April 15, 2014April 15 doesn’t have to mean a rush to the post office to send in your income tax returns. There’s a better use of this day. Get out and check on your favorite fishing place to see if the ice has gone out and make sure you bring your gear with you. If you are living in some of the more northern areas that have plenty of fishable ice cover, a warm April day out on the ice makes for great memories and almost always, the last days of the ice fishing season have the fish going on a feeding spree!
“This is the month that trolling for landlocked salmon and lake trout can become very complicated, depending on weather, water temperatures and wind directions,” noted Seth Legere at Kittery Trading Post’s fishing department.
“Given that the ice has finally cleared from the waters you are fishing, you need to know just how deep to fish, over what depth water and what shorelines to favor. And how much sunlight is on the water on a given day also has a direct effect on your choices of the above, believe it or not.”
“If you think that fishing on the north side of a lake is not the best thing to do, as north has an unsaid meaning of “cold”, you are absolutely wrong. With the prevailing April winds mostly coming from the north, that means that the top of the water column will be warmer on the northern side of the lake, as the winds tend to drive the upper and cold layer of water across the lake towards the south.”
“Also you should take into account the time of day you are fishing. With the sun rising in the east, if your lake has heavy forestations on the east shore, the shadows will keep that water close to shore colder than just offshore where the sun is directly hitting the water. Also know that the water temperatures on the western side of the lake are apt to be higher, as that’s where the full sunlight of the sunrise will hit first and longest.”
“If this all sounds complicated, it really isn’t. Just think that on a sunny day, if you are fishing in the early parts of the morning, the warmer water that is apt to hold baitfish and other things that trout and salmon are apt to be feeding on, you should concentrate your efforts on the north and west shorelines or not far from shore. If the wind is blowing from other directions than north, just fish the opposite shorelines or just offshore.”
“Know that lake trout and salmon are two different species with different habits, but it’s not unusual to be catching both species using the same techniques and fishing the same water depths.”
“In the early parts of the season, lake trout are apt to be right up into the shallows and will often feed on smallish smallmouth bass that are concentrating in those shallow waters. While salmon are more apt to be on the slopes of drop-offs that go from a few feet of water to depths of 30 or more feet.”
“Put much of your efforts for salmon around areas where there are known smelt runs into the brooks there, as smelt are like candy to landlocked salmon as well as both rainbow and brook trout. Lake trout will eat smelt, but for some reason they seem to be looking after a bigger mouthful in the early season.”
“If you’re trolling along any shoreline and catching smallmouth bass, even if you think they are too big for a lake trout to eat, check them all out very carefully for tooth marks that come close to surrounding the bass’s body. This is more evident and more common than you may think. If you are lucky enough to find a shoreline with marked-up smallmouths, by concentrating your trolling along those areas using popular lake trout lures, such as Flatfish in fairly large sizes or large metal lures, you are apt to catch the lake trout of your life.”
“Some of the anglers that specialize in this early season lake trout trophy fishing will use a couple of colors of leadcore line to make sure that their lures are fishing fairly close to bottom. You’ll occasionally hook bottom or pick up debris on your lure but that’s all part of the program, and adjust your trolling depths over those places that you’ve hooked bottom so you don’t do it each pass you make.”
“Finally, know that landlocked salmon’s eyes are very sensitive to sunlight, so as the day progresses, if it’s a sunny day, move into deeper water and fish your lures or flies deeper in the water column.”
MAINE: Fox Keim at Kittery Trading Post is excited about this year’s Paddlesports Demo Day that takes place at Spring Hill in South Berwick, Maine from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, May 10.
Approximately a 20-minute drive from KTP, Spring Hill offers an idyllic setting to test paddle kayaks, SUPs & canoes before making that all-important decision on which boat would be best for your specific paddling needs. Representatives from major paddling manufacturers will be available to assist and answer your questions. So here's your opportunity to try before you buy! All paddling equipment will be furnished. Please wear clothing & footwear that you won't mind getting wet.
Anglers in southern Maine are again on the horns of a dilemma, according to Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman.
“There are still some smaller ponds that have close to a foot of ice while others have center water ice but the edges are liquid or honeycombed. Add to the mix that the entire southern Maine coast and inland is under a flood watch this week both from expected rainfall and snow melt. That leaves fewer choices to wet a line. Despite the adverse conditions, there are plenty of shoreline opportunities that have been proven to be effective. Little Ossippee Lake in Waterboro offers shallow brook trout possibilities near the boat ramp and the shoreline alongside Route 5 is deep. The shine/smelt under a bobber crowd has been rewarded with fish in the 10-inch to three pound range, mostly brookies.”
“Smaller ponds, in protected coves still offer good morning ice fishing. Anglers should plan to catch the early daybreak bite when cooler temperatures make ice safe but get off by late morning. Temperatures early this week could top the 60’s and 70’s.”
“Crappie and white perch anglers are having exceptional luck on Shaker Pond in Alfred and the back bays of Lake Arrowhead in Waterboro. Brown trout are cooperating in Long Pond in Parsonsfield, but watch the ice conditions, and right across the road in West Pond the largemouth bass are active. Recent catches in the six pounds and over. Parking is a problem at West Pond but most camps are vacant this time of year. On the larger rivers such as the Songo that empties into Sebago Lake, the usual smelt flingers are doing well. That is, for those with some reading material and loads of patience.”
Ken at Saco Bay Bait and Tackle reports that the most fishing activity with any consistency lately has been for the sea run brown trout in the Mousam River at Roger’s Park in Kennebunk.
“We know that crayfish don’t live in tidal waters but that’s what the sea run brown trout are hitting, anything that looks like a crayfish! Scud flies and just about any other fly or lure should produce some action.”
“Although we haven’t heard of any open water fishing, except for the sea run brown trout, it wouldn’t surprise us if there were several of our local ponds that will be clear this week. But the rivers and streams will be very high for a while still, with that big snow run off.”
Jeff Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago reports that the ice is getting pretty black and he wouldn’t be surprised if the ice went off the big lake within the next day or so. “There are a few people fishing the open water at Panther Run. They usually pick up a few salmon and maybe a brown trout or two but the majority of the open water anglers we’re seeing are fishing over at the Songo River at the Songo Locks. Salmon and some brookies are being caught there and we’ve also heard of an occasional brown trout caught there this time of year.”
“Year after year, those that use small frozen smelt this time of year will catch the most fish at the Songo Locks. This includes later in the year when the big run of big white perch comes into the river there.”
At River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc in the Rangeley Lakes Region, Jerry reports that there’s no open water in the lakes yet but the water below the Aziscohos Dam at Lower Magalloway River has been providing some angler activity, though he didn’t know whether there had been any fish taken.
“This time of year that’s one place that can provide some pretty good fishing activity as this is a bottom release dam and the water temperatures are often warmer (only this time of year) than the surface waters of the lake above.”
“Anyone that fly fishes this time of year knows that slow and low is usually the best method, with swinging big streamer flies also producing some hits.”
This just in from Dan Legere at the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville: “April 6, 2014: Open water fishing season is in full swing, if you can find any. Moosehead Lake always had a May 1 opening day until this season. Because of earlier ice outs the last few years, opening day was moved back to April 1 in an attempt to provide more fishing opportunity and be in line with the traditional opening day throughout the rest of the state. The last couple of years ice was long gone by late April. Not this year.”
“Although spring thaw is underway, you’ll have a hard time finding any open water in these parts. The lakes and ponds still have two feet of snow covering over three feet of ice.”
“The Moose River, East Outlet, and Roach River all have an April 1 opening. There is open water to be found but you’ll need snowshoes to get to it. Without them you’ll have to wade through four feet of snow and deal with lots of river ice. It may be very tempting but also very dangerous.”
“All you hardcore fishermen either have early trips already planned or are waiting for more melt before heading out. As you make your plans always pay close attention to windows of opportunity that will begin to open before long.
The first window of opportunity will be our smelt runs. That will not happen until most of the snow is gone from the woods and stream water temperatures rise to over 40 degrees. Smaller streams will always see the first runs. Rivers usually begin a week or so later.”
“Remember, "the smaller the volume of flowing water the sooner the run, the larger the flow the later the run." For example, the Roach River will always see a run before the Moose River. The Roach River flows six miles under the warming sun before entering Moosehead. Often the water will be ten degrees warmer by the time it reaches the lake. Moose River water flows at a higher volume and only flows a couple miles from Brassua Lake before reaching Moosehead. It would be lucky to gain a degree.”
“Keep this in mind while you’re making early season plans and you’ll increase your odds of finding the window of opportunity wide open. In the meantime polish up your favorite streamers and put a shine on your heaviest sinking lines. You're going to need 'em.”
This just in from ME F&W people in Augusta, Maine – “While many Mainers may be lamenting the length of this year’s winter, ice fisherman should be relieved to know that come April 1, the traditional start to Maine’s open water fishing season, you can still legally ice fish on many waterways throughout the state.”
“No matter what the weather was like, ice anglers used to have to put away their ice fishing traps and ice augers come April 1. But thanks to Old Man Winter’s refusal to succumb to spring, as well as the Department’s efforts to streamline Maine’s fishing laws and expand opportunities, you can ice fish on many lakes and ponds as long as there is ice that is safe to use.”
“In Southern, Central and Downeast Maine, if lakes or ponds are open to ice fishing and open water fishing under general law fishing provisions, anglers can continue to ice fish, unless that lake or pond has a special rule specifying otherwise. In Northern and Western Maine, you can ice fish in April on lakes and ponds that are designated with the “A” season in the lawbook.”
“Please, always check the safety of the ice before heading out by chiseling or drilling holes in the ice and measuring. Remember, springtime ice can often be softer than ice in mid-winter, and areas near inlets and outlets tend to open up earlier than other parts of lakes and ponds. Also, ice fishing shacks still must be removed from all lakes and ponds by April 1, but portable shelters are allowed. For detailed information on where you can and can’t fish, please consult the 2014 fishing law book, which is available online at www.mefishwildlife.com or at many locations where fishing licenses are sold.”
“Jason Peters (MA) caught the first legal fish caught on the Bunny Clark this season. Jason is an excellent fisherman,” according to Captain Tim Tower.
“He only started going out with us three years ago. But he has become easily recognized after the first trip--and easy to remember. His attitude is great, he's very patient, he knows how to handle his equipment and he never gives up. My kind of angler! This day, April 9, 2014, saw many haddock caught. Most were sub-legal (under 21 inches overall length). The rate was probably two to one sub-legal haddock to legal haddock. The day was good to very good for legal landings. It would have been excellent if you could have kept haddock of 18 inches or better.”
“From all the reports I have heard, the haddock are everywhere this spring. On lesser haddock years, a cold winter like this one would delay the haddock for a week more, later towards May. In fact, the spawning stock is probably yet to arrive. This year the population is so large and many have probably over-wintered so they were already there to greet the first boat out! From 1987 until the fall of 1994 you couldn't buy a haddock in this same area. But the haddock population has rebounded somewhat over the last fifteen years. This is obviously a result of the closed areas being unfettered from commercial or recreational activity. When populations of a species increase to a point where it's impractical to stay, they spill out and start to inhabit other areas. This is what I think has happened here. It's the only logical solution. Whatever the reason, I am very glad to see them. Special fish like Jason's are the kind of fish we like to see caught on the Bunny Clark.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: At Suds-n-Soda Sports, Master Guide Tim Moore reports that the fish stocking hadn’t started there yet but he did say that in another southern area they were running and stocking both ponds and streams, when the stream conditions allowed it.
“We do have a fishery that seems to be gaining momentum each year—a fishery that had existed but nobody except a few secretive people (we plead guilty to this!) had been taking advantage of. Sea run white perch have always been an occasional bycatch of the ice fishing group that were targeting saltwater smelt through the ice at Great Bay and the tributaries, but the fact that these valuable fish were available to anglers after the ice went out never seemed to be taken advantage of.”
“These sea run white perch are great fish and on the average larger than their freshwater counterparts, although they are genetically identical. Probably because of the food supply that a saltwater estuary provides.”
“Right now, the tidal portions of the Squamscott River is where the fishing is going on, but there’s no reason to think that these fish wouldn’t be available in some of the other Great Bay Tributaries as we know that ice-caught white perch in the Lamprey River in Newmarket were pretty common. At lucky times, a catch of several dozen of them wouldn’t draw much of a commontion.”
“Although these fish prefer saltwater worms (seaworms, bloodworms), they will take a hunk of nightcrawler or regular earthworm. We know of people that have had good luck using small saltwater tommycod minnows and cut smelt. Though a few have tried, there’s been no reports of any flounder taken here yet,” he ended.
This is some pretty good news from Captain Lester Eastman Jr. of Eastmans’ Fishing Docks in Seabrook: “ABSOLUTELY EPIC, is what some of the guys on todays trip said. Friday, April 11: As you all know we had an early bite of haddock, which started two weeks ago, then last Sunday, April 6, only two of our three boats fishing caught them. Then Monday, April 7, none of the boats caught them (haddock). Tuesday we canceled due to weather, Wednesday and Thursday we put enough fish in the boat to make sure everyone had dinner for at least one night–some two or three nights, but they were 90% Jumbo Reds. Today, Friday, April 11, was an absolute massacre, with up and down haddock from start to finish, never moved the entire trip. Even with a more than 50% throwback ratio, anglers had 15-35 keepers…CRAZY. Actually, Capt. Phil called in after Thursday’s trip, saying there was so much sign, tons of bait, just not a bite. Even better news, the cod arrived. Even though we can't keep them until Wednesday (April 16) nice to know they are there. Glad they bit today, but it would have been nicer yesterday when we were sold out with a lot of out-of-staters, than today when we had just 30 people. We are sold out tomorrow, but Sunday and beyond we have both big boats available and ready to go. FYI, Until June 1, the all day public boat leaves at 7 AM.”
From both the gang at Dover Marine Sports and Alan Nute’s AJ’s Bait and Tackle, the fishing in New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee is now centered on those very few areas that have open water, and in some instances quite a few landlocked salmon and a few nice rainbow trout have been caught, but it’s all about the open water as the big lake is really pretty well iced-in.”
MASSACHUSETTS: Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics in Everett was pretty impressed about what was going on in his neighborhood. “Our trout ponds are now ice-free and the state’s great stocking program is paying dividends for the early-season trout anglers. Some of the best ponds include Horn, White, Walden, Sluice and Jamaica. Best luck has been on power eggs and other power baits as well as real salmon eggs.”
“The schoolie striper fishing we had has slowed down but there’s a blueback herring run that has entered the Mystic River that is sure to draw some stripers. They’ll travel all the way up the river towards the Mystic Dam and that’s where the best fishing will be in a week or so.”
“A very few flounder fishermen out but not many fish yet. Give us a few more warm days and the shallow Deer Island flats should be producing limit catches,” he suggests.
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.