Whether you fish from shore or boat, these waters provide plenty of action. (May 2010)
We've all heard the phrase "In the merry month of May." Those words accurately describe the bass fishery in Massachusetts during the spring spawning season. Bay State anglers have access to hundreds of lakes and ponds ranging in size from 25,000 acres to 5 acres. Choosing the best one for your weekend outing can be a project.
To get you started, here are a handful of noteworthy bass fishing prospects:
Talk about Massachusetts and the conversation often includes a mention on Henry David Thoreau's 1854 classic, "Walden." The good news is that bass anglers can still visit this famous 58-acre lake in Concord.
Walden Pond is a natural pond with a basin of 97 feet and an average depth of about 40 feet. Anglers will find clear water here. A white spinnerbait will be visible down to depths of 15 feet or more.
There are several special features about this pond that make it an ideal place for spring bass fishing. First, aquatic vegetation is scarce, so anglers will not have to fret over fouled lures. Also, the shoreline is undeveloped because most of the pond is within the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management's Walden Pond State Reservation. The entire shoreline is open to fishing. Boaters may also enjoy the lake, but only electric motors are permitted.
Trout attract most of the angler attention on Walden Pond, but fishermen willing to learn the lake can enjoy some very good smallmouth and largemouth bass action. The better fishing is found along the northern shoreline, which has several distinct points. Fallen trees also dot the shoreline for added bass cover.
Walden Pond has a healthy population of rainbow smelts. During most of the year, these baitfish dwell in the deep water where trout feed upon them. Bass usually don't venture down into the "smelt depths." During spring, however, the smelts move into the shallower waters where the bass can grab an easy meal. For this reason, smelt-imitating jerk baits often produce the desired results.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife maintains a gravel launch ramp off Route 126. During peak seasons, the division charges an access fee. The parking lot is small and can only accommodate 10 vehicles with trailers. Plan to arrive early. To get to the pond, take Interstate Route 95 to Exit 29. Travel west on Route 2 for about six miles to Route 126. Turn south to the state recreation area.
MOSSY POND COMPLEX
Bass anglers will find something unique in the Mossy Pond Complex. This complex is actually three ponds connected to each other by navigable culvert pipes. Anglers fishing from a small boat will have access to Mossy Pond, South Meadow Pond and Coachlace Pond. Combined, the three ponds cover right at 125 acres.
Mossy Pond is the deepest with a maximum depth of about 25 feet. South Meadow is the shallowest with a basin depth of 15 feet. In total, the average depth of the three ponds is about 9 feet. As one would expect with any shallow pond, weed growth is abundant. The green stuff translates to great bass fishing.
Because the ponds are close to the city of Clinton, MassWildlife stocks them with trout. Fishing pressure is heavy until mid-May when the trout crowds diminish. Along with largemouth bass, you will likey catch a few chain pickerel and humpbacked yellow perch. The golden shiner is the predominant baitfish, but don't overlook the possibilities of a yellow perch-colored lure. These fish spawn soon after ice-out and their young fry are relished by the larger game fish.
The launch ramp is less than two miles west of Clinton center on Route 110. After passing over the first railroad track, turn right on South Meadow Road, which bisects South Meadow Pond. Car-top boats may be launched in this area.
If you're looking for a lake with limited fishing pressure, try the 383-acre Lake Rohunta in Athol and New Salem. The lake has a maximum depth of 15 feet with an average depth of 4 feet. Water clarity is excellent. This combination of shallow, clear water means weed growth is abundant. Expect to find dense weeds even during the early season here.
While the weeds may frustrate the average angler, those who are willing to endure the inconvenience of cleaning green gunk off their lures will find a very healthy largemouth bass population. Chain pickerel and crappie will also slash at your lures. Northern pike were released into the pond during the 1980s and a few are still caught today.
As it is in many New England lakes, the golden shiner is the top forage fish. Crayfish are a close second. Lures mimicking either one should produce some good fishing. Due to the heavy vegetation, weedless hooks are mandatory.
The shoreline is not heavily developed but the land is still privately owned. Shoreline fishing access is limited to the Route 2 roadside. The boat access is at the rest area off Route 2. This ramp provides access to the tiny north basin. Once you pass under Route 2 through the large culvert, you can access the larger south basin. The ramp is suitable only for car-top boats and canoes.
Many bass anglers shy away from lakes with developed shorelines, but in spite of its cluttered shore, Lashaway Lake should be on anyone's list of bass-fishing favorites. This 293-acre pond is diamond shaped with a basin of 18 feet. Its average depth is 10 feet.
Anglers will find a variety of bass habitat from manmade structure to weed beds.
Largemouth bass dominate the sport fishery in Lashaway Lake. You will also catch an occasional smallmouth bass and chain pickerel. All three species exhibit strong growth rates with trophy-class fish reported on a frequent basis. White perch also swarm the pond. Small white lures and spinnerbaits that mimic perch fry will entice big bass.
Anglers will find a paved boat launch ramp on the north end of the pond. To get there from Worcester, take Route 9 west for about 15 miles. Turn right on Harrington Street.
Follow the street along the lake to the boat ramp. Shore fishing access is limited to the area adjacent to the boat ramp and along Route 9.
This 66-acre pond is often overlooked by passing bass fishermen. The maximum depth is 13 feet in a few locations. The average depth is less than 3 feet.
The bass population is small but growth rates are excellent. Most bass caught are in the 12- to 16-inch class with the occasional trop
hy in the mix.
This lake also has an abundance of golden shiners. These provide an abundant food source for the lake's largemouth bass. Large chain pickerel and yellow perch are also caught in this pond. Other fish of note include crappie and brown bullheads.
Aquatic vegetation abounds so rig your lures accordingly.
To get there from Holyoke, take Route 202 north for about eight miles. Near Granby, turn left on Amherst Road. There is a small dirt road across from Bachelder Street. Turn here and continue to an informal dirt ramp that is suitable for car-top craft.
Bass anglers with large boats will enjoy Manchaug Pond. This 344-acre pond is an expansion of a once smaller body of water. Today it has a maximum depth of 30 feet with an average depth of about 13 feet. Submerged manmade structures including stonewalls, are scattered about the pond's shore.
The pond has a wide array of game fish including largemouth and smallmouth bass.
These fish congregate around the many small islands and rock piles found along the shoreline.
The water is stained and visibility rarely extends 5 feet. Aquatic vegetation is relatively sparse, except for a few patches parallel to the western shoreline and in the coves. Focus on these areas when looking for largemouth bass.
Boat access comes from a large, paved public launch ramp on the southeastern end of the pond. Non-fishing recreational use of this pond is high during late spring and summer.
Bass anglers at Manchaug Pond should plan to fish early in the day or late in the evening to avoid congestion.
To get there, take Exit 4 off I-395 in Oxford. Drive east on Sutton Avenue to Manchaug Road. Turn right and drive to the south end of the lake. Turn right again on Torrey Road to the ramp. There is ample parking for up to 50 vehicles.
This pond is another waterway that can handle full-sized bass boats. The 209-acre lake often plays host to local bass tournaments. It has a deep basin of about 25 feet with an average depth of about 15 feet.
Aquatic vegetation is relatively scarce, except for a few heavy patches in the coves in the northeast and southwest corners of the lake. The shoreline is heavily developed. The only public shore access on the southwestern shore is within Dracut State Forest, which has a large boat ramp. Recreational usage is heavy during the summer months.
Largemouth bass are available in good supply here. Anglers have three options for finding bass. Fish around the weed patches, which often get the heaviest fishing pressure. Another option is to work around the manmade structures that line the shoreline. A third tactic would be to work the shoal areas off the pronounced points that dot the southern shoreline. Along with the bass, you might even connect with a tiger muskie, which were stocked in the lake about 10 years ago.
Access is via a paved ramp owned by MassWildlife on the extreme eastern side of the lake. Take Route 113 west from Lowell. Follow the signs for Willowdale and then watch for the launch ramp.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Massachusetts resident fishing license fees are $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 posses an $11.50 junior fishing permit.
Massachusetts residents between the ages of 65 and 69 can purchase a senior citizen fishing license for $16.25.
For more fishing and licensing information, contact the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife at (617) 626-1590. Or, visit the division's Web site at www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw.
For more tourism information, call the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism at (800) 227-MASS.