Southern New England's spring bass fishing starts to heat up this month. Try these top-rated waters for early-season action in 2007. (March 2007)
Photo By Ron Sinfelt
It's been a long winter. The hunting and football seasons are over. Now's the time to get off the couch and think about fishing.
To help get you thinking about the upcoming spring bass season, here are 10 great bass lakes in southern New England that are sure to get your reels buzzing again:
Bass anglers often overlook this pond because it is so often referred to as a great trout fishery. Each year, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection releases about 16,000 trout into 183-acre Crystal Lake in Ellington. Thanks to its deep, 42-foot basin, trout often survive through the summer and live long enough to grow to trophy size. As a result, the lake falls under the state's special "Trophy Trout Lake" regulations.
One purpose of these regulations is to allow fishing during March, while most other trout-stocked lakes close in February. This extended season is a bonus for trouters but it also enables bass anglers to take advantage of the lake's fine early-spring largemouth bass fishery.
The lake has a gravel and sand bottom with very clear water. Its average depth is about 25 feet. Anglers will find an extensive shoal around the lake's perimeter running between 3 to 8 feet deep -- an ideal depth for spring bass. According to DEP reports, anglers can expect to catch plenty of bass between 12 and 16 inches.
Golden shiners and banded killifish are the main forage at Crystal Lake. Of course, anglers should select lures that imitate these baitfish.
Access comes from a state-owned boat-launching ramp on the west side of the lake. Take Exit 67 off Interstate Route 84 onto Route 31 north. Turn north on Route 30. Continue on Route 30 for half a mile past the Route 30/140 intersection before turning right onto West Shore Road to the launch ramp. The state DEP enforces a 6-mile-per-hour speed limit between sunset and 9 a.m. During the day, boats may cruise up to 45 miles per hour.
Batterson Park Pond
One of the state's best-kept secret bass lakes is Batterson Park Pond in the city of New Britain. This 140-acre lake is part of a town park, and shoreline development is non-existent. It has a maximum depth of 20 feet, with an average depth of 14 feet. This "average" depth is somewhat deceiving, since the lake has a well-defined shoal between three and six feet.
According to fisheries biologists, this lake has a good supply of bass in the 14- to 19-inch range, with bigger bass showing up fairly frequently. To add attraction, the lake gets an annual stocking of walleyes. In the early spring, both species are relatively easy to catch.
The forage base in the pond is centered on crayfish and small eels. Lure selection should reflect the bass diet.
The DEP maintains a boat launching area at the south end of the lake. Take Exit 37 off I-84. Travel south on Finneman Road for about half a mile. Turn left onto Alexander Road to the launch ramp. Most of the shoreline is open for fishing. Boating on the lake is limited to paddle boats and electric motors. Gas motors are prohibited.
Anyone looking for a small pond away from roads, houses and pleasure boats should try Babcock Pond in Colchester. This 119-acre pond is completely surrounded by the Babcock Wildlife Management Area. It is a shallow pond with a 6-foot maximum depth, thus its water warms fast in the spring sunlight. For the most part, the pond is weedy.
Golden shiners and small chain pickerel are abundant, and largemouth bass feast on both species. Elongated minnow-shaped lures worked around the budding spring weed growth should entice Babcock Pond largemouths.
Anglers will find a small cartop boat-launching area on the north end of the pond. Take Exit 16 off Route 2 onto Route 149 south. Turn east onto Route 16. The ramp is one mile from the turn, adjacent to the wildlife observation area. Signs mark the area. There is an 8-mile-per-hour speed limit on the lake.
Pine Acres Lake
Many lakes in Connecticut are difficult to fish during summer because of the heavy weed growth. Pine Acres Lake is one such pond. This 190-acre pond becomes weed-choked by late spring. But in the early spring, bass anglers can work the pond without much difficulty.
The better bass fishing occurs in the southern end of the pond where water is deepest, averaging 3 to 5 feet. Largemouth bass in this pond are well fed because the abundant forage base contains several species of minnow, stunted panfish and tiny bullheads. Any favorite springtime bass lures should work on Pine Acres Lake.
This pond lies within James L. Goodwin State Forest in Hampton. The shoreline is forested and pristine. It has a very good boat-launching area on the southern end of the lake off Route 6 about eight miles east of the city of Willimantic. Boaters are restricted to electric motors only.
Fishing license fees for Connecticut residents are $20 for the season. Non-resident license fees are $40 for the season, or $16 for a three-day permit. For fishing and licensing information, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Inland Fisheries Division, 79 Elm Street, 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 1-800-282-6863.
Massachusetts is known for its natural kettle ponds, which are generally deep and clear. Peters Pond in Sandwich is one of those ponds. It covers 127 acres, with a deep basin at the lake's northern end that reaches down to 54 feet. The average depth is 25 feet.
Bass anglers will be interested in the history of the pond. In the 1950s, the lake was infested with white perch and suckers. As was customary for the period, the lake was "reclaimed." The fish were poisoned in 1955 and again in 1968 so that the pond could be managed as a trout fishery. Today, the MassWildlife Division of Fisheries still stocks the lake heavily.
Smallmouth bass were also released into the lake during the late 1970s. These fish acclimated to their new home and now prosper in Peters Pond. The lake bottom is primarily sand. In spring, when smallmouth bass start feeding, look for isolated structures that offset the sand. Such st
ructures are easy to find because the shoreline is well developed with cottages and homes. Docks, moorings and other manmade objects are readily available. Largemouth bass also inhabit the lake.
Spring is the best time of year to visit this lake. Because of its Cape Cod location, the pond is heavily used by recreational water lovers throughout the summer. In March, the water is too cold for most non-anglers. Boaters will find a small paved boat-launching ramp on the southeastern end of the lake. Take Exit 2 off Route 6 onto Route 130 south. Turn left onto Sandwich-Cotuit Road. After two miles, turn right onto John Ewer Road. The ramp is on the right at the bottom of the hill.
Just a few exits away from Peters Pond, bass anglers will find another kettle gem. Cliff Pond covers 204 acres with a deep pit of 88 feet. The average depth is 28 feet, and the water is exceedingly clear with visibility more than 20 feet. For scenic value, the pond is buffered by Nickerson State Park and surrounded by cliffs, which give the pond its name.
This pond is extensively managed for trout, a practice that has occurred here since the very early 1900s. This lake was reclaimed in 1960 to rid its waters of unwanted panfish and rainbow smelts. Today, anglers will find yellow perch, smallmouth bass and brown bullheads as well as stocked brown and rainbow trout.
Smallmouth bass have plenty of alewives to feed upon. Lures mimicking this little baitfish should produce nice action. Because of the water's depth, bass anglers need to pay attention to water temperature and sunlight. In early spring, smallmouths are attracted to warming shorelines, especially on the northern end of this lake and around the large points east of the boat-launching area.
Anglers will find two access points to Cliff Pond within Nickerson State Park. Take Exit 12 off Route 6 and follow the signs to the park. Those with small cartop boats should use the sand ramp on Flax Pond Road.
Trailered boaters need to use the cement launch ramp on Nook Road. The entire shoreline of the pond is accessible to fishermen. Park rules impose a 10-horsepower motor limit on Cliff Pond.
During the summer, bass anglers avoid Lake Garfield because of launching problems and crowding. But during the early spring, neither issue should bother anglers. Boaters will find a nice public boat-launching ramp and parking lot at the lake's extreme western end. Once swimming season starts, the ramp is generally closed and access is restricted.
March bass fishermen will find largemouth and smallmouth bass on this 262-acre lake. It is fairly deep, with a basin 31 feet deep and a 16-foot average depth. The state stocks the lake with trout. Chain pickerel also tend to chew on bass lures.
The water is usually clear during the spring season, so anglers should have little trouble finding submerged boulders and manmade structures to cast around. While the pond has a healthy aquatic weed base, the green stuff should still be stunted while you're fishing the early-spring season.
The lake's bass will feed on young perch, shiners and bluegills. In early spring, smallmouths often feed on yellow perch eggs that the perch broadcast on the bottom. Cast small pink tube lures under schools of spawning perch. You'll be surprised at how many smallmouth bass will respond. Lures mimicking golden shiners or crayfish are also good bets for Lake Garfield.
Public access may be found off Tyringham Road in the town of Monterey. Shore fishing is impossible because of private ownership. To get to Garfield Lake, take Route 8 into Otis. Turn west onto Route 23. From Monterey center, turn right onto Tyringham Road to the ramp.
Spring bass anglers will find this 212-acre lake has a maximum depth of 34 feet with an average depth 12 feet. Its waters are fairly clear, and the bottom is sandy. Aquatic vegetation is surprisingly thin.
The state manages this pond for trout, stocking several thousand fish into its waters every year. Despite its reputation as a trout water, Lake Pearl contains an abundance of largemouth bass, pickerel and panfish.
The better spring bass fishing is found along the western shore where the water is shallower and the shoreline terrain features numerous points. Anglers should also make a few casts around the two islands. The shoals around the islands give the bass easy access to deep water.
Golden shiners and other forage species give the bass their nourishment. Anglers using minnow-shaped lures should have good luck. Also expect to catch chain pickerel and white perch.
Public access and parking are available thanks to a town-operated gravel ramp off Gilmore Street. Ramp usage is very high during the summer and shortly after the trout-stocking trucks leave. Bass anglers should plan their Pearl Lake visits accordingly.
To get there, take Exit 16 off I-495 onto Route 1A north. Turn north onto Route 121 toward Wrentham, then turn west onto Route 140 for about 1.5 miles to Gilmore Street on the left. The ramp is a quarter mile south of Route 140.
Massachusetts's resident fishing license fees are $27.50 for the season. Non-resident license fees cost $37.50 for the season, or $23.50 for a three- day permit. Also, all anglers between the ages of 15 and 17 need an $11.50 Junior Fishing Permit.
For fishing and licensing information, contact the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 100 Cambridge Street, 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 1-800-227-MASS.
Bass anglers in Rhode Island often find themselves restricted to small lakes. Finding a publicly accessible lake or pond over 50 aces is often difficult. But in South Kingston, bass seekers will find 221-acre Indian Lake, one of the state's bigger lakes.
The lake is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 9 feet and a 7-foot average depth, making Indian Lake an ideal place to fish during the early season when the spring sun warms the water.
Don't let the shallow waters fool you. What the lake lacks in water depth, it more than makes up for with its thriving largemouth population. Anglers who frequent the lake and fisheries personnel report that bass growth rates are above the state's average. Part of the reason is the bass feed heavily on golden shiner, killifish and small yellow perch.
Because the water is shallow, plan to use floating or very shallow-running lures. Also, the water is usually clear in early spring. Under such conditions, natural-colored jerkbaits that mimic the forage species should be very productive.
The public boat-launching ramp is off Route 1 in South Kingston.
Rhode Island's state record largemouth bass is a 9-pound, 12-ounce fish caught from 28-acre Barber Pond in South Kingston. Barber Pond has a 19-foot hole in its northern end, and its average depth is about 11 feet.
Bass anglers will find some competition for parking and boating space because the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife stocks the tiny pond with trout. While the trout hunters cast into the deeper parts of the lake, bass anglers will find their best action in the shallower southern portion of the pond, especially around the points and in the two large coves. Golden shiners and panfish are the main bass forage here. Crayfish also keep the bass supplied with food.
The boat-launching ramp is off Route 2 about one mile north of the Route 138-Route 2 intersection.
Rhode Island resident license fees cost $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 Street, Providence, RI 02903; or you can call 1-800-556-2484.