For many, Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer. For anglers, Labor Day marks the beginning of that special time of year — fall fishing. It also marks the end of fishing in the waters that are under Fish and Game’s Wild Trout Management program.
There are 13 streams and three ponds in the Granite State that have Wild Trout Management protection. Fortunately for those of us here in the White Mountains, two of the three ponds are located here.
Ethan Pond, located in the Lincoln Woods Scenic Area, and Shoal Pond, located in the Pemigewasset Wilderness are the two ponds. These are remote hike in ponds that are not stocked and hold the wildest and most native of trout in the White Mountains. We really enjoy getting into the wildness of this fishing.
Ethan Pond can be fished on a day basis. Traveling west on Route 302, the Arethusa Falls Trail is on the left after you pass the Dry River Campground. It is approximately a three mile hike from the Arethusa Falls trailhead. We like to start here as the climb is a little less strenuous than leaving from the Kedron Flume Trail. However, on Labor Day weekend the parking will be easier at the Willey House and the Kedron Flume Trail.
Ethan Pond is best fished with a float tube. A float tube gives you easy access to the entire pond. There is really no cooler feeling than floating around Ethan Pond, surrounded by mountains, and a trout at the end of your line.
Wild Trout Management Waters have special angling regulations. As with all Trout Ponds, Ethan Pond is open to angling on the fourth Saturday in April. This rarely happens as the ice doesn’t leave Ethan Pond until sometime in late May. Fishing is by artificial lure or fly with barbless hooks. All fish must be released immediately. The season closes on Labor Day. This is to allow the fish to spawn unmolested.
Ethan Pond has a tent shelter for overnight stays. If we are fortunate to find the shelter unoccupied, we will stay at the shelter. It is a short walk to the pond and if Ethan Pond trout are not cooperating, we can hike to Shoal Pond and try the wild brook trout in that water.
If you want to experience wilderness trout fishing for the first time, we recommend that you hire a guide. Randy Oulette, of the Swift River Ghillie, is permitted to guide overnight fishing trips in the White Mountain National Forest. He will speed up your learning curve and provide a memorable experience.
Since we are backpacking into the pond, we use a nine foot, four weight, four piece fly rod or a Tenkara rod with a long tippet. These easy to pack, lightweight rods are ideal for the Ethan Pond trout.
Flies we like to use for Ethan Pond include the Royal Coachman, wet or dry, the Bivisible, the White Wulff, the Silver Doctor, the Harris Special, and of course the Hornberg. We tie these flies on Fulling Mill barbless hooks. If you have barbed hooks you will need to smash down the barbs with your forceps.
For spinning lures, use 1/16th ounce Daredevils. This lure comes in a variety of colors. Keep changing colors until you find the one the fish want that day. Barbs on these hooks have to be smashed down as well.
Tip of the week
When embarking on a wilderness trout fishing trip purchase a Hike Safe card when you purchase your fishing license. The Hike Safe card is insurance should you need to have Fish and Game rescue you due to weather or injury.
Steve Angers is a native son to the Conway area. He has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.