SPECIAL Winter-Edition Fishing Report from N.H. Fish and Game
February 12, 2003

Greetings, anglers! You are receiving this message because you are a subscriber to Fish and Game's "Friday Fishing Report," which will resume its regular weekly schedule in late March. It's been a long time since our last contact, but we hope you've all had a chance to see what's beneath the ice at your local fishing holes. The ice fishing in New Hampshire has been pretty good this year, so we're bringing you this special midseason report from Fish and Game's fisheries experts and fishing fanatics around the state. Enjoy the report, and enjoy the fishing out there on New Hampshire's beautiful frozen waterways....

Remember -- you can always buy your fishing license online at Fish and Game's web site, www.wildlife.state.nh.us. To unsubscribe from this list, or to join other Fish and Game lists, such as our new Wildlife Report, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Inside_FandG/join_mail_list.htm.

NOTE: There are a few spots left in our "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman" ice-fishing workshop on Saturday. You must register and pay by tomorrow, Thursday 2/13 -- call Lisa at 603-271-3128 for information.

The average temperature in Coos County during January 2003 was 6.5 degrees F. This may not sound like a statistic typically used to open a fishing report but, hey, let's talk ice fishing. Generally speaking, ice conditions are about as good as they get. There are always exceptions but one can expect more than a foot of hard ice on many lakes and ponds in northern New Hampshire. Although the cold weather has created favorable ice conditions, anglers have had to brave some pretty nasty weather. A bob-house or portable shanty may make the difference in how much effort you can spend on the ice this winter.

Trout stocking last fall involved a greater-than-normal amount of rainbow trout. Recent reports indicate that those rainbows are healthy, ready to feed, and compromise a large portion of this year's catch. The best method of catching them involves setting traps in shallow, sandy water. Place a small hook in light bait like a salmon egg or powerbait and place it right on the bottom, without any weight.

Good spots to try this method include Streeter Pond in Lisbon, Akers Pond in Errol and Martin Meadow Pond in Lancaster. Other winter fisheries to check out include lake trout in Big Diamond Pond in West Stewartstown or big northern pike in Jericho Lake in Berlin. Make sure to bring lots of bait, a camera and plenty of warm clothes. -- Andy Schafermeyer, Region 1

This ice-fishing season has seen a return to the old-fashioned winters of yesteryear; consistently and at times bitterly cold temperatures have produced excellent ice conditions throughout central New Hampshire. Numerous bobhouses have appeared on lakes Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Newfound, with most ice anglers in pursuit of lake and rainbow trout.

The recently held Meredith Rotary Derby, February 8th and 9th, saw some big pot-bellied cusk (4-8 lbs.) and gorgeous rainbow trout (3-5 lbs., including a 6.5-lb. beauty) brought in from Lake Winnipesaukee. For cusk, try large shiners or suckers on cusk lines (see Freshwater Fishing Digest) or jig with bucktails tipped with shiners, smelt or a piece of sucker meat. Rock and cobble areas, offshore reefs and large flats near deeper water are attractive to cusk, which are ferocious feeding machines in winter. Remember, cusk are nocturnal so most activity will be at dusk and into the night. For rainbows, bait tip-ups with salmon eggs, waxworms, powerbait, or small shiners or smelt along sandy, gravel shorelines in 2-5 feet of water. Dawn is the prime time.

A nearly 10-pound lake trout was the largest entered at the derby. Lake trout fishing has been fast and furious, with anglers taking advantage of adequate ice cover. Hard to believe, but many areas being fished were ice-free at this time last year. Lake Winnisquam has been turning out numbers of fish, along with Newfound, while average size is larger in Winnipesaukee. However, in most of our waters containing lake trout, there is always the chance to wrestle with a real monster of over 20 lbs. The first several hours of daylight is prime time for lakers; the same areas attractive to cusk often harbor lake trout. Try jigging on bottom in 20-40 feet of water with a bucktail jig tipped with a smelt, shiner or sucker meat. Remember -- when ice fishing, only single hooks may be used in conjunction with bait.

Some whopper white perch in the 2.5-lb. class, yellow perch in the 2-lb. range and chain pickerel up to about 5 lbs. from various lakes and ponds throughout the state were registered at the derby. Ice anglers have reported good catches of white perch in the southern end of Lake Winnisquam, and both white and yellow perch from Ossipee Lake. Lake Winnipesaukee continues to churn out huge white perch, but it is hit or miss. Look for whites on muck bottom flats in 15-30 feet of water; dusk is often prime time. Pickerel and yellow perch can be found in a variety of areas, ranging from old weedlines to deeper basin waters; both are primarily daytime feeders. Tip-ups baited with shiners will work fine; jigging with smaller lures and baits is often more effective and efficient for yellow perch.

When talking ice fishing, it would be remiss to not mention one of the most popular all-around species -- the black crappie. A few Lakes Region water bodies worth trying are Pemigewasset Lake, Lake Winnipesaukee (northern Moultonborough Bay), Pine River Pond and Balch Pond. Standard presentations like small shiners suspended on tip-ups can be effective, but when crappies get finicky, scale down to small jigs tipped with maggots or waxworms on ultra-light jig rods. Remember, crappies will suspend over deeper water and they are most active at dusk and into the evening, though they can be caught all day long in certain situations. -- Don Miller and John Viar, Region 2

As everywhere throughout New Hampshire, the Arctic Blast from Canada has also hit the coast. The Great Bay Estuary and tributaries currently have a good base of ice from which to set a bobhouse, shanty, ice shack or just a bucket to sit on to fish for those saltwater rainbow smelt which can reach a length of up to a foot long. Shantytowns are popping up around Great Bay, Oyster River and Squamscott River and, to a lesser extent, Lamprey River, Winnicut River, Depot Road and the Bellamy. The fishing shacks glow in the dark as fishermen hunch over fishing holes during an evening incoming tide.

The anadromous smelt run the gauntlet of fishing lines with seaworms dangling from those small hooks as they ride the tide into the rivers or the bay looking for feed. Fishermen have been successful in the Squamscott River in Exeter down through Newfields. The Oyster River in Durham as well as Great Bay in Newington and Greenland has produced some great catches although it can also be a spotty proposition. The Lamprey River in Newmarket or the Bellamy River in Dover hasn't had a lot of fishing activity this year to be able to determine the success rate.

Since the passing of Junior Sawyer, the Sawyer Farm at the confluence of the Lamprey and Great Bay has been closed to smelt fishing. The Sawyers' and Great Bay Retreat in Newington were at one time the only areas to rent shacks, obtain bait and equipment and kibitz about the fishing activity. If you don't have a shack to set up this year it can be a cold experience.

The daily limit is 10 liquid quarts of smelt with head and tail intact. Don't forget, you need a N.H. fishing license for smelt, even though this is saltwater fishing. If you plan to sell any portion of your catch, a Commercial Saltwater Fishing License is required; see the Fish and Game web site for details. -- Cheri Patterson, Region 3

First-time ice angler Marvin Laverture hooked this black crappie -- 16.25", 2 lbs. 5.4 oz. -- on February 1st in Weare. Photo by Gabe Gries.

Ice conditions are currently good in Southwestern N.H. Anglers are catching some nice black crappie, northern pike and walleye on the setbacks and coves of the Connecticut River from Walpole to Hinsdale. There are unconfirmed reports of a 27-pound pike caught recently in that area of the river! Fishing gear for pike should included tip-ups with plenty of line, large bait (alive or dead) and steel leaders. The trout fishing at Laurel Lake (Fitzwilliam) has been spotty, but when the fish are hitting, people aren't having a problem getting their limit. Wilson Pond (Keene) has been producing some large pike and bass as well as numerous yellow perch. Try Nubanusit Lake (Nelson) for big lake trout and some nice rainbows as well.

The annual Washington Ice Fishing Derby will be held on February 15th and 16th. Fish can be entered from any lake or pond in the town of Washington where ice fishing is legal (check the Freshwater Fishing Digest for legal waters). Please remember that entering black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) in an ice-fishing derby is illegal.

Fish and Game is currently conducting winter creel surveys on two lakes in Southwestern NH and two lakes in mid-central N.H. These surveys will assess angler opinions, effort and harvest of warmwater species (bass, black crappie, perch) and the results will help Fish and Game continue to make well-informed decisions when managing warmwater species.

Do everyone a favor and take a kid ice fishing this winter. -- Gabe Gries, Region 4

Ice fishing in the southeast part of the state means to many anglers, black crappie. Large fish continually come out of Pawtuckaway Lake, Nottingham and Massabesic Lake Auburn. And the state record crappie at 2 pounds 12.8 ounces came from Bellamy Reservoir, Dover. But don't overlook smaller waters including Spruce Pond, Lee. One does not need to travel far either, as good fishing often exists near large cities. For example Pine Island Pond and Crystal Lake, Manchester offer crappie, perch, largemouth bass and a variety of other species to winter anglers.

Although trout waters are less abundant in this region, several lakes -- including Pleasant Lake in Deerfield and Bow Lake in Strafford -- provide good ice fishing opportunities. -- Steve Wheeler, Headquarters

The New Hampshire Fishing Report will resume its weekly schedule in March. Stay tuned.

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