By Scott Decker
We are now in in the catch-and-release season for bass (May 15 through June 15). Also, only artificial lures and flies may be used during this time. This rule is designed to protect spawning fish, especially the males that guard the nest from predators.
No weigh-in bass tournaments are allowed during this time. Studies have shown that moving a male guardian bass more than a half mile from its nest causes nest abandonment.
Trout stocking is in full force throughout the entire state. High flows in many streams may be a bit challenging, but trout ponds are providing some good action. Insect hatches are beginning to show, as I observed some Hendrickson mayflies (Ephemerella subvaria for you stream entomologists out there!) near Concord about a week ago. This mayfly is a significant early-season food source for trout. As always, check the stocking report to see where we've stocked trout the previous week.
In the Concord area, some friends reported that they were doing well on rainbows and brookies in the Suncook River near Barnstead lately. Worms and in-line spinners (Panther Martin, Mepps) were doing the trick here. Also, check out the Big and Little rivers in this neck of the woods for trout action.
In the North Country, fisheries biologist Andy Schafermeyer has been doing some trout stocking of late, and he mentioned that Third Connecticut Lake and Big Diamond Pond are finally ice-free as of just last week. These two lakes are usually the last to let go of their winter ice cover. They are known to give up a decent lake trout every now and again, in addition to the rainbows we stock. It's possible some of our stocked rainbows are providing some nourishment for these fish.
It also appears the salmon are running the river between the Connecticut Lakes in Pittsburg and are producing some action for anglers tossing streamer flies, wooly buggers, and even nymphs. A good resource for anglers fishing Pittsburg is Tall Timber's Fishing Blog.
With the near-record snows on Mount Washington recently, Andy cautions anglers fishing streams in the Mount Washington Valley, as the snowmelt from the warm weather adds to the runoff. Streams that may be passable in the morning could be raging by afternoon. A lot of these mountain streams are loaded with wild brookies for anglers willing to make the hike. Andy expects the fishing to improve as streams recede and temperatures increase.
In the Lakes Region, biologist John Viar reports that, as an alternative to landlocked salmon fishing, fishing for pre-spawn smallmouth is hot right now as water temperatures get above the 50-degree mark. The big female bass are "putting on the feedbag" right now, especially in Squam Lake. Speaking of Squam, John has heard of a few anglers doing well on salmon with age-3 fish consistently showing.
Some anglers report catches of up to a half dozen fish in a morning. On Winnipesaukee, salmon and lake trout are still being taken in the top 20 feet of water, mostly on live smelt or shiners. Hardware and flies seem to be producing less fish lately. A few pre-spawn smallmouth were also being hooked by anglers trolling for salmon.
It's derby weekend (May 19-21) on Lake Winnipesaukee, so good luck to all the anglers this year on bagging that trophy salmon or lake trout! Check for updates on the Winni Derby Facebook webpage.
In the Keene/Monadnock Region, fisheries biologist Jason Carrier mentioned the walleye action on the Connecticut was picking up. One angler he spoke with talked of having a 40-fish night below Bellows Falls dam, with a few smallmouth mixed in. Jason also sent me a photo of a bass club fishing at Island Pond in Stoddard during the crazy snowstorm on May 14. New Hampshire spring weather at its finest!
Randy, over at Morse Sporting Goods in Hillsborough, noted that before the big rain over the weekend people were starting to have success with trout in the Contoocook River and Beard's Brook as well as the North Branch of the Contoocook. Bass fishermen were starting to get into some smallmouth on Deering Reservoir.
Local trout ponds were giving up some trout, as well. Emerald Lake (a.k.a. Gould Pond) has been producing some decent-sized rainbows that were stocked in the fall. Conservation Officer Jon DeLisle says despite the high water, fishing has been "awesome" on the Cold River from Acworth down to Walpole. Powerbait and worms were taking most of the trout.
On the Seacoast, marine biologist Becky Heuss says the groundfish bite slowed considerably ahead of last weekend's Nor'easter (like middle-of-the-summer kind of slow). River herring are still holding downriver for the most part. There are a few reports of stripers further down in the Piscataqua and the back channel areas, as well as in the Hampton River.
Becky says these fish are still few and far between, and most likely taking advantage of the herring that are slow to ascend this year. The normal hot spots for this time of year are Henry Law Park in Dover and downtown Newmarket, by the fish ladders, with good sized fish chowing down on the herring runs, but that is definitely not the case YET this year. She expects that the recent warm spell will change that though, and people may want to start paying more attention to the head-of-tide areas.
Trout stocking reports: posted in season at www.fishnh.com/fishing/trout-stocking.html
Fishing licenses: www.nhfishandgame.com. Kids under 16 fish free!
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Scott Decker is a 31-year veteran of Fish and Game and has served as the Inland Fisheries Division Program Supervisor for the last 13 years.