Trout fishing strong New Hampshire

Trout fishing strong, stripers on the move By Dick Pinney

The cold front that swept through the region with cold winds and low temps put a damper on some of the region’s fishermen. One place that it didn’t impact that much was the Winni Derby, New Hampshire’s largest and longest running trout and salmon tourney. Thousands of anglers from states as far away as Florida were on the water at Lake Winnipesaukee vying for prizes.

This year, the big lake was more than ready for them! Biologist Eric Orff had told us that the numbers and sizes of landlocks available at Lake Winnipesaukee has probably peaked–never being better. There was a huge number of 3 1/2 year-old salmon that would probably average between three and four pounds with some larger fish in the lake possibly reaching that magical ten-pound range. He also mentioned that lake and rainbow trout in Lake Winnipesaukee were in great shape.

Bait dealers in the Lakes Region thought they had plenty of live smelt for the derby but many were out as soon as Friday night. Steve Courshesne, at Steve’s Sportsmen’s Den in Hooksett, was out on the lake and he’s usually in the money. The Thursday night prior to the derby, he’d sold out of 300 dozen smelts!

“The Merrimack River is dropping nicely finally and there’s going to be some very good trout and salmon action as it drops. There’s been stocking going on and there’s always the chance of a big holdover fish. Those broodstock Atlantic salmon can get into your blood. They should be settled into their holding spots this coming week as the river gets into better conditions. Hooksett Falls Dam is one place that holds these fish and you can fish with both lure or fly. Brook, brown and rainbow trout are also taken in the river. Smallmouth bass fishing can be tremendous as the water warms,” Steve reported.

This derby, although dominating the fishing in the Granite State, wasn’t the only game in town. Last Thursday, this writer and wife fished one of the “two story” ponds that rainbow trout are stocked in over a warm water population. Using small stick baits and DB Smelts, trolling in six to twelve feet of water, we caught 17 really nice Œbows up to 15 inches. We kept for a meal the three fish that were hooked too deep to release and were very surprised at the pink meat and their excellent body shape. New Hampshire’s fish stocking is now easily accessed on their web page at

Ben Nugent, NH fisheries biological technician and Matt Carpenter, fisheries biologist, emailed this great report entitled Surf and Turf: “First, the surf: “By this time last year, people were catching big striped bass at the head of tide on the coastal rivers. Each year the stripers follow the river herring up river and gorge themselves where the herring congregate behind the dams. This year the water temperatures have been unusually low, which has delayed the herring run. It won’t be long before the blueback herring and alewives are swimming up the fish ladders by the thousands. This is the only time of year when your chances of catching a legal-sized striped bass from shore are at least as good as your chances of catching one from a boat. The two most popular spots are below the dam at the Lamprey River in Newmarket and along the Cocheco River in Henry Law Park, near downtown Dover. Some people use herring for bait, but most use artificial lures. Ask a local what’s been working recently.”

“This is a good time of year to try for groundfish off the coast. If you don’t own a boat you can charter a boat with a small group, ride a party boat, or, if you’re lucky, find a friend to take you out. While it can be hit or miss out there, people have been taking home more than their fill of haddock and cod. If you wait too long you’ll have to contend with the tourists and the dogfish.”

“We have also heard that the winter flounder have been biting south of the border (that is, waters off Massachusetts). Apparently the best approach is to use a sea worm for bait and form a chum line that drifts over a mussel bed. I have never tried this, but there are some mussel beds in Little Harbor that might just be a perfect place to prove me wrong. Check the mussel beds at low tide so you know how to position your boat when the tide comes in.”

“And now, the turf: Fishing for brook trout in small mountain streams is always on our list of fishing opportunities in May. Now is the time to hit these brooks and streams, before the black flies become unbearable or vegetation along stream banks gets too thick. Stream fishing can be productive all day long and challenges anglers of all ages and skill levels. Don’t avoid a stream just because it’s not on Fish and Game’s stocking list; several wild brook trout populations are present in streams throughout New Hampshire. Get out and explore. Along with the delicious fish, don’t forget to bring home all your rubbish. There’s nothing more unattractive than a submerged worm container or a mass of tangled line in the bushes. Perfect your roll cast in the West Branch of the Upper Ammonoosuc River (Berlin), Nash Stream (Stratford/Stark), and Wild River (Beans Purchase).”

“Take advantage of lakes and pond that receive generous amounts of brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. The hard work from our hatchery staff can be seen at the end of fishing lines in hundreds of waterbodies in New Hampshire. Akers Pond (Errol), Mirror Lake (Whitefield), Stonehouse Pond (Barrington), Streeter Pond (Sugar Hill), Webster Lake (Franklin) are just a few examples of lakes and ponds which can offer angler success. These waterbodies are easily navigated by a small boat or from shore and can be fished with a variety of flies, spinners, and live bait. Reports of some real horses caught have come from Airport Pond (Whitefield) and Saltmarsh Pond (Guilford).”

“The appetites of smallmouth and largemouth bass are heating up with water temperatures. Nothing can beat post-spawn fishing for smallmouths. Early morning or evening topwater fishing, with poppers, jitterbugs, and soft plastic jerk baits, can be explosive and rewarding. Try using rods and lines with lighter weights to experience the strength of these fighters. And don’t forget that May 15 – June 15 is catch-and-release and artificial lure/fly only for smallmouth and largemouth bass. We’re counting down the days when the action will be hot at Moore Reservoir (Littleton/Dalton) and Umbagog Lake (Errol). Moore Reservoir also offers the possibility of catching the next state record northern pike.”

At Kittery Trading Post’s Fishing Department, Jamie had some good news about the brook trout fishing in the area around the big Mount Agamenticus in York County. “I stopped at one of those small brooks around the mountain and fished for a while before coming to work this morning. These brookies are not huge but are feisty things and always fun to catch (and release). I only caught one this morning because of the time limitations but during a morning’s fishing, we usually have plenty of action. There’s some hatches starting in earnest right now. A small black caddis fly works about as well as anything you can show one of these brookies. They are not all that fussy.”

“The big buzz here right now has swung towards the saltwater. Schoolie stripers are being caught in just about all the coastal streams and there’s some shad and alewives mixed in. It won’t be much longer before those big fish hit here. We’ve heard reports that the lower Connecticut River is just full of big stripers,” Jamie said.

Chad Woodward, one of our usual reporters from the Kittery Trading Post, was fishing the Winni Derby at this writing so maybe in our next week’s report we’ll be able to talk about his experiences. Chad fishes a lot and is about as active a fisherman as there is on their staff. His fishing takes him from the offshore ledges on the ocean chasing “football” bluefin tuna to the big lakes of both New Hampshire and Maine. He’s deadly on the stripers when they hit the Piscataqua River here and has plenty of good tips.

“One of the keys to finding these early season stripers is to look for warmer water where baitfish may be holding. Some of the outlets of tidal creeks and tidal ponds will attract stripers as the outgoing tides sweep the baitfish attracted by the warmer water swept down to the outlets.”

“Spruce Creek, right here near our parking lot is one good example. Another good example is a tidal pond dammed up by a causeway on the east side of Spruce Creek. There’s a lot of baitfish in that tidal pond and on the outgoing tide, stripers and an occasional big sea-run brown trout will eagerly take a fly, lure or live bait drifted in the currents. Also, stripers will seek out the warm water discharges from power plants located along the New Hampshire side of the Piscataqua,” Chad revealed.

Craig Bergeron, at Saco Bay Tackle, was happy about the amount of stripers that had showed up both in the Saco River and Bay and in the surrounding rivers. “There seems to be a lot of them in the 14 to 18 inch range. They are hitting bucktail flies, jigs and casting spoons like the Castmaster. There’s shad in the river below the dams on the Saco River and quite a few alewives and river herring.”

“Our nearby trout ponds and brooks also are producing some good action,” Craig noted. The water is getting down nicely in the brooks and they’ve all been stocked. Kennebunk Pond and Swan Pond are producing mixed bags of browns, brookies and rainbows–mostly in the 12 to 16 inch range,” he ended.

In Maine’s Sebago Lakes Region, Dave Garcia at Naples Bait on Long Lake reports some excellent togue (lake trout) and fat landlocked salmon are being taken at the mouth of the Songo River at Sebago Lake and even up into the river, especially at the Songo Locks. “Larry Lewis of Naples was out fishing along the Songo Bar in 40-45 feet of water. He came in here and had three really nice togue of 11.5, 8 and 5 pounds. He caught all the fish trolling with sewed on bait close to bottom. Another customer, Mike Oliver, was tossing white marabou jigs into the currents below the Songo Locks and had caught several nice salmon, from two to four and a half pounds.”

“White perch should be on the move right now. The first warm day we get, a school of them should move into the Songo Locks. These are big fish, from a pound up, even an occasional two pounder. Pin smelts are deadly on the perch and even worms and nightcrawlers will produce fish.”

“Our brooks are starting to get down to shape and are producing some good brook trout fishing and our rivers also are getting into better conditions. The local ponds like Long Lake will produce some good smallmouth fishing right now–you want to be fishing the spring points. Stick and jerk baits in 15 feet of water are good for the smallmouths. Largemouths will be moving into the shallows. Spinner baits tossed toward shore will find these fish.”

“There’s not a lot of fishing pressure out on the lake,” was the word from Carroll Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago. “The few fishermen out there are finding an occasional salmon and the lake trout are always there. We’ve heard reports that the salmon are fat and in the best shape that we’ve seen in years. Both the salmon and lake trout are just full of smelts!”

When we called Ray Soriano at River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc, he had just been looking at the outside temperature and it was in the twenties! “In spite of this and some windy conditions, we’re still seeing some awesome salmon brought in here and hearing about some big brookies that have been caught and released.” He had photos of salmon that ranged from just under six pounds down to over five pounds and none smaller! The brook trout caught and released were in the four to five pound range! Penny Legere at the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville reports that fishing pressure is very light as the weather conditions are not ideal, but she noted that there has been some good fishing.

“Danny (her Maine Guide husband) has done very well at the East Outlet (Kennebec River) on both brookies and salmon. We’ve had some other reports about good fishing there as well. The West Outlet, which isn’t noted for big fish, produced a 20-inch landlock the other day. First Roach Pond is having a great spring so far on togue, which it is noted for. Out here on Sebago, there’s been very little fishing pressure.” (As we wrote this husband Dan was guiding a group of fishermen at Baker Lake, where muskies are the main target.)

Kay Moulton, at Surfland Bait and Tackle on Plum Island, said: “We’ve got stripers, quite a few and some big ones. Some fishermen have been catching 15 to 20 fish per outing. Bucktail jigs have been good producers as well as topwater baits. Shad have moved up under the dam in Lawrence. One guy that came in here was fishing there all alone and hooked a shad on his third cast and from then on he had shad on just about every cast. He couldn’t believe the action he had and being there all alone.”

“Last night I landed a 38 inch bass,” was the excited news from Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics in Everett, MA. “The big fish took a six inch, blue and white Wild Eyed Shad. I caught three other fish that were between 24 and 28 inches. Herring have really moved into the rivers.”

“Flounder have been hitting well at Sculpin Ledge, off Castle Island and off the Lynn Pier. Small codfish with a few keepers mixed in have moved into the North Channel and Presidents Roads. The haddock and cod fishing continues offshore. Captain Chuck on the Skip-A Dory Charter boat had a tremendous haddock trip that last time out, fishing on the east end of Stellwagon Banks.” – Portland,ME,USA

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