N.H. Weekly Fishing Report - August 6, 2009

This week, fisheries biologist Gabe Gries tells the story of Forest Lake in Winchester, where anglers came together to solve an access problem, and are today once again able to enjoy a fantastic fishery.

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Community Action Brings Back Public Access at Forest Lake in Winchester
By Gabe Gries, Fisheries Biologist, Region 4/Keene

Forest Lake in Winchester is a beautiful 87-acre waterbody located in Southwestern NH, 7 miles from the Massachusetts border and 12 miles south of Keene. The lake has always been a very popular fishing location for local and out-of-state anglers and for anglers that stay at the Forest Lake Campground. A privately-owned boat launch allowed boaters access to the lake for decades until it was closed in 2004.

Prior to the boat ramp closure, the lake offered a wonderful two-story (cold and warmwater) fishery which was made up of largemouth bass, chain pickerel, brown trout and rainbow trout. With the boat ramp closure in 2004, trout stocking was discontinued, as the general public no longer had reasonable access to Forest Lake. The closure was followed by a huge outcry from local anglers, now unable to access one of their favorite trout and bass waters.

In an effort to regain public boat access to Forest Lake, the NH Fish and Game Department made attempts in 2005 to purchase a small parcel of land containing the existing boat ramp. Unfortunately, the purchase was never finalized and it looked as if public boat access to Forest Lake would remain a memory.

That all changed in 2009! Sue LaPoint, a local sportswoman, and President of the Mt. Pisgah Sportsmen's Club in Winchester, decided that local anglers had waited long enough. She began talking with the landowner, town officials, local businesses, and area residents in an attempt to have the Sportsmen's Club purchase the property surrounding the boat ramp. Sue worked tirelessly on this endeavor and was met with support and positive feedback from all she contacted.

After months of meetings, discussions and planning, the sub-division needed in order to purchase the property was approved by the NH Department of Environmental Services and the town of Winchester. Effective July 17, 2009, the Mt. Pisgah Sportsmen's Club became the proud new owners of the "Phillips/Conant Public Boat Ramp" on Forest Lake. Financial assistance with the purchase was also provided by a number of area businesses and individuals within the community.

"We couldn't have done this without the support of the community, the previous landowner (Margaret Conant), and various donors," said LaPoint.

On July 22, brown and rainbow trout were stocked again in the lake for the first time in five years! The NH Fish and Game Department will continue to offer the Club suggestions on parking location strategies and any advice they might need on boat ramp maintenance. The Forest Lake Improvement Association and the Winchester Conservation Commission are offering their support as well.

Area anglers are excited to once again be able to wet a line in Forest Lake. Sean Graves, a bass angler from Chesterfield, stopped by the office this week to make sure that the ramp had been re-opened. "I am thrilled that the Mt. Pisgah Sportsmen's Club is so supportive of local anglers. I can't wait to take my son fishing there," said Graves.

The Sportsmen's Club members, of which there are 70, hold fundraisers throughout the year in order to provide support to local youth and community organizations. Among other community activities, they host a "Christmas in the Park" event, an Easter Egg hunt, two youth fishing derbies, and a "learn to fly-fish" event each year.

When I talked with Sue LaPoint a few days ago, she was thrilled with the purchase. "We received overwhelming assistance, both financial and otherwise, to make this happen. This community always seems to come together to support projects like this," LaPoint said. "Happy fishing and safe boating," she added.

We hope you enjoy fishing this year in the Monadnock/Upper Valley Region and don't forget to take a kid fishing anytime you can. We are always happy to talk to you about fish and fishing so please contact us at Region 4 (603-352-9669; reg4@wildlife.nh.gov) if you have any questions. For a list of popular water bodies to fish for by species, please consult the Suggested Fishing Locations for the Monadnock Region/Southwest N.H (click here).

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