N.H. Weekly Fishing Report - August 13, 2009

This week, fisheries biologist John Viar offers ideas for anglers to beat the summer heat.

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Hot Days, Warm Waters, Cool Fishing
By John A. Viar, Fisheries Biologist, Region 2/New Hampton

In the stillness of a mid-summer's night, darkness has a way of magnifying even the slightest sound. A steady song of chirping crickets provides a chorus for the unmistakable jug-glum of a bullfrog. I can still hear the creak of my grandfather's oars, the echo of his voice across the water and time, and the "pouting" of feisty hornpout swinging into the boat.

A water and ear-shattering explosion somewhere to the right returns me to the present and reminds this is not a good time to be a small and unwary creature in the water. You stand a good chance of ending up in something else's belly.

As I heft another cast to the nearly invisible weed edge, a bat mistakes my fishing line for a meal. I can only imagine what it thinks of the large buzzbait whirring through the air. By starting my retrieve I add to the evening's concert ... a steady combination of hum, chirp, and gurgle ... one that will not go unnoticed for long.

Nightlife Is the Right Life

If the whine of jet skis and ever-present threat of being showered by water skiers is not your bag, check out the nightlife on a water body near you. Not only a great escape mechanism, night fishing is a superb way to catch some massive largemouth bass. Many bucketmouth behemoths revert to the night shift for feeding in the hot summer months, and recent warmth has finally escalated surface water temperatures well into the 70-degree F range in most waterbodies.

Also, lock-jawed daytime bass on heavily pressured waters, which see the same lures and presentations day after day, can become quite cooperative at night - even with the most "old school" presentations. Unlike daytime retrieves, in which an erratic motion can sometimes trigger bites, keep it fairly slow and steady and give them a chance to hone in. Also, use dark colored lures. Although this doesn't seem logical, the dark colors are actually easier to see because they create a distinct silhouette at night.

Constant noise- or vibration-producing lures are good choices, although large plastics also have their place. Try a buzzbait, large jitterbug, propbait, large in-line spinner, or a heavy "cowbell" spinnerbait with a single, over-sized Colorado or fluted blade. Cast parallel to weed edges and hold on -- bites are not subtle. Dark bottom, weedy areas near beaches are hot spots -- great ambush points as potential prey sticks out like a sore thumb over the sandy area. Another rule of thumb at night, if you think your bait/lure is already too big, go even bigger!

River Rendezvous

New Hampshire rivers are somewhat overlooked for bass and other warmwater-species fishing opportunities. Sure, the river-rat ranks have grown on hotspots of the Connecticut, Merrimack, and Nashua rivers. But it's still rare to find much company on stretches of these rivers, as well as smaller rivers such as the lower Pemigewasset (Bristol area), Winnipesaukee (Tilton/Franklin area), Blackwater (Salisbury/Webster area), Contoocook (Hopkinton/Concord area), Suncook (Pembroke/Allenstown area), and Salmon Falls rivers (East/Southeast of the Maine border), to name a few.

Hordes of smallmouth bass with pugnacious river attitudes will greet you in natural rock-riffle and pool areas or man-made structures, such as rip-rap banks. There are many weedy backwater areas in these systems and exploring with a canoe can put you into serious largemouth and scary pickerel (also northern pike in the Connecticut River, particularly early and late in the season), not to mention many species of panfish.

And typically, river fish do not seem quite as negatively affected by cold fronts and pressure changes as lake fish - as long as water levels stay consistent, you can count on rivers to produce. Low water levels certainly have not been an issue this year!

Coldwater Cure for a Hot Afternoon

Put on a pair of old sneakers and prepare to cool off. It's time to go stone hopping for one of our most abundant gems: the gorgeous wild brook trout in our headwater streams.

Long after the stocking runs have ended, wild brookies continue to flourish, largely forgotten, in their coldwater refuges. Many leftover stocked fish also congregate at the mouths of smaller tributaries or ascend them to escape the heat.

Some of the best little brooks don't even have names, but rest assured if you get out a map and look for the furthest upstream reaches of river systems in the White Mountains and points north, and water temperatures are below 65 degrees F, you will be in business. With a little homework, you will also be pleasantly surprised at many spots available in the southern tier of the state.

One cannot help but feel a sense of adventure hiking into and exploring these relatively wild areas (although don't be fooled, "remoteness" is a relative term and many times not even necessary!). When was the last time a human fished here - or was here period? In some spots, roll casting is possible with a fly, but in many an ultra-light spinning outfit with a small worm/spinner or hopping a fly on the surface with the end of the rod will supply a very nice trout breakfast, for those who wish to keep some of the catch (general regulations permit five trout per day; be sure to check the NH Freshwater Fishing Digest for river and stream special regulations).

Find a recently built beaver flowage on some of these streams and you are in for a real treat. This rich, more fertile habitat allows wild fish to grow much larger (up to 10-12 inches). Old beaver areas tend to be less productive, as silt and barriers can hamper the brookies' reproductive efforts.

The streams and brookies run small, but their magic is hard to beat, matched only by a youngster's expression when introduced to fishing in such environs.

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