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April 26, 2016

There are some positive trends and some excellent fishing reports coming from our reporting sources. Winter finally came to an end in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region with some good news of fishing success and water flows. In the saltwater, many are just holding their breath that the sea conditions will enable them to get out there and take advantage of the most liberal possession limits on haddock probably ever seen by any but the most veteran anglers. And some of the much anticipated coastal white perch runs have started to show up and bait dealers are having enough confidence to order sea worms for this ever growing population of mostly shore anglers that are often fishing for subsistence as well as the sport.

KTP’s fine tandem of Donna and Ryan in the fishing department produced this up to date info: “One the first Saturday in April, trout ponds in NH opened and anglers were taking full advantage of all the open water. Trout, not surprisingly, were the most popular subject, and with waters warming and insects becoming more active, many fishermen were successful. Trolling for salmon and trout on lakes like Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam was very productive, including the odd laker as well. Fishing in Pittsburg was very cold, but that did not seem to discourage the fish. Fishing the river, particularly, was producing some lovely brown trout. It would be worth the trip just for these fish.”

“Rivers like the Cocheco, Contoocook, Isinglass, and Lamprey were very busy, but giving up some fine trout, especially the popular Cocheco. Bait and Powerbait work well, as do spinners and baits like Gitzits.”

“For the fly fishermen, the hatches are on. Mayflies are very busy, the caddis are making their appearance, and  stoneflies are getting active as well.”

“In Maine, reports from Sebago are very good. The salmon are active, and the lakers are active. I saw some photos from Mousam that made me want to drag the kayak up there. Rivers from this region, as well as areas such as Wells, Falmouth, Ogunquit and many others, are keeping fishermen busy. Rangeley is still early, and the northern counties are still holding out for spring.”

“Everyone is assuming the shad are here (it is time, after all) but if anyone has caught one, they aren't telling. The white perch bite continues though, with bigger fish showing up. There are stories of stripers in Boston Harbor, but mostly of the "a buddy's cousin's friend" type. I say, holdovers. Patience- soon.”

The bass are showing themselves more and more, including taking topwater lures and flies. Fine by me. Mass anglers don't always fish and tell, but KTP's Scott Round had a good day on a North Shore pond, catching some fat and colorful largemouths on a a white soft plastic. I was also shown (when no one else was looking) a string of big, outrageously fat rainbows from a lake just south of the border.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE: “One thing I learned about last winter is that I can always find fault with winter,” Reports Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist in the North Country.”

“Sure, I didn’t have to shovel much and there weren’t many 30 below zero temperatures, but the skiing was no good and I only put three miles on the snowmobile. The point that I’m trying to make is that no matter what type of winter we have, I’m always glad to see it go. When ice disappears from our lakes and grass starts to turn green, I always rejoice that one more winter is behind us.”

“The first fish that I get excited for at ice out is the northern pike. They spawn early, frequent shallow water, and seem to emerge from winter in the same way that a bear does –hungry. I like using a heavy lure for them like a red-and-white spoon which I can seemingly cast a mile and a half. Many of my favorite spots are shore-bank fishing and these long casts help cover a lot of water. My approach for pike is always fast retrieves and jerky motions. I imagine this triggers the predator instinct in these aggressive fish that strike as their prey seems to flee. All of the reservoirs and tailwaters in the 15-Mile Falls section of the Connecticut River are great spots. I especially like the Gilman Dam in Dalton and have caught some beautiful early season pike there.”

“I really love the early season pike I just mentioned but this report would be incomplete if I didn’t mention trout fishing. Our hatchery staff has been stocking fish every day and I help them out as much as I can. Designated trout ponds open on Saturday April 23 and fishing should be great. After I stock a few thousand fish in a pond, I often sit and watch as they rise and dimple the surface. This gets me excited the same way a deer hunter does when he sees a big buck before the season starts. It won’t be long before my son and I are sitting in a boat at dusk trying to out-do each other.”

John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist says that unlimited trolling water available on Lake Winnipesaukee since the April 1 opener has amassed the ever-unique early-spring “armada.” When the weather has finally cooperated – some winter amends were made over the first couple weeks of April—untold numbers of 10–14 foot v-hulls and johnboats, dinghies, Coleman Crawdads, rubber rafts, canoes, kayaks, mid-size runabouts, massive “porcupined” offshore vessels seemingly fit for the TV show Wicked Tuna, and even the occasional wakeboard boats and two-story Carver cabin cruisers with lines hanging off the back, were all out in full force. Sprinkle in some float tubers kicking around near select shorelines and tributaries, and the picture is complete. If it floats, you are likely to see it landlocked salmon fishing Lake Winnipesaukee in early spring!”

“Such ‘fleet’ variety is likely due to the simplicity of landlocked salmon fishing at this time of year; as the surface waters still remain cold (40’s at this writing), simple flat lines with a split shot, 1–3 colors of leadcore, sinking fly lines, and/or downriggers set primarily above 20’ have still been successfully taking landlocked salmon. Preferred daily presentations can be as varied as opinions on what constitutes a ‘successful’ day’s catch, but live smelt and/or shiners remain a staple. That said, many anglers have still found success with classic streamer patterns (e.g. the various Ghost patterns, Joe’s Smelt) as well as spoons (e.g., DB Smelt, Top Gun), and occasionally, stickbaits (e.g., Yo-Zuri Pin Minnow). Most salmon taken have been reported at +/- 20 inches and +/- 3 lbs., as anticipated given fall 2015 netting results. To ensure and further improve the overall quality of the fishery, please be aware and/or continue to practice proper catch and release techniques.”

“Early ice-outs in the region have allowed stocking trucks to roll extensively, amply supplying many designated trout ponds for this Saturday’s (April 23) opener. Next time you see them, thank Fish and Game’s dedicated and hard-working hatchery personnel and conservation officers for taking advantage of the conditions, to maximize stocking efforts to the anglers’ benefit. Some classic regional designated trout ponds at which to make some wonderful family memories include Saltmarsh Pond (Gilford), Duncan Lake (Ossipee), Connor Pond (Ossipee), Hopkins Pond (Andover), Hunkins Pond (Sanbornton), Long Pond (Lempster), Oliverian Pond (Benton), Russell Pond (Woodstock), Spectacle Pond (Groton), Waukeena Lake (Danbury), and Perch Pond (Campton). Keeping it simple is part of the fishing fun for the whole family; anything from the venerable worm/bobber and worm/spinner combos, PowerBait, Mepps and Panther Martin in-line spinners, and a variety of flies—cast traditionally or with a casting ‘bubble’—will certainly take stocked brook, rainbow, and brown trout.”

“With the weather now seemingly settled into a milder, true spring-like pattern, take full advantage of the improved conditions and fishing opportunities!”

Comments or questions concerning this list should be directed to jane.vachon@wildlife.nh.gov

MAINE: Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman walks the walk and when he’s not fishing he’s out scouting! “The crazy weather forecast for the coming week has anglers scratching their heads. Possible snow and frost warnings? Over the weekend, anglers were out in force throughout southern Maine. One bass angler tossing a rattletrap for bass on Little Ossipee Lake in Waterboro, connected with a 4-pound plus rainbow trout. The largemouths are in a pre-spawn period and scattered over the flats. Spinner baits in white or bright colors are out-fishing darker patterns. Pig and jigs with skirted tube trailers are working well on the drops. A couple anglers in the darker waters report that using a Senko drop-shot style is the ticket. The flash boards have been replaced after repairs were made on lake Arrowhead in Waterboro but it make take a week or more for the lake level to rise to fishable levels. Crappie anglers are finding fish spawning early on lakes such as Sabattus Pond in Greene and other shallow bodies of water. Ospreys and eagles are seen taking fish from surface schools throughout the lake. Watch the birds and carefully approach the schools.”

“On our second Bunny Clark fishing trip of the season, Don Spencer (VT) caught a 17.5 pound wolfish on the last stop of the trip. It is illegal to keep wolfish and has been for a number of years now. So, we treated the fish gently to get it out of the water, weighed it quickly (without touching the gills) and took two quick pictures before releasing it, reports the legendary Maine Charter captain Timmy Tower”

“The wolfish is a magnificent fish, particularly when they get as big as the one that Don caught. They are also very good eating. Don started fishing on the Bunny Clark in 1983, the year the boat was launched. Those were the days when a 30-pound pollock was an everyday occurrence, steaker-cod or sow hake were generally the pool fish every trip, and haddock were few and far between.

“Until we can keep haddock (May 1, 2016), we will be fishing the rocky areas looking for redfish and cusk. This is also the same kind of bottom that we find most of our wolfish. We will be avoiding this bottom structure as soon as we can keep haddock. So I suspect that after that time we will be seeing far fewer wolfish until next year.”

“During the 2015 Bunny Clark fishing season we caught a total of 50 wolfish, mostly in the six to eight pound range, down 18 fish from the year before. I don't suspect that number will change much for this season. Maine used to give the wolfish trophy status. That all changed when the federal prohibition went into effect. The minimum acceptance weight for a Maine state trophy used to be 15 pounds. So anything over that size is considered pretty big. And, as I just mentioned, they are a very good eating fish. My father preferred them over cod. But then, Mainers of my father's vintage didn't eat cod anyway. That seems odd to me now but was a very natural way of life among the local villagers/fishermen when I was growing up. Still the wolfish, or catfish as it is called locally, is a very interesting fish to see with it's huge canine looking teeth used to crush clams and lobsters. And its slate gray color coming up from the bottom always brings excitement to the boat. Special fish like Don's are the kind of fish we like to see caught on the Bunny Clark,” Captain Tim ended.

Legendary Maine Guide Dan Legere at the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville on Moosehead Lake reports: “It won't be long before fishing starts to perk up but earlier than normal ice out predictions for the Moosehead Lake Region were put on hold while Mother Nature decided it should return to normal April conditions for a spell.”

“As it stands right now everything is still iced in, but warmer weather predictions should move things along so probably before next week ends ice will be long gone.”

Smelt are certainly gathering at the mouth of rivers and streams but runs won't begin until the ice goes and water temps rise above 40°F. They will remain in the mid-30's until ice leaves and the warming process begins. Exceptions will be smaller ponds. Snow is now completely gone in the woods and warmer days will allow the stream water to warm into the 40's. This is going to be one of those years when smelt may run before the ice is gone in a few those places.”

“When you find open water at the mouth of a stream, fish tend to cruise near the shade line of the remaining ice. They have been in the dark all winter and are not very anxious to venture into the bright area of open water. We always toss the canoe anchor on the ice then cast big smelt patterns along the ice line using fast sinking lines. Fish follow the shade line and will rocket out and grab a fly not far away. If you set-up out in the middle of open water you'll probably not attract many fish. Once the ice is gone, it’s business as usual with fish cruising about anywhere near the stream.”

“River flows are currently ideal, with run-off over and high water due to last week’s rain event now subsided. It's up to Mother Nature now, if additional rainfall in normal wading conditions should remain good. For now, you want to concentrate on the mouths where smelt are gathered and around dams where fish are holding, looking for smelt to come through the gates. Once smelt runs begin, salmon will run into the East Outlet, Moose & Roach rivers, especially if we get more rain and have another high water event. That creates a perfect storm when rivers fill with fish overnight.”

“The vast system of back country roads are free of snow but haven't seen the frost completely leave just yet so you want to be cautious where you go and don't pull too far off the main traveled road 'cause you may find your vehicle sinking to the axles in mud. We always throw in a come along, chain and a long cable just in case.”

“We'll keep you posted on the progress of things and we look forward to seeing everyone and talk fishing again. We also began posting water flows on our site. We'll update them daily so you can keep an eye on what your favorite river is doing.”
“Have a great beginning to your season. See you on the water.”

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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