JANUARY - BROOK TROUT: MOOSEHEAD LAKE
Maine's sprawling Moosehead Lake has been the premier destination for winter brook trout anglers for well over 100 years, and the fishing remains some of the best in the Northeast. While 10-pound-plus brook trout are a thing of the past, modern anglers who are persistent should boat a 5-pounder occasionally. Most of Moosehead's brook trout average 2 or 3 pounds but there are much bigger fish.
Big brookies may be found anywhere on the lake but it's a good idea to join the crowds. Conversations with local experts should reveal a good depth and bait or lure to start the day.
Other Options: In Vermont anglers go after Seymour Lake's lake trout by fishing live or dead suckers directly on the bottom and checking baits frequently for subtle hits. In Connecticut, Mona's Pond has been a prolific producer of largemouth weighing over 5 pounds.
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FEBRUARY - RAINBOW TROUT: LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE
New Hampshire's premier trout lake is a well-known destination for rainbows, and winter anglers enjoy targeting them as soon as safe ice forms in winter. It is not necessary to find the deepest holes in the open lake; some great trout are caught just a few feet from shore and off points and drop-offs all around the lake. Fish deep and shallow till the fish begin biting with consistency, and then drop all lines to the appropriate depth.
Other Options: Rhode Island's Worden Pond bluegills are a tasty treat in winter. Odds are there won't be any ice on Worden Pond, even in February. Fish lively shiners or night crawlers just off the bottom where weeds and structure abound. On Massachusetts' Onota Lake, yellow perch anglers should find ice safe and thick enough to try their luck on winter perch at this popular Pittsfield-area lake. If not, boat-bound anglers should find schools of feeding perch, some in the 10-inch class.
MARCH - LANDLOCKS: EAGLE LAKE
Ice-fishing is still a way of life in the North Country in March, and on Maine's Eagle Lake trophy-sized salmon are the target. Access to the lake is easy via snowmobiles, ATVs and 4WD vehicles. The thoroughfares between Eagle, Cross and Square lakes are the most popular targets among winter fishermen, although great landlocked action can be had in any of the trio of salmon waters. A trip here requires appropriate winter gear because this area receives storms and snowfall into April.
Other Options: At Connecticut's Connecticut River pike anglers try fishing the pools, bays and coves for big northerns, using lively shiners or splashy top-water lures. Continue to retrieve right up to shore or boat; early-season pike are known for late hits. Massachusetts' Westfield River has big holdover rainbows and browns. Local fly-fishermen recommend dark nymphs, woolly buggers and similar wet patterns.
APRIL - FARMINGTON RIVER TROUT
Connecticut's famed Farmington River is the bellwether for trout fishing in the Northeast. The water is likely to be high, fast and cold but fly-rodders from around the world come here to try for one of the river's big, finicky browns. Work the water around bridge openings, ledges, bridge abutments and log jams with wet flies or nymphs and be patient — a 5-pound brown may look over an offering a dozen times before it commits.
Other Options: April can be early for Maine's Kennebec River brown trout, but when the river's big browns start to feed anglers will want to be on hand. Wading is possible most years but check water levels before planning a trip. Rhode Island's Watchaug Pond Largemouth aren't spawning yet, but persistent anglers can expect to find good numbers of fish near shore or in water that is 10- to 15-feet deep. Sunlight and water temperatures rule angling success this month.
MAY - NEW HAMPSHIRE'S SMALL TROUT STREAMS
Brook trout are the traditional targets of New England's spring anglers and some of the best small stream fishing in the region occurs in central and northern New Hampshire this month. Busy anglers can target culverts, bridges and beaver dams where early open water provides the best fishing. Don't expect giant-sized brookies, but don't be surprised to find a few fish in the 10-inch class in every pool.
Other Options: Connecticut's Long Island Sound bluefish and stripers will be coming up the coast now and the immense Long Island Sound is the place for early-season action. Fish live or dead bait from shore or use big, flashy lures jigged along the current seams while afloat. Spring may still be a few days away on Vermont's White River but early-season anglers should find some cooperative fish in the river's deep pools, shallow pockets and under overhanging banks. Fish slow and deep.
JUNE - MAINE'S RAPID RIVER BROOK TROUT
This unique and remote destination should be on every trout fisherman's bucket list. Brook trout and landlocked salmon over 3 pounds are the norm here but the river is difficult to reach and just as challenging to fish. Bring chest waders, a good variety of nymphs, wets and dries and expect to earn every fish you catch.
Other Options: If bronzebacks in the 5- to 10-pound class are your meat then a trip to Massachusetts' Quabbin Reservoir should be on your to-do list. In New Hampshire, the far upper reaches of the Connecticut River more resemble a quiet country trout stream than the expansive, raging river that flows just a few miles to the south into Connecticut. Drifting or float-fishing will give anglers access to some great trout water that's just out of reach of shore fishermen.
JULY - CONNECTICUT RIVER CATFISH
With summer's arrival water temperatures in the big river increase, which means its abundant channel catfish will be on the move. Popular baits include chicken livers, hearts and neck pieces, gobs of night crawlers and a wide variety of concoctions that fall under the category of "stinkbaits." Fish the slow, deep pools below bridge abutments, deep river bends and log jams, where the biggest catfish spend their daytime hours.
Other Options: Maine's Penobscot River Smallmouths present adept anglers with canoes or kayaks a chance to land 50 or more fish a day. Most bass will be found near shore on woody cover. The river is also full of giant 100-year-old logs left over from the old river drives, and these provide some good action for mid-river boaters. Connecticut's Bantam Lake has been providing excellent pike fishing for decades. Fish early and late in the day near expansive weed beds, log jams and other cover.
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AUGUST - MAINE'S COASTAL STRIPERS
Big cow stripers will begin swarming the New England shoreline this month, and Maine's 3,000-mile shoreline offers plenty of fishing from shore or boat. The best action occurs near sunset through sunrise, but good schoolie fishing can be enjoyed all day, especially in river mouths, estuaries and tidal bays.
Other Options: The blitz is on for bluefish in the Bay State, where large schools of big blues hammer the shoreline while feeding non-stop on the region's abundant baitfish. Live eels and forage species along with over-sized, eye-catching imitations with get the attention of blues feeding in the surf. Few trout anglers know that August fishing on Connecticut's Mashapaug Pond can provide some of the most productive action of the year. Trolling very early and late in the day will fool big rainbows and browns. Come sunrise, continue trolling but drop lures down to just above the bottom and reduce your trolling speed to a mere crawl.
SEPTEMBER - MAINE'S PENOBSCOT RIVER LANDLOCKS
Fall is prime time for landlocked salmon fishing and the Penobscot River is renowned for its late-season action. Wading fishermen have just as much luck as anglers using boats, canoes or kayaks. The key is fly placement and presentation because fall salmon are naturally jittery and have been fished hard all spring and summer.
Other Options: Now that the summer crowd is gone and the kids are back to school "serious" trout anglers can get down to business on Massachusetts' famed Deerfield River. Work the usual pools, riffles and runs but consider switching flies more often until you find a pattern that works. Connecticut's Natchaug River is also a consistent producer of fall trout. Big browns and rainbows may be taken by anglers who can work a fly or lure under ledges, banks and log jams where cooler water attracts the biggest trout.
OCTOBER - RHODE ISLAND'S COASTAL STRIPERS
It is still prime time for stripers throughout New England but there's no better places than the Misquamicut and Watch Hill beaches this month. The summer crowds should be gone but there may still be parking regulations and other restrictions to consider before spending a day in the surf. As always, consider fishing after dark and don't be afraid to experiment with different locations if traditional hotspots aren't producing.
Other Options: Perch fishing is allowed year-round in Vermont and Lake Memphremegog is one of the top-rated destinations in the Green Mountain State. Anglers have the option of fishing from shore and waiting for a school of hungry perch to come by or they can load up a boat and search for schooling fish off points, drop-offs and underwater "islands." Some of the biggest bass of the season are taken in eastern Massachusetts where the region's famed kettle ponds provide excellent angling. Come prepared with jigs, deep-diving crankbaits and similar offerings.
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NOVEMBER - CONNECTICUT'S FARMINGTON RIVER TROUT
Most anglers have turned to deer hunters by now but it's well-known that late-season trout fishing can be highly productive in the legendary Farmington River. Because there are few winter insect hatches, most anglers focus their efforts on nymphs and woolly buggers fished in slow-moving, deep pools where the water temperature is most comfortable for trout.
Other Options: Dune-country locals know that some of the best striper fishing of the year occurs in late summer and fall, and Cape Cod's legendary beaches are the place to be this month. Expect cold temperatures and windy conditions and fish at night for the biggest cow stripers. New Hampshire's Winnipesaukee yellow perch are vulnerable to anglers who ply the lake's cold, deep waters this month. Fish near points and drop-offs with lively baits or jig with small, colorful plastics.
DECEMBER - MAINE'S SMALL POND PICKEREL
Safe ice can form as early as December in most central Maine ponds, which means anglers can begin honing their ice-fishing skills as early as Christmas. Pickerel are popular early-winter targets but most anglers will keep any white or yellow perch, bluegill or horned pout that comes through the ice.
Other Options: December is prime time for the tasty tautog and Rhode Island is the place to be for the popular, abundant saltwater "panfish." Standard operating procedure is to rig with live or dead crabs or clams and fish as close to the ledges and islands as possible. With or without safe ice Quinsigamond Pond is the place to be for December panfish in Massachusetts. Drift along shore and cast small, flashy lures near weed beds and structure or ice-fish small shiners or worms just off the bottom.