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NH Fishing Report - May 19, 2016

Take Me Fishing!Greetings, anglers!

Saturday May 21 is World Fish Migration Day!  This is a one day global event to create awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. The river herring run is in full bloom in the Merrimack and several of our coastal rivers. 


Be sure and check out the Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitor Center in Manchester from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. on May 21 and learn about herring, sturgeon and other migrating fish in the Merrimack River and view fish in the underwater windows. For more information, visit




Release Bass: We are in the midst of bass spawning season and all bass (largemouth and smallmouth) need to be released through June 15.  Also, you can target bass only when using artificial lures and flies at this time, no live bait, which helps to avoid deep hooking.


New Version of Lead Jig Law: On June 1, 2016, the laws prohibiting the use and sale of certain lead sinkers and jigs will change to include all sinkers and jigs with a total weight of one ounce or less.  To learn more, visit


Please help out on our survey: Licensed New Hampshire anglers may receive a phone call, an email or a letter in the coming weeks, asking for participation in a survey about your fishing experiences. Please consider participating, if contacted, to help us better understand anglers' participation in and satisfaction with fishing in New Hampshire.



fly fishingThere is nothing quite like catching a fish on the surface. Some may say that the whole premise of angling is to make contact with a fish. If that is true, a fish breaking the water and rising for bait would seem to increase that very connection. Whether it is a big smallmouth smashing a popper or a 3-inch trout sipping a Royal Wulff, hooking a fish in this manner will bring a smile to anyone who witnesses it.


I put this theory to practice on a fishing trip last fall. It rained every minute of this three-day adventure, and the fishing was very slow. I was with some men who really know their stuff and we were trying every trick in the fly-fishing book. Some of us were fishing heavy nymphs, some of us were fishing droppers and I watched one of my friends tie on a big, ugly striper fly. Nothing was working and we were soaking wet. When my frustration had reached its peak, I decided that if I was unlikely to catch a fish and was essentially practicing my casting, I’d put on a big, dry fly and watch it move among the raindrops. I’d like to tell you that everything changed and I started catching fish on every cast. Unfortunately, that is not what happened but I did catch a few. The fish rose to the surface in a way that made me smile and forget that rain was running into my waders like a broken spigot.


Insects are hatching in northern New Hampshire right now, and I saw some fluttering caddis on the Connecticut River yesterday. I also had a few small, dark stoneflies land on my hat to keep the black flies company. This will all translate to some good dry fly fishing as temperatures warm into the weekend.


Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist



In order to gather some baseline information (length, weight and age) on the white perch population in Lake Winnipesaukee, we recently placed nets in bays well known as areas used for spawning white perch.  We were able to get a good representative sample of spawning adults this week including several fish in excess of 15 inches and two pounds.  Despite the species being highly pursued during the ice fishing and the spring open water season, the population continues to appear abundant and healthy.  White perch seek out the first areas in the lake that reach around 60° F to spawn.  Females can have over 100,000 eggs and once fertilized, the eggs can hatch as quickly as a day or two.  In some of our larger lakes, robust body condition in conjunction with large egg and milt masses can cause a disruption to swim bladder function.  This will make some of the larger adults to float on the water surface.


Although the spawning run for white perch started over two weeks ago, the fluctuating weather patterns have likely extended the period where adult white perch congregate in the northern portions of Lake Winnipesaukee to spawn.  During the recent cold fronts, the shutoff of the spawning run has been as instantaneous as a light switch.  After a few days of warmer weather the spawning run picks up again.  I predict, given the forecast for the end of the week, that the spawning run will again be in full swing over the weekend and early part of next week.  This is a very popular time of year for some anglers.  They use a variety of different tackle (small inline spinners and spinner baits, live bait with strike indicators, small jigs, spoons and streamers) to target these fish in parts of Moultonborough, Melvin, Nineteenmile, and Twentymile bays as well as around the Lees Mills and State’s Landing areas.  Although Lake Winnipesaukee is perhaps best known for trophy sized white perch, both Winnisquam and Squam lakes also produce some quality fish.  For these two lakes seek out shallow bays that could warm more quickly and larger inlets, such as where the Winnipesaukee Rivers enters Winnisquam Lake.


- Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist



My good friend and well-known local angler and hunter, Jean Goodell, just took a week off from work to turkey hunt.  Luckily for me, he got a turkey on his first day off and spent the rest of the week fishing, passing along some information for this report.


Granite Lake has been hot for rainbow trout this year, and Jean hit it twice with good results.  He limited out on rainbows before 8:00 a.m. on both days and had the bonus of catching a 17-inch lake trout on his second day.  Lake trout are just starting to get caught in better numbers in Granite after many years of being scarce, so please release any that you catch so that the population can continue to rebound.  Jean also met an angler from Greenfield, MA, who showed him pictures of a gorgeous 4-pound rainbow he caught in Granite the day before.


Silver Lake was a little slower with only one fat rainbow trout to show for his efforts, but Jean had his limit of trout in the cooler after only two hours on Forest Lake the next day.  He finished off his week at Center Pond (Nelson) with a few trout on the fly rod.  Most of his fish this week came on a copper spoon fished on three colors of lead-core.


I also received reports that Beards Brook and the North Branch are fishing well for trout and that some holdover browns were caught in both Whittemore Lake and Center Pond (Nelson).


I fished Forest Lake for bass on Saturday and saw what is being reported to me by numerous anglers from water bodies throughout southwestern New Hampshire -- the spawn is on.  While I did observe a few nests with both male and female largemouth bass in the act of spawning, there were many nests were spawning had already occurred and a male was guarding eggs.  Bigger females were under docks and I had a great day using both small jigs and Ned Rigs.  Remember that May 15 to June 15 is catch and release for largemouth and smallmouth bass and only artificial lures and flies may be used.


- Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist



alewife and blueback herring

Blueback herring (bottom) have a smaller eye than that of the alewife (top).

River herring restoration efforts are in full swing.  River herring is a common term used to describe two species of fish: the alewife and the blueback herring.  Both species migrate up freshwater rivers from the ocean on an annual spring spawning run.  They can be difficult to tell apart, but they have similar life cycles.  Both species spend about four years in the ocean, where they are preyed upon by everything from striped bass to cod, and even humpback whales.  They lay their eggs in freshwater, alewives preferring slower moving sections of rivers or lakes and ponds and blueback herring tend to spawn in faster flows.  Juveniles consume zooplankton and grow rapidly.  By the end of the summer they begin migrating downstream to the ocean by the thousands.  Both adults and juveniles become food for predators such as large and smallmouth bass and pickerel as they become concentrated in great numbers during their migration to and from the ocean.


The river herring run came on strong with last week’s warm weather.  Counts on the Lamprey and Cocheco Rivers are approaching record numbers.  Since river herring showed up at the Merrimack River last Wednesday, the count -- which is at about 250,000 -- is almost double last year’s total for the season. Because much of the spawning habitat in the Merrimack River is inaccessible due to impassable dams, we use trucks to transport river herring into waterbodies with suitable spawning habitat.  Stocking locations include the Nashua River, Potanipo Lake, Pine Island Pond, and Lake Winnisquam. With the increase in numbers this year, we hope to include additional sites in the Suncook River, Contoocook River, and other locations throughout the Merrimack River watershed.  For anglers in the aforementioned waters, a silvery lure, spoon or swimbait makes a good imitation for river herring when targeting resident fish.


This most recent attempt to restore the river herring run on the Merrimack River began in 2010. With help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Hampshire Fish and Game Marine Division, and Maine Department of Marine Resources, we were able to obtain river herring from the Lamprey, Cocheco, Saco, Androscoggin and Kennebec Rivers for transport into Merrimack River stocking locations. At the time, the Merrimack River herring count barely topped 500 fish (historic fishway counts for the Merrimack River are available at:  We still rely on other rivers for much of our stocking, but each year we have been able to capture more fish from the Merrimack River itself.  This year we are beginning to see the potential of the Merrimack River to support a healthy population of river herring.  With improvements in fish passage we hope to restore a sustainable population that becomes less dependent on trap and transport operations over time.


Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist



The river herring are running up coastal rivers in record numbers this spring and the stripers have finally made an appearance.  This early season herring run provides many shore anglers with their easiest chance of catching a large striper.  The typical method employed is snagging a river herring using one rod rigged with a weighted treble hook or “snag hook” that is cast into a school of herring, allowed to sink a little, and then reeled in quickly or jigged. Then transfer the live fish onto a 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook, up through the lower jaw and out the head, on a second fishing pole.


Fishing with live herring can be very productive near the head-of-tide dams in Newmarket, Dover, and Exeter. This is also where the largest amount of river herring congregates. There are restrictions around the head-of-tide dams and fish ladders, as well as closed days for river herring. You can find these special restrictions in the Saltwater Fishing Digest on pages 7 and 19, ( .  Alternately, swimming lures also work well and anglers have had some luck recently catching smaller stripers on sea worms, which are available at most local bait shops now.


- Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist



Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration: A User-Pay, User-Benefit ProgramSport Fish Restoration
Researching and managing fisheries and teaching people about aquatic ecosystems are funded by your license dollars and by the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Your purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels make a difference to New Hampshire's fisheries. Learn more.