N.H. Weekly Fishing Report -- September 25, 2008

Well folks, this is it -- the final fishing report of 2008. The official arrival of fall doesn't mean fishing is over, though. Surf around this website for ideas on fall fishing in New Hampshire, and -- as fisheries biologist Gabe Gries suggests in today's report -- look up an old friend and plan a trip.

walleye
Jason Carrier, fisheries biotechnician, holds a 26" walleye sampled by Fish and Game this summer. Photo by Ben Nugent.

Also this week, we've got a saltwater fishing roundup from Chris Warner on the coast; Ben Nugent tempts fall anglers with a bunch of open waters to try in the southeast part of the state; and Mark Beauchesne offers many reasons for keeping your gear out and in use for at least a few more weeks.

Even if you are done fishing for now, you can always use these lengthening evenings to tie flies for next season, or start preparing your ice-fishing gear! Thanks for reading -- we'll see you again in spring of 2009.

Purchase your fishing license online (CLICK HERE!), or from any Fish and Game license agent.  Don't forget -- kids under 16 fish free in N.H.

Last call for entrants in the Kids Fishing Photo Contest, co-sponsored by Fish and Game and NH-based Kidz Rule USA magazine. A great snapshot of your child or grandchild (under age 13) 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! Enter by Sept. 30; instructions at www.kidzruleusa.com.

Go to the main FISHING page.

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The Rewards of Fishing with Old Friends
By Gabe Gries, Region 4 Fisheries Biologist, Monadnock/Upper Valley Region

As the summer weather starts to change to the usual autumn pattern, I often reflect upon the fishing trips I made with old and new friends during the past season (not that the open-water season is even close to being over).  A recent trip comes to mind immediately, both in terms of the time I have known these anglers as well as the fun we had and the fish we caught. 

I headed up to my Mom's house in Groveton over Labor Day weekend for the Lancaster Fair.  This is an annual event for me and my kids, and there's always a good chance that I will run into some friends from high school or the Region 1 NH Fish and Game office in Lancaster.  Most of the times these run-ins are a coincidence, but this time I was a man on a mission -- a fishing mission. 

A couple months ago, I caught up with my friend Victor Knight, a bass tournament angler with North Country BronzeBacks, and we decided to plan a fishing trip.  After reminiscing about basketball games and high school, we planned a Labor Day weekend bass trip on Forest Lake in Whitefield with a couple other members of his club, Gary Marshall and Shawn White.  I knew Gary from high school as well, and the plan was for Gary and Shawn to fish out of Shawn's boat and for Victor and me to fish out of his boat.  We would fish from about 6:00 to 11:30 a.m., then meet at the launch to compare notes on the day's catch.

A day on the water with someone you haven't fished with before is worth a year of reading fishing articles in magazines and watching fishing shows on TV.  Different tactics and lure and rod choices are analyzed and debated.  Fishing locations by season and species are discussed and stories of big fish that were lost are thrown about.  This day was no different as I showed Victor how effective drop-shotting in shallow water can be...and he showed me the value of throwing wacky-rigged Senkos in deep water.  I also had a chance to slow-roll big spinnerbaits in deep water for the first time with some great results.

Although Victor and I found abundant numbers of small bass in shallow water, larger fish eluded us until Victor turned on his fish finder and we headed towards deeper water.  He found a deeper section of the lake with aquatic vegetation on the bottom and we motored around until we found a small hump with some fish around it.  He threw out a buoy to mark the spot and we started casting Senkos and crankbaits.  Here were the larger bass we couldn't find in the shallows.  In between wind gusts, we could see small schools of young perch dimpling the surface showing us why the larger bass were here in such numbers. 

At the end of the day, both boats caught and released about 30 bass -- although thanks to Victor, our boat seemed to catch the larger fish of the day.  However, trips like this are not about who catches the biggest or most fish; they are about catching up with friends, having fun, and learning to be a better angler.  So, go look up one of your old fishing buddies and plan a fishing trip. You'll be glad you did.

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Seacoast Fall Fishing Roundup!
By Chris Warner, Biological Aide, Region 3/Durham

As summer begins to fade into fall, the summer fishing season has begun to blend (for many of us) into the fall NFL football season. However, after the debacle that was last week's Patriots-Dolphins game, many anglers may have developed more of an appreciation for Sunday fishing!

Fortunately, the late summer and early fall provide good opportunities to catch striped bass on their migration south into warmer waters. If you can get out to the beaches in Rye and Hampton after dark you may very well catch a few schoolies (some keepers, too!!!) while they forage for eels. For those who enjoy fishing with the sun still up, try your luck along the Piscataqua River.

If you are looking to get the boat out a few more times (before doing so will result in frostbite), the Piscataqua is a safe bet for stripers, while the Isles of Shoals is your destination for groundfish (haddock and cod). If gas prices have forced your boat to retire for the season, try hopping on one of the all-day party boats, as groundfishing can still provide a full cooler. This is especially true if you're partial to haddock -- they have been caught in large numbers this summer.

Don't forget that rainbow smelt season is right around the corner. (See pg. 20 of the NH Saltwater Fishing Digest for seasons and license requirements.) If you are anxious to get some fish in that empty freezer, head to New Hampshire's immediate coastline in late October and early November to catch the early arrivals. Anxious to get your shanties out on the ice?  It's about that time to begin praying to the ice gods for ice in early to mid-January. Here are a few final pointers on smelt fishing this winter. Where: Rye and Hampton Harbors before ice on; Great Bay and its tributaries after ice on. When: As early as late October before ice on, and up until ice off (usually the end of February into early March). Stick to fishing at or around high tide. How: Before ice on, long jigging poles with sea worms will suffice; through the ice, use small jigging rods with those same sea worms.

Well, that about sums it up for this year's fishing roundup. Don't forget that starting Jan. 1, 2009, you'll need to register with the new National Saltwater Angler Registry before you go fishing on the coast.  For details, check www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/mrip, and watch the Fish and Game website for info on how to register.

Best of luck fishing this fall and winter!

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Don't even THINK about stopping!
By Mark Beauchesne, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator

Just because this is the last report for the year, don't you even think about stopping fishing for the season.

Just last Friday I was up in Pittsburg, fishing the trophy stretch of the upper Connecticut River.  I was there with the winner of the "Who wants to be on My Outdoors?" contest. We had a blast! The fishing was outstanding, the fall caddisflies were just beginning to come off. From what my friend Angus Boezeman tells me, the next two weeks are the peak of this hatch.

Fishing the river in October in years past, I have experienced this hatch firsthand. But here is the best strategy for your visit up north: Go bird hunting in the morning. If you try to fish while the temperature is still below the freezing mark, you are going to have problems. You don't bird hunt? No problem, sleep in and then get a big North Country breakfast before hitting the water.

Although most trout ponds are closing for the season, you can still fish for trout in several lakes and ponds. Click HERE for a list of trout ponds with no closed season, and click HERE (9/18 fishing report) for fall stocking information.

The middle reaches of the Connecticut River will get some play from the crew over the next three weeks. With only one word to describe fishing for pike in the fall, I would have to say... Adrenaline!

The key to a successful fall pike fishing trip is the weather. Ideally, you need two or three days of clear, calm weather. You can bet the fish will be active. Even better if you can fish on the third day of nice weather and the fourth day looks to have a front of any kind coming.

Fall tactics for big New Hampshire pike can be confusing. One day they are crushing big minnow baits, the next they slowly follow a fly. Trying to figure out how to trigger fish into eating my offering is what keeps me coming back to the river. On the days when they are aggressive, I will stick with larger baits and mix in some big, slow-moving flies. On the slower days, downsizing is the key. My theory here is the pike may have eaten before you got to cast at them. Now this is fall, and the water temperature is optimal for pike. So even with a full belly, this vicious predator will readily eat a "snack." Think of it as dessert for the pike. Downsized baits are less than 5 inches, slower-moving spinner baits and soft plastic minnow baits.

Bass fishing is in the "fall bite." What does that mean? Ask three bass anglers and you will get four answers. The key to putting bass in the boat in the fall is to play very close attention to the water temperature. October temps should not dip below 50 degrees until the end of the month.

Mid-October is typically spinner bait time. This technique covers water fast, eliminating unproductive water. As long as the water temp is between 55 -65 degrees I will fish the available structure in depths from 1 to 15 feet. Watch for young-of-the-year baitfish like yellow perch; on calm fall days, you will see them dimpling the surface. A grub and jighead work around the school of baitfish is one of my more successful tactics. (Folks will talk about vertical jigging in the fall. That happens much later. Once the water temps dip below 50, then you can go jigging.)

Fall fishing is so special. Get out there enjoy the colors and the warmth of the fall sun.
Great fishing!!!
Mark

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Leaf peeping? Well sure, but only as a fringe benefit of fishing in southeast NH this fall...
By Ben Nugent, Fisheries Biologist

Although fall is at hand and winter is on the horizon, the southeastern part of the state still continues to have ample open-water fishing opportunities.  Be sure to take advantage of the area's foliage and fewer crowds during the dwindling days of 2008. 

TROUT

The last few days of angling for trout within the trout ponds in the southeast region of NH can be as productive as opening day.  Archery Pond (Allenstown), Barbadoes Pond (Dover/Madbury), Clough Pond (Loudon), Exeter Reservoir (Exeter), Hot Hole Pond (Concord/Loudon), Hoyt Pond (Madbury), and Lucas Pond (Northwood) all close on October 15.  Because water temperatures this time of year are suitable enough for trout to openly migrate to the shallows, heavier fishing gear intended to reach greater depths can be replaced with lighter tackle that can make the experience more enjoyable.  Try using fly rods with floating and slowly sinking tipped lines.  

Biological surveys are planned for some selected waterbodies managed as trout ponds to analyze survival, holdover capability, and growth rates.  These surveys will be used to adjust stocking rates with the attempt to improve the fishery.

Eight lakes and ponds within this part of the state will still remain open to the catching of brook, brown, and rainbow trout.  Beaver Lake (Derry), Bow Lake (Strafford), Canobie Lake (Windham), Big Island Pond (Derry), Massabesic Lake (Auburn/Manchester), Pleasant Lake (Deerfield), Tower Hill Pond (Auburn/Candia), and Willand Pond (Somersworth) will continue to be open for open water angling until the ice-fishing season begins.  The survivability of trout stocked as far back as April is expected to be better than normal this year because of cooler water temperatures and better forage biomass resulting from the high amount of precipitation we received this summer.  In order to enhance both fall and ice fishing experiences, Beaver Lake and Massabesic Lake are managed to be stocked annually in the fall with a supply of rainbow trout. 

Several rivers still remain open for fishing as well in this part of the state.  Biological surveys and angler reports indicate several trout are still present in these rivers.  The Cocheco, Exeter, Isinglass, Lamprey, Merrimack, Suncook, and Taylor rivers have no closed season.  Please be familiar with specific regulations regarding what equipment can be used, harvest limits, and which river sections have this open-season designation.  It should also be noted that over 800 Atlantic salmon broodstock averaging over 2.5 pounds are planned to be released soon into the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers.  Targeting these fish requires an additional permit.  Click here for more information about the Atlantic salmon broodstock program.

BASS AND PANFISH

As water temperatures drop, warmwater fish tend to seek out deeper basins within lakes and ponds.  They may also be drawn to shallow areas warmed by the sun.  These fish tend to become less aggressive in foraging and wait for feeding opportunities to be presented to them.  Typical summer subsurface lures that are retrieved slowly should be effective.  Since these predator fish cover less ground, try to be more thorough when fishing a particular piece of structure and aquatic vegetation stand.  Because these fish depend on caloric reserves to help survive winter conditions, fish caught during this time of year should be of optimal quality.   

Recent surveys and reports indicate the potential for memorable fishing opportunities at Pawtuckaway Lake (Nottingham) for largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, yellow and white perch; the Bellamy Reservoir (Madbury) for largemouth bass and black crappie; Turtle Pond (Concord) for largemouth bass and black crappie; the Merrimack River (Concord to MA border) for all warmwater species; and Big Island Pond (Derry) for largemouth and smallmouth bass.


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