January 26, 2017
With so many lakes, ponds, rivers and streams plus thousands of miles of saltwater shoreline in New England, it's safe to say that no angler could live long enough to fish them all.
The good news is that great fishing may be found in all six states. Our goal is to set the stage with 36 great trips to consider in 2017.
Where to go and which species to pursue are up to you, but these popular, proven New England hotspots will get you started.
JANUARY - Moosehead Lake Brook Trout
Maine's Moosehead Lake in Greenville has a century-old reputation for producing fat, native brook trout, many exceeding 5 pounds. This deep, cold-water lake, the largest in the Northeast, offers plenty of opportunities for shoreline and deep-water ice-anglers.
As is the case throughout the region anglers must wait for safe ice to form but in "normal" years there should be plenty of ice in protected bays and coves by the end of the month.
OTHER OPTIONS: Vermont's Seymour Lake is the place to be for early-season lake trout. Live or cut bait fished just off the bottom will set the flags flying. In New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee should be ready to go for bluegills when the ice is in.
FEBRUARY - Cape Cod Kettle Ponds Largemouths
With or without ice, the Cape's famed kettle ponds should provide plenty of action for bass anglers. These deep, clear ponds routinely produce largemouths over 5 pounds. The bass growth rate is fueled by the ponds' dense forage base, and among the forage, herring are a favorite main course. Any lure that resembles a small herring will produce a strike.
OTHER OPTIONS: Connecticut River northern pike lurk wherever open water exists, such as near power plants and other areas where warm water dominates. Shad imitations are a good bet. Lake Onota in western Massachusetts offers great largemouth fishing this month whether ice forms or not. Fish slow and deep with jigs or diving crankbaits
MARCH - Wassookeag Lake Landlocks
This sleeper hotspot in Dexter, Maine, routinely produces landlocked salmon over 3 pounds, with the occasional lunker topping 5 pounds. The lake supports a large population of smelts — so any lure that imitates an injured baitfish will get a response from salmon cruising and feeding. Fish near the bridge or on the "big lake" side near the cove off Route 23.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish the saltwater ledges of Rhode Island using clams or cut bait for big tautog. Now is also the time to go for big rainbows in Vermont's Lake Champlain.
APRIL - Farmington River Rainbow Trout
Connecticut's Farmington River offers excellent fly-fishing for big rainbows, browns and brookies, particularly in and around Unionville. Deep pools and rocky runs provide plenty of cover for big trout. Trout begin feeding in early spring by focusing on sub-surface food sources. Start out with nymphs and woolly buggers early in the season and then switch to hatch-matching dries as the season progresses and more aquatic insects begin to hatch.
OTHER OPTIONS: Vermont's upper Connecticut River is essentially a small trout stream that's ideal for wading or drifting using nymphs, wet flies and streamers. Maine's Kennebec River should be open now, the perfect place to find big holdover brown trout, which love any minnow-imitating fly or lure.
MAY - Quabbin Reservoir Smallmouths
Fishing Massachusetts' Quabbin Reservoir can be challenging due to tight water-supply restrictions, but the lake is renowned for its king-sized smallmouths. These smallmouths can be taken from shore using bottom-bumping jigs, deep-diving crankbaits and flashy spoons.
OTHER OPTIONS: Wachusett Reservoir, another Bay State water supply impoundment near Worcester, also offers restricted fishing for a variety of popular species, including lake trout. Try smelt imitations fished slow and deep. Maine's Moose River near Greenville is prime for trolling for landlocked salmon with smelt imitations. Keep to the right and fish close to the boat to avoid entanglements.
JUNE - Penobscot River Smallmouths
Maine's Penobscot River from Old Town to Bangor is famous for its out-sized bronzebacks. Drift close to shore and cast small crankbaits into shoreline brush, stumps, rocks and other structure. Keep an eye out for huge, sunken logs left over from the 1800s. These lure-magnets provide great cover for big river bass.
OTHER OPTIONS: Big rainbows may be taken on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain by slow trolling near shore using top-water streamers, spoons and flashy plugs. Bluefishing will begin to heat up in Connecticut's Long Island Sound, where big blues can be taken using cut bait, eels or tins fished from shore.
JULY - Cape Cod Striped Bass
Now's the time to head for the Massachusetts surf where big, hungry stripers may be taken in the Cape Cod Canal and elsewhere along the coast, especially after dark. Use live eels or sand worms, flashy plugs or tins to take fish that are feeding just beyond the breakers.
OTHER OPTIONS: Massachusetts' Charles River is the place to be for hot smallmouth bass action this month. Drift and fish along shore using small crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms. Head back to New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee for some hot largemouth bass action. Cast small lures near shore and particularly around docks, floats and other man-made structures.
AUGUST - Worden Pond Bluegills
Rhode Island's Worden Pond is a top destination for big bluegills this month. Bluegill use cover for protection and also feed on forage that is associated with cover, so use live bait, small poppers or tiny spinners fished near weed beds and structure.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maine's Branns Mill Pond in Dover-Foxcroft contains hoards of bullheads (horned pout) that are easy marks for night crawlers suspended just off the bottom. Go after sunset and fish near the culvert bridge. Try the Connecticut River's Keeney Cover in Glastonbury for big northern pike. Use large, splashy topwater lures early and late in the day. Rig for big pike — 20-pounders are not uncommon.
SEPTEMBER - Misquamicut Beach Stripers
Rhode Island's Misquamicut Beach is popular with tourists but it's also well known for its tremendous surf fishing. Big stripers work the surf from dusk to dawn and are easily fooled with eels, sand worms, splashy plugs and over-sized spoons. Rig for fish in the 40-pound class, but keep in mind that much bigger specimens have been caught here in recent years.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maine's Sebec Lake is loaded with smallmouth bass, some in the 5-pound class. Fish near shore using jigs, deep-diving crankbaits or slow-moving spinners for catch-and-release fishing at its best. Try New Hampshire's Piscataqua River for big striped bass. Work the current seams, rocks and pilings with giant jigs, diving plugs or live bait.
OCTOBER - Maine Coastal Striped Bass
Now's the time to go for big Maine stripers, with some specimens reaching 40 pounds and more. Slow troll along coastal ledges, drop-offs and tidal channels using live eels or sand worms. Deep-diving plugs, jigs and giant saltwater flies also take big linesides this month.
OTHER OPTIONS: Connecticut's Natchaug River offers great trout fishing well into the fall and winter. Big holdover browns, rainbows and brookies may be found near rocky structure and bridge crossings. Use small lures or wet flies to fool them throughout the daylight hours. Rhode Island's Wallum Lake contains good numbers of bluegills and yellow perch, both of which are easy targets for small shiners or other live baits fished near weedy cover and structure.
NOVEMBER - Rhode Island Coastal Blackfish
Interest in tautog, or blackfish, begins to heat up this month as saltwater anglers begin to target these tasty ledge-dwellers. Clams, crabs and cut fish are the baits of choice. Expect to lose some tackle in and among the rocks, but the closer you can get to the ledges the more fish you will catch.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maine's Kennebec River brown trout are still active and interested in well-presented nymphs, woolly buggers and similar subsurface presentations. Dress for cold weather and wear insulated waders as air temperatures can be in the 30s this month. Late-season stripers are still an option of the Connecticut coast. Fish deep in Long Island Sound using tins and over-sized jigs, or try working the current seams near shore with cut bait.
DECEMBER - Maine's Coastal Cod
Now is the time to head well offshore for party boat cod. These overnight trips often produce coolers full of tasty cod, haddock and other species. Rent rigs from the boat or bring your own but be prepared for big, heavy, hard-fighting fish in rough seas at depths exceeding 100 feet.
OTHER OPTIONS: Most of northern New Hampshire's small ponds will begin to freeze this month. When safe ice forms, set up for pickerel in shallow water near shore using small, lively shiners. Vermont's Chittenden Reservoir walleyes may be taken through the ice using jigs, shiners and other live baits. Look for walleyes in deep water this month where schools of baitfish congregate in winter.