Bass Hotspots in New England

Southern New England offers some of the best spring bass fishing in the Northeast. These highly rated public fishing areas will get you started in your quest for a lunker largemouth or smallmouth this month.

Photo by Tom Evans

By Frank McKane

The month of May can be very kind to southern New England bass anglers. Largemouth bass prepare for their upcoming spawn and feed actively this month. Weeds, which hamper lure fishermen during summer, are stunted and less problematic. All things considered, now is the time to go fishing in the following great bass waters in southern New England.

Monponsett Lakes (Halifax)
The Monponsett lakes consist of two lakes separated by Route 58. Anglers can access the two ponds through a large culvert pipe. The two lakes offer 528 acres of fishable water. The maximum depth is 13 feet with a 7-foot average.

Shoreline development is moderate, providing anglers with the option to cast around boat docks or overhanging tree branches. There are several large humps in the lake that also provide great fishing. According to local angler reports, the better bass fishing is in the eastern basin, and the fish there seem to be larger.

The launch ramp is off Route 58 in Halifax. From the west, take Exit 15 off Route 24 onto Route 104. Route 104 turns into Route 106 in Halifax. Continue westward on Route 106 to Route 58, and then head north on Route 58 along the lake to the ramp. From the east, take Exit 9 off Route 3. Follow the signs to Route 106 and Halifax.

Whitehall Reservoir
Whitehall Reservoir is one of the prettiest lakes in Massachusetts and is less than an hour's drive from Boston. The lake is within Whitehall State Forest and the shoreline is undeveloped, mostly wooded, and open to the public for hiking and fishing.

The reservoir is rather shallow, with an average depth of 6 feet. But there is a deep 30-foot basin that holds stocked trout. Anglers will find a mixture of weeds packed into dense beds in the shallows. Small gravel and rubble patches lie hidden in the weedbeds, and the bigger bass hide near these bottom structures. Other fishing structures in this 575-acre lake include small brush islands, fallen trees and points.

Public access is excellent, thanks to the Massachusetts Division of Forest and Parks. It has a nice launch ramp and ample parking on Route 135 in Hopkinton. Signs mark the way off the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate Route 90) and I-495.

Cheshire Reservation
(Cheshire and Lanesboro)
Cheshire Reservoir is a manmade lake that is divided into three distinct units covering 418 acres. Each of the three "ponds" has a unique ecology. The southernmost pond is very shallow, extremely weedy and difficult to fish even during the early season. In the middle pond, the water is less weedy and slightly deeper. The fishing is pretty good, too. Public access is limited to a causeway between the southern and middle ponds where you can easily launch a canoe or car-topper.

The northern pond is the deepest pond. Boating anglers will find some boat liveries with private launches, and there is an informal dirt ramp that is ideal for smaller bass boats on this pond. Most of the shoreline is private, so shoreline fishing options are minimal. But, the lake is still worth dealing with the access issues. Many anglers believe this lake will produce the next state-record largemouth bass.

Cheshire Reservoir is in the Berkshire Mountain Range of western Massachusetts. The access and the causeway are along Route 8 about five miles south of Adams.

Worden Pond
(South Kingston)
The shallow water and silty bottom of Worden Pond promote heavy weed growth. Reeds also abound along the shoreline. According to the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, this weed growth makes an excellent fish nursery. Baitfish are plentiful and the bass population is flourishing.

Worden Pond is a natural lake in the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area in South Kingston. It is the state's largest public fishing lake at 1,075 acres. In spite of its large size, Worden Pond is shallow, with a maximum depth of 7 feet and an average depth of 4 feet.

According to Worden Pond bass tournament reports, winning anglers often turn in five-bass limits weighing over 20 pounds!

Anglers heading to this lake can leave the heavy weights and deep-running crankbaits at home. Shallow- running lures and weightless worms dominate the catch in this weedy pond.

The public boat ramp is on Tuckertown Road. Turn north onto Route 110 off Route 1 in South Kingston. Watch for the ramp signs at Tuckertown Road. The lake is on the west side of Route 110.

Watchaug Pond
Watchaug Pond is in Burlingame State Park near Charlestown. This 573-acre natural lake has a deep basin of 36 feet. The average depth is 8 feet. The pond has a wide variety of bass-fishing habitats. Anglers will find rockpiles, submerged coontail beds and shallow coves filled with budding May lily pads.

According to the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, Watchaug's largemouth bass population is healthy and growth rates are above average. Golden shiners and crayfish are the main forage for bass. Lures that mimic these bait species are highly productive.

The boat ramp is within Burlingame State Park off Route 1. Follow the signs for the Rhode Island beaches off I-95. Camping is permitted within the state park. Over 750 campsites are available for anglers.

Flat River Reservoir
Many Ocean State bass anglers consider Flat River Reservoir in Coventry the best bass lake in Rhode Island. This lake has two key elements for a great bass fishery - clear water and dense weedbeds.

This manmade reservoir covers 659 acres with a 36-foot maximum depth. Its average depth is about 8 feet. As one would expect in a densely populated state, shoreline development around Flat River is extensive. Fishing pressure is also high, but May is a perfect time to fish for bass because pleasure boat traffic is lighter now than it is during the summer.

According to the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, bass growth rates are high here because of high quantities of bait. Bass tournament reports indicate the average fish is well over 2 pounds.

The lake is loaded with boat docks and submerged coontail weeds. Also, the water is clear and offers excellent topwater fishing. Public access is provided via a launch ramp at Zeke's Bridge at the intersection of Harkney Hill Road and Hill Farm Road on the southern end of the lake. Take Exit 6 off I-95 and head north on Route 3 for approximately one mile, and then turn left onto Harkney Hill Road. Shoreline fishing access is available on the northern end of the lake off Route 117.

Beach Pond
Beach Pond is a border lake that is split between Connecticut and Rhode Island. It is a clear lake with a rocky bottom reminiscent of the great smallmouth bass lakes of Maine and New Hampshire. In the late 1950s, the lake was reclaimed and stocked with trout. But, anglers "stocked" the 395-acre lake with smallmouth and largemouth bass. Initially, smallmouths prospered. As time passed, the largemouth bass population grew and today dominates the fishery. Smallmouth bass are still present, but are sometimes difficult to find.

Beach Pond is a natural lake that was raised about 10 feet by a dam. Its average depth is about 20 feet. The shoreline is mostly wooded with a shallow, rocky shoal surrounding the lake. This shoal drops off quickly from 3 feet down to about 12 feet, providing a nice breakline for anglers to fish. As an added bonus, large boulders are scattered throughout the lake, giving the bass plenty of ambush points.

Shoreline fishing is available off Route 165. To get to the launch ramp, take Exit 85 off I-395 at Route 138 in Connecticut. Drive eastward on Route 138 to Route 165. Follow Route 165 for about one-half mile, and then turn north on Forge Hill Road. Bear right on North Shore Road onto the launch ramp.

Both Connecticut and Rhode Island fishing licenses are valid on this lake.

Mansfield Hollow Reservoir
Mansfield Hollow is an artificial impoundment at the junction of three large rivers (the Fenton, Mount Hope and Natchaug). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the lake in the early 1950s as part of its regional flood control program. This 440-acre impoundment is rather shallow, with an average depth of 6 feet.

In the summer, the lake is choked with weeds, but in May it is relatively clear of weeds. The best bass fishing is usually around the gravel bars in water less than 4 feet deep.

According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the lake has a large population of 10- to 14-inch largemouth bass. To further enhance the bass fishery, the Department of Environmental Protection enacted a 12- to 16-inch slot limit on the lake. Bass within that slot must be released. The DEP also stocked the lake several years ago with northern pike, which trimmed down the baitfish population. This combination of management tools seems to be working, as anglers are reporting good numbers of 3- to 4-pound fish.

Access to the reservoir is off Route 6 on Bassett Bridge Road in Mansfield. After turning on Bassett Bridge Road, drive 1.5 miles to the ramp. Signs mark the way to the access. Mansfield Hollow Reservoir is an ideal lake for anglers with smaller boats or canoes because there is an 8 mph speed limit on the reservoir.

Mamanasco Lake
Mamanasco Lake is a 90-acre natural pond. The average depth is about 7 feet since a small, earthen dam raised the water level. This pond is weedy even in May. Plan on bringing weedless lures whenever you go to this pond.

Largemouth bass in the 12- to 14- inch range are abundant. Larger bass are present, but it takes time to catch them. The DEP placed a special 12- to 16-inch slot limit on the lake in an attempt to increase the number of trophy-class bass and reduce the number of stunted fish.

Mamanasco Lake provides some great action until the summer weeds turn the pond into a lawn. The bottom is a mixture of pond muck, broken ledge and solid ledge. Find the ledges and you will also find bass. The pond is heavily developed and large houses line much of the shoreline. Many of these houses have small boat docks for added bass cover.

Access to the pond is at a small ramp off Route 116 in Ridgefield. Take Exit 3 off I-84 and head south on Route 7 to Route 35. Continue south on Route 35 to Route 116. Turn right on Route 116 (west) for about 3.5 miles to Mamanasco Road. The launch ramp is one mile from this intersection.

Gas-powered motors are not permitted on the pond. Electric motors are often useless because of the weeds. Rowboats and canoes are ideal for fishing this pond.

North Farms Reservoir
North Farms Reservoir is a state-owned artificial impoundment of 64 acres. The shoreline is mostly wooded with a few residential homes and grassy swaths on the southern end. It has a maximum depth of 7 feet with an average depth of 4 feet. As with all shallow lakes, weeds are a problem, but in May the weed growth in this lake is still stunted, so anglers can fish without frustration.

According to the DEP, North Farms Reservoir has a below-average bass population, but fish over 18 inches are well above the state's average bass density. While that means you might catch fewer bass, you can expect to find some quality fish. The bass seem to feed more on American eels and brown bullheads than they do on minnows.

The DEP has a paved launch ramp on the southern end of the lake. Take Exit 15 off I-91 to Route 68 west. About a one-half mile from the exit, turn north onto Barns Road. Besides the launch ramp, anglers can fish from shore along the earthen dike on the southwest corner of the lake.

Winchester Lake
Winchester Lake is a manmade lake created by a dam built at the confluence of five small streams. The lake covers 246 acres with a maximum depth of 17 feet and an average depth of 9 feet. Most of the deep water is in the lower end of the lake near the dam. The upper end of the lake is rather shallow.

The dam engineers did not clear cut the proposed basin when the lake was created. Instead, they flooded the forest and cut the trees during the winter ice. Submerged trees and stumps abound throughout the lake. Mixed in with the stumps are aquatic weeds of all varieties.

Winchester Lake has a limited bass population, but it does have some hefty fish with 5- and 6-pound bass reported yearly.

Public access to the lake is provided by a state boat ramp near the dam. Take Route 4 west from Route 8 in Torrington. At the junction of Route 272, turn north for six miles, and then turn right on Winchester Road (Route 263). After traveling about two miles, turn left on West Road to the launch ramp. Signs mark the way.

Non-resident Connecticut license fees are $40 for the season or $15 for a three-day permit. For

fishing and licensing information, contact the Department of Environmental Protection, Inland Fisheries Division, 79 Elm St., 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 (800) 282-6863.

Non-resident Rhode Island 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 St., Providence, RI 02903 or call (800) 556-2484.

Non-resident Massachusetts license fees are $37.50 for the season or $23.50 for a three-day permit. There is a special license for non-resident anglers between the ages of 15 and 17 at a cost of $11.50.

For fishing and licensing information, contact the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02202 or call (617) 626-1591.

For tourism information, write to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4510, Boston, MA 02116 or call (800) 227-MASS.

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