N.H. Weekly Fishing Report -- June 12, 2008

This week, fisheries biologist Ben Nugent reports on current fishing conditions and research goings-on.

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tiny fish tiny fish tiny fish

Fabulous Forage Makes Fish Fat and Finicky!
By Ben Nugent, fisheries biologist

With all the options for a successful fishing experience at this time of year, it is difficult to write about one particular waterbody or species.  Water temperatures are still cool enough for early morning and evening surface action for trout and salmon, and we're starting to see the post-spawn feed pick up for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. 

Recent fishing trips targeting smallmouth and/or largemouth bass -- including Northwood Lake, Umbagog Lake, and several smaller lakes in the central part of the state -- have resulted in respectful catch rates and some quality-sized fish.  Soft plastics, either Carolina or wacky rigged, fished with patience and tight to shore have been effective.   Topwater fishing continues to be effective throughout the day, but particularly when the sun begins to set or right at dawn.

The insect activity at this time of year can make fishing for trout and salmon slightly challenging.  With all the forage sources in the water, these fish can afford to be finicky.  Because of this, a slightly lower catch rate now may be compensated with larger fish in the near future.  One of the football-shaped rainbows I caught trolling Lake Winnisquam last weekend was filled to capacity with large flying ants, wasps and beetles.  

While many Atlantic salmon broodstock anglers are reporting multi-fish days, there should be ample fish remaining to provide a good chance of catching one.  Warming river temperatures mean limiting dry fly action to dusk and dawn and subsurface tactics for most of the day.  These fish may begin to nose into tributaries that enter the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers to find thermal refuge (cooler water).  Good days have been reported at Sewalls Falls, downstream of the Franklin Hydro facility, and the Coolidge Rd. section in Sanbornton. 

The field season is underway for many of the Fish and Game staff.  Here are some examples of what we're doing. 

wild brookie

The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture
Intensive efforts have begun to identify wild brook trout populations throughout New Hampshire as part of a multi-state agency, federal, and private organization partnership spanning from Georgia to Maine.  While there is plenty of qualitative and anecdotal information regarding brook trout presence in New Hampshire; volunteers, summer staff, and biologists will be electro-fishing streams to develop a more quantitative map of where wild brook trout exist.  This map will be combined with associated stream habitat features to predict fish species presence in areas where no sampling data exists.  Results of this map will be used to identify and prioritize conservation and restoration strategies.  More information about the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture can be found at www.easternbrooktrout.org.  

American Brook Lamprey Mapping Project
New Hampshire has around 65 native and nonnative fish species that utilize freshwater habitats for at least one point during their life stage.  While all fish are susceptible to impacts to their environment, there are some species that, for a variety of reasons, can be more sensitive to disturbance jeopardizing their future existence.  One fish species of concern we are actively surveying is the American Brook Lamprey.  This fish species has been documented in only the Oyster River Watershed (Barrington, Durham, Lee, and Madbury).  The rapid rate of development within this particular area of the state can lead to the degradation of habitat needed for the brook lamprey to continue to survive. 

American brook lamprey
American brook lamprey - adult phase

Unlike the sea lamprey, the American brook lamprey is small and non-parasitic, and spends its entire life in fresh water.  The brook lamprey has two distinct life stages.  This fish spends its juvenile (ammocete) stage burrowed in the stream substrate, filter feeding in way similar to a mussel or clam.  During the ammocete stage, the fish lacks eyes and teeth.  After 4 to 5 years the fish develops into an adult during the fall season.  Here, eyes and teeth are readily visible.  The species spends the winter in the stream not feeding.  During the following spring, the species uses its teeth to move small stones in order to construct a redd (nest) within slightly faster parts of the stream.  The species then spawns and dies shortly after. 

Aquatic impacts such as excessive sedimentation, barriers to migration (i.e. perched culverts), and the removal of riparian vegetation along streambanks threatens the future sustainability of the species.  In 2006, a watershed wide survey was initiated to identify specific locations of where the species is present.  We anticipate completion of the approximately 16-mile-long survey this year.  Locations where we have found the fish will be passed onto local planners, road designers, and conservation organizations.  We anticipate working with these groups to develop a watershed management plan that does not necessarily stop development but ensures that it occurs in a more environmentally conscious way. 


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