Most bass fishermen agree June is one of the best times to challenge New England’s black bass. By the same token, few will agree May is a bad time.
As water temperatures continue warm, several things happen that make bass fishing extremely productive this month. First, the metabolism rate of the fish increases and, coming off the long winter, bass feed heavily. Second, their eagerness to feed makes them susceptible to a wide range of offerings.
And as water temperatures climb into that magical 50- to 60-degree range later this month things will only get better. This happens sooner in southern New England than it does in the northern part of the region, but by then bass are in or close to the spawning season. The fish will be found more and more often in shallow water creating beds or seeking mates, and they became aggressive and protective of their spawning sites.
Add it all up and it boils down to one thing: May can be a hot month for New England bass.
With that in mind, here are some waters that should provide some excellent bass action this month.
MESSALONSKEE LAKE, MAINE
Maine is blessed with world-class bass waters, but few are as well known as the seven lakes and ponds making up the Belgrade chain, just a hop, skip and jump north of Augusta, the state capital.
While all produce good bass action, and though it has experienced a milfoil infestation and illegal introduction of northern pike, Messalonskee Lake still gets a lot of attention for several reasons.
The lake is home to both largemouth and smallmouth, has good numbers of both, and the action can be fast and furious. Furthermore, some real lunkers are in the lake, which is easy to find and offers good access. At 3,500-acres, the lake also provides anglers plenty of places to wet a line.
The south end of the lake is shallow and quite marshy but holds tons of fish. The same is true of the abundant structure in Belgrade Stream from Wings Mills to the lake, a stretch of water best fished from canoes and smaller boats. Access on this end is possible off Route 27 in Belgrade.
Going up the lake any of the numerous coves, rocky points, islands and visible cover should produce action, particularly in the narrow northern arm heading towards Oakland. Average depth is just over 30 feet and visibility is generally good down to 10 feet. Anglers should find plenty of action with plastic worms allowed to sink to the bottom. Crankbaits such as the Grappler Shad and Jointed Grappler Shad from Cotton Cordell, Rebel’s Big Claw, and Shad Rap and Jointed Shad Rap from Rapala should do well, too.
Messalonskee Lake also has a good forage base of smelt, golden shiners and chubs, and natural bait also take their share of bass.
Access for boats on trailers on the north end will be found off Route 11 in Oakland.
For more information on bag and length limits and regulation pertaining to bass fishing visit www.mefishwildlife.com or telephone (207) 287-8000.
LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
If history is any indication of the future, the bass spawn will be in progress early this month on New Hampshire’s largest lake. For success with Winnipesaukee’s abundant smallmouths, anglers at this time of year should target shallow rocky shorelines, points and gravelly flats, especially those offering 3 to 10 feet of water. With 72 square miles of surface area, more than 240 islands and over 180 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of these areas to choose from.
For those new to the lake, however, the inside of Rattlesnake and Sleepers Islands off West Alton, the Forty Island area, the bars and shallows around Mark, Mink and Bear Islands and other islands off Meredith Neck and those leading into Center Harbor are all perennial smallmouth hotspots this month. Don’t forget to check out water around navigational buoys that mark rock piles, shoals and other shallow areas.
For smallmouth, tubes fixed to 1/8-ounce heads seem to do quite well. Some favorites include the gold pumpkin and silver ghost Mister Mino, the Turbo in watermelon/chartreuse, white/red gill and green pumpkin, and Fat Tube in white, pumpkin candy, watermelon candy and watermelon seed, all from Mister Twister.
The same offerings also work on the lake’s largemouth, but often require a slower retrieve, and in different locations. To get started, try Paugus Bay, Alton Bay and the shorelines and islands of Moultonboro Bay, which are prime locations. This is especially true of the islands and shallow coves in the Lees Mills area.
State- or town-owned public boat- launch facilities will be found near each of these areas and provide easy access. A list of these sites, as well as lake depth maps, will be found on the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
Caution should be taken when navigating and fishing these shallow and often rock and boulder-strewn areas. Winnipesuakee’s offers good visibility so take advantage of it.
Also keep in mind that until May 14 there is a two-bass daily limit, but no length limit, and starting May 15 to June 15 all bass must be released. Artificial lures and flies are the rule during this period as well.