Walleye – Creel Survey for Connecticut River

Adam Dubriske and walleye
Adam Dubriske and 6.6-lb. walleye, his first!
 
Hunter Mayo and 5 lb walleye
Hunter Mayo caught this 5.1 lb walleye below Wilder Dam on the Connecticut River on March 14, 2009.

Survey results: Spring Walleye Angler Survey in the Southern New Hampshire Section of the Connecticut River, 2008-2009

Fisheries biologists will be on the Connecticut River this spring conducting a creel survey of walleye anglers. Biologists will be at Bellows Falls tailwater (Walpole, NH) and the Vernon Dam (Vernon, Vt) tailwater, where angling pressure is traditionally high. Surveys will be conducted on two weekdays and weekends starting in mid-March, and will continue through late April / early May in order to cover the majority of the walleye spawning run.

Objectives
The study is being conducted for several reasons. Our objectives are to:

  • Document spring walleye angler effort, catch and harvest rates in the Connecticut River tailrace fisheries below the Bellows Falls and Vernon Dams;
  • Evaluate the current walleye regulations;
  • Assess angler satisfaction with the current walleye regulations; and,
  • Learn more about walleye anglers on the Connecticut River, including opinions on walleye management and seasonal fishing efforts.
Regulations
The current walleye regulations on the Connecticut River include a daily limit of 4 fish, of which only 1 can be larger than 18 inches and no fish between 16 and 18 inches can be harvested. The new regulations were imposed to increase the size of walleyes, because previous walleye creel surveys documented an overabundance of shorter walleyes in the Connecticut River. By allowing anglers to harvest smaller length walleyes, it is hoped that younger age classes will be thinned out allowing the growth rate, and thus size, of the rest of the population to increase.

Fishing Report Updates
Check this page (below) for weekly updates of fishing conditions and success rates.

For information on the study, contact either Gabe Gries or Jason Carrier, N.H. Fish and Game Region 4, 15 Ash Brook Court, Keene, NH 03431; phone 603-352-9669; or email gabriel.gries@wildlife.nh.gov or jason.carrier@wildlife.nh.gov.

       

2009 N.H. Walleye Creel Survey Updates

April 26, 2009 - May 3, 2009 - Bellows Falls Dam and Vernon Dam
The Connecticut River 2009 walleye creel survey has now come to an end. River flows have been up and down the past week due to Trans Canada fluctuating water levels. Water temperatures have ranged from 53°F to 58°F. Friday evenings and weekends brought out the most anglers to the river. There has been a variety of fish biting this last week of the survey. We have recorded and anglers have reported to us brown, rainbow, and brook trout being caught, along with smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, and of course walleye being caught repeatedly this past week. The walleye bite has been best early mornings and late evenings. The spawn is coming to an end, but anglers are still catching males that are milting and some females still holding eggs. The males will hang around for a few weeks after the spawn is over, so the bite should continue for a while longer. One avid walleye angler who I interviewed a couple of times this season said that he catches walleye all summer below Bellows Falls Dam. He fishes the rocks where there is some current or an eddy and slow rolls his jig in the current. Many anglers will be seen trolling sections of the river for summer walleye. This walleye survey may be over, but the fishing season is still young, and there are many miles of the Connecticut River to be explored and many walleye to be sought after. Good luck, walleye anglers!  

Walleye at Vernon Dam
This 22" female walleye was caught below Vernon Dam on March 22, 2009.

April 25, 2009 - Bellows Falls Dam
It was a hot sunny day, and there were a lot of people out on the river enjoying the weather. Most of the anglers that were interviewed were not serious anglers and were not targeting walleye specifically; they were just out with family or friends and getting a line wet and hoping that anything would bite. The river flow was much higher than last week, and water temperature was 53°F. The afternoon bite was very slow; there were only two fish reported being caught, a 13-inch walleye and a 15-inch brown trout. The walleye anglers didn't arrive to the river until seven o'clock in the evening, and they proved that this was the time to be fishing for walleye. Three anglers caught five walleye in the hour that I observed them. They were just slow rolling white grubs on 1/8 oz. jig heads in an eddy over rocks.

April 23, 2009 - Bellows Falls Dam
It was a cool, windy, overcast morning with a water temperature of 47°F and river flows over 17,000 cfs. There was only one shore angler during the survey, and he did not have any luck targeting walleye. Two guys launched a boat toward the end of the survey and were fishing the mouth of the Cold River, but their success was unknown. It was a very quiet day at Bellows Falls.

April 22, 2009 - Vernon Dam
There were a couple of guys trout fishing when I first arrived and they caught a 10-inch brook trout. One angler was fishing for walleye when I arrived, but he wasn't having any luck and left shortly after. There was a steady rain for the last five hours of the survey. Two anglers showed up in the rain to try their luck at walleye from shore using jig heads tipped with a live shiner. They fished for an hour, got soaked and skunked. Water temperature was up to 50°F.

April 19, 2009 - Vernon Dam
Surprisingly, there were only a handful of shore anglers during this survey and no boat anglers; it was a beautiful day to be out on the river. The walleye bite probably has
something to do with it. There were no fish caught by the shore anglers during this survey. 

April 18, 2009 - Bellows Falls Dam
There were a lot of anglers on the river, both shore and boat, during the morning survey. The walleye bite has picked up. Numerous walleye were recorded from both shore and boat anglers. There were also quite a few rainbow trout being caught and a report of a northern pike. The river flows are down to around 15,000 cfs and water temperatures are warming up; 45°F this morning.

April 17, 2009 - Bellows Falls Dam
It was a warm, sunny, beautiful day with low river flow and a water temperature of 43°F. There were many anglers out and the walleye fishing started out slow, with only one fish reported being caught.  However, anglers were catching many non-target fish. There were a lot of brown trout being caught, a few rainbow trout, a few smallmouth bass, and one northern pike. The walleye action started to pick up just before dark, with a few smaller walleye (12-14 inches) being caught and released along with a gorgeous 23.5-inch female that was kept and two 14-inch males that were kept. Numerous anglers reported that the shore fishing the day before was unbelievable. One angler caught 15 walleye from shore, including two that were between 22 and 24 inches.

April 14, 2009 – Vernon Dam
The river flows are way down from last week, and water temps are warming up. By early afternoon the water temperature was 44°F. A couple of guys in a boat were interviewed and did not catch anything, but they were only there for an hour. There were a few shore anglers who fished during the survey, and they did not fish very long. The anglers that have been the most successful put in many hours of fishing on the river. Rumor has it that the bite should start to pick up.

April 12, 2009 – Bellows Falls Dam
It was a very cold and windy afternoon/evening with an air temperature high of 43°F and a low of 35°F. There were some die-hards fishing on this blustery Easter Sunday, most of them didn’t fish too long because the wind was unbearable and the fishing was very slow. I did observe a young man pull in a nice 16 inch brown trout while fishing with his younger sister and father. There was a report of two guys in a boat earlier in the day that came off the water with a limit of walleye. It seems that the anglers using boats have been more successful, it can take a lot of moving around to find where the fish are holding. The river flow was down to around 17,000 cfs with a water temperature of 41°F.

April 11, 2009 – Vernon Dam
With air temps starting out in the low 40s, it was a cool morning to fish, but there were a couple of anglers in a boat first thing this morning. They re-anchored multiple times but just couldn’t seem to find a spot where the walleye were holding or biting. Four shore anglers were observed and interviewed this morning but no one was catching anything. One angler reported that he was catching walleye up at Bellows Falls earlier in the week and he was going there after I talked to him. There was also a report that three anglers fishing in a boat on April 9th caught two walleye on the NH side below Vernon and one walleye at the mouth of the Ashuelot River. The river flow dropped significantly from mid-week and the water temperature was 41°F.

April 9, 2009 – Bellows Falls Dam
The weather was warm with no wind and clear skies. There wasn’t much angler activity, likely due to a weekday morning. Four anglers were interviewed and one rainbow trout was measured. Water temps ranged from 36°F in the morning to 42.5°F by the afternoon.

April 8, 2009 - Vernon Dam
There were no anglers observed fishing during the afternoon/evening survey. The river was very high and flowing around 50,000 cfs. Water temperature was 39°F.

April 4-5, 2009
At Bellows Falls on Saturday the flow
s were high at 47,500 cfs and the weather was cold, cloudy, and rainy. Water temperature was 39°F. There were only six anglers fishing during the time of the survey, and only one walleye was caught. The consensus from the anglers is the walleye fishing is going to slow down quite a bit over the next week or two. At Vernon Dam on Sunday, the flows were moderate compared to Bellows the day before. Surprisingly, there were only three anglers all afternoon and evening, considering the weather was nice with clear skies and temperatures in the middle to high 50s with a water temperature of 42°F. There were no fish caught during the survey.

April 3, 2009 – Vernon Dam
It was a perfect morning for fishing, overcast, a couple of very light showers on and off, and the air temperature was 54°F. The water was much lower than it was earlier in the week and the temperature was 41°F, a few degrees warmer than an angler reported a couple of days before. There were no anglers on the river until 10:00 a.m., when two boats launched with two anglers per boat. No shore anglers showed up the whole time. Both boats came in at 1:00 p.m. and had a successful 3 hours on the river. Two of the anglers caught four walleye, one was a chunky 22.5-inch female, and they reported missing three big walleye. The other two anglers caught three healthy-looking male walleyes. One of the anglers reported that Bellows Falls was pretty hot earlier in the week. You definitely have to pick your spots to launch a boat at Vernon, the beach area is very soft. One of the anglers almost got stuck pulling his boat out of the river; his boat was a little too heavy for the sight he chose to launch.

March 31, 2009 – Bellows Falls Dam
It was a clear, calm day with an air temperature of 52°F and a water temperature of 38°F. There was no boat activity this afternoon, just a handful of shore anglers. The flows were up to 44,000 cfs. Fishing was fairly slow, only four walleye were recorded being caught in the six hours of the survey. One was a nice 22-inch female walleye.

March 28, 2009 -- Bellows Falls Dam
Saturday was a beautiful day with a high temperature of 62°F. There were many people out enjoying the weather and fishing below the Bellows Falls Dam. The water temperature was 40°F and the flows went up 6,700 cfs (cubic feet per second) overnight from Friday to Saturday, bringing the flows to 24,300 cfs. The river was easily fished from shore and boats had no problem launching on the NH side in North Walpole. The fishing was very slow. The anglers that had the best luck were fishing by boat. We measured two fish from shore anglers, one was a 14 inch brown trout, and the other was a 19.5 inch female walleye. We had reports of people catching rainbows and browns. Anglers found it slow but were glad to be out enjoying the beautiful spring day.

March 28, 2009 -- Vernon Dam
Sunday was cold and rainy at the Vernon Dam.  There was one boat with two anglers fishing and we were unable to talk to them. No one fished from shore the whole time we were there. We had reports of the walleye biting well at Vernon the weekend before and through last week.

2008 UPDATES

walleye

April 20, 2008 - Bellows Falls Dam
It was still warm today, but unlike yesterday anglers were on the water.  The CT. River is still very high.  I saw one angler in a boat and six fishing from shore.  The NH side below the dam is not fishable from shore, but shore anglers can fish easily at the mouth of the Cold and Saxtons Rivers.  Shore anglers caught five walleye including one beautiful 24” female (see picture at left).  The boat angler reported catching a number of walleye which were all ripe females and one 19” female that had already spawned.  The water was 44 degrees F.  Expect fishing to pick up if the flows decrease.
 

April 19, 2008 - Vernon Dam 
It was in the 80s today and people were more interested in getting their feet wet and throwing sticks for their dogs than fishing.  Shore fishing right below the dam is difficult if not impossible to do high water; one couple came down and fished for 10 minutes but found the flows too high.  I did hear that anglers are still catching walleye at the mouth of the Ashuelot River. The water was 45 degrees F.  
 

April 12-13, 2008
As expected, the Bellows Falls boat ramp was completely submerged this past weekend. Brave boaters could have floated a boat between the trees to get out in the Connecticut River...and in fact they did.  One brave soul was out in his boat, but the New Hampshire shoreline by the boat ramp was deserted all day.  There were anglers fishing the mouth of the Saxtons River on the Vermont side and the mouth of the Cold River on the New Hampshire side.  The mouth of the Cold River was slightly warmer than the surrounding waters and some walleye took notice.  The mainstem of the Connecticut River was 41°F, while the mouth of the Cold River was 43°F.  During high flows, the mouth of Cold River is the most “angler-friendly” spot, offering places to cast from shore with minimal brush interferences. From Route 12, anglers can take the dirt road down to the Route 12 bridge.  This access is solid and the parking area has room for about 5 vehicles.

The water level below the Vernon Dam was unbelievably high. The water line was right up to the little access road and there was no beach to be seen. The back-current in the cove was ripping. Boaters fished below the dam for short periods and then motored downstream (usually to the mouth of the Ashuelot River) to find the walleye. There were a lot of people stopping in and checking the conditions, but it would be impossible to fish from shore, unless you want to catch trees and sticks. One guy stopped in took one cast, lost a lure then left. Yes, the conditions for shorebank fishing are very difficult.

We are hoping the flows drop so that the river becomes more fishable.  The weather forecast for the next week doesn’t show signs of rain so we may be in luck.

Rodney Chase and walleye
Rodney Chase landed a 24" walleye below Vernon Dam on the Connecticut River in mid-April 2008.  "The fishing was tough with all the flow in River, but I found a great spot and did well." 

April 9-10, 2008
We were at Vernon this Wednesday and at Bellows Falls on Thursday.  Wow, is the water high!  The fishing has picked up slightly at Bellows Falls, but access at the boat ramp is nearly non-existent.  Half of the parking lot is flooded and is expected to be completely flooded out this weekend if we get the rain as predicted.  Launching a boat at Bellows Falls would be very difficult, if not impossible.  Shore fishing at Bellows Falls is also difficult due to the water level now being 30’ past the treeline and brushline.  If you do want to fish by the boat ramp, I suggest hip boots so that you can walk to the treeline to cast out.  But be careful, if you walk too far out you will end up over your head!  Other locations you can try are at the mouths of the Saxtons River and Cold River.  You will be able to fish these two spots even during high flows.  Anglers have been successful at these locations over the past several days.
 

April 5-6, 2008
Bellows Falls was a little slow on Saturday, but we did witness a 17" male being caught.  Anglers reported that the fishing was pretty good last Tuesday while the water was still low.  With all the rain we got the river came up quite a bit and has remained high.  The discharge increased from 17,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) last Tuesday to over 30,000 CFS the following day and has remained at that level. This means the water is very turbid and high, increasing by about four feet in height since last Tuesday.  Fishing from shore at Bellows Falls is difficult during high water (click to see my tips in the new Commonly Asked Questions section below).  The rising waters covers bank vegetation, which then waits as a trap for your lure when you real it in.  Apparently, the rising waters shut the bite off.  Other anglers disagree, believing you just need to know where to go and how to fish for them.  This angler is keeping an angler diary of each fishing trip he makes.  Follow up conversations with him have revealed that the fish are indeed at Bellows Falls and are biting.  He knows the spots and the tec
hniques, having caught well over 30 walleye so far this spring from his boat.

brook trout

The water temperature is still hovering around 5-6°C at Bellows Falls and below Vernon Dam.  Bank fishing from Vernon has also been slow.  We are witnessing boat anglers experience higher catch rates than bank anglers.  Catch rates from boat anglers reveal the walleye "are in," but we are perplexed as to why the walleye are not showing up in the bank anglers' catch.  

Walleye anglers fishing the Connecticut River this spring may have another unexpected visitor.  While fishing a 1/4-oz. jig-tipped with a chartreuse grub, I landed a 17" brook trout at Bellows Falls (left).  This was a pleasant surprise.  Both Vermont and New Hampshire had not begun stocking trout when I caught this fish.  What's more surprising, the Connecticut River does not get stocked with brook trout.  Two tributaries that flow into the Connecticut River where I landed the brook trout do get stocked with brookies, but over 10 miles upstream in each case.  It appears this brookie did some swimming to get to this location on the Connecticut River and survived fishing pressure for a year.

Another angler fishing Vernon was surprised to land several carp -- all over 20 pounds -- last week while fishing for walleye.  Hey, you just never know what you may reel in!
 

walleye fishing
Walleye fishing below Vernon Dam, April 2008.

March 29-30, 2008
The walleye have arrived at Vernon. The few anglers here were well aware that the fish were in. These hardcore anglers have been pulling their boats 100 yards over the hard crust to the water. They proved me wrong. Boats can be launched...by hand. The snow was down just enough this weekend for one determined angler to plow through it with his truck to get his boat in. Two boats were pulling in walleye at a good clip, about one fish every half hour, while fishing on shore was slower.

The water temperature at Bellows Falls was a little colder than Vernon. We surveyed a few folks fishing from shore on Sunday, but the bite here was slow. Some anglers told us the walleye were biting last week. One gentleman said, "last week, Sunday and Monday they were hammering them right off of shore," while another angler did not agree. All in all, we didn't see anyone catch anything this Sunday afternoon. The rains and warm weather forecast for this week is expected to change all that.

March 22-23, 2008
There are no changes to report.

March 15-16, 2008
Walleye creel surveys this past weekend answered a few questions:

  • Is anyone fishing for walleyes yet at Vernon Dam and Bellows Falls? No
  • Is it possible to launch a boat yet from either location?  No, both launches have too much snow to get any boat in.  Vernon Dam boat launch has about 1 ½" of snow banked along the road and the Bellows Falls boat ramp has just under 1" of snow.
  • Are the river temperatures conducive to spawning?  Not yet.  Water temperatures are still pretty low.  Water temperature at Bellows Falls and Vernon Dam were 34F and 37F, respectively.  Spawning typically takes place when temperature reach at least 40F.  With the heavy snow pack, I would expect river water temperatures to stay cooler longer this spring, meaning the spawn may be delayed until the end of March. We have thus postponed our weekday sampling this week and will be back out this coming weekend.

 
Commonly Asked Questions - WALLEYE

Baitfish
For questions about Vermont baitfish rules, please see Vermont's Emergency Baitfish Rules at www.vtfishandwildlife.com/vhs.cfm (click here)

Where else can I fish for walleye in New Hampshire?
There are several other waters in the state that contain walleyes.  The Merrimack River (downstream from Franklin) and the Contoocook River (from Hillsboro to the Boscawen) contain self-sustaining walleye populations, as do Post Pond (Lyme), Lovell Lake (Wakefield), and Pleasant Lake (New London).  Pond and lake walleye populations in NH are minimal at best and do not provide a consistent fishery.

I live in NH and have a NH resident fishing license. Can I fish the Connecticut River from Vermont  bank?
Yes, if you are a New Hampshire resident with a valid NH fishing license you can fish the Connecticut River from the Vermont shoreline and up to the first bridge crossing on each tributary.

I live in Vermont and have a Vermont resident fishing license. Can I fish on the New Hampshire bank?
Yes, if you are a Vermont resident with a valid fishing license you can fish the Connecticut River from the New Hampshire shoreline and up to the first bridge crossing on each tributary.

What about anglers who neither live in New Hampshire nor Vermont?  Where can they fish? 
Anyone with a NH non-resident fishing license shall only take fish east of Vermont low-water mark on the Connecticut River.  Therefore, anyone with a VT non-resident fishing license can only take fish west of Vermont low-water mark on the Connecticut River.

Do the Connecticut River walleye regulations apply to walleyes I catch in either the Cold River or the Ashuelot River?
Yes and No.  The Connecticut River walleye regulations are valid in tributaries up to the first bridge crossing.  For the Cold River, anglers fishing upstream of the Route 12 bridge crossing must abide by the general fishing rules: "No closed season.  No person shall take walleye under 18 inches; the daily limit is 2 fish."  Anglers fishing downstream of the Route 12 bridge crossing must abide by the Connecticut River walleye regulations: "No closed season.  No person shall take walleye 16 to 18 inches; the daily limit is 4 fish, of which only 1 can be larger than 18 inches."

Things to consider
You will go through many lures while fishing below Bellows Falls.  Bring extra gear with you or you risk having a very short fishing trip.  It is very easy for shore anglers to lose jigs in the rocks.  If your jig is too heavy, it will sink within these rocks, leading to a snag every time.  If your jig is too light, it may travel downstream faster than the walleye care to chase.  When fishing above the boat ramp on the New Hampshire side, anglers will have brush and trees to contend with along the shore.  Wondering what other anglers are using for lures?  Just look in the trees. Some anglers wear bring knee boots and hip boots, walk in the river past some of the brush for easier casting and retrieving, and experience fewer snags.  Be careful if you do this during high water, though.  The Connecticut River is typically very murky and the bank has steep, mucky dropoffs.  One step too far out and you may be quickly over your head and into rushing waters.  When the water level is low, there is little need to wear rubber boots.  Anglers can then walk on the dry bank past most of the bush obstacles.


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