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Fishing a source of cheap food and entertainment



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With a declining economy, more and more people are enjoying the sport of fishing, not just for a relaxing, inexpensive way to spend a day, but also as a means to put food on the table. Here a fisherman tries his luck at Mosquito Bridge on Lake Winnisquam on a recent summer day. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
July 28, 2010
LAKES REGION — Most sports in New Hampshire have a particular season in which they are enjoyed, but one inexpensive outdoor activity that residents and visitors can participate in nearly year round is fishing.

N.H. Fish and Game said that great weather this summer has thousands of anglers tossing in a hook and trying their luck, and though stocking season is over, there are plenty of fish to be found in lakes and streams around the state.

Don Miller, Region 2 fish biologist for New Hampshire, said fishing has risen in popularity over recent years. A low-cost sport, it not only provides entertainment but is easy to learn and can put food on the table, too.

"With the economy the way it is, the number of fishing licenses being sold nationwide are up. People have more free time and not a lot of money, so it seems more and more are getting out to fish," he said.

For the "hardcore" fishermen who look for brook and rainbow trout Miller said the best fishing has already occurred in the Lakes Region. These fish prefer cooler temperatures and water temperatures are way above normal this summer. While central New Hampshire typically sees the water rise to 80 degrees in mid-August, that temperature was already reached in mid-July this year. In the White Mountains, he said, there are still some cooler waters to be found but locally trout are deeper in the lakes now and not as active.

"That doesn't mean fishing isn't good. It just alters what type you should go out for or how deep you want to place your hook," said Miller.

Small mouth bass is another species that likes cooler water, he added, but can still be caught. People fishing rocky areas of the larger lakes for bass will need to drop their hooks about 20-30 feet deep where temperatures are around 68-72 degrees. Large mouth bass, on the other hand, prefer warmer waters and ponds with heavy vegetation like lily pads are just right for fishing for this species in the summer. The best time to find large mouth bass biting, he advised, is early morning and an hour or two before dark.

Pumpkinseeds, a member of the sunfish family, along with perch, pickerel and a host of other species are fun to catch at almost any time. Miller said fishing for these species is a great way to pass a summer day and sitting out on a dock or relaxing along the shore with some worms and a hook will generally find plenty of good fishing.

"There's not a lot involved - just a pole and some worms - and it's a lot of fun. It's great for the kids," he said.

Another type of fish, bullhead catfish, are prevalent in the region and offer a lot of action for the fishermen. These fish love warm temperatures and can be caught by placing a worm on the bottom of the water where they live.

"Bullheads like the 'flat' waters of places like the Pemigewassett River or above Franklin Falls dam. There's a lot of them to be found around here, too," Miller said.

Not only are they fun to catch but he added they're also great to eat.

In New Hampshire anyone under the age of 16 can fish without a license. Those required to purchase a license can do so online or from one of the many licensing agents in the state. Fish and Game offers Let's Go Fishing classes for adults and children and also have free publications on their web site that give fishing tips for everyone from the beginner to the pro. Online people can also read weekly fishing updates from biologists like Miller and even find suggestions on where to fish in different regions of the state.

Miller cautions people should remember lead sinkers are against the law in New Hampshire and, if fishing with lures, they should make every effort to retrieve them if they become snagged or tangled in the water.

"Large fish come in close to the shoreline on the winter when the lake temperatures are more constant and we find a lot of big fish with these lures in their digestive tracts," he said.

Not only do they pose a problem for large fish who might swallow them, but they can also create a hazard for swimmers in the summer.

Seventeen commonly found species of fish and an abundance of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams makes central New Hampshire an ideal spot to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Miller said the New Hampton hatchery off Route 132 also has a display tank of large rainbow and brown trout that is open to the public and free of charge. People are invited to stop in to view these and learn how fish are raised. Some of the hatcheries around the state also have wildlife education centers for individuals or groups to visit. A list of the hatcheries can be found at www.wildlife.state.nh.us along with other tips and information on fishing in New Hampshire.

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