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NH Fishing Report - January 18, 2019

Greetings anglers!

scott decker

Welcome to a special winter edition of the New Hampshire Fishing Report. Early season frigid weather, reinforced by a recent cold snap, has led to favorable ice conditions across most of the Granite State. Even so, never trust secondhand ice thickness information; ALWAYS check ice thickness yourself by punching some test holes as you move from shore to deeper water, especially early in the season. Be especially cautious near inlets and outlets where water currents can thin the ice. See a short video demonstrating how to check ice thickness at www.wildnh.com/outdoor-recreation/ice-safety.html.

 

Remember that this Saturday, January 19, is Free Winter Fishing Day! Be sure to invite a friend or family member along and introduce them to the sport. Check out the regional reports for some tips to get in on the ice action!

 

 

hook

 

North Country pond

Anglers taking advantage of early season ice on a North Country pond. A. Schafermeyer photo.

Select image for larger view.

In the North Country, Fisheries Biologist Andy Schafermeyer said that anglers have been enjoying an early start to the ice fishing season. Beginning just before Thanksgiving, early-season perch were being caught on small ponds. Larger waterbodies froze quickly, and bob houses began to dot the ice by Christmas. As the New Year arrived, the Connecticut Lakes were frozen, snowmobiles were zooming around, and lake trout were being caught in steady numbers. By the time the ice fishing season winds down in March this could go down as one of the longest and best ice fishing seasons on record.

 

Consistent cold and low snowfall totals have made for great conditions in the northern part of the state, translating into good access and easy set-up -- anglers are hitting the ice everywhere. Warm water ponds such as Forest Lake and Burns Pond in Whitefield have been giving up some great bass. Martin Meadow Pond in Lancaster and Moore Reservoir in Littleton have been great spots for aggressive northern pike. South Pond in Stark has proven to be an awesome spot to catch brook trout on a tip-up. There is really no bad location to fish right now.

 

lake trout

Lake trout are a primary target of ice anglers.

A. Schafermeyer photo. Select image for larger view.

In the Lakes Region, Fisheries Biologist John Viar reports that ice fishing on small ponds was off with a bang as early as Thanksgiving weekend, something that has not happened in a long time. Despite weather fluctuations, a favorable ice-making pattern was established and many small- to medium-sized general regulation water bodies have supported ice fishing activity for weeks now.

 

A recent major arctic front has further solidified smaller water bodies, as well as Lake Winnipesaukee bays such as Center Harbor, Alton, and northern Moultonborough -- all home to significant ice fishing activity since the January 1 "Large Lakes" season opener.  The same cold front, which lingered in New Hampshire, worked on the open expanses of the large lakes and finally set them completely with ice, including Newfound, Winnisquam, and "The Broads" on Winnipesaukee. Hopefully this new ice will have time to continue building before any major snowfall, which insulates the ice, reducing formation.

 

Remember, DO NOT assume the ice is safe due to the presence of other people on distant ice, particularly in large-lake settings, where different sections can freeze at vastly different times and rates. To download the brochure "Safety on Ice - Tips for Anglers," visit www.wildnh.com/outdoor-recreation/ice-safety.html.

 

brown trout

A fine brown trout from Webster Lake in Franklin.

S. Keyes photo. Select image for larger view.

Lake trout, rainbow trout, white perch, yellow perch, and cusk, among other species, are already being caught in large-lake bays, and opportunities for these species will only increase as anglers expand into new locations with improving ice conditions. The early-season lake trout bite has been notable around Winnipesaukee, where catches well into the double digits can be realized by anglers. The vast majority of lakers run in the 16- to 22-inch range; employing medium-light jigging tackle will accentuate their spiraling, bulldogging fight. Electronic fish finders and jigging are typically keys to success, but tip-ups and/or the specialty “trap” of your choice such as the Jaw Jacker, Automatic Fisherman, or Finicky Fooler baited with live smelt can also do the trick.

 

On Lake Winnipesaukee, it can be difficult to find locations that don’t provide at least a few lake trout prowling at early ice, but for more consistent results look for structure near deeper water, as well as the inside turns of mid-depth bays where smelt often tend to congregate at this time of year. For those adept at using electronics, dense schools of smelt will quickly reveal themselves in prime locations. For patient trophy hunters in any of New Hampshire’s “Large Lakes,” consider that some of the biggest individual lake trout will sometimes prowl much shallower depths than might be anticipated, seeking larger prey items now available given the expanded winter thermal refuge.

 

Cusk are also feeding heavily and will continue to do so as their spawning window approaches in February. Both rocky structures and mid-depth flats are great locations to find cusk, especially from dusk into the first few hours of darkness. On Lake Winnipesaukee, easily accessed beaches in Alton, Wolfeboro, Center Harbor, and Gilford can produce nice catches of cusk with little effort. Although not as heavily concentrated as when spawning, double-digit catches of cusk can still be realized as they prowl in search of anything they can eat. Cusk lines rigged with the largest shiners available, as well as jigging and tip-ups, will all produce success. On the jig rod, pound the bottom with heavy glow jigs tipped with shiner or cut bait for maximum results.

 

white perch

A chunky white perch jigged up from Lake Winnipesaukee. M. Pehrson photo. Select image for larger view.

For anglers seeking a "whatever bites" ice fishing experience -- a perfect way to spend a winter’s day with kids -- mixed-bag opportunities abound in Central New Hampshire, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, white perch, yellow perch, black crappie, pumpkinseed, and bluegill. Lakes and ponds ranging from several dozen acres to expansive large-lake bays such as Moultonborough Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee boast many, and often all, of these species. Small to medium live shiners suspended 1-3 feet off the bottom under tip-ups is a simple, time-honored technique for catching “just about anything,” and for good reason! Jigging with ultra-light rods and electronics or fish finders will maximize panfish catches such as perch, crappie, and sunfish. Exciting reports are also coming in from Highland Lake in Andover and Webster Lake in Franklin where brood stock trout were stocked last fall.

 

For more specific recommendations and information, contact your regional Fisheries Biologist and check out FishNH.com for additional helpful items such as depth-contour maps and the Freshwater Fishing Digest. Keep in mind that on general-regulation waters, up to six ice fishing devices are allowed. However, on lake trout-managed large lakes such as Winnipesaukee or Big Squam, only up to two ice fishing devices are allowed. All lake trout-managed lakes are listed in the Freshwater Fishing Digest. Landlocked salmon can never be taken through the ice.

 

Ct River

Fishing a "setback" of the Connecticut River in Hinsdale can be productive for bass, pike, and panfish.

E. Motyka photo. Select image for larger view.

In Southwestern New Hampshire, Fisheries Biologist Ed Motyka reports ample opportunity for ice anglers to catch a variety of fish species which includes everything from panfish, pickerel, and bass to trout, walleye, and pike. Jigging for panfish such as black crappie, bluegill, white perch, and yellow perch can be a lot of fun because it’s “hands on” and there always seems to be a lot of action. Teardrop style jigs paired with a grub, spike, worm, or soft plastics work well. While you’re jigging, it is also wise to set a few traps with shiners because these panfish waters usually have bass and pickerel as well. Some panfish and bass water bodies include Highland Lake and Island Pond in Stoddard, Harrisville Pond in Harrisville, Pearly Pond in Rindge, and Contoocook Lake in Jaffrey. Ed also says the larger, deeper lakes such as Silver Lake and Nubanusit Lake are favorites for both lake trout and rainbows, however access has been an issue because of ice formation -- as of January 15, Silver Lake still had open water. There are anglers finding a way out to their favorite lake trout spots while others are staying close to shore and fishing for rainbows. The Connecticut River offers a variety of species including pike and walleye. Anglers in the setbacks in Hinsdale are reporting an abundance of panfish including quality yellow perch. Pike anglers are setting traps with shiners and say they’ve seen a few nice ones come through the ice including one that was 42 inches long.

 

In Southeastern New Hampshire, a call to several bait shops in the region revealed people were getting out having success on area ponds and lakes. Jim at Wildlife Sports Outfitters in Manchester mentioned that Little Massabesic Lake has been good for panfish. Anglers at Tower Hill Pond in Candia were reporting 10- to 15-inch brown trout being taken. At Horace Lake in Weare, crappies were biting, with one angler having a seventeen-fish outing recently. Jason at Suds ‘n’ Soda in Greenland mentioned that “the moat” section of the Lamprey River in Newmarket just off Route 108 was producing catches of bass and crappie. He also indicated that successful reports from Pawtuckaway Lake were coming in. I spoke with George at Taylor’s Trading Post in Madbury, and he said the fishing in area ponds has been great and that he was selling lots of bait. He recommended Bellamy Reservoir for both bass and crappie. Baxter Lake over in Rochester was hot for bass and perch. George also noted lakes such as Swains, Ayers, and Little Long Pond in Barrington were being fished by anglers targeting bass and panfish. Pleasant Lake in Deerfield has had fishable ice for several weeks now and the parking lot was pretty full last weekend. Rainbow and brown trout anglers were doing well. Willand Pond in Dover was also producing good catches of crappie, perch, and a few rainbow trout.

 

 

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