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John Viar: (603) 744-5470
Don Miller: (603) 744-5470
March 28, 2007

Open-Water Fishing Starts April 1 for Lake Trout, Salmon

CONCORD, N.H. -- Enthusiastic anglers will be out in force this Sunday, April 1, for the true start of spring for sportsmen and women -- the launch of the open-water fishing season on landlocked salmon/lake trout-managed lakes.

While most New Hampshire lakes remain ice-covered, anglers will seek fish in open water near bridges and public docks and near the inlets and outlets of the 14 lakes 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, Lake Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lake. (Pleasant Lake in New London also is managed for landlocked salmon, but is classified as a trout pond, with a 2007 opening date of April 28.)

Central New Hampshire's gem, Lake Winnipesaukee, will offer exceptional opportunities for a shot at the "Big Lake's" famed landlocked salmon this year. During last year's busy opener on Winnipesaukee, anglers reported nice catches of anywhere from two to a dozen robust landlocked salmon in the 18-21 inch, 2.5-3.5 lbs. range, with several in the 4+ lbs. range.

"We don't mean to imply that everyone is successful on opening day, but this is a well-managed fishery and there are some exceptional salmon in the lake," says John Viar, a fisheries biologist for N.H. Fish and Game. "That's good news, whether you're planning to troll from a boat or fish from shore."

Thanks to a mid-winter cold snap, the big lakes will likely remain ice-covered until approximately mid-April or so. Shore anglers will be the first to take advantage of the season, as areas near piers/docks, inlets, and bridges will be open and ready to go on opening day. There will be some open water in Lake Opechee, which can be accessed off the point below Lakeport Dam, via canoe or small car-top boat. The Winnipesaukee River in Laconia, from Lakeport Dam to Lake Winnisquam at Dixon Point, can provide tremendous shore fishing opportunities for large salmon and rainbow trout.

The Merrymeeting River in Alton will often hold salmon throughout the winter (called "black salmon," these are landlocked salmon that spend the winter in streams instead of the lake) and may have rainbow trout seeking out spawning areas in the early spring. Although this stretch of river opened January 1, it is a time-honored tradition to venture there on April 1. Fly-fishing only, catch and release, barbless hooks only until June 16 are the rules for this section of the Merrymeeting River.

According to Viar, in the early spring, salmon are caught on everything from DB smelt spoons to traditional streamer flies (e.g., Maynard's Marvel), and an early season favorite, live smelt on sliding rigs. Typical for early season, most fish are caught from the surface to about 15 feet down, primarily trolling, with everything from planer board set-ups to simple monofilament flat lines 100-150 feet behind the boat. When the wind kicks in, drifting live smelt in the waves works well.

Don't be fooled into thinking a boat is needed to catch some nice spring salmon. Bill Foren of Warren, N.H., proved just how effective fishing from shore can be in early spring when he caught a 31 inch, 8.5 lb. landlocked salmon while fishing from the town docks at Meredith last April. This fish was taken on a live smelt.

Although it can be challenging to "pattern" the fish at this time of year, Viar recommends that finding warmer water (even a degree or two), windy shorelines, inside turns and bays, shallow flats near deeper water, tributary inlets, and pods of smelt (shallow this time of year as they are running shorelines and tributaries to spawn) are all keys to improving success. "Once you find them, keep working the area," Viar says. "You can go from no fish to a half dozen in less than an hour, once you find them and offer a convincing presentation."

Purchase your fishing license online at (click here for online license sales), or from any Fish and Game license agent. Annual resident fishing licenses are $35. Resident one-day licenses are available for just $10. You'll soon know why so many anglers eagerly await this annual rite of spring.

To reel in lots more information on fishing in New Hampshire, from depth maps to tackle tips, click here.

To sign up for the free weekly email New Hampshire Fishing Report, click here.

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