It may not look like it, with the snow falling outside my window, but a new fishing season is underway. As of April 1, salmon season is open on the lakes.
Yesterday, I took a quick circle tour of Lake Winnipesaukee to check out the usual hot spots. To be honest, I went as more of an observer than as an angler. Being of the opinion that it was too early to swing a fly, I failed to pack a rod. Needless to say, this was a mistake.
There is still plenty of ice on the “Big Lake”; however there is plenty of room to cast and troll from every bay on the lake. There was a small crowd of intrepid anglers gathered on the dock in Wolfeboro. Alton Bay also had a small group fishing from the bridge.
What surprised me was the number who had gathered along the Merrymeeting River. The small parking lot, at the ballfield, was almost full. I did find a spot to park and spent some time talking to a few of the anglers, who had paused to have lunch. One of them took time to share some cellphone pictures of a gorgeous rainbow trout that he had caught only a few minutes before. It was then that I regretted not bringing my fishing gear.
The Merrymeeting is at present fly fishing only with barbless hooks. The river reverts back to general law June 15. The cars and trucks in the parking lot just about all sported stickers from various fly shops or logos of different fly rod and reel makers.
One truck, from out of state had a vanity plate that read: “FLYROD.” My own truck has an old North Country Angler sticker and another one from Yellowstone National Park in the shape of a trout, displayed in the back window.
From this, you might gather that all those who fish there would be elitist and a bit snobbish. This is, of course, not the case. The two fellows that I spoke with were far from being elitist.
The man with the cellphone pictures was a local, and he had some great pictures of lake trout that he had taken through the ice this winter.
The other fellow was from Greenland, N.H., and it was his first trip to the river. The conversation switched to striped bass fishing, and he shared some insight on last season’s success on the seacoast. He said he was an avid fly fisherman, but confessed to fishing with a spinning rig when it came to striped bass.
On the docks in Wolfeboro, there is a far more diverse group of anglers. There you will find a mixed group of both spin fishermen and fly roders. Here, bait fishermen freely mix with fly fishermen. There is more of a family atmosphere as well.
A mom was there fishing with her two sons. The fishermen at the dock also represented a wider range of age groups. There were lots of youngsters by themselves or accompanied by their parents.
Some fishermen intently peered over the dock watching their bait or fly swing by, while others were content to sit in camp chairs and watch the world go by, as they waited for a strike.
If you fish the dock, it is very important to have a long-handled net. There is quite a distance between the dock and the water. Should you be lucky enough to hook a salmon getting him up to the dock can be quite a trick without a net.
Some years ago, on a Sunday afternoon while returning home from dinner with my family, I stopped by the docks to watch the action for a few moments. The action happened to be quite good, and I was inspired to give it a try. I had a fly rod in the car and quickly uncased it and tied on a fly.
I was not dressed for fishing and in fact was wearing dress pants and a shirt and tie. It was warm and I had removed my sport jacket. My wife and son, also properly dressed for Sunday dinner, watched as I made a few roll casts.
As luck would have it, I hooked a salmon. The salmon went ballistic, but I managed to subdue him. At this point, I realized that I didn’t have a net. Suddenly, my salmon was swept up in a giant landing net and deposited at my feet. A fellow angler had come to my rescue and netted my fish.
The same fellow gave the salmon a quick bop on the head and dispatched him on the spot. I profusely thanked my new friend for his efforts. Given the choice, I probably would have released the fish, especially as I was unprepared to bring home a fresh caught salmon. We found some newspapers and wrapped up the fish and placed him in the trunk.
I returned my rod to its case and proceeded to get in the car and drive home. My son thought the whole thing was great fun, however, Janet did not share the enthusiasm. It was a quiet ride home.
As for the salmon, it was delicious. And that was the last, and only time, I have ever fished off the docks in Wolfeboro.
See you on the river.