These unsung bass hotspots are highly recommended for early-season action in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Our expert explains why.
Most anglers believe the best bass fishing occurs in spring. At this time of year, it is possible to catch large numbers of largemouth bass as they shake off their winter slumber and prepare for spawning in their shallow-water beds.
Reports around southern New England indicate the upcoming spring should be better than last year as fisheries biologists from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island continue to manage resident bass populations to provide quality fishing.
Eager anglers should see the fruits of their labors at the following lakes and ponds.
Bass anglers will find an interesting fishery in this 116-acre lake. The pond was created by placing a dam across Ellen Doyle Brook. It is also fed by several bottom springs and five other brooks. Each brook inlet has been known to yield big spring largemouths. The pond has a deep 26-foot basin near the dam, but much of the main lake consists of 3- to 6-foot-deep shoals.
Most of the shoreline is developed with plenty of boat docks to fish around. Look for painted docks or rafts resting on black-colored barrels. These structures transfer the spring sun heat into the water. The better dock fishing areas are along the west side of the lake across from the state boat-launching ramp. Another good spring spot is at the mouth of the cove leading up to the dam. The points at the cove mouth have steep dropoffs where spring bass often congregate.
The golden shiner is the main forage species at Beseck Lake. Banded killifish are also present for bass to feed upon. Pick lures that imitate these baitfish.
Access is via a state-owned boat-launching area off Route 147. The ramp has an unusual turnaround that limits bass boats to less than 18 feet. In spring, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection enforces an 8-mile-per-hour speed limit on the lake.
Many bass anglers overlook this lake because large bass are hard to locate. But local fishermen looking for lots of action featuring 10- to 12-inch largemouth bass know Silver Lake is the place to be in the early spring.
The average depth here is 5 feet. The water is discolored and there is a dark bottom. Thus, this 146-acre pond warms up very quickly.
When fishing the lake, be prepared to deal with weeds. Silver Lake has a thick covering of coontail. This plant is cold tolerant and often survives through the winter. Anglers may also find milfoil and budding lily pads as spring progresses.
Like most Connecticut ponds, the golden shiner is the main forage at Silver Lake. Weedless lures, such as tube jigs, seem to work better than weedless soft plastic worms. Some of the better spring action can be found in the extreme northern end of the lake near the dam. In this area, the bottom drops down to 12 feet with a few submerged secondary points. Also, the area around the island at the southern end of the lake has undergone some dredging activity and is likely to produce some hot bass fishing, as well as good numbers of black crappies and sunfish.
The DEP maintains a boat-launching area at the north end of the lake. Take Exit 21 off Route 9 to Route 15 south. After three miles, turn right onto Toll Gate Road. Turn left onto Norton Lane, which ends at the boat launch. Shoreline fishing is limited to the area around the boat-launching area and the dam. Boats must adhere to an 8-mile-per-hour speed limit.
Hatch Pond is an underutilized largemouth bass pond because access is limited to carry-in boats. Anglers willing to endure the inconvenience often find plenty of largemouth bass exceeding 14 inches in length. Bass in the 3- to 4-pound class are also present in higher-than-average numbers.
This 71.5-acre body of water is a typically weedy New England pond. It has a deep basin of 18 feet, deepened by a small dam on the south end of the lake. The average depth is 8 feet with a muddy bottom, which promotes weed growth. Coontail and milfoil are the dominant aquatic weeds. Curly-leaved pondweed, often called "cabbage" by bass anglers, is also present.
For the most part, Hatch Pond lacks structure. The best strategy is "keep casting and cover every inch of water." Look for sunny banks, emerging spring weeds and the occasional fallen tree when fishing for largemouth bass here.
Hatch Pond will also yield yellow perch and black crappies. The sunfish in this pond also seem to grow bigger than average. If you catch a strange- looking, pike-shaped fish, it is probably a redfin pickerel. This rare fish has a small population in Hatch Pond and most anglers release them promptly. They are most susceptible to anglers in early spring as they spawn in the shallow waters.
The access is on the southern end of the lake off South Kent Road. Take Route 7 into Kent. In the center of town, turn onto Route 341 east. After about one mile, turn right onto South Kent Road for two miles, and then turn right onto Bulls Bridge Road across the railroad tracks. The gravel cartop ramp is about 100 yards past the tracks.
A Connecticut resident fishing license costs $20 for the season. Non-resident license fees are $40 for the season or $16 for a three-day permit.
For more fishing and licensing information, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Inland Fisheries Division, 79 Elm St., Hartford, CT 06106, or call (860) 424-3475.
For tourism information, write to the Connecticut Tourism Division, 14 Rumford St., West Hartford, CT 06107, or call (800) 282-6863.
While hardly the briny deep, Billington Sea does offer oceans of largemouth bass-fishing opportunities. The hourglass-shaped lake covers 269 acres to a maximum depth of 11 feet. Its average depth is 7 feet. This shallow water, coupled with a dark, muddy bottom, means Billington warms quickly in spring. Anglers should find plenty of largemouth bass action here this month.
Aquatic vegetation is extremely abundant throughout the lake. Depending on the winter weed kill and the spring sunlight, the weed growth will range from dense to sparse.
Some areas that seem to produce best during the early season are the island off the boat launch ramp, the neck area between the east and west basins, and the sun-drenched northern shoreline.
According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, bass anglers will also encounter chain pickerel, yellow perch, white perch and all the sunfish species. The golden shiner is the primary largemouth bass forage, but a fish ladder has been installed to allow sea-run alewives to migrate into the lake. During the spring alewife runs, baits mimicking that baitfish can prove deadly.
The boat ramp is unimproved. You will need a good 4wd vehicle to get a trailer boat into the lake. Cartop boats and canoes are better suited for fishing the Billington Sea. Also, most of the northern shoreline is open for bank-fishing.
To get there, take Exit 6 off Route 3 in Plymouth. Travel west on Route 44 for about one mile. Turn left onto Seven Hills Road. At South Meadow Road, turn left toward the boat ramp and shore access.
In the center of Worcester, one of the state's largest cities, Indian Lake offers spring largemouth bass anglers some good opportunities. This 204-acre pond is shallow and warms quickly in the spring sun. The maximum depth is about 15 feet with an average depth of 8 feet. Anglers will find the water is stained tea brown. The bottom is made up of mud with some rocks, which provide some cover for spring bass.
Local anglers report that some of the best action occurs in the shallow cove in the northwest corner of the lake. The tributary streams feeding this cove provide nutrients for native minnows, and hungry spring bass follow the bait into this cove.
Also, the south side of the island and the concrete highway retaining wall along the northeast part of the lake are proven bass haunts.
Shoreline development is moderate around the lake with a mixture of residential homes and businesses. The city operates a boat-launching ramp off Salisbury Street, along with a beach for shore-fishing.
To get there, take Exit 1 off Interstate Route 190 to Route 12 south and then turn northwest on Route 122A. At Holden Street, turn right for the lake access.
Dark Brook Reservoir
Anglers driving along the Massachusetts Turnpike can see this small 386-acre pond as they pass through Auburn. The highway bisects the reservoir into two separate ponds connected by a large culvert pipe. Boats can easily pass through this pipe.
The northern pond is the larger of the two, running about 300 acres. It has a maximum depth of 15 feet with an average depth of 8 feet. Conversely, the southern pond is shallow, with an average depth of less than 5 feet. Both ponds possess the characteristic dark water of natural ponds found in New England.
Some of the best early spring largemouth bass fishing can be found around the dam in the northeast corner of the lake. Bass hunters will also find numerous points and island shoals to fish around, especially along the western bank of the north pond and the southern end of the south pond. Along with the largemouth bass, you will likely catch black crappies and the occasional northern pike.
From I-90, take the exit for I-395 south and then take Exit 7 off I-395 to Route 12 west (Southbridge Street). Follow Route 12 to West Street and turn right. The boat-launching ramp is on West Street across from the Randall School. Shoreline anglers will also find plenty of fishing access in the boat ramp area.
A Massachusetts resident fishing license costs $27.50 for the season. Non-resident license fees are $37.50 for the season or $23.50 for a three- day permit. Also, all anglers between the ages of 15 and 17 must possess an $11.50 junior fishing permit. Residents between the ages of 65 and 69 may get a senior citizen fishing license for $16.25.
For more fishing and licensing information, contact the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02202, or call (617) 626-1590.
For tourism information, write to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4510, Boston, MA 02116, or call (800) 227-MASS.
Glocester's Waterman Reservoir is a fairly large lake (for Rhode Island) at 306 acres. It has a maximum depth of 15 feet and an average depth of 7 feet. The shoreline is steep, as it drops off quickly from the bank into 9 feet of water. This type of bank forces anglers to concentrate their spring efforts on distinct points and cove mouths.
One of the best cove mouths is in the western arm of the lake. This cove has a submerged concrete wall in front of its opening. The wall is a community fishing spot that continues to pay dividends to anglers. Along Route 44, anglers will find a well-developed riprap bank that harbors crayfish and largemouth bass. Also, try fishing around rocky points along the northern bank that are exposed to the increasing sunlight. Many trophy-sized largemouth bass have been taken off these points.
The pond has a good population of largemouths that grow above the state's average size. Most of the bass caught, however, will range in the 10- to 14-inch class. White perch and northern pike are also present in modest numbers. Golden shiners and crayfish are the main forage base for bass in Waterman Reservoir.
Boating access is limited because anglers must go through a private livery on West Greenville Road. Public shoreline fishing access is abundant along Route 44.
To get there, take I-295 out of Providence to Exit 7. Travel west on Route 44 for about four miles. For the boat livery, turn left on West Greenville Road. Anglers wishing to fish the shoreline should continue on Route 44 until they come to the reservoir, which will be on the south side of the road.
Oak Swamp Reservoir
Almost due south of Waterman Reservoir, in Johnston, anglers will find Oak Swamp Reservoir to be another interesting largemouth bass lake. This 105-acre hotspot has a maximum depth of 10 feet with an average of about 5 feet. Much of the lake bottom is made up of sand and gravel. Weed growth is mainly confined to the shallower shoreline areas.
Oak Swamp Reservoir may be fished in two different fashions. Anglers who prefer the traditional spring bass methods of casting tube lures and soft-plastic grubs can concentrate their efforts on the steep banks near the dam at the eastern end of the lake.
Fishermen who would rather twitch jerkbaits and weedless topwater lures can migrate to the eastern end of the lake to work the weedy shoals.
Don't overlook the large point in the center of the horseshoe-shaped pond.
According to the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, Oak Swamp Reservoir has one of the highest populations of golden shiners in the state. While this bait makes good forage for adult largemouth bass, the excessive minnow population has adversely affected the growth and survival rates of young bass and panfish species. Because of this phenomenon, don't expect to catch too many quality yellow perch or
chain pickerel when fishing this reservoir. Largemouth bass will be your main take.
Shoreline and cartop boat access to the reservoir may be found along Route 6 about three miles west of Providence. You will also find some shoreline fishing available near the dam off Reservoir Avenue.
A Rhode Island resident fishing license costs $9.50 for the season. Non-resident license fees are $31 for the season or $16 for a three-day permit.
For fishing and licensing information, contact the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879, or call (401) 222-3576.
For tourism information, write to the Rhode Island Tourism Division, 1 West Exchange St., Providence, RI 02903, or call (800) 556-2484.