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Looking for lake trout or searching for salmon?

Ossipee and Great East lakes offer fishing opportunities

May 27, 2010
REGION There must be something special in the water at Great East and Ossipee Lakes because the fish that call those water bodies home seem to fight particularly hard.

My uncle, Jeff Cuddy, and I explored both lakes during our vacations on the week of May 10. Over the past three years, Jeff and I have become fishing connoisseurs who have been searching for the state's best salmon and trout fishing in our 14-foot boat the "Jo-Lee" — which is named after my girlfriend Jo-Ann and my aunt Shirley.

The first thing we noticed about both lakes is they aren't all that easy to find. Maybe that's because Jeff's from Manchester and I've lived in Wakefield for less than a year. Anyway, we learned that it's crucial to get good directions from the locals. For instance, we accidentally drove by the public launch at Ossipee Lake. Great East Lake's launch (located off of Robinson Road) in Acton, Maine was easier to find, but only because Jo-Ann and I found it last year while looking for a place to swim.

Our first destination of the vacation was Great East Lake. We got there early on the morning of Wednesday, May 12. What a launch! It opens onto a nice view of the lake and the ramp is nice and solid — not crumbly or muddy. There was also no wait to get on the water. In fact, we only saw a couple other boats.

As for the fishing, Great East Lake lives up to its name — great. Jeff and I have never caught so many Lake Trout in our lives. In fact, we lost count of how many we reeled in. Lake Trout are distinguished by their coloration, which is greenish with off-white polka dots. Because these fish live tend to live in deep cold water they aren't as accessible as other trout species that are stocked widely across the state. Lake Trout get huge — the record, a 28-pound fish, was caught in Newfound Lake.

We didn't find any monsters at Great East Lake. In fact, our largest was only 18 inches long — barely a keeper at any other New Hampshire lake managed for Lake Trout.

That 18-inch fish became dinner, which we cooked up with some lemon, butter, and onions. Although Lake Trout have a reputation for not being as tasty as other trout, it was still really good. Jeff wouldn't have had to buy Buffalo Wings that night if we realized that the minimum size at Great East is 16-inches. I caught the biggest fish of the day and Jeff caught by far the most.

Although the Lake Trout weren't that big, they were really feisty. All the fish bulldogged to the bottom as if they were true lunkers. Often times, when Jeff and I expected a 25-inch fish to surface, the trout would only be 15-inches. We do know what we're talking about. We've both caught Lake Trout in other places like Winnisquam and Winnipesaukee.

Almost all the lures and baits we trolled were successful. I caught the 18-inch trout on a live minnow. Also effective were an old-fashioned pearly spoon and Berkley Gulp! (a type of soft plastic minnow). Trolling means towing bait behind a boat. We use lead core line to help our bait get deep. Lead core line changes color every 10 yards or so. Fishermen can estimate that every color that's out represents five feet of depth.

The Lake Trout at Great East weren't down deep. Most of the ones we caught were in 25 to 60 feet of water. During our 10-12 hour trip, we explored almost all of Great East Lake and the Lake Trout seemed to be everywhere we went.

The next morning, we headed off for Ossipee Lake. Luckily, a nice guy at a local gas station told us the public launch was located on Route 25 near a bridge. Now, this launch is radically different than the one at Great East Lake. This launch starts you at a shallow river, which you must bravely navigate to reach Ossipee Lake. It's a good idea to go really slowly and watch for underwater logs — I felt lucky to reach the lake without any serious problems. In fact, the trip through the river reminded me of Joseph Conrad's novella "Heart of Darkness."

The river opens into the main lake. Remember that you will face Mount Washington when you emerge from the river. Using Mount Washington as a landmark makes navigating Ossipee Lake a breeze because it's shaped like a 3,249-acre oval.

On Thursday, May 14 there was hardly anyone else on the water. The best part of Ossipee Lake is the mountain scenery — which makes the boating relaxing even when the fishing was slow.

Although Great East, at 1,825 acres, is roughly half the size of Ossipee Lake, its tree-lined shores are much more tricky to navigate. Great East is shaped like a horseshoe and contains many little bays that resemble the boat launch. No matter where you're fishing, it's always a good idea to take mental notes on the area around a boat launch — or else you may not be able to get back.

Anyway, the helpful guy at the gas station told us a good spot on Ossipee Lake (which I won't reveal) and it proved productive. Almost immediately, Jeff hooked a huge Landlocked Salmon on a Super Duper spoon tipped with a worm. I reckon the fish was at least four pounds — probably more.

The salmon jumped three or four feet out of the water on several occasions. Jeff has caught a number of Landlocked Salmon over the last couple years, but he never saw one leap like that. Unfortunately, the salmon slipped off the hook near the boat. At the time, Jeff said he wasn't mad because he figured that he'd get another one fairly quickly.

However, the fish were far and few between at Ossipee Lake. During the rest of our 10-hour the day, Jeff managed to catch a big Pickerel and a Yellow Perch. I caught a small Rainbow Trout and a Landlocked Salmon, which appeared to be just short of the 15-inch keeper size. I believe all the fish, except the salmon that got away, were caught with Berkley Gulp! minnows.

On Friday, we chose to spend our last day fishing on Lovell Lake in Wakefield. Lovell Lake is one of the few places in New Hampshire that contains Walleye — a member of the perch family that grows large and has big teeth. On the fish finder we marked a large number of fish at 25-feet deep. Some marked as being big. Who knows what they were?

We trolled for them for a couple of hours, but the only thing we got was a Yellow Perch. So, we switched to bass fishing (casting lures to the shoreline). We got strikes, but failed to get a bass in the boat. At one point, a loon dove under our boat as we patrolled the shore. Loons "fly" through the water by beating their wings — a really cool sight to witness up close.

Upon our return, the Wakefield Police informed us that the sign at the launch is misleading. The launch is located across the street from Poor People's Pub. The sign tells boaters to park at the fire station, but it should say that boaters should park near the fire department in a dirt patch by the Smokey the Bear sign.

Got an outdoor activity that would make a good story? If so, contact Daymond Steer at dsteer@salmonpress.com.

Varney Smith
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