New Hampshire Fishing Report
More than a few of you will be preoccupied this weekend with one of New England’s most iconic winter events – the Annual Greater Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby. One should always view unfamiliar ice with a good deal of caution but especially this season with the incessant thaws earlier in the winter. With so much attention on this high profile affair, you may find less harried hardwater among smaller lakes.
While fishing tips are valuable, tips to remain safe are invaluable. For those planing on heading up to fish Lake Winnipesaukee for the derby this weekend, I thought I’d enlist the advice of someone who has experienced the current conditions first hand, registered guide Tim Moore from TimMooreOutdoors: “ The lake froze at different times due to warm ups, rain, and wind…and not necessarily in that order. Lately, tip ups with smelt in 30-feet of water have been catching most of the white perch. We haven’t been seeing many big schools yet, which may explain why the tip ups are working so well. Lines spread out, picking off random small groups of fish that pass by. Jigging white perch is a blast, and when we get them in the jig it is the 1/8-ounce pink Clam Blade Spoon that has been getting it done, but live smelt on tip ups are usually better at fooling the really big (and smart) whites.
A word of caution with the derby coming this weekend. There are many VERY unsafe areas on the lake. This year there are small pockets, likely springs, that froze very late. The entire lake is covered in snow, making it all look the same. I can assure you it is not. Don’t go anywhere that you haven’t checked, and don’t assume an area is safe just because you see others out there. The ice could be mere inches thick just a short distance away from them.”
Jim from The Tackle Shack in Meredith had some tips as well for participants this weekend. First of all, he strongly recommended anglers steer clear of The Broads, which is probably not safe. Additionally he’s hearing good things about the Ellacoya State Park region for both lake trout and cusk. Governor’s Island has also been getting good reviews. With all the attention on the Winnipesaukee region it might be a good time to slip into a less pressured water body such as Lake Sunapee where reports of lakers and cusk are also good!
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Southern Maine Fishing Report
Anglers are beginning to gain access to the Route 114 side of Sebago Lake while Jordan Bay remains sketchy. Word from the fishermen who have made it out there is that the bite has been good for lakers. The Turner Bridge Section has been a best bet for pike in the Androscoggin River while Tracey from Dag’s Bait & Sportgoods in Auburn has also been hearing promising pike news from the Belgrade Lakes area, specifically Messalonskee Lake. You can never count out Sabbattus even though it’s high-profile it still produces a lot of pike! While numbers are the reality for most, the occasional upper 30” fish is always a possibility.
Renee from Sebago Bait and Tackle said that there is plenty of ice and good laker reports coming from the boat launch area not far from the shop.
Zach from Saco Bay Tackle Company told me that the smelt camps are struggling with less than stellar reports trickling in regarding the catch rate. Hopefully this is just a outlier blip and Maine does not go the way of Great Bay and Massachusetts. A better bet is for bass and brook trout from Kennebunk Pond, brown trout from Arrowhead Lake and lakers from East Grand Lake.
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New Hampshire And Southern Maine Fishing Forecast
The big draw is the big derby based on Winnipesaukee this weekend but due to unreliable ice caution should be more the emphasis than catching! Once you find solid ice consider Ellacoya State Park or the Governor’s Island area. If you’d like to shun crowds, the smaller spots such as Wicwas, Waukewan or Pemmigewassit should be less pressured. In addition to pike stalwarts such as Sabattus and the Andro, the pike bite at the Belgrade Lakes has been good. Sebago is finally catching ice, just watch out for the Jordan Bay region.