As this Jekyl/Hyde winter lumbers on, the wild temperature swings have not been kind to those who want to ice fish from the South Shore through Boston. Those out west however are finding ice deep enough to necessitate an auger extension.
Central Massachusetts to Western Massachusetts Fishing Report
When Vermonters are making the trek from the Green Mountain State to fish for pike in Cheshire Reservoir, you just know that the fishing is pretty good. That western Mass pike factory reminds me of Lake Sabattus in Maine; it seems as if despite the spotlight, the place still shines. The one glaring difference is that anglers in Cheshire go to great lengths to ensure their fish swim away while harvesting in Maine is a recommended and commonly practiced. Jim from JCB Bait told me what has allowed the reservoir to rebound in recent times is that stewards of the reservoir practice non-invasive weed removal when called for. This was not always the case and years ago Cheshire had lost a lot of its forage base, but not now – this place has come back, big time. It seems many have been revisiting Berkshire trout ponds, which are among the first to “catch” in early winter and because of that are pounded. With limitless opportunities now, those Hilltown honey holes have had less attention and anglers are finding improving fishing because of that.
February is usually the month for ice fishing derbies and Patrick Barone of Charter The Berkshires Outfitters tipped me off to a real worthy one – the 31st Annual Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby. The event takes place on Lake Onota on Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the proceeds go towards helping fight pediatric as well as adult cancer. The sprawling Onota in Pittsfield harbors both warm water species and cold-water species. If you watch thawing shorelines, you may spot forage literally right against the shoreline in barely any water at all. This often points to prowling trout nearby forcing the bait into looking for sanctuary. Patrick recommends that you jig a chartreuse Rapala Jigging Rap as close as you can get to the shore. File that type of spot away for when it opens up and cast the same stretch with an orange/gold Rapala floating minnow.
Many shops are having banner years thanks to near-perfect ice fishing conditions and Flagg’s in Orange is no exception. Business has been brisk for the Barton Cove regulars who have been targeting pike and a species we don’t hear of much in the Bay State – walleye! The Connecticut River has a pretty healthy walleye population and those who are proficient at finding them do quite well at the Barton Cove/Turner’s Falls area in Montague. A spot to file away for open water is the confluence of the Deerfield River with the Connecticut. If you don’t mind crossing into New Hampshire, the “setbacks” of the Connecticut River between Hinsdale and Claremont can be awfully good for pike, walleye and perch.
It’s hard to talk to Eddie of B&A in West Boylston without ruminating about Wachusett Reservoir. If you’re curious the Chu’ is buttoned up almost completely right up to the causeway. I did hear some very promising news which could add an exciting new dimension to Wachusett Reservoir. For years rumors circulated about the removal of the Oakdale Dam and the boon it would mean to the watershed. Landlocked salmon, brown trout and other salmonoids would then have access to the limestone-based, pristine upstream areas which the dam prohibits. Authorities agree that because of improvements in the Quabbin to Wachusett aqueduct, the Oakdale Dam is now superfluous. According to a prominent MWRA source I know of, that removal is advancing from speculation to where they intend on getting it done! Wow, would that be a winner for Wachusett Reservoir. I intend on digging and I’ll pass along what I find. Meanwhile the trout fishing in Comet has been consistent. Peter Carr on the other hand has been good for the full gamut of warm water species.
Coastal Massachusetts Fishing Report
Water cooler chatter on the South Shore consists of hoping the hatchery trucks will rumble forward soon, since solid ice seems to be a thing of the past. Eric from Lunkers in Ashland fortunately is faring better with ice reports varying from 4 inches to 9 inches. He was briefly interrupted by a text as we spoke but considering that it was photos from Fiske Pond in Natick that was a good thing. Patrons who have been putting in the time there have been catching bass and crappie. Neighboring Dug Pond gets the nod for trout while Ponkapoag is the pick for pickerel.
Donny of Merrimack Sports was distracted when we spoke, but this time it was because he was in the midst of getting a bait delivery. One place in northern Massachusetts worth considering is Harold Parker Reservation in North Andover, which is peppered with 11 ponds and is a good place to explore. Fields, Brackett and Collins among others are known for bass, while Berry Pond is the bet for trout. Merrimack Sports is stocking slab shiners for pike throughout the Merrimack River, Concord River and Lake Attitash. As any pike chaser will tell you, hawg bass are often responsible for false alarms. For a chance to pull out the biggest largemouth in a pond, top your bucket off with a half-dozen magnum shiners, you’d be surprised what really swims in small water bodies!
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
As February waxes, the western portion of our state remains the promised land for hardwater junkies. Cheshire Reservoir remains special for those who crave pike. The Berkshire’s trout ponds have had less pressure and better action. In the Connecticut River Valley region, a bass best bet is Lake Rohunta while pike prowl among setbacks and coves in the Connecticut River.