From fishing wild-trout streams to hatchery-supported waters, New England trout anglers can look forward to an exciting season.
With yet another long winter on the books, trout enthusiasts throughout New England are firing to up to hit their favorite honey holes. In many southern locations stocking trucks have already made some runs, and as conditions improve will do the same across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Across the region anglers will also have plenty of opportunities for trophy, native and holdover trout as efforts.
New England’s largest state has long had a national reputation as one of the premier brook trout angling destinations in the country. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, some 1,200 Maine lakes and ponds are managed as Principal Brook Trout Fisheries. About 60 percent of these waters are sustained by natural reproduction. In addition, brook trout are found in more than 22,200 miles of rivers and streams, the vast majority of these trout are wild.
Although wild brook trout are found throughout Maine, the highest populations are found in remote areas in the western, central and northern regions of the state on Maine Public Reserve Land and on private timber land. Fortunately, most of the private timber land is open to public access. Access to the later properties is available through several gatehouses maintained by the North Maine Woods (www.northmainewoods.org).
The Deboullie area in Aroostoock County is a good place to start. Within a 10-mile radius 20 wild trout ponds await, all surrounded by public land. Many of the ponds are restricted to fly fishing only and managed as trophy trout waters. Some require a hike to reach but the fishing, remoteness and scenery are hard to beat.
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Baxter State Park (www.baxterstatepark.org ) is another great destination, particularly the trout ponds in the southwest corner. The park maintains rental canoes on most. Both these areas typically produce excellent action in June and early July.
Not all brook trout in Maine are wild, nor are brook trout the only species available. Each spring the MDIFW produces about one million brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and splake (a hybrid cross between a brook trout and lake trout) and releases them in some 800 waters about the state. In October last year the refitted hatchery in Casco came back on line and will be producing an additional 85,000 trout.
A complete stocking list including date of release, body of water, type of species stocked, quantity and size is on the MDIFW web site.
New Hampshire Fish and Game will stock approximately one million catchable trout this year. Where conditions allow, releases will start this month in places such as Big Island Pond and Pleasant and Baker Lakes in Rockingham County and Bow Lake Strafford County, and continue into early July in Carroll, Coos and Grafton Counties, primarily on rivers like the Saco, Swift, Ammonoosuc and Zealand.
To ensure plenty of fish are available many lakes and ponds and specific sections of rivers are stocked more than once. Check for updates on the previous week’s releases posted on the NHFG web site during the stocking season for locations.
Anglers looking for larger trout should make plans to visit the state’s designated trout ponds. Brook, brown and rainbow trout weighing a pound or more are possible. Many such as Hot Hole Pond in Loudon, Dublin Lake in Dublin, Back Lake in Pittsburg, Big Bear Brook Pond in Errol, Carter Pond in Bean’s Purchase and Big and Little Dummer ponds in Dummer are located in the Lakes Region northward to Coos County.
In addition to special trout waters, about thirty ponds are restricted to fly fishing only. Varying from a few acres like Archery Pond in Allentown and Saco Pond in Carroll to 100-acre Scott’s Bog in Pittsburgh, these ponds provide high-quality trout habitat while offering a retreat for anglers who prefer casting flies.
Several river sections, including stretches of the upper Connecticut River in Pittsburgh, the Androscoggin in Errol, the Macoma River in Lebanon, Sugar River in Kellyville and Newfound River in Bristol are also restricted to the use of flies. These waters have ample supplies of both stocked and wild or holdover trout.
For anglers who want to get away from the crowds and don’t mind a hike, about 50 remote ponds in the state are stocked with fingerling trout each year by air. Flat Mountain Pond in Sandwich, Cole Pond in Enfield and Peaked Hill Pond in Thornton are examples. These remote ponds offer excellent growth rates — fish reach 8 to 10 inches the second year and older trophy fish are possible when fished at the right time, usually in June and early July.
A list of all these water is available on the NHFG web site. Special opening and closing dates, bag and length limits and other regulations apply to these waters, so a carefully check of the 2018 Freshwater Fishing Digest.
Then there are New Hampshire bigger lakes. Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Newfound, to name but a few. All have the potential of producing large rainbow and lake trout with lures, bait or flies.
Approximately 1.5 million brook, brown and rainbow trout will be stocked throughout Vermont this year, a fair amount considering the Roxbury Fish Hatchery remains largely off line at about two-percent capacity. The facility was devastated back in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene and still faces water quality issues and awaits funding from FEMA. Prior to the storm the Roxbury facility produced upwards of 70,000 trout annually to be stocked throughout the state.
Most lakes and ponds will be stocked before or just after the season opener on the second Saturday in April, depending upon conditions. Releases in the state’s rivers commence in May.
One of the more exciting components of Vermont’s trout fishing is the Trophy Trout Stocking Program. The release of larger-than-usual two-year-old rainbow, brown and brook trout has proven popular. In 2017 more than 15,000 trout were released in 21 miles of rivers and 16 lakes and ponds. Like most rivers in the states these trophy areas are typically stocked starting in early May, with several releases continuing through the month.
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The list may vary slightly this spring but the Black River in Cavendish and Weathersfield received a total of 2,000 fish last year, the Winooski River in Waterbury and Danbury received 1,350 and East Creek running through Rutland received 1,250 and are usually on the schedule. All other rivers including the Lamoille River in Rutland, the Mississquoi River in Enosburg and Walloomsac River in Bennington were stocked with between 600 and 1,000 trout.
As for lakes and ponds Amherst Lake and Echo Lake (both in Plymouth), Mill Pond in Windsor and Small Pond in Pittsfield have been receiving good amounts. Among the recipients of the largest releases last year were Lake Raponda with 800 rainbows and Miller Pond Strafford at 600 rainbows.
Other trout streams abound throughout the state. The New Haven, Neshobe and Middlebury Rivers are all worthy of note and attention. In the Northeast Kingdom portions of every stream holds wild brook trout and the lower reaches of a number are stocked annually with brown trout and rainbows.
The Moose River in Victory and North Branch of the Nulhegan and are favorites. Anglers in the southeast region should do well on the White River from Sharon to Stockbridge and its First, Second and Third branches for brown, rainbow and brook trout.
When it comes to lake opportunities, Vermont has those, too. Lake Champlain gets much of the attention, especially the main lake in in May and June and again in the early fall, but Lake Dunsmore in Salisbury produces some excellent rainbow trout as does Lake Willoughby in Westmore. For lake trout Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Seymour Lake in Morgan and Lake Willoughby are always good bets and should be again this season.
Starting sometime this month the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife will commence stocking of at least 500,000 rainbow, brown, tiger and brook trout from its five hatcheries across the commonwealth. Early releases usually begin in the southeast region and end in the western region by Memorial Day. Some 500 rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and reservoirs will have been stocked with trout at least 12 inches long. Over half the fish exceed 14 inches.
A list of waters stocked can be viewed on the MDFW web site.
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Included on that list are several dozen kettle ponds on Cape Cod, which are among the earliest fisheries stocked. the fishing can be productive in April and May before water temperatures warm. To get started, try Big and Little Cliff ponds, Flax Pond and Higgins Pond within Nickerson State Park. As the season progress waters from the northeast district like Baldpate Pond and Stiles Pond to Big Benson Pond in Otis, Lake Buel in Monterey and Goose Pond in Lee in the western region will offer plenty of opportunity.
The commonwealth is also home to some of the best river angling in New England. This is especially true for the eight catch-and-release areas, in particularly those on the Housatonic River in the Great Barrington area, Nissitissit River near North Pepperell, Swift River below Winsor Dam in Belchertown, the Deerfield River below Fife Brook Dam and near the Mohawk Campground in Rowe, the Westfield River below Chesterfield Gorge in Chesterfield and the Miller River in Templeton. Except on the Swift and Nissitissit River sections (which are fly fishing only) artificial spinning lures may be used.
For more information on general trout fishing in Massachusetts, pond maps and stocking locations visit www.mass.gov/orgs/division-of-fisheries-and-wildlife.
In recent years the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment has been releasing 500,000 to 600,000 trout averaging 12 inches each spring. Typically, approximately 200 rivers and streams and about 100 lakes and ponds are stocked. Trucks start rolling before the second Saturday in April opener and nearly all fish are in the water by the middle of May.
Anglers looking for quality trout generally head to one of the state’s trout management or trophy trout areas. The trophy waters generally receive increased numbers of larger fish and have a lower daily creel limit. These streams include the Farmington River at Harland including the North Branch, the Hammonasset River near Clinton, the Mianus River in Greenwich, the Moosup River in Plainfield, the Salmon River in the Colchester area and Willimantic River in Tolland.
Several lakes have also been classified and are managed as Trout Management Lakes and carry reduced creel limits and in some cases higher minimum length limits. Amos Lake in Preston, Candlewood Lake in Danbury, Crystal Lake in Ellington, East Twin Lake in Salisbury, Highland Lake in Winchester and Squantz Pond in New Fairfield are popular examples.
Other options include the nearly dozen waters in the state managed as Trout Parks — waters inside state parks such as Black Rock SP in Watertown, Southford Falls SP in Oxford and Wharton Brook SP in Wallingford. These are stocked several times during the spring.
It should also be noted that about two-thirds of the annual stockings go into open waters where statewide regulations apply.
The Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife stocks 60,000 to 80,000 fish annually. All stocking is generally complete before opening day, traditionally the second Saturday in April.
Nearly all trout stocked go into designated trout waters, including about 100 lakes, ponds and rivers about the state. Several waters are generally considered among the best, including Barber Pond in South Kingstown, Beach Pond and Breakheart Pond in Exeter, Carbuncle Pond in Coventry, Carolina Trout Pond in Richmond and Wallum Lake in Burrillville.
The Wood River running through the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter is arguably the best trout stream in the state. Stocked several times during the season with rainbow and brown trout, the Woods is extremely popular with fly fishermen in May and June. The Falls River, Flat River and Breakheart Brook, all smaller tributaries of the Woods, offer good opportunities.
For a list of Rhode Island’s Designated Trout waters and information on stocked trout waters visit www.dem.ri.gov.