In New Hampshire, designated trout ponds closed Oct 15. The salmon and lake trout lakes wrapped Sept 30. So now what? Here’s how to go after trout, after “trout season”. And you won’t get busted. Realizing that you may have heard that one before… New Hampshire Fish & Game publishes a list of places that are managed for the taking of trout year ‘round. The spots aren’t crowded. In fact, “light” fishing pressure would not be close to the correct term. Especially on a weekday, venture to these places, and you’ll have them to yourself.
The NH Fish & Game Department just sent out its annual reminder about these fine bodies of water, which brings me to the thing I don’t want you to know about, but will share anyways.
928 acre Lake Waukewan in Meredith is on the list, and is one of my favorites. The last few years, “after” the main trout seasons, I’ve kayaked there and had some memorable fishing and paddling. Waukewan sits in calm, quiet repose barely a half mile from Lake Winnipesaukee. It does not have access for large boats, but does have a nice small launch on Waukewan Road in Meredith. On summer evenings it’s not uncommon to find racing sculls plying the waters; athletic rowers gracefully sliding across the lake’s surface. Get outside of summer season and you’ll find very little boat traffic on this lake. There are a moderate amount of homes at water’s edge, and in foliage season it can be quite spectacular to paddle while colors run down the hillsides and paint the water in reflection. .
Multiple species can be found in the lake; there’s some excellent smallmouth bass fishing here, and the lake even holds cusk (a/k/a burbot, a delicious cousin of the cod) for hardy ice anglers. What I like best about Waukewan is its rainbow trout. While I’ve heard of 6 pound beasts, and have seen the very occasional 3-4 pounder, more commonly, you’ll find rainbows in the 12”-15” range. Note that the Waukewan limit is just two trout, if keeping them for the table is your goal.
My favorite method of pursuit is to troll streamers from my kayak. This means setting up a fly rod with sinking line, and a long stealthy leader; I prefer 50’ or better of 4-6 lb test fluorocarbon line. Try smelt patterned flies like the Governor Aiken, or ghost pattern. Paddle, coast and work the line when you can. This also makes for good exercise, and keeps you warm on chilly, late-autumn days. Hookups are infrequent, but thrilling when you get them. There’s something about sitting at water level; a jumping rainbow seems like it will jump right over your head! Your best shot is early morning or late afternoon if there’s sun. Some cloud cover will extend your day. Insect hatches on calm days will drive you nuts – as fish key on the hatch, sometimes several lure changes will need to be made in an effort to make things work. But I still love driving up to the lake early, when its glass-like surface is dimpled with rises right out in the middle of the lake.
Good idea to have a rod holder on your kayak (pretty hard to paddle and hold the rod), and be sure to wear your safety gear (water in the 50-60 degree range can bring on hypothermia quickly). Dress in layers… In late October or in November, you can start the day with all of ‘em on, and finish in a tee-shirt. Of course, that’s if you’ve picked a fine day. Plan for autumn chill. I like to keep in mind a quote from a UNH professor, skilled in winter survival: “There is no such thing as cold weather, only bad clothing choices.” Dress for cold and you’ll enjoy the day, no matter what it does. Be sure to also let someone know where you’re headed, or better yet, get a friend to bring their rod and kayak, too!
The list has a lot of great places, in every county. I also recommend Lake Opechee in Laconia and Highland Lake in Andover, as well as a stretch of the Pemigewassett in Bristol that can hold large brood stock salmon! (Catch and release only after Sept 30. We’ll save that one for another story.)
Waukewan maps(topo & bathy)
Local tackle shop: AJ’s Bait & Tackle, downtown Meredith