We have had a very mild fall in terms of weather. We are still awaiting the first killing frost. We just had the first snowflakes on the Kanc. Mount Washington is having a hard time staying white.
Our climate is changing. We can debate the causes, be it human-made or natural cycles, but fall has progressively become warmer over the past 50 years.
It is not a distant memory of spending Columbus Day weekend fishing the Connecticut River in Pittsburg and spending more time taking ice off the guides of the fly rod than casting a fly.
There were many years when Labor Day signaled the end of General Law fishing regulations. If one wanted to continue fishing, it was fly fishing only. The fly fishing only season ended Oct. 15. This was a chance to let trout spawn, brook trout and brown trout, undisturbed. The end of fishing season also coincided with the beginning of big game hunting season. Conservation officers were needed to focus on game poachers, not fish poachers.
Conservation officer Carl Carlson loved doing the fall stocking in Pittsburg and catering to the fly fishing anglers. “Fewer poachers," he said.
But rest assured, by Oct. 15, hard-core anglers had enough. It was too cold and too complicated to continue fishing. Ponds almost always had ice around the edges by that time.
Fast forward to today. On Oct. 15, pond water temperatures were still in the high 60-degree range. There were no fall rains to cool the ponds and to raise the rivers. Anglers were fishing in shirtsleeves on the last day of trout season. It was reminiscent of past Augusts, not Octobers.
While Fish and Game no longer has funding to stock trout in the fall, apart from heavily pressured ice fishing waters, the demand for continued trout angling exists. One need look no further than the Seacoast region. A private group, Three Rivers Stocking Association, has worked out an arrangement with Fish and Game where fishing stays open.
Fish and Game has set up barbless, catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only fishing on the Cocheco, Isinglass and Lamprey Rivers. In return, Three Rivers Stocking Association purchases trout from Sumner Brook Hatchery in Ossipee and places those fish in the rivers.
If any of you have traveled to the Seacoast to fish these rivers, you know the popularity. You will have a hard time on a Saturday or a Sunday finding a place to park your car, let alone a stretch of water to fish.
It is a very successful program, and Three Rivers Stocking Association receives thousands of dollars in donations every year.
New Hampshire has a history with an extended artificial lure season. There is proof that the demand for an extended trout season is viable. Is it time to roll this type of program out to all stocked trout water in the state?
The recent Fish and Game Hatchery Advisory Committee recently weighed in on this issue. With the increased demand for trout angling opportunities, the Committee recommended that the Fish and Game Department investigate implementing a fall artificial lures-catch and release season. Eligibility to participate would necessitate the purchase of a Fall Trout Stamp. Revenue from the trout stamps would be used to stock the most popular waters in the state.
Sounds like an idea whose time has arrived.
Tip Of The Week
If you like to fish open water trout in the winter, consider donating to Three River Stocking Association.
Every dollar donated is spent on stocking trout in the three rivers. You can make donations at threeriversstocking.com.
Steve Angers, a native to the Conway area, is the author of the book “Fly Fishing New Hampshire’s Secret Waters” and operates the North Country Angler.