12/25/13: Hampton Harbor, Seabrook side/Exeter River, Exeter
Conditions: sunny, 60s-70s
Equipment: surfcaster (spinning), flyrod
Baits: surf – Kastmaster, pencil poppers; river – dry flies, sm. streamers
New Hampshire offers many opportunities for the angler and it was this particular day I decided I’d hit both salt and freshwater in one morning – just for the fun of it.
I drove out to Hampton Beach (map), heading to the bridge over Hampton Harbor. Just to the south, on the Seabrook side, there’s free parking beside the road and good access to the harbor beach. Because it had been a very long time since I’d fished saltwater, and because I wanted to travel light, I’d simply packed a couple rods and a minimal amount of gear with the intent of working the shoreline and getting in some casts on what turned out to be a bluebird day. I watched a huge number of party boats head out of the harbor, loaded with summer tourists, doubtlessly in pursuit of stripers and bluefish. I could also see some early morning surfcasters and what looked like one guy hip-deep, flycasting for cruising schoolie stripers. While not keeper size (striper minimum is 28″), these smaller striped bass fight hard and are bright, beautiful fish. While I was only on the water a couple hours in the morning, I was rewarded with one such fish, hammering a pencil popper as I worked it in towards shore.
On the way home from Hampton, I swung off Rte 101 to another favorite haunt, the Exeter River. The river gently meanders towards town and is great place to paddle. Shaded with overhanging trees and lush shore growth and featuring deeply undercut banks and weedy pockets, the river provides excellent habitat for all sorts of fish species including trout. I chose to spend a little time wading and flyfishing the cartop launch areas around Gilman Park, just beyond the Phillips Exeter field house. I highly recommend this place for exploration by kayak. There is ample space for parking at the park (see map).