Hunters Corner: Fishing season gets under way
April 1 marked the opening of salmon and lake trout season.
New Hampshire manages 15 lakes for landlocked salmon: Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound Lake, Ossipee Lake, Big and Little Squam Lakes, Sunapee Lake, Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake and Nubanusit Lake. Pleasant Lake in New London is also managed for landlocked salmon, but it is classified as a trout pond with an opening date of April 27.
The Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough experienced 20 elbow-to-elbow anglers on opening morning. A few shorts were caught as well as some small but legal salmon. Other hot spots with shore access include Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, Smith River inlet at Wolfeboro Bay, and Meredith and Center Harbor town docks. Smelt, shiners and worms under a slip bobber to small jigs will attract salmon as well as rainbow trout.
My guess for ice-out is the afternoon of April 16. Trolling the ice lines is about the most productive manner of fishing for salmon. Top choices for spoons to be trolled are DB Smelt, Sutton, Mooselook, Top Gun and Smelt Gun. Also top of the list are streamer tandem flies. My favorite early-season flies are the Barnes Special and the Red-Gray Ghost and the Blue Smelt. The only thing I have ever caught with the Joe Smelt is a cold, but others swear by it.
The PJ Special is another unique fly in my box. This is a fly tied on a long shank No. 6 hook with a bodacious hunk of red feathers tied on with black thread. It remains a mystery to me what it is trying to imitate, but it has worked in the past. Trolling live bait such as smelt and shiners is also a winning proposition.
Squam, Newfound, Sunapee, Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam lakes have a single-hook requirement when trolling live bait. The purpose is to reduce hook wounded/scarred fish. Hook wounded/scarred fish are significantly shorter and poorer in body condition than non-hook wounded counterparts of the same age. Using rubber nets and proper release techniques will also serve to reduce damage to caught salmon and lake trout.
Another lure that has worked well for me on both salmon and rainbows is the YO-ZURI pin’s minnow. YO-ZURI’s greatest asset is the sharpness of its hooks. Regardless of what you are dragging, the basic rule of darkness and light apply. On dark overcast days, troll a dark lure or streamer fly. On bright days, troll a light colored lure or streamer fly.
The hatcheries are gearing up for spring fish stocking. Close to 1 million catchable-size trout are ready to be released.
“As patches of open water begin to appear and shoreline ice starts to break up, anglers – including me – can’t help but look forward to open water trout fishing. Spring conditions are more reflective of a typical year, so our hatchery staff will look forward to a more typical stocking routine this year,” Fisheries Division Chief Jason Smith said. Fish Culturists at New Hampshire’s six state hatcheries have had another great growing season and the stocking trucks are ready to get rolling in April.
With cold, high waters from melting show, it will be a few weeks before most rivers and streams are at “fishable” levels. Most trout species are reluctant to bite until the streams reach temperatures in the mid-40s.
“We don’t want to stock streams too early because cold, high water early in the season does not present suitable conditions for trout stocking and angler access is limited until waters recede,” Smith said. “We’re fortunate to have conservation officers in the field who monitor water conditions and make the necessary adjustments to the trout stocking schedules for when conditions are right.”
New Hampshire’s designated trout ponds will open on the fourth Saturday in April (April 27) and should offer early season success. Keep in mind that ponds and lakes that are not designated trout ponds are open for fishing as soon as they are free from ice. This means as soon as the weather turns for the better, you are free to go fishing.
On a final cautionary note, you should always be wearing a personal flotation devise (PFD) when fishing. The first water crafts to hit the open water are canoes and car top boats. If you were to fall out of one of these crafts without the benefit of a PFD, given the coldness of the water, your chances of survival are significantly reduced.
(Bob Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)