Best Bets for New England Fishing in 2012
February 22, 2012
New England's angling community has it made when it comes to the availability of year-round fishing opportunities. Here's where to go for some top-end New England fishing in 2012:
Moosehead Lake, Maine
Maine's pride and joy when it comes to winter trout fishing, Moosehead is the place to be for lunker brookies. The daily bag limit is one fish over 14 inches, but smart anglers will release smaller fish in hopes of landing one of the lake's legendary 5-pounders. Also, there is no size or bag limit on black bass at Moosehead.
Quinsigamond Lake, Mass.
In the heart of Worcester, this long, thin lake offers some great winter panfishing for a variety of species. Yellow perch abound in the lake and are caught by ice-anglers fishing close to points and weed beds using worms, shiners and tiny jigs.
Bantam Lake, Conn.
Well known for its great pike and bass fishing, Bantam Lake is also a top New England destination for big bluegills through the ice. Live or cut baits, jigs and ice flies will take these abundant, voracious winter targets.
Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H.
Look for clusters of ice-fishing shacks on this busy and popular New Hampshire hotspot. Most of the action takes place within walking distance of access trails and marinas so there's no need to head for the middle of the lake. Schools of tasty perch roam the lake throughout the day at varying depths, so set fishing lines from top to bottom or use sonar gear to find schools of feeding perch.
Cobbosseecontee Lake, Maine
Lunker bass are easy targets for winter anglers using large shiners or night crawlers fished near dropoffs and weedy cover. Set up in water under 15 feet deep and check baits often to keep panfish away.
Lake Champlain, Vt.
One of the few great walleye hotspots in New England, Lake Champlain draws anglers from all over to its world-class opportunities for big fish of all species, including king-sized walleyes that eagerly take live baits or lively jigs.
Seymour Lake, Vt.
One of the most productive ice-fishing lakes in the Green Mountain state, Seymour Lake is home to a variety of coldwater species including trout, landlocked salmon and lake trout. Late-season ice-anglers focus on Seymour's out-sized lake trout, which reach 20 pounds or more and are "suckers" for cut bait, live bait or large, lively jigs. Lake trout will show up at any time of the day so you should plan to start early and stay late. Check baits often to stymie big lakers that often engulf a bait without tripping the flag.
Schoodic Lake, Maine
This long, deep lake near Lakeview often produces great catches for patient salmon anglers who continue ice-fishing through the end of the season. Jig or fish lively shiners just under the ice. Be persistent and patient while waiting for schools of hungry landlocks.
Mashapaug Lake, Mass.
Home to some of the biggest bass, trout and catfish in the Bay State, Mashapaug offers excellent year-round angling. When safe ice allows, fish just off the bottom using live shiners, jigs or beefy ice flies on thrumming rods.
Candlewood Lake, Conn.
Candlewood is a top Nutmeg State trout spot, and its best fishing starts early this month. Fish from shore or troll slowly using deep-diving minnow imitations. Smart anglers will rig for big fish: This lake is known for its king-sized browns and rainbows.
Deerfield River, Mass.
One of the top spring trout rivers in the East, the Deerfield is well known for its high numbers of stocked fish and its good population of holdover rainbows, browns and brookies. Get away from the crowds by heading upstream or down from the most popular bridge pools and crossings.
Stafford Pond, R.I.
Stafford Pond should be ice-free by mid-March. Fish the warmer water along the shoreline for pre-spawn smallmouths as well as near points, dropoffs and other structure where early-spring bass are likely to hold.
Best bets for May, June, July and August are available on page 2!
West Branch River, Maine
If fly-fishing for landlocked salmon over 5 pounds sounds good, plan a trip to Maine's famed West Branch Penobscot River for some of the best salmon angling in the world. Water levels and temperatures vary so be prepared with a variety of flies and streamers, line types and rod weights.
White River, Vt.
Plan to be on the river as soon as spring runoff subsides. Big rainbows, browns, salmon and brookies will be found in riffles, tailwaters and deep holes as the water temperatures slowly rise into the mid-50s during the day.
Bantam Lake, Conn.
Bantam Lake offers some great spring fishing for big northerns, particularly in the vast, weedy shallows near the lake's outlet. Get there early in the day and use weedless plugs or spinnerbaits to catch the attention of cruising pike.
Misquamicut Beach, R.I.
This popular weekend getaway is also one of the best places in the East for big stripers. Most anglers show up before sunrise or after sunset so they will have the beach (and parking areas) to themselves. When conditions are right the biggest fish will be just beyond the breakers, a short cast from shore. Plan to be off the water by 9 a.m. before the sunbathers show up.
Connecticut River, N.H.
Fish the upper reaches of the Connecticut for big browns, rainbows and brookies. Look for deep holes, undercut banks and tributary streams where the biggest fish will suspend as they wait for insects and baitfish to be swept past in current seams.
Wachusett Reservoir, Mass.
One of the best-managed city water supply lakes in the East, Wachusett offers some great bass fishing this month. Shore anglers do well casting deep-diving plugs parallel to the rocky shoreline. Focus on areas with plenty of structure to find pre-spawn fish in a mood to fight!
Farmington River, Conn.
Connecticut's top summertime trout river, the Farmington in July becomes the consummate angler's water of choice. Deep pools, rock-strewn holes and secret eddies abound in the Farmington and Unionville section. Fish the mouths of inlets and near bridge abutments where big browns lurk at dawn and dusk.
Sebasticook Lake, Maine
Taking a "feed of perch" is easy in this central-Maine lake where tasty white perch may be caught from shore or boat early and late in the day. Most anglers show up for the evening bite. Bring a coffee can full of garden worms and a 5-gallon bucket for a "creel." Plan on catching (and cleaning) several hundred perch every trip.
Onota Lake, Mass.
Be on the water just before dark. Fish big, dark plugs or large deer hair flies close to shore through the night. Some monstrous browns have been taken from Onota and there are plenty more for anglers who don't mind working a little harder for their fish.
Penobscot River, Maine
Famous for its bass fishing before bass fishing became famous, Maine's Penobscot River above Bangor still produces fish in the 5-pound class — and plenty of them. Fish from a canoe or boat and cast into shore using jigs, spinnerbaits or fat deer-hair flies. Target rocks, logs, overhanging branches and other structure where big smallmouths may be hanging out. Be careful while boating on the Penobscot: huge remnant trees from the old-time river logging days still pop up in the current from time to time.
Connecticut River, Conn.
Anglers seeking tasty catfish fillets come down to the river at sunset rigged with cut baits, cheese baits and dough balls and plan to spend the night. Most bridge pools and tailwaters abound with channel cats. Bring a light, a cooler full of snacks and plenty of terminal tackle to replace lost gear and tangles.
Long Island Sound, Conn.
Now is the time to be on the Sound, where big schools of hungry blues tear baits (and each other) apart with abandon. Fish from shore using live or cut baits or motor onto the Sound and fish tins and jigs directly over current seams. Miss the seam by 10 feet and you could miss the fish, so keep moving to stay on target.
Find out the best bets for September, October, November, and December on page three!
Carbuncle Pond, R.I.
One of Rhode Island's best autumn trout lakes, Carbuncle Pond is the place to be for big summer's-end rainbows. Any angler in southern New England can be on the water in less than two hours, making this a good destination for fishermen with a half day to spend casting to some of the biggest rainbows, browns and brookies in the Ocean State.
Willoughby River, Vt.
As the fishing season winds down, head for the Willoughby River for some great fall brookie fishing. The fish will be in their brightest spawning colors, easy marks for an equally bright-colored wet fly or streamer.
Lynn Harbor, Mass.
Hit the flats this month for some great flounder fishing. Use squid pieces or cut bait fished directly on the sandy bottom. Flounder are masters at stealing bait off a hook, so take up the slack and set the hook at the very instant a fish takes the bait.
Cape Cod, Mass.
Late fall is prime time for New England's big stripers, and the shores of Cape Cod are all but deserted. Summer is over and it's back to the "real world" for most Cape visitors, but smart anglers will be on the water before sunrise or at sunset. Shore anglers have the best luck using live or dead eels, big popping plugs, live mackerel or cut bait. Cast just beyond the breakers and hang on!
Tewksbury Pond, N.H.
Fish with wet flies or streamers on top or go deep with spinners, small spoons or minnow-imitating plugs. Brookies will be active on top during the day this month, so be on hand to cast to them when they rise to the top to take naturals on the surface.
Agawam River, Mass.
Pickerel are among the few fish that bite eagerly year-round. Fish close to shore with weedless grubs, topwaters or spinnerbaits. If a fish misses a strike, wait a few seconds and continue the retrieve. Few pickerel miss their mark a second time!
Pushaw Lake, Maine
An illegally-introduced species that has gotten its foot in the door in many of Maine's traditional trout or bass waters, the northern pike is gaining popularity for two good reasons: they are big and they are aggressive! Fishermen used to the nibbles of 12-inch bass and 10-inch trout are quickly swayed by the slashing strike of a 30-inch northern. Pushaw is a relatively small, shallow lake but it's all but deserted this month as most sportsmen turn their attention to deer hunting. Fish noisy top-water lures near rocks, ledge and weed cover to draw the attention of cruising pike.
Narragansett Bay, R.I.
Blackfish rule the inshore saltwater fishery during cold weather. Fish off shore or anchor near ledges, rock piles and other structure. Use whole clams, squid pieces or sea worms fished as close to cover as possible.
Mousam River, Maine
Cold weather is not an issue for the Mousam's big brown trout. Fish at dawn or dusk with live bait, dark plugs or big deer-hair flies in eddies, deep pools and riffles.
Connecticut River, Conn.
The mighty Connecticut River remains open most of the winter, and that's when local pike anglers converge on the river's many coves and backwaters. Big northerns move in to feed on the river's abundant populations of shad, perch, horned pout, calico bass and bluegills. Live bait (shiners, eels, etc.) or flashy lures fished "with vigor" will put big pike on the hook. Fish in the 30-inch range are common, so rig with wire leaders and use a net or gaff to land these big, toothy specimens.
Sand Bay, Mass.
Winter is the time to go for these popular, and quite tasty, ocean fish. Find a charter boat online and then show up ready to spend a long day (or even overnight) out on the water. The best fishing is far offshore in rough weather, so bring warm clothes, raingear and plenty to eat and drink.
Lake Champlain, Vt.
Wait for safe ice or fish off shore for some of the biggest yellow perch in the East. Schools of perch in the 12-inch class are common. Use sonar to find schools of roaming perch or fish over structure 20 feet or deeper.