Massachusetts Fishing Report- February 22, 2024

Although ice prospects closer to the coast are looking like a lost cause, western elevations' combination of fishable ice and open water are giving up hungry pike, trout and panfish.

Lucas Balchuinas with crappie
Anglers such as Lucas Balchuinas are crushing the crappie in the Connecticut Valley Region.

Anglers all across the commonwealth have an ear to the ground as they listen for the rumbling of trucks. Hardwater junkies are hoping the raucous belongs to plows while the rest are banking on hatchery haulers, albeit with a bit of premature optimism.

Massachusetts Fishing Report

While a born, bred and proud Bostonian, I just have to tout what’s available north of the border into New Hampshire. In all probability ice prospects close to the bay state coast are a lost cause but an hour and a half north of the Hub it really is a different world! I recently visited my buddy John D Silva who has transitioned to the Lake Sunapee region of the Granite State and is actually experiencing winter up there complete with ice and snow! A plethora of frozen water possibilities awaited me and in spite of it being a school vacation week the ponds/lakes were all lacking anglers! The going was easy with little snow, 8” of ice and flying flags with a nice little mix of pickerel, perch, Sallys and Larrys. Even better is how comfortable the weather conditions were and odds are as we near March the comfort level and catching should only get better. f you’re tiring of tripping over that dusty ice fishing collection than consider a trip beyond the border and as luck would have it we serve up a northern New England report also!

Fish swimming just south of Boston will have to be fearful now that Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy is open once again! Lisa told me that shiners are moving briskly for anglers fishing open water options in the Plymouth area. Potential trout spots are Little Pond, Long Pond and Fearing Pond For warm water species Billington Sea gets the nod. Closer to Boston the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, Jamiaca Pond as well as the Charles and Mystic Rivers are all possibilities for a number of open water warm water species with the JP holding over trout with the occasional big brown always in play.

Josh from the Fishing Hole with brown trout and crappie
Josh from the Fishing Hole in South Hadley took a trip to Tolland to fish Colebrook River Lake and caught this 1.6 pound slab crappie and nice brown trout!

Shawn from Merrimack Sports said anglers in the Merrimack Valley District can pick their passion: nearby open water or hard water! With a meandering Merrimack River conditions are perfect to catch an open water pike, especially where tributaries – the Spicket, Shawsheen and Concord – dump in it. Those hungering for hardwater have been finding relief at Round Pond, Tuxbury Pond and Big Island Pond. In Central Mass the best bets remain the same as last week with Comet tops for trout and South Meadow and Maple Springs better bets for warm water species action. Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle in West Boylston gave me an interesting update on Wachusett Reservoir. As of now, water levels are significantly down with plenty of shoreline access available. Should conditions remain that way over the next month we could have no-limits as to where to fish!

Rick from Jerry’s Bait and Tackle in Milford told me that open water options are Lake Cochituate, Hopkinton Reservoir and Whitehall Reservoir. For hardwater prospects anglers have been fishing Lake Ripple where a large shiner forage base supports good growth for largemouth bass. Pratt Pond has an always present holdover trout possibility to go along with warm water species. Gerry from Crack of Dawn Bait in Phillipston told me that the local kids are more than holding their own against veteran anglers. Lucas Balchuinas caught and released a “pin” crappie at one of the Connecticut Valley Region water bodies. As to the “where” that slab was caught Gerry gave up the Spectacle Ponds as possibilities as well as Lake Rohunta, the latter of which has been red hot for hawg Larrys up to 7 pounds! For a nearby Sally option, move on over to Mattawa! Honorable mention should go to Tully Lake, the edge by the deep hole in this lake can lead to active trap flags! The shop’s tip for jiggers is to lean on blue/green/chrome Swedish Pimples spiced with a spike or other grub. Those things are likely to catch most everything which swims in these parts.

Dave “Turtleman” Riley offered more insights to his home water – Quabbin Reservoir – this week!

Dave “Turtleman” Riley
Regarding the same area in April, Dave “Turtleman” Riley with proof of stellar Sally fishing Quabbin has to offer.

This installment of my introduction to Quabbin will focus on Fishing Area 2, accessed by Gate 31 in the town of New Salem. This is what I consider my home access point, and the place I lovingly call the place of my Quabbin “baptism”. In my last report, I touched on the colors of baits to use, those choices – perch patterns and black back/ white bottom – still apply here, and, in fact all over the reservoir. This does not mean other colors won’t work, but these have been my most reliable. It might be a good time to touch on equipment. I am a firm believer in using what you have confidence in which for me is both spinning and bait casting equipment. What really matters is in the choice of line which for me is 12 or 15 pound braided tied with a uni-knot to a 10’ top shot of fluorocarbon or monofilament as my leader, Depending on conditions leader strength can vary from 6-15 pound. Keeping terminal tackle to a minimum will increase strikes. As for this week’s location, I’ll discuss Fishing Area 2 which is probably the best area to find suitable bass habitat on the whole reservoir. This area has many underwater stream-beds, easily found on a bathymetry map.

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A river bed of note is the middle branch of the Swift River which feeds in at the farthest point north. Along the western banks there are many brooks of which Spriggy Brook, Giles Brook and Hop Brook are favorites among locals due to their influx of nutrient rich water, and nearby ideal habitat. This area is dotted with islands and sandbars, which make for some navigational challenges but these make for among the best early season spots. Interestingly, the geography of the valley, along with 70+ years or erosion, have shaped these islands into structures which often have one very deep side with 30-40’ drop-offs with the other a vast shallow flat. These Islands tend to be great areas to fish, as bass migrate from deep wintering areas to shallow, warmer water to search for food, structure, and eventually a place to spawn. Any type of wood or large rock piles, farmhouse walls, and very steep drop-offs should be fished thoroughly as they will be the first things to begin attracting bass. Spinnerbaits, X raps, and crayfish-imitating jigs all work well in these spots. Early season largemouth hunters will want to make their way just north of these islands where there are some very shallow, vegetation and stump-studded coves. Watch for roving schools of largemouth at this time of year; leading a school with a very long cast and weightless wacky worm will yield results. Remember, most often at Quabbin, if you can see the fish the fish can see you. Be stealthy and always try to spot them first! Fishing area 2 is the fishing area I would recommend if I was only taking one trip to Quabbin this year. It has access to very deep water and very early in the season produces “by-catch” of lake trout and landlocked salmon which are still shallow chasing rainbow smelt and small perch. By May 1, these “by-catches” have moved back to their deep water haunts, and the bass really begin to take over the shallows. The next report will cover Area 3 – stay tuned!”

Paul Jr. from Granby Bait told me that a lot of his customers are heading out west to Onota, Cheshire and Pontoosuc. As to what they’re catching, he offered one word – pike! As anyone who has targeted toothies through the ice can attest, late ice is usually best ice for action as the fish feed heavily in preparation for the eventual ice-out spawn.

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

From the South Shore through Greater Boson your best bet is to pick up dozen or two shiners and target trout among the plethora of Plymouth ponds or maybe Jamaica Pond or Sluice on the North Shore. In Metrowest that same option applies to Lake Cochituate as well as Hopkiton Reservoir. Central Mass is on the cusp of good ice but for how long, it’s anyone’s guess so a better bet maybe checking out Tully Lake or Rohunta where the black bass and black crappie action has been impressive. Should you be aiming larger than check out Cheshire Reservoir for pike or maybe nearby Onota or Pontoosuc.

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