N.H. Weekly Fishing Report -- May 22, 2008

In today's report, marine biologist Kevin Sullivan reports from the New Hampshire seacoast, where groundfishing is hot and stripers are on their way....

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Groundfish galore
By Kevin Sullivan, Marine Biologist I

Holy cod, Batman!

As it does every year around this time, the groundfishing on New Hampshire's salty seacoast has really been heating up over the last few weeks.  The daily trips out to Jeffreys Ledge started out fairly slow this year, but since about May 1, the fishing has been pretty good for both Atlantic cod and haddock.  The haddock catches so far this year haven't been as impressive as the past few years, but we are only starting, and if the trend continues, we should be seeing near-record levels of recreational haddock catches from New Hampshire anglers in 2008. 

Also, New Hampshire Fish and Game staff have been out interviewing anglers and conducting at-sea sampling for the MRFSS survey since April 1, but only within the past week, the 'white-bellies' have been showing up near shore.  If you haven't heard from previous fishing reports, there is a brief two to three week period -- usually spanning the last two weeks of May and into the first week of June -- when the giant codfish seem to gather on muddy bottoms near shore (<10 miles, as opposed to 30!), generally due south of the Isles of Shoals.  You won't catch many smaller cod at these locations, but a 30-lb. codfish is common and a 60-lb. fish is not unheard of, and think of all that gas money you'll be saving.  To target the larger cod, I would recommend drifting and jigging a standard cod jig with a soft plastic teaser above.  On the slower days, a two-hook bottom rig tipped with clams or cut herring will work as well, but make sure you have enough weight to sink in the tide (no less than 16 ounces).  Current limits for Atlantic cod are ten fish per person with a minimum length of 24", for haddock there is no bag limit, but a minimum size of 19" is required.

A little closer to shore, the annual river herring run is in full stride, and that means the stripers are not far behind.  In fact, we have already heard reports of people landing striped bass below the dam in Newmarket.  The best method for landing these fish is pretty obvious to anyone standing on shore nearby: Mimic the herring!  My personal favorite for this is the Rapala Super Shad-Rap, a floating lure that is very effective when cast into a breaking school of herring and retrieved similar to a fresh water jerk-bait.  Another popular selection is a top-water popper, in which case the pattern isn't as important, but make sure you use a retrieve that quickly skips it across the surface, or the stripers won't give it a second look with all those herring breaking.  Anglers are limited to two striped bass per day, with a minimum length of 28", but only one of the two fish can be greater than 40". 

The NH Fish and Game Department's Marine Division is always looking for volunteers to participate in our Striped Bass Volunteer Angler Survey.  Participants are provided with logbooks to fill out information about each striper fishing trip they take and record length measurements of all the striped bass they catch.  Information collected from the survey is used in the annual coast-wide stock assessment for striped bass that is used for management.  In addition, each participant's name is entered into a year-end raffle for a framed limited-edition striped bass print that is donated to the Department by Coastal Conservation Association of New Hampshire.  If you would like to participate, please contact Kevin Sullivan at (603) 868-1095 or Kevin.sullivan@wildlife.nh.gov.

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