N.H. Weekly Fishing Report -- July 17, 2008

Today, marine biologist Kevin Sullivan brings news of a hot mackerel season, the start of big striper activity, and winter flounder to be had right in Rye Harbor.

FISH STOCKING is almost done for the season. CLICK HERE for most recent stocking chart, showing the 25 or so sites stocked the week of July 7.

Will you be spending time in Pittsburg this summer and fall? The Division of Parks and Recreation is looking for volunteers to conduct a Public Use Recreation Survey at certain locations in the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters during dates in July, August, September, October and November. Volunteers will staff a contact station at key access points and interview drivers with a series of prepared questions. If you would like to help out for a day or two, contact Johanna Lyons at 603-271-3556 or johanna.lyons@dred.state.nh.us.

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For past fishing reports and all your NH fishing info, click here to visit Fish and Game's fishing page.

Purchase your fishing license online (CLICK HERE!), or from any Fish and Game license agent.  Why not bring a new fishing buddy on your next trip! Don't forget -- kids under 16 fish free in N.H.

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

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Mack Attack!
By Kevin Sullivan, Marine Biologist, Region 3/Durham

      So, summer has finally arrived, and more importantly the highly sought after striped bass!  The late spring and early summer started off a little slow as far as landing stripers; however, this has been a banner year for Atlantic mackerel.  Mackerel arrive in New Hampshire waters every spring, ahead of both the striped bass and the bluefish, and are a major reason why the larger sport-fish migrate north: Food!

      The best parts about catching mackerel are: they are nearly effortless to land; and, when you're in a school, you'll have to stop because your cooler or live-well is full, not because they've stopped biting.  The best way to gear up for mackerel is a light freshwater rod spooled with 6-pound test.  Terminal tackle is usually a small 3/8 or 1/4-ounce diamond jig sometimes tied to the end of a "sabiki" rig -- although when the fish are thick like they've been this year, it may be easier to just use the diamond jig and pick one up at a time to avoid frustrating tangles.  Find the fish by looking for bird activity, or using your fish finder near coastal ledges/shoals, like the 2KR buoy at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor.  When you locate the fish, it's as easy as dropping your jig about 10 feet past the point where you can see it (usually 25 to 30 feet) and then jigging it quickly.  Also, on the light tackle, mackerel (a relative of the tuna) will give you a pretty good fight at times.

      Now that you've got the bait, where are the big fish?  Well, I'm getting reports that the big striped bass are being caught regularly on the rocky outcroppings off Hampton, Rye and Portsmouth.  Live-lining or ballooning live mackerel or pollock is extremely productive for this, and it seems the closer you can get to shore the better sometimes.  I recommend using circle hooks for live lining, because it greatly reduces the chances of "gut-hooking" the fish if you are planning on releasing it, and the shape of the hook also does a better job of keeping the bait from pulling its way off when swimming.  If you are targeting stripers from shore, I suggest trying lures to keep the excitement up.  Bucktail jigs and large swim baits are a great way to entice stripers around jetties into biting.  Some great jetties for shore fishing are accessed through Fort Stark in New Castle and the Odiorne State Park boat launch in Rye.  Another great spot to try at high tide is the rocky outcropping at Bloody Point in Newington, near the base of the General Sullivan Bridge

      Lastly, I want to plug my personal favorite New Hampshire fishery, winter flounder.  A good friend of mine recently took me out for a short 3 1/2 hour trip to target these delicious fish, and the weather was so bad we couldn't get out of Rye Harbor.  We watched as many other boats tried as well, only to return and haul out their boats a few minutes later.  However, little did they know that the fishing was good right there in the harbor.  We managed to land seven nice keeper winter flounder, the biggest of which was over 17 inches, and the remainder all 14-16 inches.  All were caught on light rods, using a spreader rig set up tipped with seaworms.  Other hot-spots for winter flounder are Great Boars Head in Hampton, the Hampton River, and Pepperell Cove in Portsmouth Harbor, and there are plenty to be had, so tight lines!  For more on winter flounder fishing, check out our article from NH Wildlife Journal magazine (PDF - click here). And, get a free issue if you subscribe by August 7! (Click here.)

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Want to know more about marine fisheries?  Check out our new Marine Resources web pages (click here).

Mark your calendars for a fun "Celebrate the Bay" weekend -- August 16-17, 2008 -- to celebrate the beauty and natural resources of the Great Bay Estuary. Events include a kayak race, lobster bake with humorist Tim Sample, and striper tournament, all to benefit the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and other organizations working together to protect the estuary.  Visit www.celebratethebay.com.

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