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September 19, 2016

Some stable weather and ocean conditions have combined to put some predictable impacts on both the fresh and saltwater angling.

The big story on the freshwater fishing is the growing interest in the deep water jigging for schooled-up pre-spawn lake trout on Lake Winnipesaukee. It makes you wonder whether this opportunity is available on similar bodies of water that have big lake trout populations.

We’d like to encourage anglers familiar with those big lakes with lake trout such as Maine’s Sebago Lake and others as well as other New Hampshire waters such as Lake Winnisquam and Sunapee to try this very exciting fishing technique and report the results to us at doduckinn@aol.com.

Both Maine and New Hampshire’s offshore giant tuna waters seemed to be productive last week with a number of giant bluefins being taken.  Actually, the “tuna bite” was pretty much concentrated well offshore state waters and well to the southwestern portions of Jeffreys Ledge.

Because fishing activities drop off as Autumn approaches there are fewer reporting sources. But from what we’ve been able to gather, the groundfishing for cod, pollock, haddock and other deep dwelling saltwater species has really picked up with those large-sized fall pollock producing much of the action and creating the possibilities to have a nice bag of fillets to bring home.
As we previously mentioned, the little utilized jig fishing for lake trout has been very exciting and productive.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Master NH Guide Tim Moore has great success whether he’s guiding on fresh or saltwater. Right now he’s been hitting the Lake Winnipesaukee lake trout with exceptional results!

“As if someone flipped a switch, the lake trout fishing went from good to, OMG! The nights are getting longer, meaning the fish have to wait longer to feed, and boy are they hungry when the sun rises. The best numbers of fish caught all year will happen in the next couple of weeks with often non-stop action. Daddy Mac 1.4 Elite and Albie jigs are my go-to lures.”

“I have been leaning more toward the Elite jigs, or switching the trebles on the Albie jigs with #4 Siwash hooks, to reduce damage to the fish. Most of the fish hooked are done so in the lower jaw due to the way they swipe at the jig. The gills attach up near the front of the lower jaw and trebles easily hook into the gills, ultimately killing the fish. If we use trebles, focus is important for a speedy hook set to keep the fish from getting the jig too deep.”

“At the request of a regular client, we broke away from the lake trout for a day of walleye fishing on the Connecticut River. The jig bite was slow and we had to resort to trolling bottom bouncers to put eater-sized walleye in the cooler. We sent our guest home with some great walleye and some beautiful yellow perch for his dinner.”

“This bite, as with many this fall, will improve as water temps cool and days become shorter.”

Jason MacKenzie at Suds-n-Soda Sports reports that there are still scattered schools of feeding stripers in the upper portions of the Piscataqua River and Little Bay and Great Bay; it’s time to move your efforts down towards the lower parts of the river as well as the back channels and the beaches.

“It’s just traditional. We see it every year as the days grow shorter and the water temperatures begin to drop a little. And we think that this movement of the stripers and bluefish is all about where the baitfish are, and there’s no doubt that water temperatures and daylight hours affect the baitfish’s locations.”

“Nightime fishing for stripers with live eels also seems to really pick up and that is probably a sign of more migration of the mature eels but there’s not much science to back this up. We also know that daytime fishing with live eels that can be slow in the warmer months also picks up in late September and early October.”

“Knowing that it is not legal to catch or attempt to catch stripers in the offshore federal waters, there are plenty of opportunities to fish for them on or around the ledges near but inside the boundary. This is a great time to be equipped to chum up schools of offshore mackerel and use them as live bait. Don’t make the mistake of not bringing and using some chum to attract the live mackerel as it’s a big ocean and the mackerel schools are on the move,” Jason noted.

“Once you attract a mackerel school it’s not a bad idea to keep chumming even if you have enough live macks in your bait well as that school of mackerel swimming in your chum line should eventually draw in some big, offshore stripers.”

“On the other hand, there’s a chance that they also will encourage dogfish (those small but pesky “sand sharks”) or even the big and dangerous blue sharks. Many a big striper, or even groundfish, are taken off the hook or cut in half by the invading blue sharks that can weigh well up into the hundreds of pounds!”

“More and more of the anglers with offshore capable boats are finding that the groundfishing has really improved on the more inshore waters offshore but within sight of the Isles of Shoals. It’s a good idea to try with both jigs or with lines rigged with cut bait. Herring, cut clam or cut mackerel are all good groundfish baits to try.”

Captain Lester Eastman Jr. at Eastman’s Fishing Pier in Seabrook Harbor reports: “We have a new Marathon trip just added for Sunday Oct 9, 5am to 5pm! After a slow weekend, Monday the 12th Marathon was a good trip with quite a few pollock over 20 lbs and haddock and cod! Tuesdays All Day trip was pretty decent—a ton of haddock caught. We were weeding thru the smaller ones but by end of the day there were three to ten a person on the keepers!”

At Tall Timber Lodges on Back Lake in New Hampshire’s most northern and largest town of Pittsburg, Guide Tom Caron filed this report: “The Connecticut River has generally been pretty low this year, and our water conundrum began all the way back last winter with a pittance of the snowfall that we usually get. Unfortunately, we never quite caught up with the water levels this spring and summer, and we have been behind the proverbial “8 ball” all year.”

“Now, the most important question that those of you reading this (likely anglers) is: “How do the lower water levels affect the trout, and more importantly, my ability to catch them?”

Yes, lower water levels certainly have an impact on the fishing, but that doesn’t mean that catching fish in these conditions is impossible. Generally speaking, lower levels mean fish are more wary, and less likely to make a hasty decision with an approaching fly (something they sometimes do when water levels are up and the current carrying food is swifter).

In low water level conditions, fly choice, gear choice and especially presentation are crucial for angler success, and the lack of any of these may result in failure.”

“What we have found this season, particularly lately, is that the trout and salmon have become more selective as the summer has gone on, so the correct fly (size 18–22 nymphs or dries), presented on light tippet (6X is what we have been recommending, but some have gone smaller), with the proper presentation has been working best.”

“In the Trophy Stretch, less water means that the trout are restricted to the more defined pools and deeper runs of the river. They are not as likely to be found in the riffles between the pools, and the flow, currently at 125 CFS (has been at this level for two months straight) is not too good if you’re a trout looking for a better hiding place from the cavalcade of anglers and predators on the Trophy Stretch.”

“In short, the best looking water has been hit pretty hard this summer, which is why we have encouraged anglers to explore different water, perhaps stretches of the river that don’t receive the attention that better known spots get.”

“Even more challenging is the fact that each September the Connecticut Lakes are “drawn down”  (1st Lake Dam, for instance, is currently at 125 CFS, while it usually is at 200+ CFS during draw down), as they are prepared for the annual lake trout spawning that will soon take place. Lake trout spawn in the shallows of the lakes, and if a lake is continuing to be drawn down after the lakers start their spawn, then the eggs will be exposed and die. This is why the river flows are typically higher in September.”

“This boost in the water flow, among a myriad of other reasons (waning daylight and good ole Mother Nature) results in our landlocked salmon “running” up-river from the lakes (salmon love fast water and heavy flows), as they get in to position for their spawning period as well. Salmon are river spawners, and they usually do their thing in late October until mid- November. The boost in water flow and resulting salmon run makes for some of the best fishing of the year, and there’s nothing like hooking in to a powerful salmon, full of leaping bursts of energy.”

“Now, all of this is headed somewhere, and I think you know where that “somewhere” is. I suspect that we may not have as strong of a salmon run this fall, as the lakes (especially First Connecticut Lake) do not have to be drawn down much this year – they simply never had much water in the first place. That’s the bad news.”

“The good news is that we’ll still have salmon in the river (we’ve had some in the Trophy Stretch all summer), and we could get a boost in the salmon run if our weather cooperates. Solid rain would certainly help, as the tributaries (i.e. Perry Stream) are not controlled – the increase from heavy rains would bring salmon up river.

The same would be true for the stretch between Second Connecticut Lake and First Connecticut Lake, as the tributaries there (Big Brook, Coon Brook, Smith Brook) would contribute plenty of water in to the system, if we get rain.”

“More good news is that as the weather cools as we advance in to autumn, the better the water temperatures will be in the various stretches of the Connecticut River for trout and salmon. There’s only 37 days left in the season – you might as well fish!”
Regional Fisheries Biologist in New Hampshire’s Northcountry reports: “The idea of wrapping up my fishing reports for the season is misleading. It doesn’t feel right. In fact, as September arrives, my sense of angling adventure is just awakening. Days get shorter, fish start spawning and even though I may be writing less, I will be fishing more. It is at this time that trout and salmon migrate from their summer habitat to the rivers and streams that I chase them through. The colors of the landscape change as predictably as those of the fish, and I am still impressed by it all.”

“Another recent transition finds my kids back in school, and I spend most evenings nagging them to get their homework done. After this nightly ritual, I sit down in front of the Red Sox game and tie flies. In some years, September has the Sox well out of the playoff race and the games turn into background noise. At the time of this writing, however, they are in first place and I find myself with one eye on the game and another on the fly being put together. The resulting fly looks, not surprisingly, like one tied by a one-eyed, very distracted man. Not only are they tied poorly, but my overall production is very low. Over the next few weeks, I will be approaching my favorite waterbodies with very few new, poorly-tied flies and hope for the best.”

“This is also the point of the fishing season where my abundant fishing gear is in a state of total disorganization... with most of it in need of some type of maintenance or repair. I will have the entire winter to put things away so that I don’t want to waste any time that could be spent fishing. Right now, some of my rods and reels are in the garage and some are in the basement. I have at least one tackle bag in every room of the house. I actually found a box of flies on my bathroom counter next to the toothpaste. Speaking of which, there are flies everywhere. They are stuck in every hat, every dashboard, and no small, plastic container should be thrown away without looking in it first. Like I said, now is the time to fish. (He sure agrees with Tom Caron on this!) The clean-up can wait.”

“Although it’s hard to believe with the nonstop heat and dry conditions, eventually, weather patterns will change, temperatures will drop, and hopefully, rain will fall—hopefully! Truly “bone dry” conditions currently prevail throughout the region, with many small streams and rivers at exceedingly low levels—with some smaller headwaters in fact no longer in existence…completely dried. Even just a good old-fashioned, brief thundershower would be welcome at this point,” Notes Regional Fisheries Biologist John Viar in the Lakes Region.

“A common inquiry when fall ultimately takes hold is, "Where can I legally fish for trout?" In actuality, many Lakes Region; particularly lakes and ponds often managed as two-tier fisheries with a stocked trout and bass/warmwater species components. Also, keep in mind a number of open (legal) waters are specifically fall-stocked for fall and winter anglers, including some of the large 3+ lbs. surplus broodstock trout "retired" after spawning duties.”

“Locally, check out Wakewan and Winona lakes, which remain open and offer a nice mix of rainbow trout, as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass. October can be a fantastic month in such water bodies, with bass on late-fall feeding binges preceding winter, and rainbows responding right on top and in the shallows, given the cooling waters. For multi-species anglers, such water bodies afford a wonderful “cast and troll” fall combo trip.”

“Keep in mind for most streams & rivers, as well as specifically designated trout ponds (including remote brook trout ponds), the season is open through Oct. 15 (be sure to consult the NH Freshwater Fishing Digest – so enjoy these waters and the fall foliage while time allows. And if not, keep in mind the other options noted above, that do indeed exist!

MAINE: Legendary Party and Charter Boat Captain Tim Tower directs his boat captains from shore now and lets them have the helm. But he’s the one that furnishes these reports which we hold dear, as he’s got more experience than probably any other locally-living, offshore fishing skipper. He reports here on one of the also legendary Bunny Clark’s most recent trips.

“The fishing, the catching and landings were very good all day. It could have been excellent in all categories had we not lost so much fishing tackle to blue sharks. The Bunny Clark lost twenty of her jigs alone, plus a few bait setups and angler’s personal jigs and bait rigs.”

“We seemed better controlling them while on anchor. Drifting was much more expensive. Still, the groundfish bite was so good it didn't seem to matter. Most legal fish landed were pollock, by far. Legal landings also included eleven cod, thirty-one haddock (we only caught twenty sub-legal haddock today), forty-four redfish, nine cusk and one white hake. We released or broke off over thirty-five blue sharks. Six dogfish were caught and released. Anchoring was the preferred boating method. As Mike Cheever (NH) agreed; all terminal gear worked well.”

“I would say that Bob Key (PA) was high hook again today. The largest fish he landed was an 11 pound cod. But he also had the most problems with blue sharks. In fact, he caught the head of a cod that, had the body been with it, would have won the boat pool! He also lost at least five of our jigs to blue sharks. He had such a hard time with the blue sharks that I ended up awarding him the hard luck t-shirt. It's always fun to have the opportunity to give this award to such a professional angler. And Bob is one of the best!”

“Mike Cheever won the boat pool for the largest fish with a 15.5 pound cod. Since it was the best fish of the day I took a picture of Mike holding it. Tim Robinson (ME) won the boat pool for the second largest fish with a 15 pound cod. Tim also caught the only white hake, a 12 pounder. The third largest fish was a 14 pound cod caught by Scott Shafer (VT).”

“Other Angler Highlights: Sean McIntyre (NH) was encroaching being in high hook territory all day. He was probably right up near Bob as he lost just a couple less jigs - which meant more catching time! Some of the fish I weighed for him included an eight and a half pound cod, a 12 pound pollock, a nine and a half pound cod and a nine and a half pound pollock. Bill Otto (PA) caught an eight and a quarter pound pollock very early in the trip. But he released bigger cod that I didn't weigh. Rich Knauer (NJ) landed the largest cusk at eight pounds. His largest landed cod weighed nine pounds but he released ten cod from seven pounds and over the nine pound mark.. Sometimes you have to go a little further with these freshwater fishermen!”

In the Moosehead Lake Region, Dan Legere at the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville on Moosehead Lake is also a legendary Master Maine Guide. Here’s a brief report from him as he leaves for another adventure: “I'm leaving for the Fox Hole so this report will have to be to the point. The stars are lining up nicely. Fish are throughout the Roach River. Folks are catching beautiful rookies and salmon.”     

“The health of the Moosehead Lake fish is excellent so you'll likely find them bigger than normal fish this fall.”

“The East Outlet is flowing at 2000 cfs and fish are showing up and very eager to grab a big streamer. And it's only going to get better. Got to go. I'll update on Monday. Have a great fishing trip.”

In the Rangeley Lakes Region, Ken at River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc says that they are fundamentally in their mid-summer doldrums with a big rain needed to provide some cool river flows to draw some fish up from the lakes.

“Probably our most productive fishing is in the fall when the spawning urges bring the trout and landlocked salmon up out of the lakes and into the rivers. They will do this in a pre-spawn condition and still be feeding on insects providing for some really good fly fishing. But without the cooler water and good flows the fishing here is still just about contained into fishing deep water in our lakes, which should not be frowned at as each year some whopper-sized brookies and salmon are taken from these lakes.”

“One exception to this is the cooler water coming from the bottom release dam at Aziscohos Lake, feeding the Magalloway River. This stretch of water will hold fish that are actively feeding and is heavily fished at times.”

The news from Mike Baker of KAYAKFISHNEWENGLAND.COM guide services located in southern Maine  is, “All good!  Live eels producing LARGE fish from the Kayak and surf on a regular basis day or night!  The fall run is on and this is one of the best times of year to land the Striped Bass of a lifetime, and KFNE can make it happen.”

“This past week we have landed and released three bass well over 40 inches! Recently returned from a successful trip to Cape Cod to catch false albacore tuna. These are the strongest fighting fish in the Northeast, pound for pound, with drag melting runs that can peel off 100 yards of line in a matter of seconds. Check out the site to book a trip and see photos of recent trips and find out for yourself, the fun to be had. KFNE supports catch and release of striped bass.

MASSACHUSETTS: Little Sister Charters sends its latest fishing news, fishing the waters south of Cape Cod: “So the ride today was pretty tough and we finally got to the cod grounds around 8am. On the 1st drift we had at least three in the box on a 500 foot pass so I ran up again and we only got one. The bite was on when we got there but seemed to be just shutting down. We ended up with a dozen good cod and we dropped (lost) a few "heartbreakers" that seemed much bigger. We also had a mix of jumbo scup and sea bass but we had to return all the bass with the season closed. George, as always (it seems), caught a couple of nice, keeper fluke and we threw back some sculpins, dogfish and perch (OH MY!). With the water temps at 65F, we didn't even try for the mahi and I'd say they are done for the year.”   

The AMERICAN SPORTFISHING ASSOCIATION REPORTS: “The recreational fishing and boating community applauds the decision by President Obama to differentiate public use from commercial extraction of marine resources by including recreational fishing as an allowable activity in the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, located approximately 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast. This announcement carries on with the precedent in recent marine monument decisions to allow recreational fishing as an important and sustainable use of marine waters.”

“For many years, the recreational fishing community has worked to educate legislators and decision-makers on the social, conservation and economic benefits that recreational fishing provides to the nation,” said American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Recreational fishing and resource conservation go hand-in-hand. We are grateful that the Obama Administration has taken a thoughtful approach to designating marine monuments in a way that recognizes the importance of allowing the public to access and enjoy these precious areas.”

“The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument covers a 4,913 square mile area off the Massachusetts coast that contains deep sea corals and other unique and fragile marine habitats. These areas are also popular offshore fishing spots for anglers who target billfish, tuna and mahi mahi near the ocean surface. During the marine monument designation discussions, the recreational fishing and boating community advocated that recreational fishing should be allowed to continue because, among other reasons, the type of recreational fishing that occurred in these areas has no interaction with the bottom habitats that are being protected.”

"Today's announcement demonstrates a consistent commitment by the Administration to recognize the importance of recreational activities, including recreational boating and fishing, within a marine monument,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We are pleased to support federal actions that promote conservation while allowing responsible user access."

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. ~ Kittery Trading Post Fishing Report Editor

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