Things are looking good for bass fishermen in the Northeast. Our state biologists have the inside scoop on what largemouth and smallmouth bass anglers can expect in 2007. (April 2007)
Photo by Steve Chaconas
Bass are fast taking over the New England sportfishing scene. These opportunistic feeders are always looking to get the most calories with the least effort, which is why so many different lures can elicit a strike -- and why so many anglers are getting hooked on bass fishing!
From the spring spawn right through to ice-fishing season, black bass provide hard-hitting angling action in the majority of New England's rivers, ponds and lakes.
Luckily for avid bass anglers, the region's fisheries biologists continue to manage this resource with an eye toward healthy populations and quality-sized fish. They adjust regulations according to the needs of the species in each state, so be sure to check the 2007 angler's guide for your state before heading out.
With so many quality bass out there waiting for the right crankbaits, spinnerbaits and Texas rigs to come along, New England's anglers could fish every day and still miss some prime fishing holes. To ensure that you find the right place at the right time, here's a year-round list of best bets for bass from each state's fisheries experts:
The rising popularity of Nutmeg State bass fishing means increased angler pressure and the need for extremely effective management. The good news is that management plans and regulations to promote big bass put into place nearly five years ago are already paying tackle-busting dividends.
The original 2002 plan included two general types of bass management areas -- Big Bass Lakes, where the goal was to increase the number of quality-sized bass through increased length limits and smaller daily creel limits; and Trophy Bass Lakes, where trophy-class fisheries are the goal and slot limits are in effect.
General statewide bass regulations include a 12-inch length limit in lakes, ponds and the Connecticut River, with a daily creel limit of six fish. Before heading out, be sure to check the 2007 Connecticut Angler's Guide, available wherever fishing licenses are sold, as well as online at Dep.State.CT.US/Burnatr/Fishing/FishingInfo/Angler.htm.
In the meantime, here's a year-round sampling of great Nutmeg State bass hotspots:
Gardner Lake, in the towns of Salem, Montville and Bozrah has plenty of both smallmouth and largemouth bass. Access can be had via a boat launch on the southern shore.
From Norwich, take Route 2 west to Route 354. The access road is off Route 354 north of its intersection with Route 82.
Other early bass waters include Crystal, Highland and Ball lakes. Reliable spring fishing for largemouths may also be had in the shallow coves of the Upper Moodus Reservoir and the Still River.
As waters warm, other largemouth bass spots for hot summer action include Mansfield Hollow Reservoir, Winchester and Coventry lakes and Long Pond. Bass action remains very good in the Natchaug and Willimantic rivers over the summer.
When the leaves change, head for Beseck Lake in Middlefield. To reach the state-owned boat launch from Route 66, take Route 147 south for 1.5 miles. The launch is on the right.
Hardwater anglers will want to check out Candlewood Lake, the state's largest lake and one of the region's best bass fisheries.
Access is from the Squantz Cove boat launch on Route 39, at the northwestern end of the lake.
Squantz Pond, separated from Candlewood by state Route 39, is another great bass destination.
For more fishing information visit Dep.State.CT.US, or call (860) 424-3474.
For travel information, call 1-888- 288-4748, or visit CTVisit.com.
Bass are found in about half a million acres of Maine's 38,000 miles of lakes, ponds and rivers. The fishery requires experienced management, but Maine's native bass population is so plentiful that supplemental stocking is not required.
"Maine fisheries biologists continue to sample important bass populations by electro-shocking, rod-and-reel angling and data collection at bass tournaments," said Richard Jordan, a regional fisheries biologist. "This information will lead to better bass management through regulations changes and more quality fishing in future years.
"Three consecutive years of cool springs may have temporarily reduced bass spawning success in some lakes, but this may lead to improved growth of those which survived."
Regulations include a 12-inch length limit and one-fish creel limit from Jan. 1 through June 20. For the rest of the year, the creel is three fish, only one of which may exceed 14 inches. Be sure to check the 2007 angler's guide, available where licenses are sold or online at State.ME.US/IFW/Fishing/Index.htm.
Anglers report early season success along the Penobscot River. South Branch, Seboeis and Pleasant ponds are also worth a try and remain good right through the summer heat.
Also check out Cresent Lake in Raymond, which has a good population of average-sized bass and also gave up at least one 6-pound largemouth last spring. (Continued)
As waters warm, give Moose Pond in Bridgeton a try. Access may be had at a public boat ramp on Route 302. Square Pond in Shapleigh produces some big largemouths. For access to the north end, take Route 11 from the south end of Mousam Lake to Town Farm Road.
Great Moose Pond and Big Indian Lake near Hartland are great fall destinations.
Hardwater fishing will yield plenty of smallmouth bass on Mattawamkeag Lake. Cobbossee Lake in Winthrop is also a popular place to sink some bass-sized auger holes. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are taken here.
Access is via a state ramp off Route 135 in North Monmouth or off Route 202 in East Winthrop.
For more fishing information, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000 or visit Maine.Gov/IFW.
For travel information, call the Office of Tourism at 1-888-624-6345, or visit VisitMaine.com.
Bay State bass have been managed by MassWildlife since their introduction to the state 120 years ago. The largemouth population has been self-sustaining for more than 35 years.
Massachusetts has a five fish per day creel limit and a 12-inch length minimum.
"We find healthy populations virtually everywhere we do surveys," said Richard Hartley, a MassWildlife aquatic biologist. "We also find that the voluntary release rate of legal- sized bass is better than 95 percent. Although this sounds great, as you can imagine, it makes it very difficult to use the traditional tools in a fisheries biologist's toolbox, such as creel or length limits. These days, I try to preach selective harvest."
Give Great Herring Pond in Plymouth a try for spring smallmouths. For cartop boat access, take Herring Pond Road north from Route 6 and take a left onto Little Sandy Pond Road.
Long Pond in Lakeville, the state's largest natural body of water, is a great largemouth bass fishery. There is a paved launch ramp on the southeastern end of the pond off Route 18.
Anglers in search of trophy-sized largemouths will want to try Mary's Pond in Rochester this summer. Last year, this pond gave up a 10-pound, 8-ounce lunker largemouth that qualified for a pin from the Sportfishing Awards Program, and was a contender for the year's gold pin.
For summer smallmouths, try Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston, Sheep Pond in Brewster and Hampton Pond in Westfield.
The Congamond lake complex in Southwick is the state's most reliable year-round largemouth producer aside from the Connecticut River. The Congamond, which also has some smallmouth bass, is composed up of three basins: North Pond (46 acres), Middle Pond (277 acres), and South Pond (142 acres). Shoreline access is limited on all three. Boat access can be had via north and south ramps on Middle Pond. There is no public shoreline access to North Pond, but small boats may be floated through a culvert under Grove Road.
Webster Lake in Webster features largemouth and smallmouth bass. This 1,270-acre, two-story lake offers limited access during open water because of extensive shoreline development. That won't stop hardwater anglers, however. From Worcester, drive west on I-290 and continue on Route 52 to Exit 1 to reach the Memorial Beach Drive boat-launching area and access to plenty of safe ice.
For more fishing information, visit Mass.Gov/Dfwele/Dfw. For Bay State travel information, you can visit MassVacation.com, or call (617) 973-8500.
Bass may be found in more than half of the Granite State's 1,300 lakes and ponds. With so many great bass waters it isn't hard to come up with a list of more year-round options.
Bass fishing is allowed under catch-and-release regulations only from May 15 to June 15 for smallmouths and largemouths, and only artificial lures and flies may be used. From June 16-30, the creel limit is two fish. The creel returns to five bass from July 1 through Oct. 15.
"Based on summer electro-shocking surveys and discussions with anglers, 2006 was a good year for bass fishing in New Hampshire with more great fishing expected in 2007," said Gabe Gries, a state fisheries biologist. "Additionally, surveys of young-of-the-year bass in Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake and the Connecticut River showed that a strong year-class was produced in 2006, indicating good numbers of 12- to 16-inch bass four to six years from now."
Large quantities of smaller bass may be found at Halfmoon Pond in Hancock, Otter Lake in Greenfield and Laurel Lake in Fitzwilliam. For fewer fish but of larger sizes, try Sip Pond or Sportsman Pond in Fitzwilliam, or Hubbard Pond and Lake Monomonac in Ringe.
Head for Squam Lake for early smallmouth action. As spring waters warm, anglers should head for Umbagog Lake, Martin Meadow Pond or Moore Reservoir.
In midsummer's heat, southwestern New Hampshire's waters still produce big bass. Try Warren Lake in Alstead, Highland Lake in Stoddard, the Connecticut River in Hinsdale, Charleston and Claremont or Thorndike Pond in Jaffrey.
Also, anglers should try Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam or Big Squam lakes for fall smallmouths. Hit Wickwas Lake or Balch Pond for largemouth bass.
"The Connecticut River is a fantastic spot to try for late-season smallmouth bass," Gries said. "Recent surveys in Charlestown and Claremont showed large numbers of 3- to 4- pound smallmouths."
Once the hardwater season is underway, drill a few holes at Highland Lake in Stoddard or Contoocook Lake in Ringe. Bass also keep the flags flying at South Pond, Burns Pond and Partridge Lake.
For more fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501 or go to Wildlife.State.NH.US.
For travel information, you can visit VisitNH.Gov, or call the Office of Travel and Tourism at (603) 271-2665.
Bass management decisions in the Ocean State are based on information gathered through angler surveys and electro-shocking surveys that provide catch rate and fish-growth data. The bass populations here are stable. The daily creel limit is five bass, with a 12-inch length limit.
"We are actively managing black bass in Rhode Island's waters through a federal aid project," said Philip Edwards, a Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management fisheries biologist. "This project includes monitoring largemouth bass populations throughout the state by sampling tournament weigh-ins, working with local bass clubs and by electro-shocking. Data collected is used to calculate catch rates and age-growth curves on selected systems."
Based on recent data, Edwards predicts good largemouth bass fishing in 2007. For early-spring bass action, he recommends that anglers head to Watchaug Pond. Access may be had at a state-owned boat ramp in Burlingame State Park off Route 1 in Charlestown.
As the weather and the water heat up, try topwater fishing at Wilson Reservoir. There's a state boat ramp off East Wallum Pond Road in Burrillville.
As cooler weather moves in during fall try Pascoag Reservoir (Echo Lake). Access via a state boat ramp is off Jackson Schoolhouse Road in Glocester.
Worden Pond offers hardwater anglers a bonus northern pike fishery. Bring plenty of live bait and spend the day pulling big bass and pike up through those auger holes!
For fishing regulations, destinations and more, visit Dem.RI.Gov.
For travel information, log on to VisitRhodeIsland.com.
Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are plentiful in the Green Mountain State. The bass season opens the second Saturday of June and closes Nov. 30. An early catch-and-release season with artificial baits runs from the second Saturday in April through the Friday in June before the opening of the regular season. The daily creel limit is five bass with a minimum length of 10 inches.
Be sure to check out the 2007 digest of fishing laws that is issued along with every fishing license, or go to VTFishAndWildlife.com.
Lake Champlain is the premier destination for tackle-busting bass action. The big lake is over 100 miles long with 587 miles of shoreline.
New England's "Great Lake" is managed cooperatively by New York and Vermont fisheries agencies, and reciprocation agreements are in effect in many areas. A Vermont license is needed to fish Mallets Bay, the Inland Sea and Missisquoi Bay. Look for lunker largemouths in the lake's bays and shallows. The Inland Sea has a variety of bays throughout the islands and along the Vermont shore.
"Prospects are excellent for largemouth and smallmouth bass in several Vermont lakes, with Lake Champlain leading the list for both species," said John Hall, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's information specialist.
"But Champlain's spectacular bass opportunities tend to overshadow the great bass fishing we have on many other waters."
Good spring smallmouth fishing may be had at Island Pond in Brighton. For access, follow Route 105, which becomes Derby Street. Travel east for 0.5 miles. Turn right onto Pleasant Street.
Travel south about 1.5 miles, taking the left turn so that you remain on Pleasant Street. Access is about one-quarter mile down on the left.
Largemouth anglers should head to the North Springfield Lake-Stoughton Pond Recreation Area at Route 106 and Reservoir Road.
Summer largemouth action remains good on Lake Memphremagog in Newport and Coventry. From Exit 27 off I-91, take Route 191 west to Route 5 south. Turn left onto Coventry Street. Access is one-half mile down on the left.
Or for summer smallmouths, head to Little Salem Lake in Derby. Take I-91 to Exit 28 in Derby. Take U.S. Route 5 north one mile. Turn right onto Route 105. Drive 2.5 miles and turn left onto Hayward Road. Access will be on the right.
This fall, head for Lake Eden for record-breaking smallmouth action. Take Route 100 north into the town of Eden. Cool-water largemouth action may be had at Lake Fairlee. Take U.S. Route 5 into Fairlee. Turn west onto Route 244. Access will be on the left about four miles ahead.
For excellent hardwater action for both species, drill some holes at Lake St. Catherine this winter. The lake is three miles south of Poultney on Route 30.
Also, anglers can expect to catch both species at Lake Bomoseen in Castleton. Take U.S. Route 40 to Castleton. Turn north onto Route 30 and go 4.5 miles. Turn left onto Float Bridge Road. Turn left onto Johnsonspooner Road. Access is one mile south on the left.
For fishing information, you can visit VTFishAndWildlife.com, or call Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700. For travel information, check out listings on Travel-Vermont.com, or call the Department of Tourism at (802) 828-3237.
Find more about New England fishing and hunting at: NewEnglandGameandFish.com.