Here's where to find some great fishing for early-season largemouths and smallmouths in southern New England this spring. (March 2010)
Throughout much of the winter bass move and feed very little. But as springtime approaches and metabolism rates start to slowly increase, bass start to feed more vigorously in anticipation of the upcoming spawning season.
Open-water areas close to shore, including tributary inlets and outlets, islands, bridge abutments, points and main channels, can be especially productive early because they warm up quickly and forage species are drawn to them, with bass close behind.
To say the least, conditions for bass fishing in March can be iffy, but if we pick the best days, when it is not raining, spitting snow or blowing a gale, and if we take advantage of available opportunities, there is some great bass action available.
Most experienced bass fishermen focus on shallow water in early spring, targeting water that is less than 20 feet deep.
In many cases, the fish will be in water that is less than 5 feet deep, tucked up against the shore beneath available structure such as rocks, logs, overhanging limbs and fallen trees.
Any shallow-running lure that moves slowly and has a bit of flash to it will entice a strike. Color choice is rarely an issue -- if the bass can see it, they will at least make a pass at it! Lures with a lot of movement, such as twistertail grubs, attract fish. The key is to keep your baits moving and probe every inch of water that is deep enough to hold a sunning bass.
While heavy wire leaders are not necessary for bass fishing, it's important to examine the tag end of your line occasionally for abrasions, cuts and other signs of wear. Cut the line about 2 feet above the lure and re-tie the swivel to avoid disappointing break-offs.
New Hampshire's southwest and southeast regions offer some prime spring bass waters that generally receive less pressure overall while local anglers wait for the lakes region to heat up.
In the southeast region, Northwood Lake in Northwood offers smallmouths and some largemouth bass. The lake covers a little more than 680 acres, large enough to fish but small enough to be intimate. The lake is along Route 202, where visiting fishermen will find lodging, restaurants and other services.
Another good bass area in the region is Pawtuckaway Lake on the eastern border of Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham. Covering 900 acres, the lake offers prime opportunities for both bass species.
Access is on the lake's southern end off Route 156 near Dallof Dam. For information on lodging and other services in the area, contact the Rymond Chamber of Commerce by telephoning (603) 895-2254.
Another lake worth getting to know in the southeast region is Massabesic Lake east of Manchester. The lake covers nearly 3,000 acres and offers both largemouths and smallmouths in good numbers. The lake is accessible at various points along Route 121 on its north side and Route 28.
For lodging and other services in the area, contact the chamber of commerce in Manchester at (603) 666-6600.
Other lakes in the region that offer good early-season bass fishing include Brindle Pond and Suncook Lake in Barnstead, Bear Lake in Derry, Harvey Lake in Northwoods, Onway Lake in Raymond and Canobie Lake in Windham.
For more information on these and other bass water in the southern part of the Granite State, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Region 3 office in Durham by telephoning (603) 868-1095.
The southwest region of New Hampshire has its share of bass waters, too. Most contain both species of bass, increasing the odds for success.
In the town of Stoddard, Highland Lake is a long body of water on the border between Cheshire and Sullivan counties. Covering nearly 700 acres, the lake's shoreline is indented with coves, and there are numerous points and rocky shoals capable of producing good early-season catches.
Access to Highland Lake is possible from Route 123 at Mill Village east of Stoddard by taking the Shedd Road to the Stacey Road, where there is a public boat ramp.
In Fitzwilliam, Laurel Lake has been producing some good smallies and largemouth bass lately. The lake covers 180 acres to an average depth of 15 feet and a maximum depth of 46 feet. Some of the best action occurs in 15 to 20 feet of water.
Fishermen will find a small public access point on the south end of the lake on Howeville Road. Some of the best fishing will be found where water depths vary between 10 and 20 feet.
West of Keene, Spofford Lake in Chesterfield offers some of the best bass angling in the region. The lake covers over 700 acres, so there is plenty of room to fish, and fishermen should find good action relatively close to shore where water depths run to about 20 feet. Along the west shore off Route 63, several areas offshore rise to about 10 feet, and these shoal areas offer some good spring action. The same is true around Pierces Island in the south end.
Public access to the lake is off Route 9A west of Spofford.
For information on lodging and other services in the area, contact the Keene Chamber of Commerce by telephoning (603) 352-1303.
For more information on these and other lakes in southern New Hampshire, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's regional Office in Keene at (603) 352-9669.
Specific fishing regulations information as well as depth maps of over 400 lakes and ponds in the state may be found on the department's Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us, or by calling (603) 271-2501.
One of the most popular waters in the Bay State is Lake Cochituate in Natick, Framingham and Wayland. The lake's diverse fishery includes a variety of panfish, northern pike, yellow and white perch and tiger muskies. Lake Cochituate is also stocked with trout each spring and fall.
But the lake is also home to a tremendous largemouth bass resource, one of the best in the northeast region of the Commonwealth. Trophy-sized fish are a good possibility.
"Lake Cochituate" actually consists of three distinct ponds. North Pond covers 195 acres; Middle Pond
covers 143 acres and South Pond covers 233 acres. None of the ponds has a maximum depth of more than 69 feet, and visibility is typically limited to less than 7 feet.
Largemouths are abundant in all three ponds. The most recent bass research operations conducted by MassWildlife, however, revealed bass were most common in Middle Pond.
Access to Middle Pond is via a public boat ramp on the south side of Route 30 in Natick, where there is parking for up to 50 vehicles.
Bass fishermen can generally expect safe ice in early March, with conditions worsening as the weather warms. There may be some open water by the end of the month.
For more information on ice-fishing at Lake Cochituate, contact MassWildlife's Northeast District office in Acton at (978) 263-4347.
Additional general information may be obtained by visiting the MassWildlife Web site at www.mass.gov/ dfwele/dfw.
This 445-acre lake is in Winchester in the northwest corner of the state. Highland Lake is managed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation as a Trophy Trout Lake as well as a Bass Management Lake. As such, it is open to fishing through March 31 but has a daily limit on largemouths and smallmouths of two fish with a 16-inch minimum length limit.
Open water may begin to appear by the end of the month, so fishermen should be vigilant about ice conditions. Some open water should definitely be available by the third Saturday in April when the lake reopens, at which time some prime early-season open-water angling is generally possible.
Highland Lake consists of two parts: First Bay and Third Bay. Both of these waters provide good bassing opportunities. Public access is possible from a public boat launch area on First Bay. To find it, take Route 44 west from Winsted to Route 263 and then secondary roads to the launch site.
For information on possible lodging and services in the area, contact the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce at (860) 482-6586, or log onto the chamber's Web site at www.nwctchamberofcommerce.org.
For more information on Nutmeg State bass fishing, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Conservation at (860) 424-3000, or visit the Department's Web site at www.ct.gov/dep.
When calling, ask for a copy of A Fisheries Guide to Lakes and Ponds in Connecticut, which is a great reference and guide for anglers unfamiliar with the state's freshwater fishing opportunities.
The booklet is also available for $19.95 from the DEC Book Store by telephoning (860) 424-3555.