For hot action on trout, bass, salmon, pike, perch and other popular winter species, try these top-rated fishing holes. (January 2009)
Ol' Man Winter is finally here, freezing up lakes and ponds that are full of ice-angling opportunities.
Hardwater anglers can target landlocked salmon, trout, bass, hard-hitting pike, muskies or plentiful panfish, depending on their location and the mood of the day.
Every state in the region gives ice-anglers a wide variety of destinations, species and opportunities. Options range from convenient roadside-access lakes with fast panfishing action to remote ponds that offer the best of winter solitude and the promise of trophy trout or salmon.
Here's a roundup of some of New England's best hardwater destinations to visit this winter.
Nutmeg State anglers have so many options that their only tough decision is where to drill the holes.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Fisheries Division manages many waters for trophy trout and lunker largemouth bass. In addition, countless waters offer fast panfish action that can keep young families outdoors and entertained for hours on end.
Highland Lake in Winchester provides 445 acres of auger-worthy ice. The lake is made up of three contiguous basins. Though the southern basin is largest, the deepest water is found in the middle basin. The lake, fed by Taylor and Sucker brooks and a number of natural springs, drains northward into the Mad River.
Nearly 16,000 legal-sized rainbow and brown trout are stocked into Highland Lake each spring and fall. Common here are holdover brown trout in the 2- to 5-pound range.
Largemouth bass averaging 11- to 16-inches are also available. Highland Lake is a Trophy Trout Lake and a Bass Management Lake, so be sure to check the latest regulations before fishing here.
Access may be had via a state-owned launch on the northern shore. From Route 44, take Route 263 west (Boyd Street) for two-tenths of a mile, then turn left onto Woodland Road. Follow it to the end, and then turn right onto West Lake Street. Access is on the left.
Amos Lake in Preston offers hardwater anglers 113 acres full of trout and largemouth bass. Amos Lake is stocked in spring and fall with 10,000 catchable trout. During the winter of 2008, it received a bonus infusion of surplus Seeforellan-strain broodstock brown trout.
Densities of big largemouth bass here are above-average, with the potential for trophy-sized fish.
Access is restricted to the state-owned boat launch on the western shore. Take Exit 85 off Interstate Route 395. Follow Route 164 south for 1.5 miles past the intersection of Route 165, and then turn left onto the access road.
For more information on fishing in Connecticut, log on to the Department of Environmental Conservation at www.ct.gov/dep, or phone 1-860-424-3474.
The Pine Tree State has diverse fisheries and more hardwater options than any angler could hope to fish in a lifetime. Because biologists from the Maine Department Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spend much of their workdays on the ice conducting angler surveys (and in their free time, doing some fishing themselves), they're a great source of information on "where they're biting now."
Luckily, they're also happy to point you toward great fishing destinations.
For the coldest temperatures, earliest ice and some of the biggest fish, head to "The County."
Aroostook County, Maine's most northerly county, has some prime ice destinations worth exploring.
Yearling brook trout were recently stocked into Arnold Brook, Drews, Nickerson and Spaulding lakes and the Hodgdon Mill Pond.
Last year, Madawaska Lake (open Feb. 15 to March 31) was stocked with yearling salmon in addition to fall brookies. Squa Pan Lake is stocked annually with splake, a brook trout-lake trout hybrid.
Also check out St. Froid Lake, where an experimental lake whitefish program is underway.
Many Aroostook County lakes in the Fish River region open for ice- fishing in mid-January. Opening day on Long Lake is generally good. Last year, nearly 70 fish were taken, three of them salmon that exceeded 6 pounds each. One weighed nearly 9 pounds.
Frank Frost, assistant regional fishery biologist, said that a healthy smelt population here has nearly doubled the growth rates for stocked salmon. (Cont'd)
Fishing was good in several Rangeley Region waters last January, according to Ethan Tracy, a state fisheries technician. Pleasant Pond in Caratunk was producing sizable lake trout, while ice-anglers at Wentworth Pond in Solon were having good luck with splake and brookies.
Once the season is in full swing in the Down East Region, head for remote trout waters that see less pressure, such as Halfmile Pond in Amherst, Second Pond in Dedham or Vining Lake in Cooper.
Down East lake trout action picks up in March, according to Joe Overlock, a fisheries biologist specialist.
Drill togue-sized holes at Beech Hill Pond in Otis, Jordon Pond in Mt. Desert, Phillips Lake in Dedham, Toddy Pond in Surry or Tunk Lake in T10 SD. All these waters have special regulations geared toward reducing lake trout numbers.
For more information on Pine Tree State ice-fishing, visit the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at www.maine.gov/ifw, or phone (207) 287-8000.
The Bay State offers anglers plenty of fast warmwater action and great trout destinations for hardwater fishing.
In the Cape Cod region, good ice doesn't arrive often or last long. But when the opportunity presents itself, ice-fishing here can be phenomenal.
Cliff Pond in Brewster, a natural kettle pond spanning 204 acres, is the most heavily stocked trout water on Cape Cod. Brookies, browns and rainbows are poured into its waters each spring and fall. Broodstock Atlantic salmon are added to the mix each spring and early winter.
Anglers will als
o find plenty of hungry smallmouth bass here.
Recent reports indicate that landlocked smelt are making a comeback in this water, providing good forage for trout. Cliff Pond is known to regularly produce large holdover trout, especially browns and rainbows.
About 2.5 miles of shoreline are protected from development because they lie within Nickerson State Park off Route 6A.
To get there, take Exit 12 off Route 6 (Mid-Cape Highway). There's a major access point off Flax Pond Road and another is available by taking Deer Park Road to Nook Road.
While in Nickerson State Park, don't forget to check out Flax, Little Cliff and Higgins ponds, too!
Lake Mattawa in Orange provides ice-anglers with 112 acres of water known for its trophy trout. The lake is stocked spring and fall with rainbow and brown trout. Surplus Atlantic salmon have been stocked here when they are available. Numerous springs keep this lake cold and oxygenated, and a good forage base ensures strong growth rates for coldwater game fish.
The lake also has smallmouth bass and yellow perch. There are two access areas, both off Lake Mattawa Road.
Another good trout pond is Greenwater Pond in the Western District town of Becket. This pond is tiny (at only 88 acres) but mighty, featuring depths of 58 feet (the average is 23) with water cold enough for big holdover trout. Browns in the 3- to 5-pound range have been reported regularly here. Try fishing the deep drop-off along Route 20. Access can be found by driving along Route 20 from Lee for about five miles to the lake.
For more Massachusetts fishing information, call (508) 389-6300, or visit www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw.
According to Andrew Schafermeyer, a New Hampshire Fish and Game Department fisheries biologist, raising quality coldwater fish has never been easier.
"Fish culturists have made progress in many exciting ways," he said. "From nutritional breakthroughs to genetic advancements, the process of raising coldwater fish right now is efficient and sound."
No science is perfect, however, and mathematical errors can result in too few or too many fish.
Schafermeyer said this could be an advantage for ice-anglers. "As regularly scheduled stocking concludes, fish culturists and biologists plan for the best use of extra fish," he said.
"Because this event typically takes place in the fall, ice-fishing destinations become great candidates for these fish. Often, these older, larger or broodstock trout can create some exciting opportunities for anglers looking for action through the ice."
Martin Meadow Pond in Lancaster has been a regular recipient of these late-stocked fish.
Rainbow trout up to 20 inches have been stocked here as late as November, giving the fish plenty of time to get used to their new habitat by the time ice-fishing season rolls around.
Access is off U.S. Route 3 onto Martin Meadow Pond Road, where there's plenty of parking and access by foot or snowmobile.
"Another water body that has benefited from fall stocking over recent years is Streeter Pond in Sugar Hill," Schafermeyer said. "It's on Streeter Pond Road off U.S. Route 302. This somewhat shallow pond produces some remarkable catch rates for trout in winter."
Another good location for big rainbows on ice is Pearl Lake in Lisbon, on Savageville Road off U.S. Route 302.
The Granite State has several waters managed for both bass and trout that are open in winter.
Newell Pond in Alstead is a 14-acre coldwater fishery averaging 12 feet deep, with a maximum depth of 30 feet.
Newell Pond is home to brookies, browns and largemouth bass. Take Route 23 to Newell Pond Road for state-owned access.
Warren Lake in Alstead is a 195-acre warmwater fishery that offers rainbows, brown trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass. This shallow lake averages about five feet deep, with a maximum depth of 10 feet.
Take Route 23 to Boat Landing Road to gain access.
Big Pea Porridge Pond in Madison is a 142-acre two-story fishery where anglers can target brown trout and rainbows, or keep the flags flying by fishing for smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch and sunfish.
Access is via Boat Ramp Road off Pondwood Drive.
For more winter fishing information, go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us, or call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501.
Each December, several waters in the Ocean State are stocked with trout and surplus broodstock Atlantic salmon in anticipation of ice-fishing season.
Fishing for trout, salmon and char is open from the second Saturday in April through the last day of February each year, with a few exceptions. Designated Trout Waters are closed to all fishing from March 1 to the first day of the open water season.
Before heading out, be sure to check the 2008 regulations.
Stocking locations for broodstock Atlantic salmon are decided late each fall, depending on numbers of fish and water conditions.
Last winter, Olney Pond in Lincoln, Stafford Pond in Tiverton, Barber Pond in South Kingstown, Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond and Carbuncle Pond in Coventry received these big fish, which weighed between 5 and 12 pounds each.
For a list of broodstocked waters, visit the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Web site at www.dem.ri.gov.
Waters stocked with trout specifically for hardwater anglers include Carbuncle Pond in Coventry, Stafford Pond in Tiverton and Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond.
Other waters stocked each spring or fall may offer some opportunities for holdover trout. For a complete listing of stocked trout waters, visit the DEM's Web site.
Stafford Pond's 476 acres are also home to plentiful panfish and one of the largest populations of smallmouth bass in the state. Access is via a state-owned area off Stafford Road.
Meadowbrook Pond, also known as Sandy Pond, offers roadside access along Route 91 as well as at the Richmond town beach. Meadowbrook Pond spans 28 acres, with an average depth of five feet and a maximum of 12 feet.
Trout fishing is often best near the mouth of Meadow Brook.
Warmwater species -- including largemouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish -- are abundant, providing ice-anglers with fast action. The pond is also home to northern pike.
Try Beach Pond in Exeter or Locustville Pond in Hopkinton for largemouth bass. State-owned access is off Fairview Road.
For hand-over-hand battle with toothy pike, try Worden's Pond in South Kingstown or Waterman Reservoir in Glocester, which spans 306 acres, with an average depth of seven feet and a maximum of 15 feet.
Pike have been stocked here, and above-average growth rates on largemouth bass have been reported.
Access is along Route 44. For ice conditions, call the DEM's 24-hour ice safety hotline at (401) 222-2632.
For more Rhode Island ice-fishing information, call (401) 789-7481, or visit www.dem.ri.gov.
If you're angling for a wide variety of species through the ice in the Green Mountain State, then Lake Champlain is your hands-down best destination. In fact, surveys show that twice as many anglers fish Champlain during the winter as during the open-water season.
This 120-mile-long lake is home to landlocked salmon, lake trout, northern pike, yellow perch, white perch, walleyes and crappies.
Yellow perch are the favorites of many ice-anglers here.
The steadiest walleye action is found at the southern end of the lake off Benson and Orwell, and at the northern end in Swanton and Alburg.
Best-bet areas for pike include Kelley Bay, St. Albans Bay and the area south of the Champlain Bridge from Addison to Benson.
Once good ice has formed, landlocked salmon may be taken in the Inland Sea north of the Sandbar Causeway.
Provided that deeper regions of the lake form good ice, lake trout may be targeted off the west shore of Grand Isle and in Outer Mallets Bay, Shelburne Bay, Converse Bay and Button Bay south to the Champlain Bridge.
There are about 40 other lakes in Vermont open for the taking of trout, salmon and bass through the ice.
Great Averill Lake in Norton and Averill spans 828 acres and provides hardwater anglers with opportunities for landlocked salmon and lake trout.
See DeLorme's Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, page 55, for details.
Harriman Reservoir in Whitingham and Wilmington offers ice-anglers 2,040 acres of hardwater opportunities for rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, landlocked salmon and smallmouth bass, as well as a variety of panfish.
Access is off State Route 100. For details, check out DeLorme's VAG, page 21.
And before heading out, be sure to check out the 2009 Vermont Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping. Copies are available wherever licenses are sold as well as on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.