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NH Fishing Report - September 13, 2016

Take Me Fishing!Greetings, anglers!

Let’s hope the heat of summer is far behind us now.  Fish like lake trout and crappies will be setting up in their “fall mode,” so try deep water jigging for them.  As air and water temperatures cool, trout action should pick up a little, provided some much-needed rain arrives.  It is “terrestrial time” for the avid fly angler so give those hopper, beetle, and ant imitations a try.  Watch for the fall migration of stripers on the coast. This will be our last report of the year, but there's still lots of great fishing ahead. Have a great fall and winter angling season!



fly fishing

The idea of “wrapping up” my fishing reports for the season is misleading. It doesn’t feel right. In fact, as September arrives, my sense of angling adventure is just awakening. Days get shorter, fish start spawning and even though I may be writing less, I will be fishing more. It is at this time that trout and salmon migrate from their summer habitat to the rivers and streams that I chase them through. The colors of the landscape change as predictably as those of the fish, and I am still impressed by it all.


Another recent transition finds my kids back in school, and I spend most evenings nagging them to get their homework done. After this nightly ritual, I sit down in front of the Red Sox game and tie flies. In some years, September has the Sox well out of the playoff race and the games turn into background noise. At the time of this writing, however, they are in first place and I find myself with one eye on the game and another on the fly being put together. The resulting fly looks, not surprisingly, like one tied by a one-eyed, very distracted man. Not only are they tied poorly, but my overall production is very low. Over the next few weeks, I will be approaching my favorite waterbodies with very few new, poorly-tied flies and hope for the best.


This is also the point of the fishing season where my abundant fishing gear is in a state of total disorganization... with most of it in need of some type of maintenance or repair. I will have the entire winter to put things away so that I don’t want to waste any time that could be spent fishing. Right now, some of my rods and reels are in the garage and some are in the basement. I have at least one tackle bag in every room of the house. I actually found a box of flies on my bathroom counter next to the toothpaste. Speaking of which, there are flies everywhere. They are stuck in every hat, every dashboard, and no small, plastic container should be thrown away without looking in it first. Like I said, now is the time to fish. The clean-up can wait.

Andy Schafermeyer, Regional Fisheries Biologist



Although it’s hard to believe with the nonstop heat and dry conditions, eventually, weather patterns will change, temperatures will drop, and hopefully, rain will fall—hopefully!  Truly “bone dry” conditions currently prevail throughout the region, with many small streams and rivers at exceedingly low levels—with some smaller headwaters in fact no longer in existence…completely dried.  Even just a good old-fashioned, brief thundershower would be welcome at this point.


A common inquiry when fall ultimately takes hold is, “Where can I legally fish for trout?”  In actuality, many Lakes Region and statewide options exist; particularly lakes and ponds often managed as “two-tier” fisheries with a stocked trout and bass/warmwater species components.  Also, keep in mind a number of open/legal waters are specifically fall-stocked for fall and winter anglers, including some of the large 3+ lbs. surplus broodstock trout “retired” after spawning duties.


Locally, check out Waukewan and Winona lakes, which remain open and offer a nice mix of rainbow trou, as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass—October can be a fantastic month in such water bodies, with bass on late-fall feeding binges preceding winter, and rainbows responding right on top and in the shallows, given the cooling waters.  For multi-species anglers, such water bodies afford a wonderful “cast and troll” fall combo trip.


Keep in mind for most streams/rivers, as well as specifically designated trout ponds (including remote brook trout ponds), the season is open through Oct. 15th (be sure to consult the NH Freshwater Fishing Digest – so enjoy these waters and the fall foliage while time allows.  And if not, keep in mind the other options noted above, that do indeed exist!

- John Viar, Regional Fisheries Biologist



Fall is approaching and it is a great time of year to fish. There are fewer bugs, air temperatures are more comfortable, there is beautiful foliage. There is less human activity than during the summer months. Fish are feeding heavily to put on some weight for the long winter to come.


Bass fishermen are very productive using crankbaits in the fall, fishing them along deep weed edges and drop-offs. It’s a great way to cover water and find actively feeding bass. As water temperatures cool, trout anglers won’t have to probe so deep to find actively feeding fish and can use basic flat line trolling set-ups, sinking fly line, or don’t have to use as much lead core line, making the fight more enjoyable and the fish more releasable (if one chooses to do so).


In the fall panfish (bluegill, sunfish, and crappie) will move out over deeper water in schools and are actively feeding. This can be a blast once you locate a school. Small jigs or spoons can be dropped down to them and often you will just see your line stop dropping, it’s likely a fish that ate it on the drop, not you hitting the bottom, so be quick to set the hook.


There is plenty of fishing left in the season, so get out and enjoy the fall.

- Jason Carrier, Regional Fisheries Biologist



Trolling is not a method typically associated with bass fishing.  Casting toward structure along the shoreline is usually effective, but by late summer most bass have moved into cooler water away from shore.  The few largemouth bass we’ve seen lately have been hunkered down under fallen trees or in thick vegetation.  You would practically have to hit these fish in the nose with a lure to get a reaction from them.  Trolling a lure behind a canoe allows you to cover a larger area and sometimes catch fish in unexpected places.  Submerged trees and large boulders are not always visible from the surface.   Snagging is a potential source of frustration, but it can be managed by experimenting with different lures and paddling speeds.  It also helps to become familiar with a certain waterbody.  The Bellamy Reservoir, in Madbury, is usually a great place to try trolling for bass, although the water is a little low this year.  You can put a canoe or kayak in where Route 9 crosses or at a small ramp at the end of Hook Mill Road, near the southern end of the Bellamy Reservoir.  Another good spot is Fundy Cove at the north end of Pawtuckaway Lake.  There is a boat launch with plenty of parking at the end of Fundy Launch Road, off of Deerfield Road in Nottingham.  Catch rates should increase as the water temperature begins to cool over the next few weeks.  Hopefully we’ll get some decent rain soon.

Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist



The striper season is not over with fall migration just around the corner! The migration will begin as the water cools and baitfish leave our estuaries and harbors; this is the time for coastal fishing.


Preliminary catch estimates through June suggest an increase in striped bass in New Hampshire over the last five years.  This may come as no surprise to any avid striper fishermen out there, and the harvest estimates suggest the same thing that anglers have been telling us all year, the fish are small. This year, New Hampshire was abounding with stripers that were just shy of the 28-inch minimum, and there were many reports of MUCH smaller fish as well. But bountiful small fish bode well for the future health of this fishery.


A lot has happened around New Hampshire’s coast this year, here is a small sampling:


Black Sea Bass

Select image for larger view.

Record river herring runs came through two of our coastal fish ladders. The Lamprey River and the Cocheco River both had over 90,000 river herring pass into the freshwater sections during their spawning run. This came after a couple of significant changes. In the Lamprey River, an additional 7.8 miles of river above the Wiswall Dam, the second dam on this river, were made accessible for spawning fish by the addition of a fish ladder in 2012.  In the Cocheco River, modifications that were designed and constructed by our Facilities Construction and Lands Division were completed to allow for operation of the fish ladder as a “swim through” for the 2016 season. This means that the fish are able to swim up the fish ladder and pass through into fresh water on their own; previously the fish were trapped in a large holding area and were netted out and passed into the fresh water portion of the Cocheco River by hand.


This summer also marked the start of a transformation in the Exeter River. On July 1, the removal of the Great Dam in Exeter commenced.  The most recent dam at this site was built in 1914; however, dams have existed at this location since the 1640s!  In 1969, a fish passage structure was built, but passage at this fishway was never very efficient with less than 500 fish making their way upstream in some years. However, many more fish are seen below the dam than make it up the ladder. With a free flowing system, hopes are high for a resurgence of these anadromous fish further up into the watershed.


Winter rainbow smelt fishing has been poor for the last few years, but there is hope for future fishing. Although smelt fishermen were not able to fish in 2016 because of a mild winter and lack of ice on Great Bay and its tributaries, record numbers of smelt were captured by biologists during the subsequent spring spawning run. In 2016, catches at the Squamscott and Oyster rivers were the second highest over the last 9 years, while counts in the Winnicut River were the greatest for the same period!  The smelt catch at the Winnicut River has been relatively low in recent years, less than 40 smelt per year during the spawning run. However, since the removal of the dam in 2009, the number of spawning adults captured in the area surrounding the previous dam has been steadily increasing. In 2016 the number of captured adults was 738 smelt! In the last few years there has been record low smelt catches during both the winter creel survey and fyke net survey, but the high catches this year during the spring spawning fyke net survey gives us hope that the smelt populations may be improving.


The lobster population in the Gulf of Maine at present time is healthy.  A recent population assessment conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission determined the population was above the target levels and that overfishing wasn’t occurring.  Due to the mild winter of 2015/2016, lobsters began to molt early this past spring.  In a typical year lobsters begin to “shed” their shells in late June/early July.  This past spring, “soft” lobsters began showing up nearly two months early off the coast of New Hampshire.


Lobsters are highly influenced by water temperatures and we’ve been witnessing an upward trend in water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine for the past 30 years.  That increase has been even more pronounced over the past decade.  In 2016, water temperatures collected from a buoy off the ME/NH coast showed that all months fromJanuary through July were above the 15-year average. To date, our lobster trap survey for this year has shown strong catch rates, and with these recent increases in water temperature, we’ve also noticed a shift in the distribution of lobsters with higher-than-normal catch rates in deeper water.

- Becky Heuss, Marine Fisheries Biologist



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