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NH Fishing Report - January 19, 2018

Greetings anglers!

Welcome to a special "mid-January" edition of the New Hampshire Fishing Report.  Prior to last week’s brief warm-up, extended bitter cold weather has led to favorable early season ice conditions across the Granite State. Even so, never trust second-hand ice thickness information; ALWAYS check it yourself by punching some test holes as you move from shore to deeper water, especially early in the season.  Don’t forget that Saturday, January 20, is Free Fishing Day!  Be sure to invite a friend along and introduce them to the sport.  Check out the regional reports below and stay warm out there!

 

 

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Comerford Reservoir Smallmouth Bass

Yellow perch ready for the fry pan!

Photo by A. Schafermeyer.

Among ice fishing enthusiasts in the North Country, the extreme cold temperatures dominate the conversation. Even the most hard-core anglers struggle when it dips to 30°F below. After meeting the task of keeping oneself warm, it is challenging to keep gear working properly. Lines freeze, holes skim over, and touching anything metal, like an auger or skimmer, is downright painful. Despite these challenges, ice anglers are out and taking advantage of good ice conditions. Panfish, such as yellow perch, seem to be aggressive both early and late in the season, and they make a great meal at the end of a cold day.

 

Lake trout are also starting to get frisky, and I’ve heard good reports from Big Diamond Pond in Stewartstown. Anglers are also taking advantage of late-season stocking of brook and rainbow trout. South Pond in Stark and Martin Meadow Pond in Lancaster have been setting off a lot of tip-ups and promise to make for a great season on the ice.

-- Andy Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist

 

In the Lakes Region, with the exception of some warm spells, this winter has been an ice angler’s dream…a prolonged, bitter cold snap and multiple significant storms have contributed to fantastic early-ice conditions.  All of the large lakes have completely iced over, and substantial ice fishing activity is already occurring in major bays on Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, and Newfound. In fact, broad, windswept large-lake locations that have not completely frozen in recent years already harbor ice.  Ice can never be considered completely safe and due diligence is always required.  An ice chisel, safety picks, and floatation device should be standard equipment. Always plan ahead.

 

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A proud angler with his lake trout. Photo by J Viar.

Mixed-bag warmwater species options abound in the region, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, white perch, yellow perch, black crappie, pumpkinseed, and bluegill, in waters ranging from as small as a few acres to the abundant large-lake bays such as Moultonborough Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee.  Lake trout, rainbow trout, and cusk are already being caught in large-lake bays, and opportunities for these species will only increase as anglers are able to expand into areas that had been previously inaccessible in recent winters.

 

With the early ice available, don’t wait for the lake trout "bite"… it’s on now.  As many veteran ice anglers well know, early and late ice is typically best for cooperative lakers, as well as many other species.  The early-season lake trout bite has been outstanding at Winnipesaukee as well as Newfound, further aided by more widespread locational opportunities available given ice conditions.  Although the vast majority of lakers being caught are in the size range often referred to as school trout (~16-22 inches), light jigging tackle can really allow them to "strut their stuff."  Electronics and jigging are key, but tip-ups or the specialty "trap" of your choice (e.g., Jaw Jacker, Automatic Fisherman, etc.) baited with live smelt will also do the trick.

 

Jigging presentations are as varied as anglers themselves, with bucktail/cut sucker bait, spoons (plain or tipped with smelt), and plastics all having their time and place.  At Winnipesaukee, it can be difficult to find locations that don’tprovide at least a few lake trout prowling at early ice, but for more consistent results, look for structure near deeper water, as well as the inside turns of bays/mid-depths where smelt often tend to congregate at this time of year. Center Harbor, Wolfeboro, and Long Island are good areas to consider.  For those adept in electronics, smelt schools will quickly reveal themselves in prime locations.  For patient trophy hunters, consider that some of the largest individual lake trout sometimes prowl even the shallowest depths (although still typically adjacent to deeper water/drop off), while they seek larger prey items in the expanded winter thermal refuge.

 

Cusk are feeding heavily and will continue to do so as their spawning window approaches in February.  Both rocky structure and mid-depth flats are currently producing, particularly from dusk into the first several hours of darkness.  On Winnipesaukee, easily accessed Alton, Wolfeboro, Center Harbor, and Gilford Beach are producing solid catches of cusk right now, particularly given the early-ice window available this season.  Although not as heavily concentrated at early ice as when spawning, catches well into double digits can still be had as marauding cusk prowl in search of literally anything they can devour.  Cusk lines rigged with the largest shiners available, as well as jigging and tip-ups, will all produce cusk.  On the jig rod, pound bottom with heavy glow jigs tipped with shiner or cut bait, for maximum results. Learn more about how to cusk fish at www.fishnh.com/fishing/cusk-fishing.html.

 

For more specific recommendations and information, contact your regional Fisheries Biologist or local Conservation Officer, and check out www.fishnh.com/fishing /ice-fishing.html for a variety of helpful items -- including depth-contour maps and the NH Freshwater Fishing Digest of regulations.

 

In particular for ice fishing, keep in mind that on "general-regulation" waters, up to six ice fishing devices are allowed, and on lake trout-managed large lakes, which are all listed in the NH Freshwater Fishing Digest, only up to two ice fishing devices are allowed.

-- John Viar, Fisheries Biologist

 

In Southwestern New Hampshire, anglers are happy to finally be out on the ice. The frigid temperatures might have kept people inside, but they also helped form some decent ice! On some of the smaller lakes and ponds, such as Wilson Pond in Swanzey, Pearly Pond and Grassy Pond in Rindge, and Contoocook Lake in Jaffrey, anglers are catching plenty of bass, pickerel, and yellow perch using tip-ups with small to medium shiners.

 

The larger lakes such as Silver and Nubanusit are producing quality rainbow trout in lengths up to 18 inches. Anglers were using salmon eggs and shiners, with shiners seeming to be the preferred bait.

 

Anglers in the setbacks of the Connecticut River are catching bass and pike with shiners on their tip-ups, as well as various panfish when jigging. If you’re looking for a mixed bag spot, you could try Franklin Pierce Lake in Hillsborough, where you can hook into trout, bass, pickerel, pike, white perch, black crappie, and other pan fish. Also, Island Pond in Stoddard offers bass, pickerel, black crappie, and white perch.

-- Ed Motyka, Fisheries Biologist

 

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Black crappie from a southern NH pond. 

Photo by M. Beauchesne.

In Southeastern New Hampshire, a call to several bait shops in the region revealed that people are getting out and having some good success on area ponds and lakes.  Randy at Wildlife Sports Outfitters in Manchester mentioned both Massabesic and Little Massabesic lakes were producing good catches of bass, pickerel, and perch.  A few rainbow trout were being taken at Massabesic Lake.  Anglers at Beaver Lake in Derry and Robinson Pond in Hudson were also doing well on bass, perch, and pickerel.  Jason at Suds N’ Soda in Greenland noted good action for crappies and bluegills at several lakes including Bellamy Reservoir in Madbury,  Pawtuckaway Lake, and the Taylor River off Toll Farm Road.  Willand Pond in Dover is also a good bet for crappie and possibly some holdover rainbow trout.  Wayne at White Hunter Sports in Concord says some crappies are being taken at Turkey Pond, as well as Turtletown Pond in Concord.  He also reports that Manning Lake in Gilmanton gave up some 3-4 pound brookies during the early ice season, as well as a few rainbows from nearby Crystal Lake.  I counted 13 hard-sided bobhouses on Pleasant Lake in Deerfield the other day and saw a crowded parking lot the last couple of weekends.  Brown and rainbow trout as well as perch and bass are the main species anglers are after.

-- Scott Decker, Inland Fisheries Program Supervisor

 

 

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