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NH Fishing Report - August 19, 2016

Take Me Fishing!Greetings, anglers!

We’ve had some temporary relief from drought conditions with recent rainstorms.  Before you know it, cooler temperatures and fall fishing will be here.  Take the kids on a fishing trip before school starts.  Come see the live fish tank at the Fish and Game building at the Hopkinton State Fair in a couple of weeks (Sept 1 - 5). Hang in there, everyone!



In the same way that a blood transfusion brings new life, recent rain has rejuvenated the angling opportunities in northern New Hampshire. What were once dusty roads and low flows are now back where they belong and conditions feel healthy again. The fish seem to have responded, as I have hit some streams when the conditions were close to unfishable with great results. The water can be moving fast and slightly discolored, but fish seem to be taking advantage of the lower temperatures, higher oxygen, and new sources of food. Most of the brook trout that I have handled have distended stomachs that display recent heavy feeding. In these types of water conditions, I frequently land a trout on a fly and observe an earthworm dangling out of the corner of its mouth. Like I said, the whole system seems like it got a healthy infusion of new life.


My work details have had me in a lot of wild trout water lately and as I carefully sample these fish, I can see that some have begun an early transformation into their spawning colors. The males are getting orange in the belly and females seem to be getting larger as they produce and store their eggs. The daylight is getting shorter and the temperatures of both water and air are decreasing. It is a good reminder that summer and the fishing season are approaching their twilight. The time to get out and fish is now.

Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist



We have nearly completed our annual forage fish surveys on the large lakes that we manage for salmon and lake trout.  These surveys are done after the sun goes down using mobile hydroacoustic equipment (a high-end fish finder, if you will).  We are able to measure forage (primarily rainbow smelt) abundance this way which helps us fine tune our management of salmon and lake trout.  Pending detailed analysis of the data, it appears to be an above average year for smelt populations for the lakes we have already sampled (Merrymeeting, Newfound and Winnipesaukee lakes).  We should be able to complete our assessments at Squam, Sunapee, and Winnisquam lakes next week.


Our brook trout population and habitat assessments are beginning to wind down for the summer.  These surveys were intended to develop a baseline understanding of brook trout populations, engage and educate landowners or collect pertinent information prior to some planned restoration projects.  Efforts were primarily focused in the Warner and Beebe River watersheds this year.  In no way could we complete the number and extent of these surveys without having groups of dedicated volunteers.  This summer close to 1,000 hours of time was donated by local Trout Unlimited chapters and other area residents.  I sincerely appreciate those who helped us this summer and hope to see them again next year.

- Ben Nugent, Regional Fisheries Biologist



The Connecticut River setbacks have been producing some quality largemouth bass this summer.  A couple of high school anglers reported catching many largemouth that ranged between 3 and 5 pounds. On one outing, they also caught a nice northern pike that weighed just over 14 pounds. One angler that was fishing for walleye on the river picked up a few monster brown bullheads (horned pout). He thought he was pulling in a channel cat at first. He also caught a few walleye that were over the slot limit. He typically uses crawler harnesses trolled very slowly along the bottom.


I haven’t had many reports from anglers fishing lakes and ponds lately. The one report I did receive was from the same high school anglers mentioned above who fished Lake Massasecum for a half day and caught many largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range. Sounds like a good half-day of fishing to me.

- Jason Carrier, Regional Fisheries Biologist



The rain we got over the weekend didn’t do much to relieve the drought conditions in southern New Hampshire, but it was enough to raise the water level in some rivers, at least temporarily.  Water actually spilled over some dams for the first time since the early spring.  We often find an interesting mix of fish species just downstream from dams, especially after it rains.  Fish that prefer the slow moving water in the impoundment upstream sometimes spill over into the riverine habitat below the dam. Species typically found in lakes and ponds, including largemouth bass, yellow perch, and sunfish, can be found mixed with more riverine species like smallmouth bass, brown trout, and fallfish.


We have found large broodstock salmon just below the first dams on tributaries to the Merrimack River, such as the Suncook River and the Souhegan River.  The aerated water below the dam helps offset the lower oxygen levels that come with warming water temperatures.  Juvenile river herring are beginning to make their way downstream.  They will be a major source of food for larger fish as the herring spill over dams on their way to the ocean.  American eels also tend to congregate below dams as they continue their upstream migration.  The smallest eels are able to climb up the wetted surface of most dams, but the larger eels are unable to pass upstream.


The larger the watershed, the more likely a dam will be spilling water long after a rainfall.  This can provide fishing opportunities even in dry summers, especially for shore anglers who do not have access to a boat.  Dams on the Merrimack River, such as the Hooksett Dam, are obviously the most dependable, but some medium size rivers are also worth keeping an eye on.  The Watson Dam on the Cocheco River and the Wiswall Dam on the Lamprey River are two examples.  Keep in mind that some dams have angling restrictions within a certain number of feet from the dam.  These restrictions are listed in the Freshwater Fishing Digest.


Also be mindful that water may be released from some dams at unpredictable times.  Pay attention to warning signs and be sure not to cross through posted property.

Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist



Fishing for black sea bass has become more common in New Hampshire over the years as these fish have become established in our waters.  This is a great option when you tire of the more usual New Hampshire inshore fish like striped bass, mackerel, and flounder. 


There are many places in the Piscataqua and off the Hampton shoreline that are targeted for this species, but anywhere that you can find deep structure is a good bet. The typical bait rig consists of a 3-foot 30-pound leader with 2 dropper loops, one 6 inches down from the barrel swivel, and one 6 inches up from the bank sinker. Use a 3/0 or 4/0 hook baited with green crab, squid, or clam, and a sinker weight to offset the current, anywhere from 2 to 6 ounces. Learn more about blacksea bass.

- 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.