Don Miller: (603) 744-5470
John Viar: (603) 744-5470
Jane Vachon (603) 271-3211
March 31, 2003

April 1 marks start of open-water season for landlocked salmon and lake trout

CONCORD, N.H. - Enthusiastic anglers have been waiting for what they consider the true start of spring -- April 1, which marks the beginning of the open-water season on lakes managed for landlocked salmon and lake trout.

6-lb. landlocked salmon at Winnipesaukee
For many anglers, early spring means one thing -- landlocked salmon! This 6-pound male was caught during fall netting operations at Lake Winnipesaukee. Photo by Don Miller

Devoted anglers will seek out fish in open water near bridges and public docks, and the inlets and outlets of the 14 lakes that New Hampshire Fish and Game manages for landlocked salmon: Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound Lake, Ossipee Lake, Big and Little Squam Lakes, Sunapee Lake, Pleasant Lake (classified as a trout pond with an opening date of the fourth Saturday in April), Lake Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lake.

In early spring, salmon feed heavily on spawning rainbow smelt congregated near tributary inlets. In Winnipesaukee, smelt usually spawn at the end of March and beginning of April. Due to near-shore aggregations of smelt, warming waters, and the influx of nutrients carried by tributary streams, salmon, lake and rainbow trout are attracted to shallow waters at this time of year.

"It's going to be a tremendous year for fishing on the big lakes," said Don Miller, Fish and Game's Large Lakes Fisheries Biologist. "The drought seems to be over -- we have plenty of water, and that means increased nutrients and food for the fish." Ice may be out a little later this year, but anglers can find plenty of opportunity to land a lunker in open water around town docks on Winnipesaukee, in Weirs Channel, and near bridge crossings, according to Miller.

The salmon season offers anglers some of the most exciting fishing in the state. At Lake Winnipesaukee, the average salmon will measure over 21 inches long and weigh in excess of four pounds; this is the highest average length/weight in the past ten years at Lake Winnipesaukee. Big Squam Lake will offer fast action for fish in the 18-inch and two-pound size range, with larger fish in the mix. Thanks to a healthy smelt population, Newfound Lake offers the chance at a trophy-size salmon and rainbows up to seven pounds.

Successful anglers generally fish for salmon using live bait -- smelt, shiners, and worms --and use a variety of methods, one of the most popular being trolling. Drifting live baits or suspending them under bobbers can also pay dividends for boat and shoreline anglers. You can use an assortment of lures to entice salmon, including stickbaits (Rapala, Rebel, Yo-Zuri), spoons (Mooselook, Flash King, Sutton, Top Gun) and miscellaneous flash lures (Super Duper, Harry Lure).

In tributaries and rivers like the Winnipesaukee, fly-fishermen often have success working weighted nymphs, such as olive or black Woolly Buggers, various bead-headed nymphs and heron flies. Other proven methods include fly-casting or trolling smelt-imitating streamer patterns, such as the Gray Ghost and its many variations, Nine-Three, Supervisor, Winnipesaukee Smelt and Maynard Marvel. Depending on flow rates, the Merrymeeting River can offer some excellent early-spring salmon and rainbow trout fishing. Upstream from the bridge in Alton, special regulations apply from January 1 to June 15, when it is restricted to fly-fishing and catch-and-release only, Miller noted.

During April, Fish and Game stocks approximately 2,000 brood-stock Atlantic salmon averaging 6 pounds each into the Merrimack and lower Pemigewasset Rivers, the only program of its kind in the country. To target these fish, anglers need a special $10 permit, which comes with five possession tags, in addition to a regular fishing license. The fees help support the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, a partnership of N.H. Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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