in the Hampton Harbor and the rivers flowing into it, among lots of baitfish. The more exciting news of late has been of larger fish.

A number of reports have come in recently of Mola mola or ocean sunfish. These fish are unmistakable, with an average adult size of 2,000 pounds! Their most distinguishing feature is their apparent lack of a caudal (tail) fin, which has been replaced by a “pseudo tail,” a short fleshy finlike structure that retains some of the characteristics of a fin but is not used in propulsion. The dorsal and anal fins are elongated and, as it swims near or at the surface, the dorsal fin may stick out above the water, resembling a shark fin. The sighting of a Mola mola is often mistaken for that of a shark, but can be distinguished by the movement of the dorsal fin, as sharks use their caudal fin for propulsion and the dorsal fin remains still. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist

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