Hunter’s Corner: The time for open-water fishing is near

For the Monitor
Published: 4/3/2017 10:52:15 PM

The deadline for getting my boat out of storage is April 1 but with the storm coming Friday night, I opted to retrieve the boat on the Friday much to Ranee’s displeasure owing to the fact while the boat was safe and sound in the garage, Ranee’s car will be out in the snow. Saturday is also the opening day for open-water fishing for landlocked salmon and lake trout. This has been a bizarre winter with a late ice-in and a questionable ice-out. I’m betting on a mid-April ice-out which would be later than last year but sooner than what a normal ice-out might be. All told, there are 14 lakes managed for lake trout and salmon. The only exception is Pleasant Lake in New London, which is managed for salmon but is classified as a designated trout pond. Pleasant Lake opens April 22.

Thus, begins the shore fishing anglers’ heyday. As the month progresses, access to use car top boats and canoes will be available. I cannot stress the importance of wearing a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD). Your chance of surviving an encounter without a PFD is highly remote. Salmon and lake trout waters have a unique restriction, when you are fishing with bait you are restricted to a hook with a single hook point. In years, past treble hooks caused serious damage to salmon who were caught and released. As a result, a change had to be made and it has worked well. As a result, there are fewer hook wounded salmon which is a good thing. Hook wounded salmon are significantly shorter and poorer in body condition than non-hook wounded counterparts of the same age. Using rubber nets and proper release techniques (for example don’t shake fish off the hook).

So, you are more than ready to start fishing from shore and what to use for bait. In order of preference I would start with smelt, shiners, night crawlers and Power Bait with a bobber that will allow the bait to drift. Now, the same areas that produce salmon and lake trout also produce rainbow trout. In salmon waters, the minimum legal length is 15 inches. If you take a rainbow under 15 inches it is an expansive mistake. It will cost you a fine, cost of license for one year and two years of probation.

Where to go is always a good question. I am a big-lake proponent. Winnipesaukee has many more opportunities than other bodies of water. Top on the list are Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough, Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, Smith River inlet at Wolfeboro Bay, and Meredith and Center Harbor town docks. There are a few other locations that come to mind, the town beach at Gilford for one. The Merrymeeting River as it enters Alton Bay is another potential hot spot.

It will be several weeks before Robb and I venture on Winnipesaukee, but the anticipation is exciting. Our main target is the landlock salmon. And whether you are using hardware of streamer flies, the lures serve one purpose, to irritate the fish into attacking the lure or fly. I have never been one who had the patience to drift live smelt or shiners. No matter how successful it proves to some, I prefer to troll. Part of the reason is my choice of a Lund boat that has a near perfect design to troll and its hull has a perfect chine to take on the worst of weather and still keep you dry.

Spring is in full bloom at Fish and Game with several scheduled outdoor adventure talks. The talks start at 7 p.m. at Fish and Game headquarters in Concord and are free.

Wednesday: Trolling New Hampshire’s Big Lakes – Learn about trolling techniques and gear from expert fishing guide Scott Jackson of the Great North Woods Guides Service and owner of the New Hampshire Outdoor Learning Center explains trolling speeds and depths, downrigger and lead core set-ups, jig boxes, lure and bait selection. Understand fish feeding patterns like a professional. Learn what it takes to catch trout and salmon in New England. Good for all experience levels. See the gear and bring your questions.

April 11: Raptors of New Hampshire – See live birds of prey like owls’, peregrine falcon or red-tailed hawk. This talk is presented by Kevin Wall, director of education at the New Hampshire Audubon. Learn about the adaptations that helped establish these raptors as some of New Hampshire’s top predators.

April12: Reel Paddling Film Festival at Red River Theaters. Ride the rapids at the Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour at the Red River theater at 7 p.m. Featured films include canoeing in the Artic, kayaking Africa’s rivers and stand-up paddleboard surfing in Barbados. Tickets are $12 online at or $15 at the door.

April 19: Turkey Hunting Seminar – Discover the time-honored tradition of spring turkey hunting in New Hampshire with a talk by the New Hampshire Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Learn the basics of turkey hunting, calling and turkey hunting safety. Everything you need to know to get your gobbler this spring!

Inland Fisheries Chief Jason Smith is doing mental cartwheels with the arrival of spring and open-water fishing, especially trout fishing. Fish culturists in New Hampshire have been holding on waiting for favorable conditions for spring stocking and the trucks are now rolling. The hatcheries have produced close to one million catchable-sized trout ready for this season. While the season opens on designated trout ponds on April 22, fishing is open now on non-designated ponds as soon as the ice is out. Smith went on to say that “As the season progresses, fishing on smaller streams will pick up, for south to north, with the larger rivers to follow. A good rule of thumb is to follow the black flies as they move north.”

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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