May 17, 2016 We all knew that it was bound to happen and finally we have some great reports of stripers, especially as close as the Merrimack and Parker Rivers in northern Massachusetts and no doubt right here along our Southern Maine and New Hampshire shores. In fact, one of our neighbors out in Great Bay off the Newmarket shore scared a big striper that was at the mouth of the Lamprey River, feeding on the herring run that has started there.
Also reports from offshore anglers, especially the party and charter boats, are almost universally excited about the amount of ground fish. Except for pollock being scarce, redfish, haddock and even cod are way more prevalent than last year.
The liberal rules on haddock have made sold-out boats a common thing so if you want to go out on a party or charter you want to act well before your proposed dates.
On the freshwater scene, more and more largemouth bass are being caught or seen in a spawning mode and it won’t be long before the smallmouths are seeking out their spawning grounds. As we write this, the warm weather of late has probably already encouraged some smallies to make their nests and start to spawn.
Along with the bass, presumably the crappies will be active and more ready to hit a jig or bait. Cold water temperatures have delayed their activities and many crappie anglers have tried without success so far this spring. (Including one great crappie specialist that produces news for this report. We won’t mention names.)
Stocking trucks have remained active, re-stocking some of the more popular waters while being able to stock areas that were too hard to get to earlier this spring.
Reports of smelt runs seem to be spotty with no real patterns emerging or if they are, the smelt fishermen are not willing to share their secret.
Donna and Ryan in the KTP fishing department have a handle on much of the recent fishing activity. Here’s their report: “May has finally caught up with itself— great weather, great fishing…lots of bugs (not a bad thing if you're a fly fisherman, and you have a lot of repellant). Pairing with that, however, is no rain to speak of, resulting in rivers and streams running low and slow. The Lamprey, Cocheco, and Ashuelot rivers are fishing well in the southern part of NH, as well as the Contoocook. Northerly rivers, especially the Connecticut, have been reporting some very low flows. I'll probably get stoned for this, but we need a stretch of rainy weather to keep things moving well. We all have jackets, after all.”
“Trout ponds are giving good sport to the fisherman, with Willand Pond, Willard Pond, the Deering reservoir and perennial favorites Stonehouse Pond and Lucas Pond being standouts right now. Be aware of parking restrictions at Deering, and remember Stonehouse does not allow gas motors, (not that they are needed there. This is float tube and canoe water.) and Lucas bans powered motors of any type. The tiger trout you can find there make it worth the work.”
“Bass are moving into the shallows, for the looming spawning season. Lakes like Winni, Conway, Balch, Pleasant, and the Bellamy are good choices for the bass angler, and Merrymeeting Lake is offering quality smallmouth. (As is Winni, often named as of the the great smallie lakes in the Northeast. The other warm (!) water fish are also eager and aggressive. It looks like a particularly good season for black crappie. These fish are terrific fun to hunt, and delicious eating. And like the other pan fish, they are a great way to introduce kids and neophyte anglers to the excitement of fishing.”
“Sebago is still producing some excellent fishing, even as the lakers and salmon head deeper as the water warms. This week, people headed there seemed to be concentrating on the togue (aka lake trout). Most anglers were trolling, and seem to be moving to downriggers, although a fair number are jigging with big Bay du Noc spoons, bucktails, and jigs like Daddy Macs. Great East Lake is also producing some fine fish, as are other border lakes such as Balch and Horn, these last being warm water ponds with Horn Pond also being managed for brown trout.”
“Saltwater fishing picks up day by day. Haddock fishermen have been reporting good catches, with small cod in the mix. A good sized porbeagle shark (7' plus) was taken off the coast last week. White perch fishing is still strong, and the shad are testing anglers and their gear. Alewives are inhabiting many of the rivers around Great Bay. A very good sign, as numbers of striped bass are usually right behind. But we still need rain.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist in New Hampshire’s Monadnock / Upper Valley district produced this report: “Bass fishing has been challenging at times over the past two weeks as water temperatures have been quite variable. Ponds I have been visiting have gone back to 50 degrees after spending a number of days in the mid-50s. Based on these variable temperatures, it is not surprising bass have lockjaw on some days. Some fish that moved shallow with the expectation of spawning have retreated back to deeper water and will likely stay there until temperatures warm again. Smaller jigs (1/8-ounce) combined with a small plastic trailer are one of the best choices when facing such conditions. Water temperatures are trying to creep up again, but this week’s overcast cool weather won’t help any.”
“When the conditions are like this, I concentrate on bass in smaller water bodies, which typically warm up more quickly. On Saturday, I fished a small pond where largemouth bass were already spawning. I caught a few nice pre-spawn fish in deeper water, but had an even better time watching pairs of bass circling each other on their beds, tails occasionally sticking out of the water, as they spawned.”
“If stream fishing for trout is your interest, now is the time to get out there. The upper and lower Ashuelot River and Cold River have been fishing well. Fly anglers should try the South Branch of the Ashuelot River along Route 12 in Troy. Beard’s Brook, the North Branch, the Souhegan River, and the South Branch Piscataquog River are other good locations to wet a line.”
At AJ’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith situated right on Lake Winnipesaukee, Alan Nute reports that the start-up fishing had been pretty good but recent cold snaps have cooled the bite down.
“We had some pretty good action early but now with water temperatures dropping it seems that the salmon, lake trout and rainbow trout have had a bit of lockjaw. And even the panfish—white perch and crappie have been slow but you still could probably pick up a good catch by fishing the backwaters of some of the shallow bays to the eastern end of the big lake and also make note that the sucker run has started and that will draw a lot of nice rainbow trout up into the feeder streams to feed on the sucker eggs.”
In New Hampshire’s Southeast and Merrimack Valley Region, Regional Fisheries Biologist Matt Carpenter reports: “The month of April was cooler than average with below normal rainfall. For anglers, this translates into good trout fishing weather with easy wading in the larger rivers. I’ve received reports of good looking brook trout in the lower Lamprey River and in the Suncook River in Epsom. Some nice brown trout have also been caught in the Cocheco River in the reach below the Watson Dam.”
“People have been catching broodstock salmon on the Merrimack River in Franklin and at the mouth of the Contoocook River in Penacook. I’ve heard quite a few stories of broken lines and lost fish, so make sure your tackle is strong enough to handle a six pound salmon.”
“By mid-April, largemouth bass were congregating in the shallow backwaters of the Merrimack River. As long as water temperatures remain cool, the more active fish will be found along shallow, south facing shorelines of lakes and ponds and in the shallow coves of larger rivers. The rocky shorelines of Massabesic Lake and Bow Lake provide some good early season options for smallmouth in southeastern New Hampshire.”
Jason MacKenzie at Suds-n-Soda Sports reports that some schoolie-sized stripers are showing up below some of the head-of-tide dams on Great Bay. They are there because the spawning herring runs have started and these herring are “striper candy” and attract this early run of hungry stripers.
A great spot to fish is on the Salmon Falls River on the Maine, New Hampshire border but this place requires some extra caution as the state line runs right down the middle of this river and regulations on striped bass are quite different in each state so beware!”
“The great haddock fishing offshore is kind of old news now but it remains fantastic. Brother Jim and crew fished out on Jeffreys Ledge a couple days ago and the boat limited out—seven fish per angler with a seventeen inch size limit. They also caught quite a few cusk that were welcome in their catch and some cod, which are not legal to catch and keep right now as a conservation effort to rebuild the stocks.”
“On the local freshwater scene, much of the attention now will turn to the crappie fishing on both the Bellamy Reservoir in Madbury and Pawtuckaway Lake in Northwood. Also the small Willand Pond in Dover has an interesting mix on both warm and cold water fish including an occasional huge brown or rainbow trout as well as stocked sized trout.”
“Even our local flounder fishing has started to provide some action with right now the Hampton and Seabrook harbor and rivers are providing some pan-sized fish. Seaworms or shucked clams fished right on bottom are best.”
“Dipping water temps are slowing the river herring runs, but there are reports of stripers as far north as Boston Harbor, so it won’t be long now,” reports Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist in the Seacoast Region. May 1 was a big fishing day on the coast with a new federal rule on haddock taking effect. The season opened with a large increase in the bag limit, it is now 15 haddock per person with a minimum size of 17 inches.”
“Bait shops are beginning to carry sea worms for the white perch and winter flounder fishermen, but call before you head out. Flounder anglers did very well in the Hampton/Seabrook Harbor last spring and into early summer fishing sea worms. Fishing for flounder is generally more productive in a boat, mainly because the subtle bite can be difficult to detect when shore fishing, but that doesn’t mean you should rule it out. Areas like the Hampton jetty, Seabrook town pier, or the shoreline along Route 286 in Seabrook would be prime spots to try, as well as any (legally) accessible dock.”
MAINE: Tyson Garcia at his dad’s Naples Bait and Tackle on Long Lake reports that the cold weather has brought the panfishing in his lake to a stand-still. “Normally we had some great white perch fishing here on Long Lake with people fishing from shore, docks and boats, especially on a warm evening but we had a few days of that and now it’s stopped with the cooling off.”
“While the fishing on Sebago Lake, especially for togue (lake trout) was doing very well even that has slowed down. It wasn’t unusual for a boat to catch and release a dozen or more quality lake trout but because of the slot limits it’s very hard to catch a keeper-sized fish.”
“Smelt runs have been sporadic and hard to rely on and that has made the often great fishing up into the Songo River, especially right below the Songo Dam, pretty hard to hit a good day. It seems the smelt are schooled up right off the drop-off where the Songo dumps into the big lake, but catching a salmon is a rarity, even there. The togue were hitting pretty well there, for awhile.”
“There’s been some good action on rainbow trout in Norway Lake—DB smelts trolled seemed to be the ticket there. Tricky Pond had some good fishing for trolled splake and salmon earlier, but has also slowed.”
“Both large and smallmouth bass have been spotty but with some bright spots at Hancock, Kezar, Mousam and Arrowhead lakes with some bedding noted.”
The fishing on Moosehead right now is very good. “We’ve heard some good reports from Moosehead,” said IFW fisheries biologist Tim Obrey. “Smelts are still running in the Moose River. That’s the place to go for salmon, togue and trout. Anglers are catching salmon up to 21 inches.”
“On Moosehead, the smelts are still running on the northern end of the lake, but the runs have petered out in the southern end. IFW stocking trucks have also made several trips to the area, and one of the more popular fisheries is the West Outlet. Anglers have been catching some nice brook trout there. Other rivers in the area including the Roach still might be a little too cool to fish.”
“It’s still early – there’s still ice on Allagash,” said Obrey. Now is also a good time to try some of the smaller ponds in the Moosehead area. “Now’s the time of year when people catch the biggest trout out of these small ponds. The next two weeks should be really good for bigger fish,” said Obrey. “There’s usually a few midge hatches around midday, and anglers can catch some nice trout on wet flies during the day as well.”
“Smelt runs have been strong in the Penobscot Region, and that translates to good fishing and large fish. In the north end of the region, ice went out two weeks ago on places like Matagammon, Shin Pond and Scraggly. For the most part, we’ve had some good smelt runs, but they have been extremely good in some places,” said IFW Fisheries Biologist Nels Kramer, who said that the size and condition of the salmon they are seeing is excellent.
“Schoodic and Cold Stream pond are looking really good,” said Kramer. “It’s still a little early for Matagamon and the East Branch of the Penobscot but those should be good as well.”
Ice went out on East Grand a month ago, but cold and windy weather have limited fishing activity there. This weekend could be really good there with the winds likely diminishing Saturday.”
“The head of the lake has produced some good, healthy salmon but down at the southern end, we just haven’t seen many anglers due to the wind. When we have seen fish, we have seen some very nice salmon,” said Kramer.
It’s still early up in the Katahdin/Baxter Park area, but they are opening the Park Tote Road to Foster Field on Monday. This will give anglers access to Daicey, Kidney and Draper ponds.
“Up north, winter is still hanging on in much of the region. Basically, the further north and west you go, the more likely you are to find ice on ponds and lakes, while waters are more open to the south and east of the region.”
“In the northwest corner of our region there’s still a lot of snow in the woods and the roads are just beginning to open,” said IFW Fisheries Biologist Frank Frost. “The southern and eastern part of the region is ice free.”
“By the weekend, we expect ice outs to begin to spread from the east to the west. Eagle Lake should be out by the weekend and others will follow,” said Frost. Eagle is usually the first lake for ice out in the Fish River chain, and Long Lake is the last.”
“Smelts have just started to run in the Fish River Chain, while most of the smelt runs in the southern part of Aroostook are done.”
“Square and Eagle are very good ice out fisheries, along with the thoroughfares. Smelt are spawning in the thoroughfares and the salmon and trout are following them into the tributaries,” said Frost.”
MASSACHUSETTS: At Fishing FINatics Sports in Everett, Pete Santini says the flounder fishing in Boston Harbor is right on its peak with limit catches being the rule. “The flats off Boston Harbor, which we’ve nicknamed the “Zobo Flats” after our popular Zobo flounder rig, have been on fire with lots of better-than-average-sized fish and plenty of them. Sea worms are best used on the rig, but some of the old timers also use a mixed bag of shucked clams or seaworms.”
“If you are a newcomer to this fishing you have to know that these fish feed right on bottom, unlike their cousin flounder called fluke. If you’re not fishing on bottom you will not catch our black backed flounder—not one!”
“This just in from Little Sister Charters that fishes predominantly in Boston Harbor for flounder: “Yesterday afternoon I had out a group of Wounded Warriors from New Hampshire and they got about 3/4 limits and todays trip was full limits fishing only two miles from the dock. The water is warming rapidly with the past two days of sunshine and the fish are spreading out across the bay.”
“As of this writing, here is what is available for "Open Boat" from now to the end of June:
MAY: 5/24 AM - ONE spot, 5/25 PM - TWO spots, 5/31 AM - TWO spots. JUNE: 6/1 PM - TWO spots, 6/8 PM - FIVE spots, 6/9 AM - ONE spot, 6/14 AM & 6/15 PM - FIVE spots each, 6/21 - FOUR spots, (no more pm flounder trips from here), 6/23 - ONE spot and 6/30 - THREE spots left.”
There is also the afternoon of 05/27 where the people are looking for a couple of extra fishermen/women, noon–5pm.”
Again, as of this writing, charters dates available are: 06/21 PM, 06/27 AM and 06/30 PM. There are plenty of open dates for open boat and charters in July, and Little Sister will stay with the flounder until July 25 when she will be pulled out for a little prep before settling in Westport on August 1.”
“I apologize if my reports get a bit erratic from here on but I will start two (at least two) trips a day next week until July so I'll do my best to keep everyone posted!”
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