New Year’s Fishing Forecast:
Get Ready for Ice!
In spite of my preoccupation with the prospect of catching a holdover brown trout from South Pond in East Brookfield, the chosen route caused me to more than once become distracted. The ponds, streams and sloughs along the way were covered with ice; “soon, very soon,” I muttered to myself. Fortunately the Bay State’s only designated “trophy brown trout” water body was open, but unfortunately the jaws of the intended quarry for the most part remained locked shut as the wily brown trout were living up to their billing.
My friend Russ Eastman, who manages the expansive fishing department at Monahan Marine in Weymouth, and I did not get doused by the skunk, and while we did get consistent bumps by the resident brownies, the fish were passive toward our shiners with only one 15-inch specimen showing bad intentions to the bait. However, some of the marks from Russ’ fish-finder were definitely in the “look at this!” category.
Through it all, my mind harked back to the freeze among the many non-descript waterways in the area. Looking forward, there are meteorological predictions of near 24-7 ice making conditions beginning this Saturday and extending beyond New Years Day. Santa may be the winter-time favorite figure among kiddies, but hardwater junkies are more inclined to prefer Old Man Winter – and it looks as if he’s been working out. Betting that the ‘berg will soon take place, I decided to enlist the opinions of a few friends in the B&T business about some spots that lock up early and deliver a good bite.
Massachusetts Ice Fishing Forecast
Beginning in Boston, Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics, who is normally an enthusiastic guy to begin with, was practically bubbling with energy as he described bait wells full of shiners (including pike shiners) as well as walls pegged with the latest gear such as the recently acquired Indian Hill Traps line. If the weather forecast holds out, Pete suggests warm water species fans keep an eye out for Wrights Pond in Medford, the ponds in Golden Hills in Saugus and even tiny Fellsmere Pond in Malden. Salmonid zealots should watch for the twin dynamos in Concord, Walden and White’s, as well as Horn Pond in Woburn and Sluice in Lynn. Should the coves of the Charles River and the Sudbury River lock up, then some will be targeting toothies, knowing full well that often the first northern pike bite is the best. Above all, Pete recommends all those who venture out there to show extreme care, pal up and don’t even think about creeping out on the frozen stuff unless there’s at least 3 inches of uniform black ice!
More toward the central portion of the state, Eddie of B&A recommends that you get your warm water species frozen fix at Brigham Pond in Hubbardston or Moosehorn in the same town. Of course should Comet lock up, then it would be a go for broodstock salmon along with a menagerie of trout. Smaller South Meadow in Clinton is also stocked with trout and often freezes up earlier. The resident pike king, Jimmy D’Angelo, was in signing up for the pike category for the shop’s seasonal derby, causing Eddie to suspect that Heards in Wayland or maybe the coves of the Charles in Waltham may be hardening. Either way, Eddie has the shop looking like an outlet for shanty-town.
For those whose stomping ground is closer to the Connecticut Valley Region, North and South Spectacle ponds in Orange (the latter being the only Quabbin watershed water body that can be ice fished) offer superb slab crappie fishing and for those that thrive in the nighttime winter chill, there’s a dusk-to-dawn hornpout bite that is exceptional, and when the bullheads are pulled from clean water they taste great! Clubhouse or Sheomet Pond in Warwick is stocked with trout and is habitually one of the first ponds in the state to sport safe ice. If black bass is in your sights, than sound Lake Rohunta in Orange, and for trout and salmon, there’s the heavily stocked Lake Mattawa in Orange.
Paul from Granby’s in Granby, Massachusetts told me that the Berkshires is your best bet to find early safe ice and chances of a good catch. A few favorites of his can all be found in the town of Benett: Center Pond, Yokem Pond, Buckley Dunton Reservoir and Greenwater Pond. Buckley Dunton is stump-filled making it prime territory to ice a hawg largemouth bass, while Greenwater Pond is stocked with trout. Granby’s supplies a lot of bait shops with shiners so you can bet they are always filled to the brim with bait of varied sizes.
Up north, broodstock salmon have been stocked in Plug’s Pond in Haverhill, Forest Lake in Methuen and there’s a real mixture of trout species in Baldpate as well as Pleasant. For warm water species if you are into crappie check out Chebacco Pond in the Essex/Hamilton area and Pillings Pond in Lynfield, the former of which features an often red-hot nighttime slab bite. To satisfy toothy cravings, Lake Attitash in Amesbury has pike and while the going can be slow at times, each year someone ices some nice ones.
New Hampshire and Southern Maine Fishing Forecast
Caution should be exercised in the Granite State since Designated Trout Ponds cannot be ice fished, landlocked salmon cannot be taken through the ice and lake trout cannot be fished for through the ice until January 1st. For up to date regulations take a look at this link: http://www.eregulations.com/newhampshire/fishing/freshwater/. But don’t let that disenchant you since there are plenty of hardwater honey holes according to Chad from Dover Marine who lists Willand Pond as an often over-looked gem since it is in the heart of Dover. If you’ve set your sites on slab crappies, spend some time on Bellamy Reservoir in Madbury. Massabesic Lake is a favorite for crappie fishermen also. In fact both these spots are considered tops for a trophy. For a chance at trout, try Bow Lake in Nottingham for rainbows.
If you’re wondering if folks in Maine have found safe ice yet, the answer is an emphatic yes! And they have found some awfully big fish as well, especially when it comes to pike in the Androscoggin Watershed region. Mike Dumais has been out and about and as proof he sent me a photo of a 16-pound pig of a pike that scoffed down a dead goldie dosed with BioEdge eel potion. This was hardly a lone water wolf as the outing led to 18 fish, 6 of which were double-digit fish!
Dylan of Dag’s informed me that an important change in regulations took place this year in Maine in that bait was not allowed in many water bodies for the fall months through December. Beginning January 1st, however, those productive pike ponds and lakes such as Sabattus, Taylor Pond and “the Belgrades” are open to bait fishing once again. Odds are pretty good that some if not all of these will lock up around that time and you’re chances are vastly improved considering that almost no-one has been targeting these toothies! A tip that Dylan wanted to pass along was that most any pond or lake that connects to the Androscoggin or Kennebec Rivers will have pike! And if you’re thinking of the Kennebec River in terms of smelt camps, you are correct, the same estuarial system that harbors smelt now harbors pike! Make a motel reservation and go get your double-digit toothy!
Ice Fishing Forecast
If the weather forecast proves to be a dud and open water remains, troll up some bows and browns from Walden Pond in Concord or South Pond in East Brookfield. I can vouch for the fish in South – we fed them! Regardless of open or hard water, broodstock salmon in Lake Cochituate, Horn Pond, Lake Mattawa, Comet Pond, Sluice or Forest are all best bets for a broodstock. Small ponds between the Connecticut Valley Region and the Berkshires such as Clubhouse Pond, Buckley Dunton Reservoir and Greenwater Pond tend to lock up first so these might have safe ice soon. But if you really want to stack the odds in your favor set some time aside for Southern Maine to coincide with January 1st to be among the first to dangle a dead shiner in front of a big northern pike among the Androscoggin River, Lake Sabattus, Taylor Pond or the Belgrade Lakes.