N.H. Weekly Fishing Report -- June 19, 2008

This week, a report from the North Country, where Fish and Game biologists and partners are hard at work trying to learn more about the movements of brook trout and smallmouth bass...and dodging raindrops to get in some late-spring fishing, too.

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Kids Fishing Photo Contest: Here's extra incentive to take your camera along when you fish with the youngsters this summer! Fish and Game is co-sponsoring a kids fishing photo contest with NH-based Kidz Rule USA magazine. A great snapshot of your under-age-13 child or grandchild with his or her catch could win the grand prize: a guided NH fishing trip, to be filmed for Fish and Game's MyOutdoors on MyTV! To enter, follow the instructions at www.kidzruleusa.com.

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Fish New Hampshire and relax... We have what you're looking for.

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A Day with Dianne: Monitoring the Movements of Eastern Brook Trout and Smallmouth Bass
By Shari Rosenberg, seasonal staff, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, and Dianne Timmins, coldwater project leader, Region 1/Lancaster

We've had nothing but rain in the North Country. Temperatures are increasing along with the rain and mugginess. Stocking is right on schedule, with remote ponds getting stocked this week. So break out your hiking gear and float tubes and hit the ponds. The hatches have been broken up slightly by the rain, but are squeezing in heavy when it stops. Also, there is nothing like fishing Cedar Pond in Milan and Martin Meadow after the rain. The surface is like glass and you can see the rises from across the pond.

Don't neglect the rivers, either. (The water levels have been fluctuating, so be careful.) If you hit it right, the salmon, rainbows and browns have been hitting all up and down the Androscoggin. Try a flying ant pattern or a small midge. The black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies have been the worst we've seen, but you never seem to notice when you have a 23" brown or rainbow trout on!

Although most of our readers probably go fishing as a way to relax, Dianne Timmins, Region I Fisheries Biologist for New Hampshire Fish and Game, goes fishing for an entirely different reason. Dianne is in her fourth year of an ongoing study to learn about the migration patterns and habitat overlap of eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Her latest addition to this study includes monitoring habitat overlap by smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) in the Magalloway and Diamond Rivers. To Dianne and her hard-working team of scientists, every trout or bass caught is a clue to how these fish behave and interact. After completing the study, they hope to understand brook trout behavior, habitat needs, and interspecies relationships in order to protect brook trout populations into the future.

According to Dianne, brook trout are in decline in their native range, which stretches from Maine to Georgia. The Diamond River is one of the few natural, large rivers that hosts wild brook trout. Unfortunately, smallmouth bass were illegally introduced into Lake Umbagog in the late 1980s, and have since spread throughout the region. The populations are monitored by placing radio transmitters in caught fish ("tagging" them) and then releasing them back into the river so they can be tracked over an extended period of time. By studying trout behavior in a natural river, she has learned how they behave without human interference (dams) in the waterway. This information can be used in designing better restoration projects within "closed systems" (where movement is restricted by structure, such as a dam) to create a better environment for fish to flourish.

So far, the study has made the surprising discovery that between breeding, feeding, and wintering, some of the brook trout migrated over fifty miles in this natural system! In 2005, the weather was hot and dry, and most of the tagged fish left the main rivers for cooler waters prior to spawning. The average distance traveled by the fish during this time was 3.98 miles. In 2006, the weather pattern was wet and cool with severe flooding. This group of tagged fish moved more in the summer (2.77 miles) than in autumn (0.99 miles). These same fish moved the most during the winter dispersal phase (3.33 miles). We used leftover tags in 2007 and were able to track the fish into October before the batteries in the tags died.

Unlike in 2005, the weather conditions for fish in 2007 were ideal: there was not a tremendous amount of rain, and air temperatures were relatively cool throughout the summer. The average seasonal migration distances calculated for the tagged fish in 2007 demonstrates this. The fish traveled much shorter distances than in previous years, and they stayed in the Diamond River system throughout spawning. The average distance in autumn was 0.44 miles, and we were able to observe and document spawning in the Diamond River system for the first time. The previous year's data was inconclusive in that respect. Nonetheless, the study was able to determine that there is still a viable population of trout in the Dead Diamond River. These findings are currently being used to show the need for connectivity for migrating trout in dam-controlled waterways.

So, when you see one of those flyers encouraging anglers to return tagged fish to the river, you can understand why it's so important that everyone helps out in the effort to better understand our natural environment. Although Dianne and her team are making tremendous progress in better understanding the fish populations in the area, ultimately, she relies on everyone who spends time on the water to help her make a difference. For more information, call Dianne Timmins at 603-788-3164. 

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