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NH Fishing Report - August 5, 2016

Take Me Fishing!Greetings, anglers!

Drought conditions have undoubtedly been impacting our rivers and streams and to some extent our lakes here in the Granite State.  We’ve had a few fish kills reported in some of the shallower ponds and some blue-green algae bloom too.  Stick to fishing the “twilight hours” and take a siesta during the heat of the day!  Good luck out there!


 

NORTH COUNTRY

We are midway through the summer and the 2016 fishing season. Water is warm but frequent thunderstorms have kept us from drying up completely. After driving up the Androscoggin River last week, I had to stop and scrape insect life off my windshield. It was a unique way to identify the hatch for sure, but I recognized some of the squashed specimens as alder flies. I had forgotten how long their antennae are and their dark brown bodies are easy to replicate with elk hair. I fished these dry flies with some success but found most fish below the surface. I landed rainbows and brook trout on a bead-headed “brown owl” fly. The Androscoggin River is a large, typical New England trout river and I made a note to myself to spend more time there in the fall.

 

anglerI also fished Moore Reservoir with an old friend recently. We were out in the middle of a bright, hot day and found things to be a little slow. Our goal was to find some pike early and start chasing smallmouth once the sun was straight overhead. We were able to locate a few pike along grassy shorelines but their strikes were more lethargic than they should be and we missed more than we caught. The bass that normally hang out on elevated (15 to 20 feet) rock piles did not show up on the fish finder but we got a few through blind luck.

 

This week will find me and several Fish and Game staff fishing the waters of Lake Umbagog for a four day trip. I hope to return with some insight and pictures. Stay tuned.

Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist


 

LAKES REGION

It’s that time of summer, when the thermocline starts to become well established at the classic +/- 35 foot depth range in many New Hampshire large lakes.  The end of July, August, and early September correspondingly signals the time for pelagic (open water) forage-fish surveys in Region 2 large lakes such as Winnipesaukee, Big Squam, and Newfound.  The tool for the job is the Forager, a converted, specifically-outfitted 22-foot Eastern lobster boat.  This management tool allows for pelagic forage (prey) fish population trends to be monitored, a key to helping maintain healthy large-lake salmonid (landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, and lake trout) populations.  Additional species such as smallmouth bass and the famous large-lakes “jumbo” white perch also depend upon these prey resources on a seasonal basis.

 

In summary, the survey vessel cruises along transect lines while a sophisticated hydro-acoustic unit (sonar/"fish-finder") counts the number and size of prey fish targets.  To verify species and sizes, a large trawl net designed to catch small prey fish is also deployed.  Young-of-the-year (YOY, first year of life) very small rainbow smelt (~1.5-2.5 inches, depending on exact time of summer) typically predominate the catch, along with some larger adult smelt, as well as YOY white and yellow perch - the latter particularly in warmer surface waters.  Thus, although experienced New Hampshire large-lake anglers know many different offerings can work in certain situations, they generally opt for smaller presentations from mid-late summer, to mimic these YOY forage fish.

 

The hydro-acoustic and trawl sampling is conducted at night, when smelt ascend into the thermocline to feed on zooplankton (tiny animals).  Most smelt hold near bottom during the brightest daylight hours, to help avoid predators - smelt obviously being “sitting ducks” higher in the water column.  Hence, along with the crepuscular (twilight active) nature of the salmonids, low-light periods are usually (but not always…) the best fishing times, particularly in the mid-late summer period.  At dawn, they're particularly voracious and ready to feed. The first traces of light allow for optimum feeding conditions, slashing upward into schools of smelt, which are just beginning to descend to the bottom, after their night of feeding.  It’s a relatively brief predator/prey “collision course” with which experienced large-lake anglers are well versed; this is why serious summer anglers will be set up and “ready to go” even before the break of dawn (but within legal hours).  Incidentally, YOY perch are also highly sought prey items, and salmonids will even forage outside of their preferred metabolic range for short periods, to consume these additional "groceries."

 

As the above work for nearly 25 years has demonstrated, and experienced anglers can attest, the thermocline depth in most New Hampshire large lakes during the mid-late summer period is remarkably similar year to year…30-40 feet has been etched into many downriggers, and lead core lines so often played out to 6-7-8 colors.  Slight variations will always come into play, but it’s tough to replace these starters when the boys of summer are playing at dawn.  Also consider deeper presentations later into morning can sometimes produce continued action, particularly for lake trout.

 

An important consideration, particularly given warm surface waters in the summer period, is careful handling/best release practices to help sustain quality large-lake fisheries.  Please take a moment to review and then practice the Salmon Anglers' Pledge, which is highly applicable to many species in addition to landlocked salmon.

- John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist


 

MONADNOCK/UPPER VALLEY

The other day a couple of anglers came in with what they hoped was a new state record channel catfish. They were unsure of the process to get the fish certified. It is a good idea to have a Trophy and Record Fish Application Form PDF Document printed out and accessible so you know what to do in case you catch that potential state record fish or even a trophy fish to enter into the Trophy Fish Program. I gave the anglers a form and informed them to get the fish weighed at a certified scale and then return to the office so I could verify it. They never showed up so I assume the fish didn’t break the current channel catfish state record of 12 lbs., 4.8 oz., 29.5 in. They said that the fish was 30 inches but I guess it wasn’t heavy enough. We still encourage entry into the Trophy Fish Program.

 

I’ve had a few reports of anglers doing well for channel catfish in the Connecticut River this summer. Several fish are being caught in the 6 to 10 pound range and are being caught shallow and deep. Many anglers have been targeting them at night but they are very catchable during the day as well. It sounds like crawlers have been fishing the best for some but it’s good to mix things up with stink baits or fresh cut bait.

- Jason Carrier, Regional Fisheries Biologist


 

SOUTHEAST NH/MERRIMACK VALLEY

Drought status has been classified as “Severe” in southern New Hampshire, according to the drought analysis method developed for the state by the University of New Hampshire.  Heat and lack of rainfall are the obvious reasons for drought, but winter snowpack also plays a role.  The snowpack influences groundwater recharge as it melts in the spring.  The mild winter of 2015/2016 resulted in very little snowfall, which has a delayed effect on groundwater levels throughout the state.  New Hampshire has limited groundwater storage, which makes what is available very important for maintaining summer water levels in local rivers, lakes, and ponds.

 

Low water levels often lead to stressful conditions for fish.  In smaller waterbodies with little circulation, water temperatures tend to increase as water levels drop, which tends to decrease oxygen concentration.  This issue is sometimes exacerbated by thunderstorms, which provide a sudden influx of nutrients from stormwater runoff.  This burst in nutrient levels can lead to dangerous algal and cyanobacteria blooms, which can be harmful to both people and fish.  We have begun to hear reports of small fish kills throughout the region.  This is not uncommon during periods of drought and hot weather. 

 

As an angler, the best way to avoid these areas is to fish in larger lakes and rivers with good water circulation.  Avoid small ponds or coves of larger lakes where the water remains relatively stagnant.  For a list of cyanobacteria warnings refer to the NHDES Beach Inspection Program Warning Map.  If you see suspicious looking algae, especially if it resembles greenish blue jellyfish-like blobs, then report it to the NHDES Beach Inspection Program - (603) 271-0698.  For more information on the drought classification system you can refer to the NHDES Drought Management Program website.

Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist


 

SEACOAST AREA

The striped bass catch is holding steady, with reports from Hampton Harbor to Little Bay. Many of these fish are just on the short side, but some anglers are bringing back fish in the 28 to 30 inch range, and even a few in the mid 30’s have been taken from the Piscataqua.  Live mackerel are still working well.  A number of summer flounder, also called fluke, have been incidentally caught by those seeking winter flounder.  Summer flounder are like winter flounder in that they are bottom dwelling flat-fish, however, these are easily identifiable by their large, toothed mouths.  Unlike winter flounder, these fish are aggressive predators and as luck would have it, the bucktail jig is an effective method for catching both summer flounder and striped bass.  "On the Water" has a detailed article on bucktail jigs explaining the different techniques that you can employ.

 

The season for Atlantic cod opened August 1. The season runs through September and the limit is 1 fish at 24 inches or greater.

- Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist

 

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