Hooked on fishing – How big was that fish? Although local anglers occasionally indulge their bragging rights, these sports fishermen seem to find as much satisfaction in their connection to nature as they do in the size of their catch, harboring a deep respect for the great outdoors.
Jeff Geary of Exeter has been fishing since he was a small child growing up in central Nebraska, and he learned to fish for bass and perch in the freshwater lakes and ponds of his land-locked home state.
“I remember as a child being absolutely pumped to go fishing with my dad.”
Now Geary, who has lived here for 10 years, can’t resist the lure of ocean fishing.
“The taste of the salt water and the size of the saltwater fish – the size alone hooked me. I fish mostly for striped bass and bluefish, typically from a boat.”
Geary said he fishes as much as possible, at least once a week, if not twice.
“I would go out every day if I could. I prefer the boat because there are so many other things you can see. Being on the water is a completely different experience.”
Geary said he occasionally fishes from shore, favoring the Route 4 Little Bay Bridges in Newington/Durham and the shaft master’s dock on the Piscataqua River in Newington.
Geary said he most often fishes with his three children, who are in grade school. His strategies for success are basic.
“The perfect fishing conditions would be a falling tide on a full moon as the moon is rising,” he said, “and my dream fishing experience would involve my kids, all of us catching two keepers.”
Mark Beauchesne is the outdoor education coordinator for the “Let’s Go Fishing” program offered by the N.H. Fish and Game Department. The program is designed to teach families fishing skills and to promote an understanding of ecology.
Beauchesne, who grew up in Concord and has fished his whole life, said he has a passion for the sport. “I’m all about fishing. Not just fishing, but the background knowledge of ecology and environmental ethics. Fishing helped shape me as an individual. There are a lot of lessons to be learned outside that can’t be learned inside in front of a video game.”
Although catching fish was the initial appeal of the sport to Beauchesne, now he is into bird watching and observing the flora and fauna around his fishing sites.
“I’m a mindful steward of the resources,” said Beauchesne. “I am a piece of this puzzle and I think about where I fit.”
Beauchesne is hard-pressed to choose a favorite fishing spot. “You name it, I go,” he said. “I’ve fished many waters in the state of New Hampshire. I don’t have a favorite. All places hold something special. I like to seek out new adventures – that’s the excitement of it.”
There are many little ponds and out-of-the-way places to discover, according to Beauchesne, and the Fish and Game Web site lists suggested fishing locations according to region of the state and species.
Beauchesne said Cedar Point/Goat Island on Route 4 and Adams Point on Great Bay are great shore bank fishing spots, and also suggested Bellamy Reserve in Madbury, Wheelright Pond in Lee and Swain’s Pond in Barrington.
Old and young alike are ardent about the sport. Robert Busch of Hampton has been fishing for decades. He favors fishing from his boat, which he keeps on the Merrimac River, catching bluefish in 50 feet of water. For landlubbers, Busch said the mouth of the Hampton River is good for striped bass.
Avid fisherman Tommy Coleman of Exeter, will soon turn 16. Like most teens, he can’t wait to get his driver’s license, not to get to the movies or the mall, but to access the array of fishing spots too far to travel to by bicycle.
Coleman, an Exeter High School junior, fishes every day, most often with his friends Brian Thibeault and Sam Parcell.
“It’s not just the fish. How many people watch the sun go up and down? There’s nothing in the world to bother you. It’s the most stress-free sport in the world. You sit out there and notice things you don’t usually notice. It keeps you out of trouble. I don’t pollute. All my friends don’t pollute. We love nature,” he said.
Coleman started fishing with his dad, hooking his first sunfish at a very young age. Now he fishes for striper, cod, haddock and bluefish off the Isles of Shoals, fishes bass for sport and trout for keeps. His best fish recipe? “Cooked on the grill with a little lemon juice,” Coleman recommended.
Coleman said the best way to learn to fish is through experience.
“You learn from experience. If you lose a fish, you learn. And, listen to your elders.”
Local spots favored by Coleman are Powwow Pond in Kingston for bass, pickerel and crappie, Brickyard Pond in Exeter for bass and trout and the railroad trestle at Great Bay near Sandy Point in Stratham. Mid-winter months find Coleman on the Exeter River, ice-fishing from a shack he built with his friends.
Next fall, Coleman will take a building construction course at the high school to help prepare for a career running his own hunting/fishing/guiding business. Coleman said about his life as an outdoorsman, “I never want to see it end. I want my own kids to live by the land and appreciate the world in a way many people don’t these days.”
Hope Eagleson is a volunteer with the Fish and Game Department’s “Let’s Go Fishing” program. She takes her nieces and nephews to Pawtuckaway State Park for fishing several different species of warm water fish – white and yellow perch, blue gills, pumpkinseeds, and large and small mouth bass. “They’re right off shore. You don’t even need a boat,” she added.
Eagleson advised, “Fish for what you can get. Now, as the water warms up, the trout slow down their feeding. But you can catch bass or sunfish.”
When asked about fly-fishing, Eagleson said, “People fly-fish more than you know. Fly fishermen are their own entity. You need more finesse to fly-fish. It’s more unique – the reel and rod are different and the presentation is different, and, of course, you use a fly.”
Joe Kenick of Exeter, president of the Exeter Sportsman’s Club and self-described “Bay rat,” said he would like to see the mystique taken out of fly-fishing.
“Fly fishing involves simple mechanics,” said Kennick. “And the joy of fishing on top is second to none.”
Kenick recommends stream fishing on the Lamprey River from Wiswall Dam downstream and described a spot in the marsh creek along Depot Road in Hampton Falls near the old rail bed that’s great for fishing striper at half tide.
In 2004, the N.H. Fish and Game Department issued a total of 143,835 licenses, according to Sue Martin of the licensing division.
Although minors under the age of 16 do not need fishing licenses, Eagleson reminded that these youth are nevertheless subject to state rules and regulations. Copies of fishing regulations are available in booklet form wherever fishing licenses are issued.
Licenses are available through the Fish and Game Web site, or from licensed agents throughout the state, which are listed on the Web site. The annual license fee for a New Hampshire resident is $35. Residents over the age of 68 are eligible for a free, permanent license. Minors under the age of 16 do not need a license except when fishing broodstock salmon. For non-residents, one-, two- and three-day licenses are available.
By Johanna Maranto
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