Can We Improve Freshwater Stream Fishing In New Hampshire?

My friend Karen and I went trout fishing on Thursday up in Strafford in the Isinglass River. Beautiful morning, warm and sunny. We put some time and effort in, spending time at spots, and did a good bit of hiking to some of the back pools that seldom get much pressure. Net results, 4 small Brooke’s between us. One more stop was made at the Lee Hook Road bridge that spans the Lamprey, 0 fish, 0 hits.
Today was special trout pond opening day here in New Hampshire. My friend Louie was going with his son to the Exeter reservoir to try their luck. Louie said Nate was so excited he didn’t sleep the night before. Their plan was to get there early to avoid the rush and get a good spot. Arriving at 0300 they could barely find a spot to park, apparently many had spent the night with their poles set up into position at midnight. They managed to squeeze in down by the dam and spent 3 hours without a bite. I may swing by there around dinner time with camera and pole to see what’s up.
I grew up in Western Massachusetts and fished the North River as a kid back in the 60’s. In those days fishing season for streams opened the 3rd Saturday of April and ran into late October. Ponds opened a couple of weeks earlier. Initial stocking was done 2-3 weeks in advance to allow the fish to spread out, and acclimate themselves to a new environment and food supply. This system worked well. There were no traffic jams or anglers fighting over spots to fish. Everyone had an equal chance or at least an even playing field to catch some really nice trout. Some did well and others did better, depending on your level of skill and willingness to put some effort into hiking around to some more of the remoter areas and work the stream. Knowing or getting to know different areas, learning how fish lie in the pools and rapids, how to cast to them, and the feeding habits and times used to be part of the thrill. If there had been an adequate amount of semi-wild trout stocked into the Isinglass in this manner Karen and I both should have been able to fill our limits in the area we covered.
Alas, with the present system in NH streams, it strictly put and quickly take leaving few behind. In this modern-day of instant communications there are few secrets as to when the fish are going in. The minute the trucks start rolling out of the hatcheries the Nextel’s, cell phones, and INTERNET light up all over the state and the majority of fish stocked are gone within days after they are put in.
Can the old way be duplicated? It may. It would take some research on the Biologists part, to go back and review the structure of the old methods. There are differences between the waters West of here and there may in fact be natural barriers that would make it difficult to duplicate that style of fishery, but I think it would be worth it to take a look. There are fewer and fewer kids going fishing every year which means fewer buying a license when they become adults and possibly the sport disappearing altogether in the distant future. Another benefit of all rivers and brooks being quality trout fishing is that maybe we wouldn’t have so many of these streams with special rules. (there are 3 pages or more of these.)
There are those that definitely will oppose this idea, the ones that like to walk a few steps and pull out freshly stocked trout, but if you agree I strongly suggest you shoot NHF&G a letter or e-mail and voice your opinion. The e-mail address is listed below.
Capt. Don

Here’s proof of the pudding, these pictures were taken in late june and july in Vermont. As I sit here today I can go out tomorrow morning and catch LARGE trout in the streames and lakes from the shore line. Wake up New Hampshire.



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These are photos I took yesterday of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. They start in Wilmington, VT. and follow the North river down through Colrain, MA. The pics of the Vermont House in Wilmington are a common sight after the flood and the no snow winter we just had. I always stayed at the Vermont house whenever I was up there, nice rooms, food, drink, and company. Shame.


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Haddock Fishing in the Gulf of Maine

Other than my articles to the Hawkeye and a few other outdoor publications I keep an online blog as well. The beauty of the blog is I get a lot of feedback as to what readers think and are looking for in their pursuit of outdoor activities. One of the features my blog gives me is what folk are using for key words and phrases in their internet searches. At this time of the year the most popular are “ best haddock bait, and haddock fishing tips.” I’ve published articles on this subject in the past but thought I do another just to freshen the subject up a bit.
The answer is definitely yes although both species will be caught using either bait or jigs. Haddock will start showing up here in the Gulf of Maine in late April to spawn in the area of Jefferies Ledge and remain until mid-fall. The heaviest concentrations are usually around mid-May to mid-June but may vary slightly from year to year. Fall is another good time as there are massive amounts of bait around and the haddock are usually fat from feeding all summer. This time of year however is Pollock spawning time and that fishery usually overshadows the pursuit of haddock. Dogfish too are abundant and can make putting bait into the water impossible, especially on the party boats.
There are a lot of choices of bait for haddock, shrimp, clams, and squid just to mention a few. My preference is clam which most of the party boats put out and can also be bought from most any coastal tackle shop. Quite a number of years ago I ran a hook and line trawl boat out of Gloucester and we primarily used squid because it was cheap and stayed on the hook better. At times we mixed clams in and found that cod seemed to prefer the squid and clam was the favorite of haddock. Sea clams are the most widely used, but any other species will work as well. Freshness is the key here. If you can get live in shell clams to bring and shuck is the best. Some bait shops sell them, but any fish market will have steamers, quahogs, and other variety’s that will work better than frozen or old bait. Another key to clam baits is to cut them to size. Large sea clams should be cut into slender strips that can be woven onto the hook making it hard for a sneaky fish to steal. I like to start with the belly first and then sew it up the hook finishing with the tougher neck at the very tip of the hook to hold it in place. If you leave a strip of bait hanging off your hook the fish is simply going to grab it and pull it off. With smaller clams such as steamers use the whole thing with the same baiting technique.
Another question I hear all the time is about spraying scents on bait. I don’t. Why bother if you go through the trouble of using fresh, NATURAL bait. We tried spraying anise extract on our hooks while commercial fishing and it didn’t seem to make any difference.
Hooks for haddock fishing are important too. I use very sharp size 5 or 6 J hooks with inverted points if I can get them. Sometimes I just give straight J’s a slight little curve with pliers. This helps hold the fish better after you set the hook. I know the big craze these days is circle hooks, but I would not recommend them for haddock. Their bite most of the time is quick and light and you need to hit them lightning fast to set the hook before they steal your bait and swim off. I use a standard double rig with the lower hook about 5 inches above the sinker, and the second about 14 inches higher.
As for other equipment goes there are a number of rods, reels, and line to choose from. I personally use a good light 6-7 foot rod with a stiff tip. I do so because I want the length and tip to enable me to set the hook fast. I also find a light rod such as the Ugly Stick Tiger or Shimano Trevala easier to feel the bite as well as for comfort. Shimano also offers many small, light fast retrieve reels to go on your choice of stick. Line has always been a hot topic depending on who you talk to. For many, many years monofilament was the only choice until Dacron came along. A lot of fishermen went to Dacron because it had little stretch, however it was thick and had poor water resistance resulting in huge bows in the line whenever there was moderate to heavy tide. Many went back to lighter mono because of this. Today the choice of myself and most others is the new braid line. I like green Power Pro in 50 lb. strength. It is incredibly thin which allows it to sit better in tide than mono, and has 0 stretch that makes it much easier to feel the bite. The only two drawbacks to this line are the tangles it can get involved in with other anglers using mono and its lack of stretch. Both problems are easily solved simply by adding 50 feet of good mono on top of your spool. The tangle problem arises mostly on the party boats where there are many fishermen using different lines and sinkers which is a recipe to disaster because the lines will all sit different in the water column. The 0 stretch factor means there is little to no shock absorption when fighting a fish resulting in lost haddock because the tender jaw and lips give way. The addition of some mono will act as a shock absorber helping this problem.
There is technique in this fishing as well. Haddock fishing requires your complete attention. If you are out for holiday and set your pole in the rod holder and walk off to get a sandwich and beer you will most likely find your hooks empty when you reel up. I used to walk around the top deck of the many party boats I have captained and watched folk standing there holding their rod and not paying attention and seen the bite on the tip of their rod. Can you imagine their surprise when I would say, “excuse me sir, you have a bite, pull up”, and they would find a fish on the other end. This problem drives party boat crews nuts because usually if a fish hooks itself and is left there it merrily swims around everyone else’s line as well. I stand at the rail watching my rod tip pointed at the water holding it with my fingertips and thumb across the line where it comes out of the reel. I let the sinker just touch the bottom a bit to keep a little tension on the line, and every once in a while I will slowly raise up the rod to make sure I didn’t miss feeling a fish trying to steal my bait, then just as slowly lower it back down. A bite can feel several different ways. Sometimes it’s a hard grab, others just a gentle tap, tap. When haddock are especially being sneaky you might just feel something a slight bit different about your hooks, an ever so slight bit more of weight or resistance, this is the time to give a little uplift to see what’s up down there. Check your bait often and change it when you do. Freshness is ever so key.
Finally, as with any other species of fish and wild game, take care of your catch. Bleed them as soon as possible and get them on ice out of the sun. Coolers are the key here, wet burlap bags with ice will do in a pinch, but avoid plastic bags or open boxes like a plague.
Tight Lines,
Capt. Don

It Won’t Be Long Now.

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Great sub shop

Every once in awhile when you get home and open your dinner package you get a pleasant surprise. This sub is from Lena’s on Rt. 1 in Hampton, NH. A thing of beauty is a joy to behold as is this sandwich. On most occasions when you get a roast beef w/ ltm you get a ton of shredded lettuce and a few slices of dry beef. Obviously not the case here, and i can contest that it was every bit as juicy and delicious as it looks. 5 stars to Lena’s in Hampton. See the blog roll for the web address

A quick run up to Vermont on Monday.

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These pics were taken on Monday. Honest, it was snowing so hard atop Bennington Mountain it was almost a whiteout. Nothing down on either side. I stopped for a quick few casts in the Isinglass on the way home today, 1 small Rainbow.