New England's Best Spring Fishing Trips

New England's spring fishermen have a real problem. With so many lakes, ponds, rivers and streams to choose from, not to mention a wide variety of saltwater options, deciding where to go can be a real challenge.

These proven Northeast region hotspots are where you want to be when the fishing season opens in your state in 2011:

MASSACHUSETTS

In spring, most Bay State anglers focus on bass and trout, and for good reason. Massachusetts' lakes, rivers and streams offer some of the finest spring fishing in the region.

The perennial top pick for outsized smallmouths, Quabbin Reservoir is one of the largest man-made public water supplies in the United States. Contained by two huge earthen dams, the reservoir is fed by the three branches of the Swift River.

The best bass fishing begins in spring as adult smallies establish their spawning sites. The action declines quickly by the end of June. Quabbin anglers catch between 35,000 and 50,000 smallmouths per year and the catch is evenly spread throughout the reservoir.

Quabbin is 18 miles long with 120 miles of shoreline and 60 islands. The lake is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Water Supply Protection (formerly Metropolitan District Commission).

All private boats launched on the reservoir must now have an intact Quabbin Boat Seal that certifies the craft has gone through a DCR approved decontamination process. For updates, call (413) 323-7221. Seals must be intact when the boats are inspected by Boat Launch Area attendants prior to launching. For a schedule of boat inspections/cleanings, call the Quabbin Visitor Center at (413) 323-7221.

The 2011 Quabbin fishing season runs from April 16 to October 15. Boat launch areas are open seven days a week from 6 a.m. until closing time, which varies throughout the season. Shore fishing is allowed all season. "Boats Off the Water" times are seasonally adjusted with times posted at each boat launch area.

All persons over 15 years must have a valid Massachusetts fishing/sporting license or a Quabbin Fishing License.

One-day Quabbin fishing licenses are available for purchase at the boat launch areas for $5. Quabbin fishing licenses limit anglers to the designated shore and boat fishing areas on Quabbin Reservoir during the Quabbin fishing season.

Quabbin's bronzebacks are abundant on the lake's west arm, accessible from Gate No. 8 (Boat Launch Area No. 1).

For stream trout in the Bay State, it's hard to beat the Deerfield River in northwestern Massachusetts. This outstanding trout fishery is bolstered by heavy stockings of rainbows, browns and brook trout.

Flowing out of Vermont's Harriman Reservoir, the Deerfield meanders through Massachusetts before emptying into the Connecticut River. The Deerfield is managed via a series of five dams in Massachusetts, starting at Fife Brook.

Good fishing may be enjoyed from April into early December. All sections of the river contain holdover lunkers plus some wild browns and brookies. Rainbows average 14 inches with enough 20-inch fish to make things interesting. Trophy brown trout are possible, with many 2- to 3-pound fish.

The Deerfield is made up mostly of deep runs, riffles, and large, still-water pools. The river bed is mostly rock and boulders, so cleated waders are recommended. Water conditions on this river can change rapidly (often within minutes) due to water releases used for generating power. Watch and listen for changing conditions.

Below Bardwells Ferry and above Old Deerfield, deep and large mud-bottomed pools will be found, such as Stillwater Pool above the Interstate Route 91 bridge.

Below the dam at Fife Brook, try Diamond Pool, Long Pool, Carbis Bend and Shady Pool. The lower catch-and-release section begins at the railroad underpass just above where Pelham Brook runs into the Deerfield, and runs for about two miles before it ends at the Mohawk Campground.

There are numerous designated access points and pull-outs. Route 2 (The Mohawk Trail) as well as Zoar and River roads, which borders the Deerfield all the way to Fife Brook, provide parking and pathways to the river.

For more information about spring trout fishing in Massachusetts, log onto the MassWildlife Web site, found at www.mass.gov.

CONNECTICUT

For odds-on trout fishing in the Nutmeg State, anglers need only head into the northeast region to the Natchaug River in Natchaug State Forest in Eastford, generally paralleling Route 198 from Chaplin.

A designated "trout park," the Natchaug is stocked daily from opening day to Memorial Day to provide more opportunities for novice anglers, but the river is full of big, holdover fish, some over 20 inches long. Experienced anglers who know how to identify the places where big trout hide should have excellent luck in this year-round fishery. Be sure to fish under the rocks at the famous Diana's Pool, where local college students spend spring days studying and sunning on the large boulders where big rainbows lurk.

Constitution State bass anglers would do well to focus on Candlewood Lake off Route 39 north of New Fairfield in western Connecticut, where numerous largemouths and smallmouths up to 5 pounds are caught each spring by anglers focusing on shoreline cover and structure.

For fishing maps and more information, log onto the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Web site at www.ct.gov/dep.

RHODE ISLAND

Spring hotspots for trout in the Ocean State abound, but one of the most popular destinations for early-season trout is Watchaug Pond, a 570-acre pond in Fort Ninigret in the southwest part of the state. Watchaug averages about 9 feet deep but dips down to near 36 feet at its deepest point.

The lake is surrounded by Burlingame State Park and state forest, so shoreline access is plentiful. Boat access is via the state park ramp, and there are no horsepower restrictions. The lake is stocked with trout prior to the opening day of trout season.

For great spring bass fishing in Rhode Island, state biologists recommend Worden Pond at the southern end of the Great Swamp Management Area off Route

110 near West Kingston.

At 1,043 acres, Worden Pond is the largest freshwater pond in Rhode Island. The pond offers a cement slab launch site with plenty of parking available.

For more information about spring fishing opportunities in Rhode Island, contact the Rhode Island Division of Environmental Management at www.dem.ri.gov.

MAINE

Although great trout fishing may be found almost anywhere in the Pine Tree State, there are only a select few waters where great trout fishing may be enjoyed in early spring.

Topping the list of hotspots is the Kennebec River from the Abenaki (lower) Dam in Madison downstream to the confluence of the Sandy River, as defined by red posts in Madison/Starks. This artificial-lures-only stretch has been producing wall-hanger browns for decades. This year-round fishery is easily accessed and may be waded with ease in most sections.

Another good year-round stretch of the Kennebec is the Shawmut Dam impoundment in Skowhegan, Fairfield, Clinton, and Benton from the red markers at the Skowhegan Rest Area to Shawmut Dam.

In addition to trout and salmon in the upper reaches of the Kennebec, spring anglers will find world-class fishing for smallmouth bass on any of the state's major rivers including the Penobscot, St. Croix, Piscataquis and Pleasant. Most of the state's central- and southern-region lakes and ponds also offer superior spring largemouth and smallmouth bassin'. Anglers should focus on shoreline cover in April, May and June as bass hold tight in shallow water during the spawning period.

For more on Maine's great spring trout-fishing opportunities, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at www.me.gov.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

For great spring trout-fishing action, the Granite State's Contoocook River is one of a baker's dozen in the state that are managed for year-round trout fishing.

The Contoocook's best early-season trout fishing is from Contoocook Lake downstream to the area marked with signs and a wire in West Henniker. Another good stretch is the water from a point 2,500 feet above the paper mill dam in Henniker to the Lower Falls Dam in Boscawen, including the Hopkinton Everett Flood Control Area. Also, anglers should have good luck in the stretch from the Lower Falls Dam in Boscawen to the confluence with the Merrimack River.

The recent removal of the 137-foot West Henniker Dam has created a half-mile stretch of river that contains ideal trout habitat that is easily waded and already producing good catches of rainbows, brookies and browns.

According to Scott Decker, New Hampshire's Inland Fisheries Program supervisor, the Dead Diamond River system offers some "interesting native brook trout fishing opportunities in a scenic part of the state." Primarily located in the unincorporated township of Second College, which is owned and managed by Dartmouth College, the watershed includes the main stem Dead Diamond River and numerous branches including the Swift Diamond, Little Dead Diamond, and the East, Middle, and West branches of the Dead Diamond. Although there are roads leading in to these waters, no vehicle traffic is allowed, so the fishing should be excellent throughout them, Decker said.

Anglers interested in a variety of species ranging from yellow perch to landlocked salmon, Lake Winnipesaukee off Route 109 in Wolfeboro is the target of choice. New Hampshire's largest lake, Winnipesaukee offers year-round action for a variety of species with plenty of options for shore or boat fishing.

For more information on where to find great spring angling in New Hampshire, log onto the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Web site at www.wildnh.com.

VERMONT

Although it may seem to be a cop-out to say great spring trout fishing may be had "anywhere" in Vermont, that is truly the case in the Green Mountain State, especially in the eastern and northern regions. Green Mountain State Forest offers unlimited access to pristine rivers, streams and beaver ponds that abound with native brook trout as well as rainbows and some brown trout.

This is the place for adventurous anglers to slip on a pair of hip waders and drive the forest roads in search of remote waters. Most of the trout will be less than 10 inches long, but a patient angler can expect to catch 100 or more of these speckled beauties a day and never see another angler.

Culvert and bridge pools will be full of hungry trout as soon as the ice goes out in the North Country. Test each pool with a garden worm, Hare's Ear nymph or a Royal Coachman wet fly and enjoy some of the most productive native trout fishing in the East.

For boaters, the Vermont side of Lake Champlain is the place to be after ice-out. Known for its plentiful supply of rainbows, browns, brookies and salmon, this huge lake also boasts world-class angling for bass, pike and walleyes from shore or boat. Launch your boat in East Alburg or Swanton off routes 78 or 7 and start fishing south to Chimney Point, a distance of about 70 miles. On a good day you can expect to catch at least one of every species available in the "sixth Great Lake."

For maps and more on Vermont's spring fishing opportunities, log onto www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

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