These proven winter waters are sure to provide great ice-fishing action this season. Here's where to start drilling your holes for trout, bass, pike and other popular species! (January 2007)
Anglers should avoid the temptation to stay huddled up by the fire this winter, because some of New England's best fishing takes place through the ice.
Photo by Mike Bleech
From trophy trout to powerful pike or plentiful panfish action, New England's frozen lakes and ponds have it all -- and more!
Here's a roundup of some of your best bets for steady action throughout the region this winter:
If trophy trout are the goal, there are several excellent Constitution State lakes that are worth a visit this winter.
Candlewood Lake, at 5,064 acres, is Connecticut's largest. It is managed as a trophy trout lake, plus it's one of the region's best bets for largemouth bass. The lake is also home to smallmouth bass, yellow perch, white perch, walleyes, calico bass, brown bullhead and sunfish, making it a great family fishing destination.
Candlewood is open to fishing from the third Saturday in April until March 31, but is open for hardwater trout only from March 1-31, with a 16-inch minimum-length limit and a creel limit of two fish. Early in the season, the big lake may not have enough ice for safe access, so anglers should concentrate on the shoreline coves where great bass, perch and bluegill fishing await.
Access may be had from the Squantz Cove boat launch on Route 39 at the northwestern end of the lake.
Walleyes began moving into Candlewood from Squantz Pond in the late 1990s. These fish averaged between 3 and 5 pounds, and biologists report that maximum weights for the species increase every year. Squantz Pond has given up many 9-pounders, and an 11-pound monster was pulled out of Gardner Lake. Walleye fans will also want to try Lake Saltonstall.
Squantz Pond is about eight miles north of Danbury in the towns of Sherman and New Fairfield. It is technically part of Candlewood Lake, but is separated from the main lake by state Route 39. The pond is stocked periodically with brown trout and rainbows, and is also home to largemouth bass, yellow and white perch and chain pickerel.
Crystal Lake is another trophy trout destination, with plenty of diverse species to keep the day interesting. The 200-acre lake is stocked with rainbows and hefty brown trout brood stock. Most of the browns weigh from 2 to 5 pounds, but there are a few 8-pounders as well.
The lake also contains yellow perch, chain pickerel, largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish and calico bass. There is a protected slot length between 12 and 16 inches on trout, with a daily creel limit of five fish. Only one trout may be longer than 16 inches.
To find Crystal Lake's big trout, try jigging about a foot off the bottom, using small pieces of cut bait.
Crystal Lake is at the intersection of Route 30 and Route 140 in Ellington. Access to the west side of the lake is off Route 30.
For information about fishing regulations, destinations and more, visit Dep.State.CT.US/Burnatr/Fishing/FDHome.htm.
Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in New England, but not the only one in this region worth sinking auger holes into. Chesuncook Lake, the Pine Tree State's third largest lake, is known for its mature lake trout. One lunker pulled out last winter weighed 12.5 pounds, a holdover from stocking back in the 1990s.
Fall stocking at Prong Pond pays off now, with many nice brookies coming up through the ice. Prong Pond is east of Beaver Cove, seven miles north of Greenville off the Lily Bay Road.
Also try Fitzgerald-Mountain View Pond in Big Moose Township, Sawyer Pond in Greenville and Big Otter Pond in Sandwich Academy Grant, which are all stocked with brookies for winter fishing.
Hotspots for togue (lake trout) include First Roach Pond in Kokadjo, which is also known for its salmon fishing, and Lower Wilson Pond in Greenville, where wild lake trout are abundant. Brassua Lake in Rockwood is home to wild landlocks and brook trout and is also stocked with salmon.
Best bets for bass (in addition to Prong Pond) are Indian Pond in Indian Pond Township and Long Pond in Taunton and Raynham Township.
In the Brownville region, head for Seboeis Lake. Seboeis' splake (brook trout-lake trout hybrids) often tip the scales at over 4 pounds. Seboeis is also home to good-sized landlocked salmon, bass, pickerel and white perch. Access is via the North Maine Woods gate at Oxbow.
Other great splake waters in the region include Lower Togue Pond in T2 R9 and Endless Lake in T3R9 NWP.
For big togue action, head over to Matagamon Lake in T6 R8 or Schoodic Lake in Lake View. Schoodic and Millinocket lakes are also auger-worthy salmon destinations, as are Upper Jo-Mary Lake in TA R10 and Pleasant Lake in Island Falls.
Down East Region
When in the Down East region of the Pine Tree State, spend time on West Grand Lake, which doesn't open for ice-fishing until February, but is well worth the wait. Each year the 14,340-acre lake is known to produce several lunker togue tipping the scales at over 10 pounds.
Other great salmon waters in this region include Alligator Lake in T34MD and Green Lake in Ellsworth. Togue waters include West Musquash Lake in Talmadge, Beech Hill Pond in Otis and Jordan Pond in Mt. Desert Island.
For splake, try Second Old Stream Lake in T 37 MD, Mopang Lake in T 29 MD and Jacob Buck Pond in Bucksport. Brookies can be had at Keene's Lake in Calais, Indian Lake in Whiting and Montegail Pond in Columbia, where retired brood stock trout in the 16-inch range have been stocked. Best bets for smallmouth bass include Big Lake in Princeton, Hadley Lake in East Machias and Molasses Pond in Eastbrook.
For more information, visit State.ME.US/IFW/Fishing.
Pike like it cold, and Onota Lake's 617 acres are in th
e cold, northwest region of the Bay State, which means winter anglers can expect some pretty hot pike action. The lake doesn't produce massive numbers of pike, but it has a reputation for giving up state record-breakers on occasion. Ice-anglers may also find brown trout, yellow perch, white perch, chain pickerel, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, black crappies, rock bass, brown bullhead, carp, smallmouth and largemouth bass. There have even been reports of white catfish here.
Bonus brood stock Atlantic salmon, some topping 10 pounds, are stocked here each spring. If all that weren't enough, MassWildlife fisheries biologists have suggested that anglers might want to target carp because a new state record is likely swimming here.
Onota is designated as a Special Brown Trout Water with a one-fish-per-day, 15-inch minimum-length limit to enhance its trophy trout fishery.
Onota Lake lies outside the city limits of Pittsfield. Access to the southeast shore is about a third of the way from the southern end by taking Lakeway Drive to Burbank Park from Valentine Drive.
Lake Mattawa's 112 acres are in the town of Orange, south of Route 2. Mattawa is stocked each spring and fall with rainbow and brown trout, and the lake has a reputation for producing trophy trout. Surplus salmon are also stocked here when available. Warmwater species include smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, bluegill and yellow perch.
Access is off Lake Mattawa Road and off Holtshire Road. Several other worthy ice-fishing destinations include Laurel Lake and Lake Rohunta.
Lake Nippenicket in Bridgewater contains 354 acres of warmwater fishing potential about one-half mile west of Route 24 near the Hockomock Swamp.
Nippenicket offers good fishing for an assortment of warmwater species including chain pickerel, brown bullheads, yellow perch, black crappies, pumpkinseeds and bluegills. The lake has been known to give up an occasional lunker pickerel.
Largemouth bass fans will particularly enjoy Nippenicket. Tiger muskies have also been stocked here, so there's a good possibility of landing game fish topping out at better than 10 pounds.
Access may be found off Pleasant Street or Elm Street.
For information on regulations, destinations and more, long on to MassWildlife's Web page at MASS.gov/dfwele/DFW/Dfwfsh.
The hardwater outlook is good in the Granite State. Yellow perch and chain pickerel may be found in nearly every water, from ponds to the back bays of larger lakes. Togue, rainbows and cusk will come into shallow flats to feed under the ice. Reefs and humps surrounded by deeper water area are also hangouts for togue, rainbow and cusk during the winter months.
Historically, it's tough to top Winnisquam for lunker lakers, or Winnipesaukee for all-around quality and quantity of lakers, rainbows and cusk. Monster rainbows may be caught in Newfound Lake, along with plenty of lake trout.
White Lake in Tamworth, Tewskbury Pond in Grafton and Highland Lake in Andover are open for ice- fishing and are often stocked with surplus trout in fall.
In the North Country, catch fall-stocked rainbows in Streeter Pond and Martin Meadow Pond. Panfish fans do well here, too. Bass, pickerel and perch will take almost any bait and keep flags flying all day. Try South Pond, Burns Pond and Partridge Lake.
In the southwestern corner of the state, hardwater fishing has yielded some big togue in recent years. On Feb. 19, 2005, Chris Wesoja of Webster hauled a monster 37.5-inch, 21.35-pound togue onto the ice. The same fishing party landed a second lunker weighing in at 17 pounds.
In addition to Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam, some of New Hampshire's most consistent lunker lake trout producers are Newfound and First Connecticut lakes.
Good central New Hampshire waters for mixed-bag warmwater fishing include Pemigewasset and Wickwas lakes in Meredith, Hawkins Pond in Center Harbor, Lees Mills Pond in Moultonborough and Suncook Lakes in Barnstead.
Best bets for trout in the southwestern part of the state include Gustin Pond in Marlow, Warren Lake and Newell Pond in Alstead, Deering Reservoir in Deering, Franklin Pierce Lake in Hillsborough and Horace Lake in Weare.
Warmwater destinations include Island Pond in Washington, Highland Lake (Stoddard-Washington), Lake Potanipo in Brookline, Contoocook Lake, Crescent Lake in Acworth and Drew Lake in Hopkinton.
Designated trout ponds are closed to ice-fishing, and the taking of landlocked salmon through the ice is illegal in all New Hampshire waters.
Before heading out, be sure to check the most recent fishing regulations at Wildlife.State.NH.us.
Trout & Salmon
Each December, hatchery-raised trout and surplus Atlantic salmon brood stock are poured into several waters around the Ocean State in preparation for the ice-fishing season.
Prime waters include Olney Pond in Lincoln, Barber Pond in South Kingstown, Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond and Carbuncle Pond in Coventry. Barber, Meadowbrook and Carbuncle receive both spring and fall trout stocking, as does Stafford Pond in Tiverton.
Surplus Atlantic salmon brood stock is also added to Stafford Pond annually, along with a hefty stocking of trout. The salmon average 5 to 8 pounds each, with a few 14-pounders for good measure. Best access is off Route 81 on the left side of the highway.
All designated trout waters close to fishing on March 1, so anglers should hope for safe ice early in the season!
Carbuncle is also a record-breaking largemouth bass destination. Try Wash Pond for smallmouths. Tiogue Lake is known for its good-sized white catfish.
Hundred Acre Pond is a good possibility for winter pike. In fact, this lake gave up the state-record northern -- a monster weighing 35 pounds and measuring 47.5 inches!
For warmwater action, try fishing for sunfish in Indian Lake or yellow perch at Pascoag Reservoir.
Before venturing out, anglers should check with individual communities (game wardens, police or sheriff's offices) about safe ice conditions on local ponds. The DEM does not monitor ice conditions in local communities.
For conditions at Olney Pond at Lincoln Woods State Park, call the DEM's 24-hour ice safety hotline at (40
Ice must have a uniform thickness of at least 6 inches before it is considered safe. This generally takes at least five to seven consecutive days of temperatures dipping into the low 20s. Even then, ice strength can vary. Proceed with caution. For an ice safety guide, visit the Rhode Island DEM's Web site at Dem.RI.gov, then click on "Parks and Recreation" under "Programs."
For more information, including fishing regulations and destinations, visit Dem.RI.gov.
It would be impossible to talk about ice-fishing in the Green Mountain State without giving a nod to Lake Champlain. Over 100 miles long with 587 miles of shoreline, Champlain is the ultimate destination for all species. Landlocked salmon, lake trout, brown trout, yellow perch, white perch, walleyes and crappies all swim here. Best bets for salmon, yellow perch and smelts is north of the Sandbar Causeway between Milton and South Hero. If there's good ice, deep-water lake trout may be found off the west shore of Grand Isle, in Converse Bay and in Button Bay south to the Champlain Bridge.
Perch are caught in any of the lake's bays and shallows. Walleyes can show up anywhere in Lake Champlain, but the most consistent winter action can be found at the southern end of the lake off Benson and Orwell.
Lake Champlain's winter pike fishing can't be beat. Better yet, largemouth bass and northerns often swim in the same area, so winter anglers never know for sure what's going to flip their flags! Try the big lake's shallows and bays for hardwater action for either of these species. Hotspots include Kelly Bay, Missisquoi Bay, Dillenbeck Bay, Carry Bay, St. Albans Bay, Malletts Bay, Larabees Point, Singing Cedars, Lapans Bay, Benson Landing and Dresden Narrows.
Other best bets for pike include Lake Bomoseen, Lake St. Catherine, Lake Hortonia, Glen Lake, Lake Carmi and Norton Pond. Bomoseen is also known for giving up record-class largemouth bass, brown trout and yellow perch. Hortonia has given up many record fish over the years, including recent additions in the largemouth bass and black crappie categories.
Lake Fairlee is another record-setting largemouth bass destination, and Lake Dunmore has yielded record-book largemouths, brown trout, landlocked salmon, rainbows and walleyes. (A record 10.08-pound specimen was taken here in February 2005.)
Caspian Lake in Craftsbury is home to big lake trout, rainbows and browns. In 2005, Caspian gave up the new state-record lake trout, weighing in at a whopping 32 pounds. Minnows and wax worms are popular live bait here. Yellow perch are also plentiful.
To get there, follow Route 14 south from Albany.
Always check the current ice-fishing regulations before heading out. For details, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT 05671-0501. Call (802) 241-3700 or visit VTFishAndWildlife.com.