NH Fishing Log: Summer in New Hampshire

Here’s an overview of summer trips in New Hampshire, where there’s always a stunning array of angling opportunities.

May: The Winni Derby

WinniDerbyKayak

Always the highlight of the month, the Winni Derby is a tradition not to be missed. This year’s edition featured beautiful days as well as quality Winnipesaukee salmon and lake trout. My efforts were spent working spoons and streamer flies from my kayak. Putting in at the Weirs, I paddled out to Spindle Point and then came back through the channel to fish drop-offs right where Paugus begins to widen. After I came off the water, I had the privilege of hosting the final awards ceremony at the Laconia Ice Arena. The Laconia Rotary generously runs the show now, taking over for the family of the late Rick Davis. Rick founded the event and a sportsman’s trophy is given in his name still. This year, many anglers worked extra hard for their catch, but for a select few it paid off. One of the winning fish came from a popular spot on the lake off Black Point – at the mouth of Alton Bay. The place gets a lot of pressure doing the tournament, so to harvest a winning fish took some real persistence!

Late May was my first trip of the year to Hampton Harbor, with my luck just a bit ahead of the striped bass…  and a lunchtime stopoff to flycast the handsome Smith River in Bristol.

June:

 

Moore Reservoir Rock Bass

Moore Reservoir Rock Bass

Another favorite trip is to the Connecticut River. My fishing partner and I have been making a point to fish the Moore Reservoir in Littleton. From my home in southern NH, this is a haul and a half but traveling through Franconia Notch to this magnificent water always lifts my spirits. Smallmouth bass, trout and the occasional northern pike can be found here. The shores are completely undeveloped and in off-season there’s no practically boat traffic. The shores are rocky and feature considerable drop-offs. This is a good place to cast wacky-rigged worms, drag spinner baits of flashy spoons. We were there on a bluebird day – not the greatest for fishing, but I did get one look a decent pike. We got a far better look at a juvenile eagle; the Connecticut seems to always hold these majestic birds.

A weathered stump like the discarded crown of a giant adorns a shore on the Connecticut.

A weathered stump like the discarded crown of a giant adorns a shore on the Connecticut.

A week later, it was the shakedown cruise for my boat and a trip on Winnipesaukee to fish around Ship and Moose Islands. A view that never disappoints…

 

July:

JulyWinniThe highlight of July is a little time on Winnipesaukee. Lazy days of summer spent swimming and watching SS Mt. Washington “The Mount” come and go… Daily dawn fishing excursions on the vast quiet lake – contented sunset cruises to applaud another day. This is the place I’d happily spend the rest of my life. In ten lifetimes one could not experience all its sights, moods… or all its places. This 40,000+ acre lake place holds nearly every kind of freshwater fish that swims in New Hampshire. My mornings were spent trolling for salmon and lake trout, found deep at this time of year. Using a downrigger and leadcore lines, we had decent luck with spoons – Top Guns and Guide Specials. Most fish were swiftly released as we worked to keep their time brief in the warm top layer of water. Of these, a couple were harvested for a fine meal. Other mornings, we casted to shorelines, inlets and dropoffs for largemouth and smallmouth bass; caught perch and rock bass, too. Wildlife seen included blue herons and bald eagles, snapping and painted turtles, as well as a mink that decided to take morning swim nearby as I packed up the boat.

 

August:

A spot that I really like for kayak fishing is Pleasant Lake in Deerfield (not to be confused with the one in New London). The lake is managed year ’round for trout and is a fine fishery for bass and perch. The launch is nice… as is the drive, which is my case took me past handsome farms, quintessential New England colonial villages and the Deerfield Fairgrounds. For this latest trip, I had a bunch of loons hanging around as I paddled. I couldn’t help but feeling like they were chuckling at me, after all, they are very efficient anglers and I must have looked pretty awkward to them.

 

I had work that was keeping me so busy it was hard to get away, but I still managed a couple lunch breaks on the Merrimack river, close to my workplace in Concord. Good access in town at the Sewalls Falls Bridge, downstream at NHTI and by the Everett Arena. I highly recommend launching a kayak or canoe at NHTI and paddling the looped backwater – on its way to becoming an oxbow pond someday.

That’s just a sampling of my summer on New Hampshire’s waters. Tweet your comments and favorite outings to @MackNH  Tight lines!

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NH Fishing Log: Early May trips

5/4/14 Little Cohas Brook, Londonderry NH
Conditions: sun & clouds, lt. breeze, 60s
Equipment: light spinning tackle
Baits: dillies (worms)
Seeing news that this brook in the north end of my hometown had been stocked the week before, I decided to kayak the narrow brook and explore using live bait. What I found instead was a truly wild place, alive with bird and animal life. Shores are undeveloped, though in the flight path of the local airport and on the edge of an industrial area.

Painted turtles by the dozen skittered away from my craft. Geese, honked loudly and swam ahead, making for a noisy escort. Redwing blackbirds chittered from the cattails; wood ducks and mallards rose from the grasses. A beaver eyed me briefly and submerged, nonplussed.  The treat of the outing: what appeared to be an albino blue heron that was spending a lot of time hanging out with two other large blues. They would fly, two at a time, swooping in the dance of courtship. Clearly, one was in for a disappointment.


5/3/14 Coffin Brook, Alton NH
Conditions: sunny, lt. breeze, 60s to 70
Equipment: light spinning tackle
Baits: dillies
Reading the NH Fish & Game stocking report, I did a little more exploring looking for new water. Found this nice brook repeatedly passing by the road in Alton and found a spot to drift some bait. Will be back to further explore this stream.

broodstock_salmon

A broodstock salmon from the Pemi

5/2/14 Pemigewasset River, Franklin NH
Conditions: mostly cloudy, breezy, 50s-60
Equipment: fly rod with sinking line, set for trolling
Baits: streamers
A friend and I fished a stretch of the Pemi above the Eastman Falls Dam that can be sort of on or off. When the bites on, you have the opportunity to catch many different species. My fishing partner caught, and quickly released, a slinky broodstock salmon that provided the only strike of the evening.

5/1/14 Soucook River, Loudon NH
Conditions: cloudy, lt. drizzle, calm, upper 50s
Equipment: fly rod
Baits: emergers
Did a little recon on the way to work, checking Hot Hole Pond on the way to a convenient spot on the Soucook River. Spent only about 15 minutes casting here, looking for rises or activity and found none.

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NH Fishing Log: Almost Open Water – April Trips


4/7/14 Winnipesaukee, Paugus Bay, Laconia
Conditions: mostly cloudy, 50s, calm
Equipment: noodle rod and light spinning gear for bait
Baits: live smelt
Met a friend to fish open water from a dock opposite Channel Marine where the Weirs Channel opens into Paugus Bay. No action but a nice evening chatting and watching Winni’s stubborn ice start to break up. Feeling very ready for spring…

4/3/14 Winnipesaukee & Winnipesaukee River, Laconia > Silver Lake, Lochmere
Conditions: bright sunshine, 50s to near 60
Equipment: noodle rod and light spinning gear for bait
Baits: live shiners/smelt
Worked a number of shorebanks for salmon and trout, running through some of my favorite haunts: the docks at Weirs Beach, the Weirs Channel, the outlet of Lake Opechee into the Winnipesaukee River, the power station where the river runs into Silver Lake. Drifted bait through spots where the water was moving and along ice edges. Nice day. No bites, but man… it was a good day to be outside!

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From Apps to Desserts: Cooking with New Hampshire Maple Syrup

New Hampshire maple. You have to love it. I do. I use a LOT. I cook with it. It’s my coffee sweetener of choice. The sweet condiment has far more glorious uses in the kitchen than in coffee or on pancakes… more   [My article for Just Maple in Tilton NH, purveyors of Pure New Hampshire maple syrup]

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NH Fishing Log: March trips and “bluebird day” ice fishing

3/18/14 Winnisquam, Sanbornton
Conditions: mostly clear, lt breeze, 20s
Equipment: ice fishing gear, tip ups, jigging rods, cusk rigs
Baits: shiners, lake trout jigs
Returned after work to pick up the cusk lines. Had one small cusk, not enough to harvest, so I released the fish in good shape. Also released a small lake trout that had picked up one of the other lines and fortunately was barely hooked – might have even picked up the line on the way up by the way it behaved. Winnisquam again dazzled at sunset. I was again completely alone in the evening quiet.

3/18/14 Winnisquam, Sanbornton
Conditions: mostly clear, calm, 20s to near 30
Equipment: ice fishing gear, tip ups, jigging rods, cusk rigs
Baits: shiners, lake trout jigs
I’ve had little time to go after cusk this season, so I stopped by Winnisquam in the evening to set out my cusk lines and do a little jigging for lake trout. Though I saw no fish, my outing was one of the quietest of the year. No sound but the breeze across the lake. No snow machines or other folks out, cottages quiet, just me and a very beautiful viewshed: Winnisquam at sunset with the Belknap mountains in the background.


3/15/14 Head’s Pond, Hooksett
Conditions: mostly sunny, breezy, upper 30s
Equipment: ice fishing gear, tip ups, jigging rods
Baits: shiners
Brought the wife back to this neat little spot off a rail trail in Hooksett that is nice for cross country skiing. Being that it was a mild day, we had a nice picnic on the ice. I caught an enthusiastic largemouth bass. Fun outing.

3/9/14 Head’s Pond, Hooksett
Conditions: sun & clouds, breezy, 30s
Equipment: ice fishing gear, tip ups, jigging rods
Baits: shiners, dillies
After passing this spot a gajillion times over the years, I decided to take a little time to explore.


3/8/14 Winnipesaukee, Alton
Conditions: mostly sunny, lt breeze, 30s to near 40
Equipment: ice fishing gear, tip ups, jigging rods
Baits: shiners, dillies, lake trout jigs
This was no small outing. I packed up all my ice fishing gear on a beautiful March day and headed to Alton Bay at bottom of Lake Winnipesaukee. The goal: take the jet sled and cross country ski up to a favorite summer fishing spot at Black Point. This is about 4 miles up, where the bay opens into the bigger part of Winnipesaukee. I was sure of two things: the view would be spectacular and there would be good steep structure for lake trout. To be honest, the trip was bit enthusiastic (file under: mind writing checks the body can’t cash) but I had a great time. Airplanes landed and took off from the bobhouse city by the Alton bandstand, which sits in the middle of the bay. One plane had a mishap that morning – no one was hurt – the plane was in crooked repose by the bandstand making the bay look all that much more like a wild winter outpost. The occasional snowmobiler buzzed past. Pickups and SUVs chugged over two-foot thick ice. I saw a classic snow buggy, made from what appeared be a Model T era truck.

Eventually, by grinding along, I made it to Black Point. The view was worth the trip, as I’d suspected: the Whites in the distant north framed a yawning expanse of ice. A Jeep, just a speck in the distance, drove towards Moose Island over 100+ foots deeps. With only an ice chisel, I knew I’d have more work to do. 15 minutes of hammering away, laying on the ice to reach and scoop chunks out… 26″ of hard lake ice finally allowed me access. Water rushed into the space I’d labored over. I rested, then dug another, set tip ups and had lunch in blazing day-at-the-beach-like sunshine. Later, a hard fighting little laker gave me some fun for my effort. I released the fish and headed back, sunset framing Mount Major an orange, ethereal glow.

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