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January 20, 2015

JAN. 22 UPDATE: This just in from Maine Fish and Wildlife Biologist Tim Obrey about the Moosehead Lake Togue Derby slated for this weekend, January 23–15:

"We’ve had quite a few inquiries about ice/travel conditions for the upcoming Moosehead Lake Togue Derby, so I just wanted to send out a quick note. The snowmobile trails have been marked in Rockwood and folks are crossing from Rockwood to Kineo and people were out and about fishing this past weekend. Anglers should always exercise caution in the usual bad spots like the mouth of the Moose River and the deep water areas. Always check the ice thickness if you’re not sure. The rain on Sunday really “deflated” our snow. It is mostly glare ice on the lake, so be prepared with ice creepers".

"The weather forecast looks great for this weekend with temps in the 20s and very little wind! Last year (and it seems like every year) we had strong biting winds from the north. Not this year. So things are shaping up well. I hope to see some of you at the weigh in station."

  Recent rain and warm weather didn’t put that much of a crimp in either the ice conditions or the enthusiasm of the people out there doing it! Although the tidal smelt fishing seems to have picked up a bit on the Maine’s mid-coastal region, it’s still doubtful if New Hampshire’s Great Bay has any amount of smelt run, with only rumors to go on right now.
   Scott Round at Kittery Trading Post’s Fishing Department reports that the ice is growing nicely; most reports are 6”–10” locally. “We haven’t heard yet how much of an impact the recent warm rain has had. It’s a good chance that the freshwater lakes and ponds have held up well but it’s a good idea to be careful around the edges and especially observant of areas near flowing water.”

   “Many people have been heading north to the Connecticut Lakes Region and are doing well on the lake trout, especially on the First Connecticut Lake where later on in the season there should be some big cusk taken as well.”

    “Locally, Mousam and Great East are fishing well for bass & perch with PK lures working well. Both of these lakes can produce some big brown trout, with Great East also having a good population of rainbow trout and if you can find them in the back coves, some outstanding crappie. Occasionally, Mousam Lake will give up a big brook trout, no doubt retired hatchery brood stock.

   Smelt fishing up north (Dresden area) picking up…already seems better than last year! Nothing yet to speak of in Great Bay area but there is fishable ice and some rumors of a few smelt being caught at the Squamscott River in Stratham.

   One of our fishing department’s avid ice-anglers fished New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee and found some nice hard ice (eight inches) but that seemed to be all he found, although there has been some lake trout, white perch and in the coves on the eastern end, a few crappie and yellow perch. Winni seems a little slow right now, nice hard ice—just not a lot of fish yet.”

   “Pleasant Lake in Deerfield, NH was decent this week. One of our associates fished it recently for trout and from 9am to 2pm only had five flags go off. He said there was ten inches of ice and he caught two rainbow and three brown trout. He had set his lines in 18 inches of water.”

   “Pleasant Lake is one of New Hampshire Fish and Game’s prized projects. It has a large parking lot with a boat landing/lake access as part of the project and also features a portable toilet. It is quite heavily fished but seems to be able to support this kind of fishing pressure as the trout stocking is quite generous there.”

   “Bow Lake in Strafford, NH produced a variety last week, (trout, yellow & white perch) all in very shallow water. The majority of trout caught there are rainbows but there have been several stockings of brown trout over the years. The pond also used to be stocked with lake trout and landlocked salmon but they didn’t thrive there. Note that parking is limited with the access being off the town roads.”

   MAINE: Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman reports: “Mild weather has caused more anglers to get out over the weekend. One night of rain didn’t hinder anglers other than to create slick ice conditions. As for the catching, Little Ossipee in Waterboro has once again turned into a shanty town and early morning anglers are finding a mix of brook trout and salmon right close to the Route 5 shoreline. A couple of anglers with a shack in the narrows report small brookies and a few 2-pound smallmouths.”

   “In the back country, at Rock Haven Pond in Newfield, anglers are enjoying watching tip-ups right from the warmth of the pickup. Brook trout are feeding just a few yards from the beach. At the far end of the pond and in the deeper waters of the narrows, bass anglers are finding fish in the 2-pound range. One underwater hump is offering brook trout and one lucky angler showed off a 2-pounder. He was jigging a small Kastmaster tipped with a garden worm.”

   “Crappie anglers are hard at work on Shaker Pond in Alfred with most of the catch being under a pound, but double digit numbers for a mornings effort.

   Lake Arrowhead in Waterboro is giving up crappie (over-a-pound) to anglers fishing the stumps and underwater brush piles in the shallow bays alongside New Dam Road.

    “We saw anglers fly casting for browns in the Stevens River in Wells, and the Ogunquit River but we had no way to communicate.”

   Peter at Saco Bay Bait and Tackle wanted us to note that they had a self-service live bait tank outside the shop for 24 hour purchase of live shiners. He noted that some of the smaller local ponds had been producing some good brook trout fishing.

   “Trickey and Otter Ponds seem to be two of the better ones. Barker Pond also has been producing some brook trout action with small (tiny) Swedish Pimple jigs providing most of the action.”

   “Some pretty good landlocked salmon have been caught at Little Ossipee Lake but you’d better be there well before sunrise in the morning as that’s the only time that these fish have been biting.”

   “Earlier in the year we had some very good fishing for sea run brown trout. It’s slowed down considerably now, but during a nice warm day there’s probably a good chance of hooking onto one.”

   Pete also mentioned that he thought that the mid-coast ice fishing for smelt had started a lot better than last year with both James Eddy Camps and River Bend Camps reporting catches in the 20 to 50 fish.

   We were happy to find Dave Garcia at his shop on Long Lake in the Sebago Lake Region. “We’ve had some surprises so far this ice fishing season, one of which was an eight pound lake trout caught here. We’ve heard that they’d stocked some big brood-lake trout but also these fish can move in and out of Long Lake as it is part of the Sebago Lake watershed. There have also been quite a few nice brookies being caught here, as well as more than usual activity with the landlocked salmon. Our salmon don’t grow as big as the Sebago fish but they do provide some good sport and can be up into the 19–20 inch range, though most are a bit shy of that size.”

   “We do have some real quality brown trout here in Long Lake. It’s not unusual to catch fish in the four to six pound range and they are fat and beautiful. Live smelt or shiners fished just under the ice work for the salmon while it pays to set some lines deeper if you’re after brown trout. Other ponds in the region producing some good brook trout action are Bear, Keoka, Thomas, and Trickey.”

   “We also have a never-ending school of white perch that we’ve found are best fished for with small worms or grubs fished right off bottom, but you’d be best to also try some lines at other depths until a pattern forms.”

   Dave’s son Tyson, who would much rather be chasing big northern pike on some of Sebago Lakes sheltered coves (where he also catches some big crappie), than behind the counter at the shop (so we seldom get to speak to him), has told us that it’s patience and big baits for the pike, and that they are kind of scarce in Sebago and only in a few specific coves. He likes Turtle Cove best but has found them in other sheltered places such as Muddy River.

   Greg Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago reports that his son Jim kept calling him on the cell phone with stories of catching lake trout after lake trout, while on the ice south of the store fishing the Lower Bay away from the big group of anglers there.

   “He knows how much I love jigging those togue and he just couldn’t help rubbing it in every time he hooked one. As usual, he was using the bucktail stinger (chartreuse and white bucktail) jigs that we have custom made for us by Alan Nute at AJ’s in Meredith, New Hampshire. Jim was using some cut sucker bait on his jig.”

   “Most of the fish he was catching were in the 23–33 inch slot limit and were all spitting up small alewives when out on the ice. His total catch for the day was 16 fish. There is no limit for the lake trout in the slot limit and you can only keep one fish over 33 inches.”

   “The best ice fishing for quality brown trout in our area has been Hancock Pond. One really nice one was brought in here for weighing that was just under two feet and was fat as a pig!”

   NEW HAMPSHIRE: Jason MacKenzie at Suds-n-Soda Sports reports that he’s not being a favorite among some of the Great Bay smelt fishing crowd who have asked him to carry sea worms for the use of only a handful of anglers who are not catching any or many smelt.

   “They just can’t understand our predicament. Last year with hardly any smelt being caught, we had to dispose of over a thousand dollars worth of sea worms, in spite of taking our usual precautions and keeping them at the right temperature for survival. They just don’t realize that shipping is very, very expensive for getting those worms here from Down East Maine, as they have to be transported by special friend carriers to prevent freezing on route. And if you are only handling a flat or two of worms, we just can’t possibly charge enough for the sale of a dozen of these worms to even take care of the cost of transportation, never mind the cost of the worms.”

   “There are alternative baits that are effective, as some of the old timers often didn’t even use seaworms. Bits of shrimp work well. Small slices of mackerel will catch sea run smelt and plain old garden worms will also work. Actually, the shrimp or mackerel should work just as good as seaworms, but it’s hard to get those died-in-the-wool seaworm users to understand and go to a substitute, and then blame their lack of catching smelt on not using sea worms!”

   “This is a battle we just can’t win, as much as we’d love to take care of our long time customers”

   New Hampshire Master Guide Tim Moore has access to a lot of fishing conditions and success in both southern New Hampshire and the Lakes Region. Here’s his report: “Well, another weekend spent at a sportsman show has inhibited the amount of time I have fished. The Yankee Sportsman Classic show in Vermont was the last show of the season for me. It’s all ice fishing all the time now. I do know that ice-in on Lake Winnipesaukee was declared on Saturday. While the entire lake (or most of it) might be covered with ice, anglers need to proceed with extreme caution. Anyone who knows Winni knows that she forms ice very inconsistently. Some areas might have as much as a foot of ice while others will only have a few inches. I begin guiding ice fishing clients on the big lake later this week so I will have regular reports on fishing and ice conditions from here on in.”
   “The word is that Pleasant Lake in Deerfield is still producing some nice rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Look for the majority of trout ponds with no closed season to begin slowing down as more and more anglers catch their limit of stocked trout. I have a first-hand report that there was 10” of ice before the warm spell early this week so it should have held up just fine. The area near the boat ramp is still the go-to area for trout as well as the northwest shoreline headed into the cove.”

   “Willand Pond in Somersworth has more than eight inches of ice and has been producing decent numbers of rainbows as well as largemouth bass and black crappie. The boat launch area seems to be the preferred spot for rainbows while the deeper back section produces the best crappie fishing.”

   The fishing department staff at Dover Marine Sports almost always mentions Willand Pond, which is a spring-fed pond that is in sight of their location.

    “This pond is some kind of a miracle. The fishing pressure there is intense, especially during the ice-fishing season, and it seems that the place must be wall-to-wall fish. Rainbow trout, with sometimes fish over ten pounds being caught! Lots and lots of stocked brookies, plenty of crappie and yellow perch and both small and largemouth bass! It’s just hard to believe, as this place is virtually in the City of Dover with a main highway going right past it!”

   “Lots of our live bait customers also ascend on the Bellamy Reservoir in nearby Madbury. This is another place that gets intensive fishing pressure but is a big and sprawling piece of water, unlike tiny Willand Pond. Crappie are usually the target ice-fish there but there are a variety of fish there including pickerel, white perch and some huge sun fish.”

   “Some of the regulars there have found a knack for catching some of those big sunfish by fishing open holes that are not being used, dropping a small worm tipped jig right to the bottom, with the likely result picking up one or two fish before moving to another open hole. They cover lots of ground and never fish a hole more than a couple of minutes if they don’t get an immediate bite.”

   Alan Nute at AJ’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith on Lake Winnipesaukee reports that there’s six to nine inches of solid ice in his area but he’s not that confident about the ice out in the middle section of the lake, called “the Broads.”

   “It takes someone, kind of a pioneer, to put the first ice shack out there and until that happens most people know enough not to venture out there. The reason is that the wind and pressure from ice being formed creates big fissures that open up and close called pressure ridges. These have been the downfall of too many snowmobile riders and also those that have put pickup trucks onto that kind of ice. So our advice is to stay off those areas.”

    “We’d have to say that our lake trout fishing has been excellent, proven by the fact that I was able to catch a nice nine-pounder the one and only time we’ve had to get out on the ice. This fish was quite skinny for its length and when we examined it there was a coil of braided line that had wrapped around the body just at the tail and was embedded right into the fish’s flesh. So that probably was the reason why the fish didn’t weigh more, as a fish that long should have been over ten pounds. But there have been quite a few other lakers around that size that also have been caught. One of my AJ’s Bucktail Jigs in chartreuse and white tipped with sucker meat was that fish’s downfall.”

   “Not much news, actually no news, about white perch being caught and we’re quite worried that recent control actions (spraying) of weed beds in some of the shallow coves where white perch historically spawn may have had a disastrous effect on the lakes white perch population. We hope this isn’t the case, as our white perch fishery has been the envy of lots of other lakes.”

   “Actually, the best news for crappie and white perch has been coming from nearby Winowna Lake. This lake is also stocked with rainbow and brook trout so you can have your choice of what you want to catch, depending on how you fish.”

   “We haven’t heard or seen much about our nice population of rainbow trout here on Winni but that’s usually a later-in-the-year proposition when the rainbows move into the shallows around some of their spawning streams.”   

   Because of the inherent time restrictions of gathering fresh, up-to-date information, editing and producing this report in a timely manner, occasional errors or marginal information may slip by us. We try our hardest to provide accurate information. We urge readers to use this report as a tool to increase their fishing pleasure and not to rely on as their sole resource. First or second hand information is offered by fishing guides, commercial fishing charters or party boats, bait and tackle dealers, well known successful anglers and state and federal fisheries and natural resource law enforcement officials. We also welcome and use reports forwarded to us by fishermen that use this report.

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