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Opening day for land-locked salmon/lake trout fishing April 1

Thanks to early ice-out, most inland lakes are ice-free

April 1 is the opening of fishing season for landlocked salmon/lake trout, so grab your tackle box and your fishing license and get out on the water! (Courtesy Photo). (click for larger version)
April 01, 2010
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department manages 15 lakes for landlocked salmon: Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound Lake, Ossipee Lake, Big and Little Squam Lakes, Sunapee Lake, Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake, and Nubanusit Lake. (Pleasant Lake in New London also is managed for landlocked salmon, but is classified as a trout pond, with a 2010 opening date of April 24.)

For a table providing a brief summary of netting results in three salmon lakes, visit the online version of this release at http://www.fishnh.com/ Newsroom/News_2010/News_2010_Q1/ big_lakes_opener_032510.html.

In 2010, spring anglers will be treated to something very odd for N.H.: ice-out has occurred already on Lake Winnipesaukee (March 24), and most other central N.H. lakes will be mostly clear of ice for the April 1 opener! Thanks to recent rains, the flows in the Winnipesaukee watershed (Winni-pesaukee Lake, and the Winnipesaukee River, which flows through Opechee, Winnisquam and Silver lakes) will tend to attract fish to high flow areas; angling for "drop-down" salmon (and rainbow trout) in the vicinity of the dams will be hot once again this season, with time-honored locations such as Lakeport Dam/Opechee Lake, the Winnipesaukee River through Laconia to Dixon Point at Lake Winnisquam, and Lochmere Dam at Silver Lake producing fish on the opener. Don't forget, N.H. Fish and Game's new boat access facility on the Winnipesaukee River in downtown Laconia, offering great access to Winnisquam Lake and some terrific rainbow and lake trout fishing. 

Additionally, several popular Winnipesaukee shore fishing locations exist at the Merrymeeting River (fly-fishing-only, barbless, catch and release), and the mouth of the Merrymeeting River as it enters Alton Bay, downstream of the famous stone arch bridge. Other good sites to visit include the Weirs Channel in Laconia, Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough, Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, Smith River inlet at Wolfeboro Bay, and Meredith and Center Harbor town docks. At these locations, everything from smelt, shiners and worms under a slip bobber to small jigs will take salmon, as well as rainbows. The Newfound River/ Bristol (fly-fishing-only) may have salmon and rainbows that have overwintered in its many pools and runs.

Because of the early ice-out, anglers need to be aware of changing weather conditions, as winds can increase quickly over large stretches of open water. Early spring ice-out salmon are successfully caught by trolling with everything from spoons (such as DB Smelt, Sutton, Mooselook, Top Gun, and Smelt Gun) to traditional streamer flies (for example, Maynard's Marvel, Pumpkinhead, Mickey Finn, Joe's Smelt, and the countless Grey Ghost variations), and an early season favorite, live smelt or shiners. Most early season fish are caught from the surface to about 15 feet down, with everything from planer board set-ups to the simplest of monofilament flat lines 50-150 feet behind the boat. When the wind kicks in, drifting live smelt or shiners in the waves can be highly effective. 

Although it can be challenging to "pattern" lake fish at this time of year, finding warmer water (even a degree or two), windy shorelines, inside turns and bays, shallow flats near deeper water, tributary inlets and, of course, smelt schools (shallow this time of year, as they are running shorelines and tributaries to spawn) are all keys to improving success. A previously unsuccessful effort can provide several fish in less than an hour, once you find them and offer a convincing presentation.

To ensure the future of high-quality landlocked salmon fisheries, anglers must take extra care when releasing salmon, as the percentage of hook-wounded fish continues to climb in all lakes (as shown in our netting survey results). Hook wounded/scarred fish are significantly shorter and poorer in body condition than non-hook-wounded counterparts of the same age. Using rubber nets and proper release techniques (for example, don't "shake" fish off the hook) — and releasing lightly hooked healthy salmon, while choosing to harvest previously hook-wounded fish — are some ways to minimize the negative effects of hook wounding, thereby increasing the number of trophy salmon available in the future.

Purchase your fishing license online at http://www.fishnh.com, or from any Fish and Game license agent. Annual resident fishing licenses are $35. Resident one-day licenses are just $10. Annual nonresident fishing licenses are $53. One-, three- and seven-day nonresident licenses are also available. You'll soon know why so many anglers eagerly await this annual rite of spring.

Littleton Chmber
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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