HABITAT IS WHERE IT'S AT
Submitted - 2005-09-15
By John Magee, Fish Habitat Biologist
September brings some great fishing opportunities in the Granite State. As the water starts to cool down, I tend to find smallmouth bass becoming very active near the mouths of rivers flowing into ponds and lakes. Although smallmouth bass can handle rather high water temperatures, they tend to prefer slightly cool water, say about 65 to 72 degrees F. Places I have been successful in September include the Warner River in the southwest corner of Webster (pay strict attention to the No Trespassing signs), the North Branch Piscataquog River in the Hopkinton-Everett Army Corps land in Weare (where we stabilized and revegetated the streambank), and the Contoocook River in Henniker. In any of these places, you may also catch chain pickerel and fallfish, and in the Warner River you may hook up with a rock bass. Don't discount the fallfish -- some are up to 16 inches and they fight well. They like the same habitat as trout, but they like warmer water. Rock bass are non-native and inva
sive (in fact, smallmouth are too) so DO NOT move them to another waterbody. Generally what you are looking for is large rocks and fast-flowing water with pools nearby. I tend to fish with either topwater lures or streamer flies, and always catch something at this time of year.
One of the best ways to ensure great fishing in New Hampshire is to improve habitat conditions for fish, so you'll be glad to hear that the Fish Habitat Program has been very busy this year. We surveyed fish habitat in several watersheds in northern New Hampshire, monitored water temperatures in them, and conducted fish surveys in the same streams and in the Cold River Watershed in the western part of the state. These surveys turned up some interesting finds.
In the Cold River Watershed, we caught a few northern redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos) in some of the tributaries. This is the most southerly population of northern redbelly dace recorded in New Hampshire. The watershed appears to be filled with native minnows, slimy sculpin and brook trout, with a few brown trout and rainbow trout in the mainstem Cold River. We also found Atlantic salmon juveniles in most of the tributaries, indicating that some fish move into the tributaries after being stocked into the Cold River.
We conducted fish habitat and fish surveys in the Nash Stream, Dead Diamond and Swift Diamond watersheds this summer. The Nash Stream surveys are part of a larger effort to determine what restoration activities would be most beneficial to the watershed as a whole. The Nash Stream watershed has undergone significant land use and water use changes. Forestry practices have historically made large clear cuts right up to Nash Stream and its tributaries. In 1969, the Nash Bog dam broke, sending a torrent of water down the stream that scoured out much of the stream and destroyed the trees living along its banks. Immediately after that, bulldozers straightened the stream and created large berms to keep the stream in its new straightened channel. Unfortunately, this removed much of the good trout habitat and created areas near the stream that are nearly devoid of vegetation even 35 years later. The forest in most of the watershed has recovered, and in 1980, about 90% of the watershed
was purchased by the State of New Hampshire. It is now managed by the Department of Resources and Economic Development. Large trees now live along the banks of most of the tributaries and the brook trout populations in them appear to be healthy. The habitat of Nash Stream is still recovering, but very slowly. Our efforts will help the stream's recovery and ultimately, the fish populations in it will recover as well.
The Dead Diamond and Swift Diamond work is part of a multi-year effort to determine the status of fish, primarily brook trout, in the watershed. Much of this work has been conducted in cooperation with and with funding from Dartmouth College, which owns land in the watershed. Nearly all the habitat in the tributaries and the mainstem have been surveyed, and in each of these, the fish community has also been surveyed. Because the watershed is relatively far from Fish and Game's regional office in Lancaster, some of the work was conducted over intense weekends where Fish and Game employees and dedicated volunteers camped out near the survey sites to get the job done.
In another habitat restoration project, the Piscataquog Watershed Association (PWA) is spearheading an effort to restore and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the 181-acre designated Prime wetland known as Lake Horace Marsh in Weare. This wetland is in a Natural River section of the North Branch Piscataquog River, one of the 14 rivers in the Department of Environmental Services' Rivers Management and Protection Program. Currently, water levels in the marsh are controlled by the operation of the dam at the outlet of Lake Horace. The water is drawn down in October and refilled in mid to late May. The total drawdown is about five feet, which lowers the water level in the marsh about three feet. This has severely degraded the fish and wildlife habitat in this large prime wetland. The impacts likely include significant losses to spawning and rearing habitat for chain pickerel, black crappie and yellow perch; foraging opportunities for smallmouth and largemouth bass; and hab
itat for forage fish species. The objective is to build a water control structure that will effectively isolate the marsh from the winter drawdowns on the lake. We are working with the PWA, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Dam Bureau and Watershed Bureau, the NH Department of Transportation, the Town of Weare and the Weare Conservation Commission on the project. The water control structure will be built in 2006 or 2007.
So get out and enjoy the warm days, relative solitude and great action of early fall fishing -- while it lasts!
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 - http://wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/fishing.htm