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John Viar: (603) 744-5470
Don Miller: (603) 744-5470
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
March 25, 2008
     

Opening Day for Landlocked Salmon/Lake Trout Fishing April 1

CONCORD, N.H. -- Enthusiastic anglers will be out in force on April 1 for the start of the open-water fishing season on landlocked salmon/lake trout-managed lakes -- the true start of spring for many New Hampshire anglers.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department manages 15 lakes 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, Winnisquam Lake, and Nubanusit Lake.  (Pleasant Lake in New London also is managed for landlocked salmon, but is classified as a trout pond, with a 2008 opening date of April 26.)

Results of Fish and Game biologists' fall 2007 trap netting surveys at Big Squam, Sunapee, and Winnipesaukee revealed some high-quality landlocked salmon available for the 2008 season.  In all three lakes, the "age-2" class (this season's "age-3" class - fish that are now three years old) was abundant and exceeded the 18-inch management goal by the end of the second growing season after stocking at about 5-7 inches.  The following table provides a brief summary of netting results in the three index lakes.

2007 Landlocked Salmon Fall Netting Results

Lake

Number Processed

% Hook Wounded

Average
Length (in)

Length
Range (in)

Average
Weight (lb)

Weight Range (lb)

Big Squam

327

17

18.4

13.8 – 26.5

2.2

0.8 – 5.7

Sunapee

204

13

19.8

14.1 – 28.3

3.0

0.9 – 7.7

Winnipesaukee

466

22

19.5

13.2 – 24.1

2.7

0.8 – 4.9

Although much of it is relatively weak "snow ice," more than 20 inches of ice remain on the large lakes at the time of this writing (March 21), so the big lakes will likely remain ice covered until at least "typical" ice out -- approximately mid-late April.  However, due to the heavy snow and rain this winter, water flow throughout the Winnipesaukee River system has been and still is high, with feet of snow left to melt in the Lakes Region.  Thus action for "drop-down" salmon (and rainbow trout) through the dams will be hot once again this season, with time-honored locations such as Lakeport Dam/Opechee Lake, the Winnipesaukee River through Laconia to Dixon Point at Lake Winnisquam, and Lochmere Dam at Silver Lake producing fish on the opener. 

Additionally, with the heavy current, runoff and help from dock aerators, classic Winnipesaukee shore fishing locations such as the Merrymeeting River and inlet area at Alton, Weirs Channel in Laconia, Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough, Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, Smith River inlet at Wolfeboro Bay, and Meredith and Center Harbor Town Docks will all provide pre-ice-out action.  At these locations, everything from smelt or shiners under a slip bobber to small jigs will take salmon, as well as rainbows.

Although it will seem miraculous after this snowy winter, the ice will eventually give way, and when it does, early spring ice-out salmon are successfully caught trolling with everything from spoons (e.g. DB Smelt, Sutton, Mooselook, Top Gun, Smelt Gun) to traditional streamer flies (e.g. Maynard's Marvel, Pumpkinhead, Mickey Finn, Joe's Smelt, the countless Grey Ghost variations), and an early season favorite, live smelt or shiners on sliding bait rigs.  Most early season fish are caught from the surface to about 15 feet down, with everything from planer board set-ups to the simplest of monofilament flat lines 50-150 feet behind the boat.  When the wind kicks in, drifting live smelt or shiners in the waves can be highly effective. 

Although it can be challenging to "pattern" lake fish at this time of year, finding warmer water (even a degree or two), windy shorelines, inside turns and bays, shallow flats near deeper water, tributary inlets, and of course smelt schools (shallow this time of year as they are running shorelines and tributaries to spawn) are all keys to improving success.  A previously unsuccessful effort can provide several fish in less than an hour, once you find them and offer a convincing presentation.

In order to ensure the future of high-quality landlocked salmon fisheries, anglers should take care when releasing salmon, as the percentage of hook-wounded fish continues to climb in all lakes (note the above table).  Hook wounded/scarred fish are significantly shorter and poorer in body condition than non-hook wounded counterparts of the same age.  Using rubber nets and proper release techniques (for example, don't "shake" fish off the hook) -- and releasing lightly hooked healthy salmon, while choosing to harvest previously hook-wounded fish - are some ways to minimize the negative effects of hook wounding, thereby increasing the number of trophy salmon available in the future.

Click here to purchase your fishing license online, or visit any Fish and Game license agent.  Annual N.H. resident fishing licenses are $35.  Resident one-day licenses are just $10. Annual nonresident fishing licenses are $53.  One-, three- and seven-day nonresident licenses are also available.  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 -- and download the 2008 N.H. Freshwater Fishing Digest, click here.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's marine, fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. 

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