New England's 2010 Bass Forecast

Take a look at what New England's bass managers are doing and what anglers can expect in 2010. (April 2010)

New England's black bass enthusiasts have much to look forward to in 2010. Fisheries experts manage the species with an eye toward healthy populations and quality size, boosting the odds that anglers will land a brag-worthy bucketmouth or bronzeback this year.

There are so many excellent bass waters throughout the region that anglers could fish every day and still not hit them all. Here's a roundup of the best bass waters to try in the Northeast this year:

CONNECTICUT
The Nutmeg State has 29 Bass Management lakes that offer a quality bassing experience but with more restrictive regulations than the 12-inch minimum and six-fish creel limits that are standard on most waters.

Some Bass Management lakes have a 12- to 16-inch slot limit with a six-fish daily creel limit, and only two of those fish may be over 16 inches. Other waters have an 18-inch minimum length, and only one fish over 18 inches may be taken.

There is no closed season on bass in Connecticut.

"We're in the process of drafting our final report on experimental length limits in 29 Bass Management Lakes," said Bob Jacobs, eastern district supervisor with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Inland Fisheries Division. "This report will be completed in late 2010 and will contain recommendations for future bass management in the state."

Jacobs noted that special Bass Management regulations had been in place since 2002.

"There has been a trend toward improvements in bass fishing in Connecticut because of higher voluntary release rates by anglers, so 2010 should be as good a year as any for bass fishing here," Jacobs noted. "Angler catch rates for bass, for both tournament and non-tournament anglers, have increased at least two-fold since the 1980s as a result, but also because anglers just seem to be getting more sophisticated at finding and catching the fish."

Roberts said that hotspots for both smallmouth and largemouth bass include Candlewood Lake and the Connecticut River. For more bucketmouth action, try Lake Saltonstall, Moodus Reservoir, Mansfield Hollow Reservoir, Rogers Lake, Ball Pond and Pachaug Pond.

For additional Connecticut fishing information, call (860) 424-3474 or visit www.ct.gov/dep.

MAINE
According to Rick Jordan, a Region C fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, there are over 620 bass waters in the Pine Tree State. None of these waters are stocked because natural reproduction presently maintains a healthy population.

Effective April 1, 2010, a new combined freshwater-ice-fishing law book takes effect in Maine.

"Maine now has a general law that says all lakes and ponds, unless otherwise specified in the county listings, will be open to year-round fishing," Jordan said. "So what that means is if there is open water you will be able to fish for bass, and if there is ice, you will be able to ice-fish. If there's open water in January, February or March, you will still be able to fish."

Jordan said that cost savings for printing a combined season law book were not the only consideration in making the year-round rule.

In 2009, Maine experienced the rainiest June on record, and July wasn't much better.

"Based on my experience and the highly cold, rainy summer we had, especially though the end of July, my guess is that survival of bass fry was not very good this year," Jordan said. "Spawning got somewhat delayed and the newly hatched fish didn't get the benefit of the normal warming we experience in June and July. Survival of first-year bass through the winter is dependent on them getting bigger through the summer and fall, which will sustain them through the time of no feeding in winter. The smaller fish die, but the larger ones make it."

Anglers won't feel the results of any struggles encountered by the 2009 hatch for three or four years, Jordan said, in relation to bass sizes and numbers.

"Fish in the 10- to 12-inch range may be reduced due to the cool summer we had a few years ago, so anglers may encounter fewer bass progeny from summers around 2004 and 2005," Jordan said. "But there were good numbers of 14- to 17-inch bass around last summer, so the bigger fish are right there."

Jordan said that Big Lake is probably the most important smallmouth bass lake in Region C.

"It's 10,000 acres with excellent spawning grounds and habitat," he said. "Green Lake in Ellsworth is another good smallmouth bass lake. There's good size quality there. For fast fishing, try Meddybemps Lake in Meddybemps. Cathance Lake has smallmouth bass and a real fast catch rate. The fish are a little later to spawn there. I wouldn't start fishing until June 8 or 10. Beech Hill Pond in Otis also provides fast fishing for smallmouths."

For largemouth bass action, Jordan recommended Pocomoonshine Lake in Alexander north of Route 9, and downstream at Crawford Lake.

"Both have largemouth bass and smallmouth bass," Jordan said. "There are some real nice largemouths in there, some going 4 to 6 pounds."

For more Maine fishing information, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000 or visit www.maine.gov/ ifw.

MASSACHUSETTS
There have been no recent changes in Bay State bass-fishing regulations, according to Richard Hartley, aquatic biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the state's Warm and Cool Water Project leader.

Massachusetts anglers may harvest five black bass per day with a minimum length of 12 inches.

"Based on survey work and bass tournament creel analysis, Massachusetts anglers should continue to find good fishing in all of their favorite bass spots," Hartley said. "Some best bets for smallmouth bass are the Merrimack River, the Connecticut River, Wachusett Reservoir, Quabbin Reservoir, Webster Lake in Webster, Sugden Reservoir in Spencer, Onota Lake in Pittsfield and virtually any two-story fishery in the Southeast District."

Hartley's picks for largemouth bass included the Agawam River in Wareham, Long Pond in Lakeville, Noquochoke Lake in Dartmouth, Quabbin Reservoir, Wachusett Reservoir, Congamond Lake in Southwick and Cheshire Reservoir in Cheshire.

The most popular bass tournament waters in Massachusetts last year were Congamond Lake, the Connecticut River, the Nashua River, Quaboag Pond in Brookfield and Webster Lake.

For more Massachusetts fishing information, call (508) 389-6300 or visit www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
"The goal of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's warmwater fisheries program is to use the best information available to sustain and improve warmwater fish populations through management and natural reproduction in order to provide recreational fishing opportunities in an ecologically sound manner," said Gabe Gries, a fisheries biologist II with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and the state's Warmwater Project leader.

In the short term, NHFG is conducting statewide population assessments of warmwater species and continues to monitor bass tournament data.

Long-term objectives include using those assessments to identify bass populations that may require new regulations and evaluation of impacts of any new regulations.

"Most of these short- and long-term objectives are met by conducting warmwater fish assessments each year using an electro-shocking boat, nets and/or angler surveys," Gries said.

The annual assessments provide information on fish condition, size and population structure, relative abundance, juvenile bass size and abundance, and more. Also, angler effort, catch and harvest rates and opinions about management are tracked. All data is entered into a black bass database.

An example of the type of report generated via the database may be viewed at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.

"This bass data base has already allowed for a number of water bodies to be identified that have the potential, with the correct restrictive bass length limits, to become quality bass fisheries," Gries said. "Additionally, work is on-going to incorporate warmwater fish habitat improvement projects into the NHFGD's habitat program in order to enhance the habitat these self-sustaining fish rely upon for their continued existence."

Gries said that there have been no recent major changes to bass management in the Granite State.

"Based on our bass surveys during the past few years, bass tournament data and angler reports, 2010 should be a great year for bass fishing in New Hampshire," Gries said. "Conway Lake near the Maine border offers great opportunities for both smallmouth and largemouth bass. Big smallmouth bass abound in Newfound Lake in Hebron/Bristol. Most local anglers fish deep with drop-shot rigs, Carolina rigs, tubes or jigs.

"If you want big largemouths, Turkey Pond in Concord is the place to be," Gries continued. "The boat ramp is a little rough, but on average this water body consistently produces the largest lunker largemouths weighed in during bass tournaments in the state."

Gries also recommended the Connecticut River for consistent bass fishing.

"The Connecticut is one of New Hampshire's most productive bass fisheries and it is fun to fish," Gries said. "One never knows what a cast will produce -- a heavy largemouth, a strong smallmouth, a walleye or pike. The beautiful surroundings and fish productivity of this river are hard to beat."

For more fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us.

RHODE ISLAND
Each summer and fall, the Fisheries Division of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management conducts electro-shocking surveys and monitors bass tournament weigh-ins to collect data about this popular game fish species. The information is used to develop a statewide management plan for black bass in Rhode Island waters.

"The plan may be used as a public information document and a reference source document for fishery managers," said Phil Edwards, a fisheries biologist with the department. "The results will assist in determining which Rhode Island water systems may benefit from alternative management strategies in place of the current statewide regulations. This project is part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service federal aid project."

Edwards said data collection is still underway and will be ongoing for the next few years. Currently, statewide regulations on black bass include a 12-inch minimum length and a daily bag limit of five fish.

"The bass forecast for the 2010 season is good," Edwards said. "Preliminary summer and fall monitoring results at bass tournament weigh-ins have shown abundant numbers of 12-to 15-inch bass."

The biologist said that best bets for smallmouth bass include Watchaug, Stafford and Tiogue lakes. Largemouth bass abound in these waters, as well as at Echo Lake, Worden Pond, Wilson Reservoir or Smith and Sayles Reservoir. Also worth a try for largemouth bass are Upper Slaters and Wilson reservoirs.

"These systems are good throughout the year and have public access and boat ramps," Edwards said. When ice-fishing season rolls back around, hardwater anglers target largemouth bass at Worden and Johnson ponds, and both species at Watchaug Reservoir."

For more Rhode Island ice-fishing information, call (401) 789-7481 or visit www.dem.ri.gov.

VERMONT
Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologists keep a close eye on the state's top bass waters. When deemed necessary for the health of the species, special regulations are implemented. For example, special bag and slot limits were imposed on waters with an overabundance of bass that resulted in higher numbers of smaller fish, according to Bernie Pientka, a fisheries biologist with the VDFW.

Open-water fishing for bass is allowed from mid-June to the end of November. Ice-fishing for bass is allowed from the third Saturday in January to March 15. Length and creel limits vary by water body.

One area where the VFWD is focused these days is education to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species. Largemouth bass virus has been documented in Lake Champlain and Lake St. Catherine. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia has been found in waters in the Great Lakes region. Most recently, Didymo, also known as "rock snot," has been found in the Batten Kill, the Connecticut River in Vermont and in the Mad River.

"Anglers are advised to clean their equipment and boats to help reduce the spread of this pest," Pientka said. More information about Didymo and proper cleansing techniques may be found at www.vtwaterquality.org.

The Green Mountain State has many excellent bass waters, with Lake Champlain at the top of the list for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Pientka said anglers targeting both species should also fish the Connecticut River and Lake Memphremagog. For bucketmouth action, try Stoughton Pond in Weathersfiel

d, Lake Sadagwa in Whitingham or the Moore Reservoir.

Lake Memphremagog features state-owned access on the eastern shore, but it is not suitable for launching most bass boats. Other access areas around the lake have concrete ramps. There is a Vermont Fish and Wildlife concrete ramp on the South Bay of Lake Memphremagog.

Check DeLorme's Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, maps 54 and 66, for details.

Stoughton Pond's 56 acres are only open to fishing from the second Saturday in April through Oct. 31. From opening day through the Friday before the second Saturday in June, bass angling is catch-and-release only with artificial lures and flies. The rest of the season, there's a 10-inch minimum and a daily creel of five bass.

For access, take Stoughton Pond Road off state Route 106. Check DeLorme's VAG, Map 27, for area details.

Sadagwa Pond covers 194 acres. Bass anglers may take five fish per day, 10 inches or larger, from the second Saturday in June through Nov. 30. Access is on township Highway 37 off state Route 100.

Check DeLorme's VAG, Map 21, for details.

Moore Reservoir has two access areas with concrete ramps maintained by Trans Canada -- one on the Vermont side, and one on the New Hampshire side.

See DeLorme's VAG, Map 49, for more information.

For additional Green Mountain State fishing information, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700 or visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

These feisty fighters are fast replacing coldwater species as the New England angler's favorite sport fish.

Maine now has a general law that says all lakes and ponds, unless otherwise specified in the county listings, will be open to year-round fishing.

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