Excellent fishing for largemouths awaits ice-anglers this month on Connecticut's, Massachusetts' and Rhode Island's top-rated lakes and ponds.
By Robert Sadowski
Ice-fishing "hotspots" might seem to be a contradiction in terms, but when the air turns frigid and the water turns hard, the fishing can really heat up. And what's more of a winter tradition in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut than setting up some tip-ups for a try at cold-weather bass?
When you try the following ice- covered waters this winter, just make sure the hole you bore is big enough to get a record-class lunker onto the ice because some of the Northeast's biggest fish of the year are taken through the ice.
CONNECTICUT For a few years now, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has had a Bass Management Lake program that targets certain bodies of water that are able to sustain largemouth and smallmouth bass populations. Studies conducted by the DEP revealed that some lakes and ponds were overfished, impacting the quality of fish caught, as well as the fishing experience.
Now, some 30 lakes and ponds throughout the Constitution State have minimum length harvest restrictions and creel limits that have improved the average size and number of bass caught.
In the eastern part of the state north of the New London-Groton area, the towns of Preston, Norwich and North Stonington offer a variety of waters that are suited for ice-fishing. Amos Lake in Preston is the largest of these, covering 113 acres. There's a public boat launch area where anglers may park their vehicles and access the ice. The creel limit is two bass with a 16-inch minimum size limit.
To get there from New London-Groton, drive north on Interstate Route 95, exit west onto Route 2, and then follow Route 2 to Route 164.
Photo by Vic Attardo
On the way to Amos Lake, you might want to try Billings Lake in North Stonington. Billings offers 97 acres of hard water for great winter angling. Six bass may be kept daily, but only two fish may be 16 inches or greater.
Take Route 2 to where it intersects with Route 201.
Wyassup Lake and Anderson Pond are also in North Stonington. To find Wyassup, take Route 49 to Wyassup Road through part of the Pachaug State Forest. To get to Anderson Pond, take Route 201.
The daily limit is two bass, 16 inches or greater.
Glasgo Pond, in the towns of Glasgo and Pachaug, is about seven miles farther down on Route 201. Pauchaug Pond, which is connected to Glasgo Pond, was seeded a few years back with pike, so expect a few of these fish along with the resident largemouths.
In south-central Connecticut, try 273-acre Bashan Lake in East Haddam. Six bass is the limit, but only two may be 16 inches or greater.
To get there from Hartford, take Route 2 south to Route 149 south, and then take Route 151 to the East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike.
Nearby is Moodus Reservoir, also a good bet for winter bass, with 486 acres of hard water waiting. Up to six bass is the limit and only two may be 16 inches or longer.
Bottom depths average 9 feet with a few pockets to 15 feet. The reservoir has abundant weedbeds, rocks and fallen trees, and largemouths in the 5- to 7-pound range are common.
Moodus Reservoir can also be accessed via the East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike.
Back on Route 149 north, Pickerel Lake offers 82 acres with the same creel limits as Bashan Lake and Moodus Reservoir.
Pickerel Lake is less then 10 miles north of the Moodus Reservoir. Take Trowbridge Road from Route 149 to Pickerel Lake Road. The boat launch and parking area are off Pickerel Road.
Another spot close by in East Haddam is Lake Hayward. From Route 2, take the Route 16 south exit and follow the Lake Hayward signs to the 172 acres of water. The boat launch and parking are at the northern end of the lake off Lake Hayward Road.
East of the state capitol of Hartford is Bolton Lake, with 346 acres of ice-fishing potential in the towns of Bolton, Coventry and Vernon. Six bass is the daily limit, and only two fish may be 16 inches or greater.
To get there from Hartford, take Route 384 east to Route 44 east and then turn onto Vernon Road.
If you continue to travel on Route 44 exit to Route 31, you will come to Coventry Lake, which is also known by its Native American name, Wangumbaug Lake, and covers 373 acres.
Route 31 leads to Wangumbaug's northern shore where the boat launch and parking are located.
Less than two miles from Wangumbaug is Eagleville Pond. Continue south on Route 31 until it intersects with Route 275. Take Route 275 north to Eagleville Pond. You know you've traveled too far on Route 275 if you cross the railroad tracks.
Wangumbaug and Eagleville lakes are an easy six-mile drive from Willimantic. From Route 32, travel north to Route 275 and Eagleville Pond. Cross the railroad tracks on Route 275 and Eagleville Pond will be in sight.
To get to Wangumbaug Pond from Willimantic, travel Route 32 to Route 31, which leads to the lake.
Wononscopomuc Lake is in Salisbury in Connecticut's northeastern corner. Wononscopomuc's 348 acres are just a few miles from the New York border on Route 44 west. From Route 44 west out of Hartford exit to Route 41. Washining Lake or East Twin Lake in the town of Taconic are also nearby and offer great fishing, except that Washining is closer to the Massachusetts border.
From Hartford, take Route 44 west and turn onto Twin Lakes Road. Twin Lakes Road will bring you to the boat launch and parking.
South of Wononscopomuc off Route 44, take Indian Mountain Road to Mudge Lake. Mudge is slightly smaller, but that doesn't mean the action is less exciting. Indian Mountain Road runs into Mudge Pond Road, which runs into Route 361. Anglers can access the boat launch from Route 361, where parking is available.
Many lakes and ponds have different creel limits and length requirements for bass.
For more fishing information, including resident and non-resident fishing license fees, contact the Connecticut Depar
tment of Environmental Protection, 79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106-5127; call (860) 424-3555, or visit the DEP's Web site at www.dep.state.ct.us.
MASSACHUSETTS Finding places to fish for "the big one" in the Bay State is easy. Trophy bass can be found in many lakes and ponds in the Commonwealth. Getting it out of the water and onto the ice is another story. Here's a list of potential hotspots by district.
In Massachusetts' Western District, try Onota Lake in Pittsfield, which offers nearly 620 acres of prime ice- fishing potential where anglers can rig their tip-ups. The northern end of the lake isn't any deeper than 10 feet, but near the southwestern edge of Big Island there's a hole nearly three times as deep where some monster largemouths lurk.
To get there, take the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate Route 90) to Route 20, and then travel north toward Route 7. From Linden Street in Pittsfield, take Onota Street and Lakeview Drive to Burbon Park and the Onota Lake boat landing. Parking is available at the landing.
Also in the Western District is Lake Buel in Monterey and New Marlborough, south of the intersection of Route 23 and Route 57 in the southwest corner of the state.
The shoreline is densely developed, and in warmer months the lake is crowded. But come February, you may have this nearly 200-acre pond to yourself. At an average depth of 20 feet, bass and panfish are plentiful. Trophy-sized largemouths are not uncommon.
The Connecticut Valley District boasts North Pond (46 acres), Middle Pond (277 acres) and South Pond (142 acres), which make up the Congamond Lakes in Southwick near the Connecticut border. At 40 feet, North Pond is the deepest of the three basins. The area is heavily populated, but access to the ice is available at Middle Pond, where there are two paved boat launches where visiting anglers can park.
The most abundant game fish in these ponds are largemouth bass. Bass tournaments have been hosted here, so fishing in these ponds is a year-round experience. In winter, unsafe ice is usually marked. The area is also known for its trophy-sized perch.
The Congamond Lakes are easily accessible from Springfield or Hartford. The ponds are east of Route 202. Route 190 leads directly to where Middle Pond and South Pond meet. Turn onto Berkshire Avenue to find one access area. Continue on Berkshire Avenue and turn right onto Point Grove Road. Cross the inlet where North Pond meets Middle Pond and park at the second access area.
The Bay State's Central District offers plenty of hardwater action near Worcester not far from the Boston area.
Lake Quinsigamond in Quinsigamond State Park is a good bet for hardwater angling for fishermen near Worcester; however, this is one of the largest bodies of water in the area and takes the longest to form safe ice.
Lunkers haunt the southern part of the lake, which is locally called Flint Pond. To get there, take Route 290 south to Route 20 east. If you are starting out from Boston, take the Massachusetts Turnpike (Route 90) to I-495 north until it reaches Route 9, and then follow Route 9 to Route 20.
Webster Lake is another good bet in Webster near the Massachusetts-Connecticut line. From Worcester, take Route 395 south to the Connecticut border. Exit just before the state line.
Officially, it's called A-1 Site, but local anglers in Westboro know it as Stump Pond. The name A-1 is appropriate for this largemouth haven. This 325-acre pond has an average depth from 3 to 15 feet. There are plenty of stumps and brush in the dark water providing excellent bass cover, and fish in the 3- to 5-pound range are common.
From Worcester, travel east to Route 30 and continue east on Route 30 until you reach Mill Road, where there is an access area. The water near the access area is the deepest portion of the pond and is probably the best place to start jigging a golden shiner. There is ample parking nearby, too.
In Massachusetts' Northeast District, Lake Cochituate in the towns of Natick, Framingham and Wayland is one of the most popular bass waters in the state and for good reason. The fishing here can be outstanding. In warm weather boaters heavily use this lake, which consists of three major basins and a smaller one. However, when ice forms, the area is quieter.
The 143-acre Middle Pond (actually a pair of basins) is the best bet for big bass. The larger basin of Middle Pond boasts a depth of 60 feet. The smaller one, a mere 13 acres, is about half that deep. Public access on Middle Pond is on the south side of Route 30.
The Southeast District offers some great fishing in the towns of Mashpee and Sandwich. Mashpee-Wakeby Pond is topnotch for smallmouths and largemouths through the ice. To get there, take Route 3 south from Boston. Great Neck Road is past the intersection of Route 3 and Route 130, where there is an access area and plenty of parking.
This 729-acre pond (actually two ponds) has an average depth of 28 feet, but in spots it can reach depths of up 87 feet.
If you land a wallhanger that you think might be one for the record books, contact the MassWildlife Sportfishing Awards Program. Your fish must be weighed at an official weigh station and an affidavit must be filled out and returned within 30 days of the catch.
For more information, including maps and license fees, contact the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, Route 135, Westboro, MA 01582; call (508) 792-7270; or go online at www.state.ma.us/dfwele/dfw.
RHODE ISLAND In Burrillville near the Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts border is Wallum Lake in Douglas State Forest. Anglers may possess a Massachusetts or Rhode Island license to fish Wallum. The state hatchery is nearby and surplus fish are dumped into Wallum Lake in fall, leaving the spot nicely seeded for winter anglers. Expect to haul a few trout and salmon onto the ice along with bass.
From Providence, take Route 44 to Route 100 and drive through the George Washington Management Area. A boat launch and parking area are available at the north end of the lake in Massachusetts. Take Wallum Lake Park Road to access the launch.
South of Wallum Lake are two other spots that are worth a look, including Wakefield Pond near the Connecticut border. Take Route 100 south from Wallum Lake to Buck Hill Road and then Wakefield Road.
South of Wallum is Wilson Reservoir in the town of Pascoag. To get there, continue south on Route 100 past Buck Hill Road toward Pascoag.
Also accessible from Route 100 is Pascoag Reservoir. From the town of Pascoag take Route 100 south to Reservoir Road. This is a large body of water. You can't miss it.
Worden Pond in South Kingston has 1,075 acres of water loaded wit
h white and yellow perch, crappies and bluegills, as well as largemouth bass. From Providence or Warwick, take Route 95 to Route 138 Hope Valley, then travel south on Route 110. The pond is on Worden Road where anglers will find a boat landing and parking area.
Another good winter border pond is Beach Pond on the Connecticut and Rhode Island line. A maximum of six tip-ups is allowed on this huge pond. Either a Connecticut or Rhode Island fishing license can be used.
To get there, travel west on Route 165 to the border. The bulk of Beach Pond lies on the Connecticut side of the border, but there is ample parking on both sides of the state line.
Rhode Island's season for largemouth and smallmouth bass is open all year. The daily creel limit is five fish with a 12-inch minimum length limit.
For more fishing information, contact the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Great Swamp Field Headquarters, P.O. Box 281, West Kingston, R.I. 02892; call (401) 789-0281; or go online at www.state.ri.us/dem.
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