April 22, 2014These can be frustrating times for our regional freshwater anglers, as a lot of the ponds and lakes still have a serious ice cover and some of the streams and rivers that are ice-free are running bank to bank with dirty water and lots of debris. With some of the special seasons opening up this week, especially New Hampshire’s designated trout ponds, there’s going to be limited opportunities to take advantage of this, especially in the North Country.
According to Seth Legere at Kittery Trading Post’s fishing department, a sea-run migrant that is starting to show up in enough numbers to make them fishable here in New Hampshire and Maine are shad. For many years NH Fisheries Division had a restoration effort both here on Great Bay Rivers and in the Merrimack. The Merrimack shad runs are legendary, but the Great Bay restoration often seems to be sidetracked for some reason.
“The reason may be that shad are not as apt to return to exactly the same stream they were stocked in, as Atlantic salmon wondrously do. Some of the smarter fishermen have taken this into consideration and have located a fishable school of shad in the Salmon Falls River, the river that is the boundary line for New Hampshire and Maine.”
“The shad concentrate under the dam at Rollinsford-South Berwick, and are easily fishable from shore there. You'll need a license to fish here if you keep any shad. They are included with trout and smelt as requiring a license in New Hampshire tidal waters. Seeing that they are tidal waters shared with the State of Maine, a saltwater fishing license is required. If you have a saltwater license in either state you are covered when fishing this area.”
“Because the center of the river is the boundary of the states of Maine and New Hampshire, rules can vary from state to state. In the freshwater portion above the dam at South Berwick you have to abide by special interstate waters regulations, but in the tidal waters you have to abide by the rules of each state. This is very important if you decide to possess a striped bass that you are very apt to catch, if you are fishing for shad, as the Maine and New Hampshire striped bass regulations have some serious difference that could lead to a violation that is unintentional.
“Along with the shad there, you'll find alewives that will also take a shad dart, some striped bass that will give you a tussle and an occasional big sea run trout. These sea runs could be either brown or rainbow trout, as both species have been stocked above in the non-tidal water and several have been caught in this tidal area and they all seem to be trophy-sized.”
“Don't be surprised to find a white perch or even a black bass on the line, either!”
“The late Randy Dowd of Portsmouth, a good friend of our report editor Dick Pinney, told him that his best shad rig when fishing in these waters, a terminal rig of a quarter-ounce keel sinker with a homemade fly with a foot long leader, does well just swinging in the current. He said two hours before and after high tide are best.”
“The tide is a couple of hours later than listed for the ocean, and don't forget to add another hour for daylight savings time to the time on the tide chart.”
“Because of their boney structure, most shad anglers just fish for the fun of catching these feisty fish, often called “poor man’s salmon” because of their fighting and jumping ability. But if you are patient and good with a fillet knife it’s worth the effort to remove the bones, as shad are a very delicate and delicious fish. One easy way is to score the fillet both across and lengthwise, cutting through the bones and making small squares of flesh. Leave the skin on when doing this and don’t cut through the skin. This allows all those small squares of fish fillet to stay in one piece. Roll in flavored flour and fry in good vegetable oil, skin side up.
If you had scaled the skin prior to the filleting, you can eat the fillet skin-on. If not, just peel off the skin and enjoy some of the best eating fish there are. Note that the cutting of the bones will not guarantee that all of the bones have been cooked up so be ready to dispose of bones that are still there to prevent choking on one. This is serious business and should not be taken lightly,” Seth stressed.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: This info from the New Hampshire Fisheries Division: “Fishing in New Hampshire's designated trout ponds and fly-fishing-only ponds opens on the fourth Saturday in April -- this year's opening day is April 26, 2014. Fishing is allowed through October 15. These waters are managed specifically for trout and offer anglers the chance to experience exciting fishing in some of the Granite State's most scenic surroundings.”
"These trout ponds are often the best waters in a given area for a variety of reasons," said New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Fisheries Biologist Don Miller. "Excellent habitat, low species competition and the fact that these
ponds are closed to ice-fishing allow these waters to be managed for the trout fishing enthusiast."
“Ponds managed for trout may be stocked with one or more species, including brook, rainbow and/or brown trout, with age classes ranging from yearlings (8-12 inches), 2-year olds (12-15 inches), and 3+ year olds (measured in pounds!). "Trout are prized by anglers because they can be a challenge to catch, and fishing for them is one of the traditional rites of spring," Miller said.
"Whether your passion is a multi-colored brook trout, a leaping rainbow or the determined fight of a brown, there's a New Hampshire trout pond within reasonable driving distance for you."
“Due to the severity of our winter, anglers may find their favorite north-country ponds still covered with ice. High-elevation remote ponds from the central White Mountain region north are likely to be partially ice-covered this year.
Fortunately, anglers can find open water along the shorelines to allow some limited fishing until the ice clears in a few days. The good news is that with a heavy snowpack, ponds will be "recharged" and tributary streams will flow a little bit longer through the spring this year.”
“Hot Hole Pond and Clough Pond in Loudon, French Pond in Henniker, Mount William Pond in Weare, Dublin Lake in Dublin, and Barbadoes Pond in Madbury are a few of the generously stocked early season hotspots where opening day trout are taken. It gets no better than this for taking the youngsters along with a simple garden hackle under a bobber, or floating PowerBait fished just off the bottom.”
“There are many popular ponds located from the Lakes Region north to Pittsburg. They include Echo Lake in Franconia, Russell Pond in Woodstock, Conner Pond and Duncan Lake in Ossipee, White Lake in Tamworth, Perch Pond in Campton, Saltmarsh Pond in Gilford, Spectacle Pond in Groton, Back Lake in Pittsburg, and Little Diamond Pond in Stewartstown.”
“Anglers looking for a true wilderness experience will enjoy visiting one of the nearly 50 remote trout ponds that Fish and Game annually stocks with fingerling brook trout via helicopter. These are listed at http://www.fishnh.com/Fishing/trout_remote.htm.”
“Flat Mountain Pond in Sandwich, Cole Pond in Enfield (fly fishing only), Butterfield Pond in Wilmot, Peaked Hill Pond in Thornton, Black Pond and Lonesome Lake in Lincoln are just a sampling of these delightful ponds, where fingerling brook trout often grow to 8–10 inches by their second growing season, and it's not unusual to pull in brookies 15 inches or longer. Trophy, remote-pond brook trout (three or more years old, some in excess of 17–18 inches) can be caught in these backcountry waters.”
“Archery Pond in Allenstown (with a wheelchair-accessible casting platform) and Stonehouse Pond in Barrington are two popular fly-fishing-only ponds that will be ice-free and well stocked for the opener. If you travel over to Antrim and fish Willard Pond, you will be treated to forested, undeveloped shorelines and the "triple treat" of fly-fishing: brook, rainbow and tiger trout.”
“Further north, some excellent fly-fishing-only ponds include Upper Hall Pond in Sandwich, Sky Pond in New Hampton and Profile Lake in Franconia (check the Freshwater Fishing Digest for special regulations) on these waters. In addition, White Pond in Ossipee and Coon Brook Bog in Pittsburg offer excellent opportunities to "match the hatch" throughout spring and early summer.”
“For a list of trout ponds and fly-fishing-only ponds in New Hampshire, as well as a description of special rules that apply to certain ponds, consult the 2014 New Hampshire Freshwater Fishing Digest, available online at http://www.fishnh.com/pubs/fishing.html or from any Fish and Game license agent when you buy your license.”
Master Guide Tim Moore at Suds-n-Soda Sports in Greenland reports that more and more open water anglers are finding the sea-run white perch fishing in the Great Bay tributaries to be productive. “Apparently these white perch have been here in our tidal tributaries for years, but it was only the ice fishermen that would occasionally get lucky and find a school of them. Now there are a lot of people, in fact just about all those that are now fishing open water, that are targeting these fish.”
“Sea-run white perch are not unusual. In fact, all of the populations of inland white perch came from ancestors that were saltwater fish. Many of the inland waters were stocked with the sea-run perch while other inland populations probably started from being moved by birds or finding their way above many of the dams that are often at the head of tide.”
“There’s no doubt that sea worms are the bait of choice as our perch fishing customers complain when we are out of them. But these fish will hit an earthworm or nightcrawler and we know of some people that swear by using small tommy cod for live bait. And it’s no doubt that a chunk of clam wouldn’t get passed-up.”
“Another less known fish that frequents our Piscataqua River and Little Bay is the black sea bass. These fish also have been here for years but lately seem to be a more thriving population. Unlike striped bass, sea bass are more of a bottom feeder and more likely to be caught by flounder fishermen. We were lead to believe that the federal government was going to regulate our New Hampshire fishery but that didn’t happen at their latest rule making session, although the state has jumped in and is going to put some rules on, the exact wording we don’t have at this writing. And while we think of it, the rules for our sea-run white perch are the same as for the freshwater white perch.”
At Dover Marine Sports, the guys at the fishing counter are anticipating a lot of interest in the special regulation stretch of the nearby Cocheco River. “Because this is fly-only water and catch and release only, the word is that there are always fish to be caught there, unlike the places that get fished out quickly after stocking. And we understand that the state’s trout stocking there is usually subsidized with trout from other sources.”
“Just about every one we talk to that has fished over there says that it’s wonderful water to fly fish and has a variety of currents and depths. And also there are some great hatches that come off there each year.”
“The one other spot that draws an unbelievable amount of fishing pressure but keeps on producing a great variety of fish is nearby Willand Pond. What makes this place incredible is the fact that it hosts holdover warm water species as well as cold water species.”
“Willand has a great crappie population, plenty of healthy smallmouth bass and it gets a generous stocking of rainbow trout. It’s not unusual for a huge ‘bow’ to come out of there—a fish of several pounds.”
At Taylor’s Trading Post in Madbury George Taylor has been waiting for complete ice out and says “any day now”. So probably when you read this it’s a good chance that the Bellamy Reservoir there has cleared of ice.
“Year after year we’re amazed at the amount of fish that come out of the reservoir. We have several families that subsistence-fish here and it’s not unusual for them to take limits of panfish every day, along with an occasional pickerel or bass. There’s also a great population of sunfish here that really don’t get that much attention but their average size is larger than most places.”
“Small live shiners or tommy cod are without a doubt the most sought after for bait and we usually have an ample supply.”
“As far as the local trout situation, we have more than our share of good water. Nearby Stonehouse Pond is a fly-only pond that is quite deep and cold and harbors a hold-over population of brook trout as well as being well stocked more than once a season. The most popular trout stream is the Isinglass River that runs out of Bow Lake and then into the Cocheco River. This stream gets stocking of a mixed species of trout, with the rainbow trout probably being most prevalent and, no doubt, the most popular. It shouldn’t be too long before the Isinglass is down to good, fishable levels.”
At AJ’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith on Lake Winnipesaukee, Alan Nute says that when the lake’s ice goes out completely, there’s usually no pattern of how and when the fishing is going to be best. “Some years it starts right off with ice out and on other years, the fishing can be quite spotty for a while. But what we do know is that our lake’s population of landlocked salmon seems to be decreasing as fall returns of spawning salmon to our egg taking locations seems to be dropping quite quickly. One notable thing that has become apparent is the amount of hooking damage to a big proportion of returning fish. And our fisheries people have found that the hooking damage sets these affected fish’s growth back at least a year during their recovery from being caught and released.”
“It would be a tragedy if we had to go to other sources for salmon eggs for our hatchery production of salmon as our own strain of landlocked salmon has slowly adapted to their surroundings and up until now have flourished.”
“There’s not much wrong with our lake trout population as they seem to flourish but are not targeted like the salmon are. Most lakers are taken by people that are fishing for salmon, with one exception. In late summer or early fall, when the lakers are schooling up near their spawning grounds, a few of the people that are in the know will target these fish by drift jigging at the precise depths of where these fish are marking on their depth/fish finders. The key to their success is the wind. Brisk winds make it almost impossible to keep jigs at the right depth as they speed up the drift too much.”
“Lake Winnipesaukee is renowned waters for smallmouth bass fishing so during the period in the spring when the smallies are spawning, there’s plenty of attraction to bring anglers here from all parts of the country. This is, of course, a catch and release fishery but if one bedding bass keeps being molested by too many fishermen that bed is apt to be abandoned and predator fish will soon clean out the eggs or tiny bass fry.”
MAINE: Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman reports that local flooding has kept anglers from most of the small streams and brooks but major rivers are out of the question and most are running over the banks. However, anglers are finding plenty of open water to wet a line and trout and salmon anglers seem to be the bulk of the crowd.
“Little Ossipee Lake in Waterboro is lined with live-bait-under-a-bobber anglers and some are reporting catches of brook trout in the two pound range and a couple landed salmon up to 20 inches.”
“Bass anglers are fishing low and slow this week due to the cold weather. Underwater humps and boulder fields are producing well with pig and jig combos doing the job. A couple anglers report that “bulging”, or the art of running a fast-moving spinner bait just under the surface, is working for them, especially on larger fish.”
“Got one report from the fly guys using sinking line and dredging the bottom of small ponds with nymphs. Still too early for serious hatches but trout off the bottom using gold-rib hare’s ear nymphs and Hendrickson flies.”
“Crappie and white perch anglers are doing well in all the favorite waters. A surprise giant crappie came out of Mousam Lake in Acton that tipped the scales at nearly two pounds.”
Here is Kennebunkport Captain Tim Tower’s famous Bunny Clark party boat’s report for a trip last week. “On the fishing grounds, the wind never blew more than five knots, and at times there was no wind at all. When there was wind it was light from the southeast. The sky was overcast all day. There was some rain but it came in the form of light sprinkles, not even enough to don oil gear. There was a long rolling sea swell of about two to three feet. The air temperature was mild, visibility very close to excellent. The surface water temperature reached a high of 41.0 °F. The high air temperature at the Portland International Jetport, Portland, Maine was 48°F (with a low of 39°F). In Boston, Massachusetts the high was 63°F (with a low of 45°F). Concord, New Hampshire's high temperature was 52°F (with a low of 37°F).”
“The fishing for haddock was the best it has ever been (in the modern era, circa the last thirty years). We may have had trips in the past where we caught more haddock. There have been trips where we caught more pounds of haddock. But for catching haddock, it couldn't have been any better. From start until finish it was a fish a drop, sometimes two. Most haddock went back. There was a return ratio of over four sub-legal haddock before you could keep one. So out of 5.5 haddock caught, one of those could be put in the boat to bring home. Most of the haddock were nineteen to twenty inches in overall length (minimum legal size is 21 inches). Along with the haddock were three redfish to bring home. Sub-legal fish, besides the haddock, included twenty-eight cod, three pollock, a sculpin and two wolffish. They drift-fished for the trip. Bait, jigs and flies all worked well.”
“Captain Ian or Jared could not tell me who was high hook, nor could they give me an exact figure on the release count on haddock—a good problem to have, I guess. No one counted their fish either, although the crew did keep a weather eye on the individual haddock count for boat record purposes. It's a fact that had the record not been broken on the Steve Shugars trip on Friday, it would have been broken today. Lauren Saracina (ME) won the boat pool for the largest fish with a 6.5-pound haddock. This is also the largest haddock of the 2014 Bunny Clark fishing season as well (so far). Ian took a picture of Lauren with her haddock. The second largest fish was a 5.5-pound haddock caught by Lynn Tandy (NH). Matt Puffer (ME) and Joe Saracina, Sr. (ME) tied for third with several five-pound haddock each. And I was told to give Matt an honorable mention. Other Angler Highlights: Jake Longley (ME) caught a 4.75-pound haddock. Tony Saracina (ME) caught a double haddock catch that Ian recorded and weighed. These two fish weighed 4.75 pounds and 3.25 pounds, both fish caught on the same line at the same time. Gene Breault (NH) landed the hard luck award for getting a touch of the mal de mer. Another wonderful person was added to the donation roster today supporting my upcoming ride for a cancer cure with the Pan-Mass Challenge. Steve Keegan (ME) was the donor. His contribution was $25.00. Thanks so much, Steve. I hope you enjoy the shirt!”
Most of our upstate Maine information suppliers have been stymied by the recent cold weather and rain/snow conditions but our Sebago Lake team of Jeff Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago and Dave Garcia at Naples Bait and Tackle on Long Lake agree that given the right conditions and some high wind, the ice could be out of the big lake within a week or so, and judging from the success of ice anglers, it should be a great season there.
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.