Photo by Mike Bleech.
To search for spring bass in Connecticut, start by placing your finger on any spot on a state map. Chances are, your finger will land close to a very good body of water that holds bass including largemouths, smallmouths and calicos. The state is dotted with ponds and lakes with bass-angling opportunities, ranging from lots of small-pond action to lunker bass in larger bodies of water.
The state’s Bass Management Lake program is designed to sustain fishing, increase the size of caught fish and offer a wide range of fishing experiences.
Bob Jacobs, Connecticut Department of Environmental Conservation district supervisor of fisheries, said the results of the state’s bass management program’s tactics — such as creel limits, size limits and catch-and-release regulations — would be reviewed after 10 years.
The program is only a few years old. Anglers should remember that bass are slow to grow and have a long life compared to other species, so a jump in size and weight so early in the program is not likely.
However, Jacobs did mention that the trend in bass so far is bigger fish. As temperatures increase, bass begin to move onto spawning beds, so anglers should target the shoreline shallows early in the season.
Here’s a look at the state’s top-producing waters for largemouth spots and smallmouth in 2008:
Quaddick Reservoir is in the town of Thompson in the northeastern part of the state. Quaddick, covering 408 acres of water, is known for its largemouths and pike fishing.
To get there, take Route 395 north to Exit 99 and Route 200. Follow Quaddick Road east and look for signs to Quaddick State Forest. There is a boat launch on the eastern shore.
At the opposite end of the state in the southeast corner are two great bass ponds near the city of Norwich: Pachaug Pond in the town of Griswold and Amos Lake in Preston.
Pachaug Pond is managed as a northern pike lake but has a good population of largemouths. Its 841 acres may be accessed via the boat launch off Route 138. From the city of Norwich take Route 165 east to Route 201 north and Route 138 west. The launch is at Pachaug’s northernmost tip.
Amos Lake is a Trophy Trout Lake as well as a Bass Management Lake. Pickerel also cruise the depths in good numbers. From Norwich, take Route 165 east and turn south onto Route 164. Motorized boats are allowed and may be launched from secondary roads.
Messerschmidt’s Pond is a small gem in the towns of Deep River and Westbrook. Its 73 acres of water are accessible by boats powered by electric motors or paddle.
Anglers can expect a good population of largemouths. A boat launch is on the pond’s western edge not far from Route 145.
From Deep River, travel west on Route 80 to either Route 145, where you can access the boat launch or Westbrook Road, which winds it way through the Messerschmidt Wildlife Management Area and touches the pond’s eastern shore.
Moodus Reservoir in East Haddam covers nearly 500 acres. It’s also part of the state’s Bass Management Program, with specific regulations designed to encourage largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as calico bass.
Moodus Reservoir is actually two bodies of water divided by the East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike. The larger portion of the reservoir may be accessed at the boat launch off a secondary road from the East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike. The smaller portion’s boat launch is off a secondary road off Route 149. From the city of Colchester, take Route 16 west to Route 149. This will bring you the smaller portion of the reservoir. From Route 149, take Falls Bashan Road to the East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike. Motorized boats are allowed.
Still in the East Haddam area, not far from Moodus Reservoir is Bashan Lake. This 273-acre Bass Management Lake is also noted for largemouths, smallmouths and calico bass.
Access to the lake is from one of many secondary roads off the East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike. Motorized boats are allowed.
Coventry Lake, also known as Wangumbaug Lake, is a Bass Management Lake as well as a walleye fishery in the town of Coventry. In Coventry Lake’s 465 acres, anglers will also find smallmouths and calicoes. Last May, a 5-pound-plus largemouth was pulled from its waters.
From the city of Willimantic, take Route 32 and then follow the left fork onto Route 31, which leads into the town on Coventry and the lake. Motorized boats may be launched at the lake’s eastern point.
Mono Pond is another spot to try near the city of Willimantic. Mono Pond covers 113 acres and it has a boat launch. From Willimantic, travel west on Route 66 to Pine Street and then turn onto Hunt Road.
Winnemaug Lake near Waterbury is a good option for paddlers. Motorized boats are prohibited on the 113-acre lake, but there is good largemouth action.
Take Route 84 west from Waterbury and then Route 63 north to Route 6 south. Many secondary roads provide access to Winnemaug Lake.
Near New Haven, Saltonstall Lake in the towns of Branford and East Haven is managed as a Bass Management Lake, as well as a walleye lake. Saltonstall covers over 400 acres of water that are fishable from shore or by boat. Only electric motors are allowed.
From New Haven, travel north on Route 95 to Exit 52 and Route 100. The Maltby lakes in the cities of Orange and West Haven are a cluster of three lakes ranging in size from 19 to 25 acres. These lakes are part of the state’s Bass Management Lake program and are known for their largemouths.
Access to Maltby is from shore only. Maltby and Saltonstall are both part of the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority. You’ll need a permit to access these ponds, but the extra effort to gain the permit is worth it.
) 562-4020 or obtain a permit online at www.rwater.com
In the northwest part of the state, bass anglers should try Highland Lake, Winchester Lake, and West Side Pond. Highland Lake is in the town of Winchester. Its 445 acres is included in the DEC’s Bass Management Program as well as its Trophy Trout Program.
Highland Lake has two main portions, First Bay and Third Bay. In First Bay there is a boat launch. To get there from the city of Winsted, travel west on Route 44 to Route 263. Secondary roads will provide access to the boat launch.
Winchester Lake is a stone’s throw from Highland Lake and is part of the DEC’s Northern Pike Lake program. However, largemouths also cruise its 246 acres. The boat launch is at the lake’s southern tip.
To access the launch from Winsted, take Route 263 to West Road.
West Side Pond in the town of Goshen is also in the area. West Side offers 42 acres of water in the Bass Management Lake Program. Expect trout and yellow perch in numbers, too. To access West Side’s boat launch, travel north on Route 63 from the town of Goshen and take Westside Road, which skirt’s West Side Pond’s southern edge.
Lake Lillinonah and Candlewood Lake hold good populations of smallmouths and largemouths with some calicoes mixed in, too.
Lake Lillinonah is one of the larger lakes in the state, with some 1,900 acres spreading through the towns of Brookfield, Bridgewater, Southbury, New Milford and Newton.
Lillinonah is actually part of the Housatonic River and, starting in New Milford, extends 12 miles to the Shepaug Dam in the town of Newtown. It offers 45 miles of shoreline, but much of it is steep hillside that rises more than 200 feet from the waterline.
The lake was created in 1955 as a source of hydroelectricity and flood control. This is a good spot to go with your powerboat, canoe or kayak.
Anglers can expect largemouths and white perch along with smallmouths. To get there from the city of Danbury, take Route 7/202 north to Route 133. Follow Route 133 until it crosses the Housatonic and Lake Lillinonah. A boat launch may be found after crossing the water. The speed limit on Lillinonah is 45 miles per hour during the day, and 25 miles per hour from sunset through sunrise.
You can’t talk about Connecticut’s smallmouth bass fishing without mentioning Candlewood Lake. In the southwest corner of the state, it’s the largest lake in the entire Nutmeg State, with some 5,420 acres of water near the New York state border.
Candlewood is a stone’s throw from Lake Lillinonah in the towns of Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman, New Milford and Brookfield. It’s classified as a Trophy Trout Lake, but has plenty of smallies in the 2- to 4-pound range as well as largemouths and a smattering of calicos.
Two boat launches are available, one in Danbury and the other in New Fairfield. From Danbury, travel north on Route 202. The launch is located in Lattins Cove. The New Fairfield launch is east of Route 39, south of Squantz Pond Park.
If you make the journey to Lake Lillinonah and Candlewood Lake, you owe it to yourself to complete the western Connecticut triad of bass waters with a visit to Squantz Pond.
As temperatures increase, bass begin to move onto spawning beds, so anglers should target the shoreline shallows early in the season.
Squantz Pond has 270 acres and is known for its great smallmouth fishing. Part of Candlewood Lake, Squantz Pond was created as part of a hydroelectric project in the early 20th century.
Squantz Pond is classified as a Trophy Trout Lake and Walleye Lake, so expect to encounter these species along with smallmouths.
Squantz Pond may be accessed from the city of Danbury by traveling north on Route 37 to Route 39. There is a boat launch where the Route 39 bridge crosses the inlet between Squantz Pond and Candlewood Lake.
In the western part of the state, Wonoscopomuc Lake in the corner next to the New York State and Massachusetts’s State borders. Wonoscopomuc, also known as Lakeville Lake because it is south of the town of Lakeville, offers some 348 acres of Bass Management Lake waters.
Anglers can expect smallies and largemouths at this location. There is a town-operated boat launch that charges a fee. Boat motors are restricted to 12 cubic inches. Travel north on Route 7 to Route 112 and look for the signs for the boat launch.
South of Wonoscopomuc, Mudge Pond in the town of Sharon holds good numbers of bass, plus pickerel and yellow perch.
From Route 112, take Indian Mountain Road south. The boat launch is located at the pond’s southern tip. Motors are limited to 7 1/2 horsepower.
Bantam Lake is classified as a northern pike lake, but its 947 acres of water also hold bass. The boat launch is in South Bay. From the town of Litchfield, take Route 202 west to Route 209 south.
A little gem for bass not far from Bantam Lake is Dog Pond in the town of Goshen. Dog Pond offers good bass populations including calicoes on its 66 acres of water. To access the boat launch, travel north from the city of Litchfield on Route 63 to Route 4 west and then proceed onto Beach Street. The boat launch is on the pond’s southeastern shore.
Gardner Lake, in the southeastern part of the state, lies in the towns of Salem, Montville and Bozrah and covers over 500 acres of water.
Expect lots of smallmouth action here on this Bass Management and walleye lake. The bass can be, small, but the action is exciting.
Yellow perch, walleyes and trout are also denizens of Gardner Lake.
To get there from the city of Colchester, travel south on Route 354, which provides access to the western shore of Gardner. The boat launch is on the southern tip.
Mashapaug Lake in the town of Union offers 287 acres of water with smallmouths and largemouths in good numbers. It’s a Bass Management Lake and a walleye lake. Anglers can also expect walleyes and an abundance of sunfish.
Mashapaug is within Bigelow Hollow State Park, which is part of Nipmuck State Forest. The state-record largemouth, pulled out of the Mashapaug in 1962, weighed in at 12 pounds, 14 ounces.
Mashapaug also has the distinction of holding the state record for channel catfish, which weighed in at 29 pounds, 6 ounces.
Traveling west on Route 171 from the city of Putnam, follow the signs to Bigelow Hollow State Park to access the Mashapaug Lake boat launch.
Wondering where the largest smallies was caught? Back in 1980, a 7-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth was pulled from 532-acre Shenipsit Lake in Tolland. Fishing here is by permit only, available from the Connecticut Water Company. For more information, contact the Connecticut Water Company at 1-860-875-1850. To get to the Shenipsit from the city of Rockville, head east on Route 74 to Shenipsit Lake Road.
The bass management lakes mentioned have specific regulations. The state has protected slot lengths, which means that anglers must release all smallmouths and largemouths between 12 and 18 inches. In these areas also, only one fish longer than 18 inches can be kept per day.
Many lakes and ponds have different creel limits and length requirements for bass, so read the state guidelines for the specific body of water you are targeting.
For more fishing information, including resident and non-resident fishing license fees, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection at 1-860-424-3555, or visit www.dep.state.ct.us