September 27, 2020


Submitted - 2005-09-01
By John Viar, Fisheries Biologist, Region 2/New Hampton

><> Landlocked Salmon/Rainbow Trout/Lake Trout - Large Lakes Swan Song

At risk of sounding a bit like a broken record, overall, the last several weeks have been phenomenal on Lake Winnipesaukee. Our hydroacoustic and trawl net forage fish surveys (we just completed the Big Lake) have revealed excellent numbers of rainbow smelt. Plump, splendidly conditioned salmon, rainbows, and lakers are the result -- fierce battles await you! More 4-year-old salmon (left ventral fin-clip) have started to show up in the catch; these fish are in the 4+ lbs. range. Wide-body rainbows in the 15-17 inch range (looking as though they are going to explode!) have also been prevalent in the catch. Look for continued success through the end of the month (remember, the season ends Sept. 30), and while most fish have been taken from 30-45 feet in the thermocline, more surface activity will start to take place through September -- working a sinking fly line or 1-3 colors of leadcore at dawn can be productive. Watch for swirls and boils, which signal salmon and rainbows corralling smelt to the surface; gulls dropping to the water to perform clean-up duty are dead giveaways.

Spoon selection: orange/red/copper in low light and silver/prism/reflection later in the morning if sunny should keep you in good shape (no doubt by now you know the productive spoons, but if not, it's tough to go wrong with DB Smelt, Top Guns, Mini Guns, Suttons, and Needlefish). Bright streamer flies (Maynard's, Pumpkinhead, Canopache) are also hot; stay on the small side to match young-of-the-year smelt. One other note: when fishing deep this time of year, no need for long leadcore leaders or leads behind downrigger (DR) balls; 15-40 feet for both will do just fine; run even closer to downrigger balls if using flasher attractors off the ball. Running very close (6-12 feet) to the DR balls on windy days will increase action on your lures/flies as the boat and DR balls bounce in the waves (wind and waves also help create action on your leadcore lines).

If things slow up mid-morning, drop down to 60+ feet and slow down to 1.5 mph for lakers/togue stacked in the deep basins. Small needlefish 10 feet behind the DR ball can be highly effective; if calm enough, jigging is even more deadly.

Looking for new water and want to explore? Try Big Squam Lake in the Deephaven and Sandwich Bay basins for a shot at trophy-sized (5+ lbs.) salmon, but lower catch rate than Winnipesaukee; and try Winnisquam and Newfound lakes for rainbow trout (18+ inchers have been taken) and plenty of lake trout. Don't be surprised if you pick up a hawg smallmouth or beefy white perch while trolling; these fish also know where the smelt groceries are at!

><> Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass/Chain Pickerel/ Panfish - Overlooked Furious Fall Feeding Frenzies

Fall is one of the best but often overlooked times for warmwater fishing, as many turn their attention to hunting. Particularly during stable weather conditions, bass will really put on the feedbag in anticipation of the long, cold winter. After drowning plastic most of mid-late summer during the Dog Days, my spinnerbaits begin to start paying off more consistently in fall. Tickling the tops of deep and dying weedlines, then stopping spinnerbaits to helicopter fall along the weed wall can be deadly for largemouth. Some quality-sized smallmouth will also return to relatively shallow water for feeding forays; the same 10-15 foot contours that were hot pre-and post-spawn can come alive again. Another pattern, though hit or miss, that has emerged for large-lake smallmouth is spinnerbaits over very deep water near underwater reefs, when the fish are suspended and feeding on pods of smelt or perch (electronics/sonar are critical). Countdown a heavy 3/4 - 1 oz single Colorado blad
e spinnerbait and slow roll it back to the boat at the level of bait/gamefish marks.

Once the really cold water settles in, it is vertical spoon jigging time for smallmouth. In deep water (30+ feet), if you really get into them, please show restraint; being hauled to the surface is extremely stressful and can cause the fish to hemorrhage -- which ultimately leads to death, even if fizzing or other special release techniques are used. Give Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, and Big Squam a shot for fall bronzebacks; for the green machines, hit Wickwas Lake and Balch Pond, along with back bays and coves of the aforementioned lakes.

Chain pickerel, especially the quality-sized fish (20+ inches), are also invigorated by the return of colder water and become downright voracious. Aggressively work the decaying deep weedlines with spinnerbaits and stickbaits, or jigs tipped with shiners when the real cold settles in, and hold on. Most warmwater ponds contain stable pickerel populations, but in general, those on the larger size with ample perch and golden shiner forage produce more quality-sized pickerel.

For panfish species such as black crappie, deep weedlines will remain productive until later this month, when the fish will begin to school up and settle into deeper basin areas. Vertical presentations with micro-tube jigs or small shiners can provide some fast action. Again, restraint is warranted since a substantial portion of the water body's entire population can be found in these mega-schools; use selective harvest to ensure the future of quality-sized panfish. Many times what seems like an endless resource is actually just the vulnerability of concentrated fish in predictable locations at particular times of year.
This report was provided by NH Fish and Game Department in Concord, NH. Follow this link for more specific information on the reports or the area -