CONTACT:
John Viar: (603) 744-5470
Don Miller: (603) 744-5470
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
March 25, 2009
     
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 2009 opening date of April 25.)

The following table provides a brief summary of netting results in four salmon lakes:

Lake

Number Processed

% Hook Wounds

Mean Length (inches)

Length Range

Mean Weight
(lbs.)

Weight Range

Big Squam

395

21

20.4 

16.2 – 25.5

3.1

1.3 – 6.4

Sunapee

279

26

20.1

16.5 – 25.2

3.1

1.4 – 5.3

Winnipesaukee

211

27

19.4

16.6 – 23.2

2.5

1.4 – 4.0

Merrymeeting

52

19

20.9

18.1 – 25.8

3.5

2.0 – 5.8

After a relatively strong winter, ice on the large lakes at the time of this writing (March 24) is still approximately 12-15 inches thick in places.   The big lakes will likely follow a "typical" ice out timeframe -- approximately mid-late April.  Currently, the water release at Lakeport dam is 635 cubic feet/second (cfs) and Lochmere dam (Silver Lake) is 925 cfs, both are excellent water flows in which to fish.  These flows should continue well into April, as the snowpack is still considerable. Angling 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.  Don't forget, N.H. Fish and Game's new boat access facility on the Winnipesaukee River in downtown Laconia will make it easy to access the open water found in Lake Winnisquam at the river mouth. 

Additionally, several popular Winnipesaukee shore fishing locations exist at the Merrymeeting River (fly-fishing-only, barbless, catch and release), and the mouth of the Merrymeeting River as it enters Alton Bay, downstream of the famous stone arch bridge.  Other good sites to visit include the 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.  At these locations, everything from smelt, shiners and worms under a slip bobber to small jigs will take salmon, as well as rainbows.  The Newfound River/Bristol (fly-fishing-only) may have salmon and rainbows that have overwintered in its many pools and runs.

Enjoy these early spring areas for salmon, knowing that soon those magical words will be heard, "ice-out!"  Be aware that as soon as you can push a canoe or small car-top boat into a small piece of open water, the action can often be the best of the season.  Early spring ice-out salmon are successfully caught by trolling with everything from spoons (such as DB Smelt, Sutton, Mooselook, Top Gun, and Smelt Gun) to traditional streamer flies (for example, Maynard's Marvel, Pumpkinhead, Mickey Finn, Joe's Smelt, and 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.

Purchase your fishing license online at www.fishnh.com, or from any Fish and Game license agent.  Annual 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.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's marine, fish and wildlife resources and their habitats.  Reel in lots more information on fishing in New Hampshire, from depth maps to tackle tips -- and download the 2009 N.H. Freshwater Fishing Digest -- at www.fishnh.com/Fishing/fishing.htm.

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