February 24, 2015 In general, the biggest complaint and problem with ice fishing on some or most of the larger lakes in our region have to do with slush forming on the ice, which can make travel by foot very trying and tiring and can make travel by ATV’s downright miserable.
When a wheeled ATV gets bogged down in slush it usually takes a team effort to free it, often meaning a lot of shoveling and pushing or pulling. In some instances a wide track snowmobile can pull it out of the slush and onto better ice but that’s chancy as the snowmobile may also get bogged down.
Tracked vehicles both ATV and snowmobiles do best in slushy conditions but these slushy conditions tend to be spotty and difficult to avoid. There’s no simple answer to this problem.
Kittery Trading Post’s Scott Round has heard very few reports recently. “The guys that are going out in these conditions are hardcore ice anglers. The hardcore guys don’t like to talk.”
“I have heard of some nice bass taken on Pawtuckaway Lake in New Hampshire. That kept the action going for a couple of anglers.”
MAINE: Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman loves his ice fishing and has a good finger on the pulse there: “Some folks think snow is a good thing but ice anglers continue to struggle. The weekend turned out warmer weather but the downside was two feet or more of slush.”
“A few anglers report excellent catches during the brief warm spell but most were concerning themselves with how to unfreeze their shanties as the exodus begins to remove shanties from the ice before deadline.”
“Early morning anglers on Little Ossipee in Waterboro continue to connect with brook trout in the 18 inch plus size and a few salmon over 2-pounds. The majority of anglers I came in contact with were bass and crappie anglers.”
“On West Pond in Parsonfield one pair of lucky anglers hauled up fish that tipped the scales at over 8-pounds. They were reportedly returned to the water. Nearby Long Pond anglers had trouble with parking as the snow drifts narrowed the road between the ponds.
However, a few brown trout were landed but nothing huge.”
“Farther west, in Newfield on Rock Haven Pond, anglers were into the brook trout especially early anglers who took home limits of 8-15 inch brookies.”
“No word from my regulars who fish Sabattus Pond just above Lewiston but this water is always good for northern pike in the 18-30-inch range. When the under-the-ice spawning gets underway in a couple weeks, anglers will crowd the shallows here and on North Pond where giants in the 15-pound class move onto the shallow beds, especially at or before daybreak.”
At Naples Bait on Long Lake in Naples, Dave Garcia reports that the white perch in this lake are hitting very well but key is location, location!
“The big schools of perch that are individually not huge but good eating size will concentrate in the 30 foot depths here and if you are not getting almost constant action you should move or ask others out on the lake. It’s a friendly group and there’s plenty of both room and fish so they don’t mind helping out.”
“You’ll find that just about everyone is jigging with small half ounce or smaller jigs tipped with a small worm (dilly), mealworm or small piece of cut smelt. You need to fish your jig in different depths but you’re going to get most of the action right on bottom.”
“If you want to take a chance at a landlocked salmon know that these fish in Long Lake are not the big-sized fish such as Sebago Lake has but they do like to hit a tip-up fished live bait not far under the ice—they are mostly in the 10 to 15 inch range.”
“And some of the more seasoned “old-timers” out on the lake will fish for some big brown trout that can be five pounds or even larger. Their trick is to fish good sized live smelt or shiners at various depths until they find the right one. Each year some of these people will hook into a real monster togue (lake trout) which are scarce but we do have ‘em here.”
“Speaking of togue; we have some people that drop in here for live bait that have been fishing over at Sebago Lake out in front of the mouth of the Songo River in anywhere from 20 to 100 feet of water and doing pretty well.”
“Airplane jigs tipped with cut sucker seem to be the best bet lately. Lots of folks cut some of the hook points of their Airplane jigs which enables an easier and quicker release when the fish is going to be returned to the water.”
“Although Thompson Lake in Casco has a two line limit, there’s been some good action there for togue. Hancock Lake in Denmark has been producing some nice brown trout as has Little Sebago Lake in Windham,” Dave suggests.
Greg Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago likes to get out on the ice and go for togue but with the weather being like it has been and ice conditions tough with the slush, he’s decided to wait for better conditions.
“It’s not like we don’t have the fish! It’s nothing for some of the togue specialists that know the lake and keep on looking until they find the right depths to catch and release upwards of three dozen fish on one outing, but it doesn’t happen every day.”
“Because of the slot limit here on Sebago (fish from 23-33 inches must be released) the togue population has grown and the fish seem to be getting bigger each year. We’re seeing more and more fish pushing 30 inches in length and even I have caught fish over 30 inches the last few years! This lake is just full of togue and there’s a great population of both smelt and landlocked alewives for them to feed on.”
“The cusk bite has been strange. Usually this time of year the cusk are starting to concentrate on their spawning grounds, usually fairly shallow reefs and ledges, one in particular called the Camel’s Pasture has been a traditional cusk hot spot. But this year, at least so far, there hasn’t been what you’d call a cusk bite but those that have been caught have been caught off bottom in as much as 130 -180 feet of water and during the daylight hours. Most of the past cusk bites are at night and nighttime cusk fishing is a longtime Maine tradition.”
“Although salmon are not legal to be taken here through the ice, the last few years our open water salmon fishing has been fantastic—also with some real quality fish being taken.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Master NH Guide Tim More from Portsmouth doesn’t let a little cold and windy weather interfere with his ice fishing. He’s had guiding clients out all through much of this cold spell!
“This week was much like last week. Lake Winnipesaukee has anywhere from 15" - 22" of ice. White perch are being caught in basins from 24' - 40' using blade spoons tipped with just enough dillie to cover the hook. Expect the bite to get better by the day as the perch begin to form pre-spawn schools. The lake trout bite seems to be picking up as well.”
“The southern lakes such as Pawtuckaway have been seeing good numbers of crappie and bass, when you can get to them. Knee deep snow is making traveling really tough, especially if you’re on foot.”
Nick at Suds-n-Soda Sports in Greenland revealed that he’d been fishing with Tim Moore out on Lake Winnipesaukee where they’d run into some problems with the slush but by keeping up the speed of their snowmobile they were able to avoid any serious problems.
“You just can’t see where there’s slush and where there is good going so it’s a smart move to keep that snowmobile going at a good clip. We found plenty of good going and some outsized white perch that were in the two pound and over range.”
“The key is to stay with the fish and move when the bite stops. We don’t set any tip-ups and use jigs that will catch both those big white perch as well as lake trout.
Single hooked epoxy drop jigs and blade spoons tipped with dillies or grubs and even Berkeley Power Bait smelt work good on both the perch and lake trout.”
“The use of the Vexilar Flasher depth and fish finder and also using an app on the smart phone that gives us lake contours helps us stay on the fish.”
George Taylor at Taylor’s Trading Post in Madbury reports that the going on nearby Bellamy Reservoir also includes patches of slush but the fishing pressure has been surprisingly steady.
“We’ve got a lot of regulars that wouldn’t think of fishing any other place and many of them are fishing for family sustenance, not just for sport.”
“Although the Bellamy is a steady producer, some of the more mobile groups will try several other local ponds, mostly for warm-water species. Baxter Pond in Rochester does well with smallmouth bass and small yellow perch. Swain’s Pond in Madbury will provide you with all the nice sized yellow perch and pickerel that you’d ever want on most days, along with some pretty hefty largemouths. Small but producing some big crappie is Wheelwright Pond in Lee. This pond has a public access across the pond from Route 125 that often in the winter is not accessible with a motor vehicle and parking on 125 is not allowed. So you have to be a bit imaginative to park and fish here sometimes.”
In the Lakes Region, Alan Nute at AJ’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith is kind of Winnipesaukee-central for people fishing the big lake. Alan seems to have plenty of access to information over most of the huge lake and is very happy in sharing his knowledge. In the short form it’s the fairly shallow waters of the coves and inlet/outlets of the lake that provide the best panfishing, which include both white and yellow perch, pickerel, crappie and smallmouth bass.
As the winter wanes rainbow trout will seek out the mouths of streams feeding the big lake and there they’ll feed on smelt that gather for their spawning runs and also they love to feed on sucker eggs that when the sucker spawning run comes, often just before ice out.
“Right here in Meredith Bay you can find some big schools of quality yellow perch and off Spindle Point and around the Weir’s Channel you can find some big white perch as well. For the lake trout, there’s some traditional lake trout haunts, mostly in fairly deep water and often on the slopes of island’s deep shores.
This just in from NH Fish and Game: “You might be surrounded by mountains of snow, but spring is on the way, and so is Discover WILD New Hampshire Day. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s biggest community event of the year is set for Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the Fish and Game Department at 11 Hazen Drive in Concord, N.H. The event will be extra special this year, as Fish and Game celebrates its 150th anniversary. New attractions for 2015 include an entire tent devoted to hunting and fishing exhibitors.”
Discover WILD New Hampshire Day is hosted by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and sponsored in part by the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire, Fish and Game’s nonprofit partner (learn more about the Foundation at http://nhwildlifeheritage.org). More details about Discover WILD New Hampshire Day at http://www.wildnh.com.
No Massachusetts information was available at this writing.
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