Wait for safe ice, and then head for these top-rated winter fisheries for some exciting angling for trout, bass, perch, walleyes, muskies and other popular species. (December 2009)
New England's anglers are some of the luckiest in the country. While other fishing enthusiasts are waiting for spring, anglers throughout the Northeast know that some of the region's biggest fish are taken through the ice. Whether the target is trophy trout, bass, toothy pike or family-friendly panfish, this region has it in spades.
Here's a roundup of some of the best places to set your tip-ups this winter:
The Nutmeg State stocks surplus broodstock brown trout each winter with hardwater anglers in mind. These fish range from 1 to 19 pounds, with an average weight of 5 pounds. Connecticut waters that receive broodstock browns include Bashan Lake, Black Pond, Coventry Lake, Beach Pond, Black Pond, Tyler Lake, Mount Tom Pond and Westside Pond.
Bashan Lake spans 273 acres in East Haddam. In addition to browns and rainbow trout, Bashan Lake has above-average numbers of largemouth bass over 12 inches long. The lake also has high numbers of smallmouth bass. Bashan Lake is also home to chain pickerel, yellow perch and some big bluegills.
Access to the southern end of the lake is on Lakeside Drive off Bashan Road.
Tyler Lake in Goshen covers 187 acres and provides good opportunities for stocked rainbow and brown trout. The lake has been stocked with walleyes since 2001. There's also fast fishing here for yellow perch and other panfish, which makes it a great destination for young anglers eager to see results.
Access to the western shore of the lake is via Tyler Heights Road off Route 4. A public access area is on the right at the bottom of the hill.
Candlewood Lake, at 5,064 acres, is the Nutmeg State's largest lake. Managed as a Trophy Trout Lake, Candlewood is also one of the region's best bets for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, white perch, walleyes and panfish.
Early in the season, the big lake may not have enough ice for safe fishing, so anglers should concentrate on the shoreline coves where great bass, perch and bluegill fishing await.
Access is from the Squantz Cove boat launch on Route 39 at the northwestern end of the lake.
Walleyes have been moving into Candlewood Lake from Squantz Pond since the late 1990s. Walleyes here average 3 to 5 pounds, and state fisheries biologists report that maximum weights for the species increase every year.
Squantz Pond has given up many big walleyes in recent years. The pond is technically part of Candlewood Lake, but is separated from the main lake by state Route 39 about eight miles north of Danbury.
Squantz Pond is stocked periodically with rainbow and brown trout and is also home to largemouth bass, yellow perch, white perch and chain pickerel.
For more Connecticut fishing information, call (860) 424-3474 or visit www.ct.gov/dep.
Ice-fishing season in the Pine Tree State opens Jan. 1, though some Class A waters are open as soon as safe ice forms. Don't throw out your copy of the 2009/2010 Maine Ice-Fishing Regulations because the same laws remain in effect through March 31, 2010. Also, Maine has many water-specific regulations, so be sure to know the rules at your particular destination before cutting any holes in the ice.
Anglers in search of fast action early in the season should focus on waters stocked under the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's Catchable Trout Program. According to Francis Brautigam, MDIFW fisheries biologist for the Sebago Lakes Region, waters under that program include Otter ponds No. 2 and 4 in Standish, Barker Pond in Lyman, Worthley Pond in Poland, Crystal Lake in Gray, Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Keoka Lake in Waterford, Bear Pond in Waterford and Keewaydin Lake in Stoneham.
Rick Jordan, fisheries biologist for the Downeast Region, recently took a look at fish sampling information and recent stockings to predict the winter hotspots in Region C.
"Hopkins Pond in Mariaville is one of our winter census and study waters and has a good population of wild lake trout, nearly 200 of which have had tiny tags applied, along with removal of the adipose fin," Jordan said. "Anglers may also catch brook trout or landlocked salmon here."
Other top-rated destinations for togue include Branch Lake in Ellsworth, Beech Hill Pond in Otis and Jordan Pond in Mt. Desert.
For landlocked salmon on ice, drill a few holes at Cathance Lake in Cooper, Brewer Lake in Orrington and West Grand Lake in Grand Lake Stream.
"In Region C, splake provide some outstanding fishing opportunities in waters that would otherwise support mediocre salmonid fisheries," Jordan said. "Good splake waters include Mopang Lake in T 29 MD, Pleasant River Lake in Beddington and Jacob Buck Pond in Bucksport."
In the Penobscot Region, more than 10,000 brook trout are fall stocked into 12 waters.
"The fall yearling trout program has proven to be popular with ice- anglers, as these fish average about 1 pound each and generally provide fast fishing action, especially early in the season," said Richard Dill, a MDIFW fisheries biologist for Region F.
Some waters in the region have also been stocked with retired broodstock brookies weighing nearly 4 pounds. Lower Sysladobsis Lake, known locally as Dobsie Lake, offers some interesting hardwater opportunities for stocked landlocked salmon, brook trout and the occasional white fish.
Up in "The County" (Aroostook County), significant changes were made last year for the Fish River Lakes Management Region. Long, Cross, Square and Eagle lakes are now open to fishing for all species from Jan. 1 to March 31. Madawaska Lake and Little Madawaska Lake in T16R4 and Westmanland now remain open to fishing from Feb. 15 to March 31, with no sunset provision.
The Saint John River, an excellent fishery for muskellunge, smallmouth bass and brook trout, is open from Jan. 1 to March 31 from the International Bridge in Van Buren downstream to the Maine/New Brunswick border in Hamlin.
For more fishing information, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit www.maine.gov/ifw.
Onota Lake's 617 acres are in the cold northwest region of the Bay State and offers dependable winter action for northern pike. The lake is best known for giving up record-breaking pike rather than high numbers of the toothy predators.
Ice-anglers can also expect to find brown trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, yellow perch, white perch, chain pickerel and panfish.
Bonus broodstock 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 Lake outside Pittsfield may be accessed via the southeast shore by taking Lakeway Drive from Valentine Drive to Burbank Park.
Check DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 32 for area details.
Asnacomet Pond, also known as Comet Pond, is one of the most popular Bay State trout destinations. It covers 127 acres north of the junction of Route 68 and Route 62 in Hubbardston. It's a popular hardwater destination because the pond traditionally freezes early and thaws late.
Asnacomet is stocked with browns, brookies and rainbow trout each spring and fall. Most of the trout caught here are recently stocked, but occasionally anglers will land a big holdover fish. The pond is also stocked with broodstock salmon.
Shoreline access is allowed on the southeastern shore from the paved ramp off Route 62. Access may also be had off the town beach entrance off Route 68.
Check DeLorme's MAG, Map 37, for details.
Lake Nippenicket offers 354 acres of good hardwater fishing for an assortment of warmwater species including largemouth bass, brown bullhead, yellow perch and panfish. The lake has also been known to give up an occasional lunker pickerel. Tiger muskies have been stocked here as well, and the odds are good for landing fish in the 10-pound range.
The lake is about one-half mile west of Route 24 in Bridgewater, bordering the Hockomock Swamp. Nippenicket Access is off Pleasant Street or Elm Street. Check DeLorme's MAG, Map 57, for area details.
For current regulations, destinations and more, visit www.mass.gov/ dfwele/dfw/. Select "Hunting and Fishing" and then "Fishing," or call MassWildlife at (508) 389-6300.
Some big togue are caught each winter in the Granite State. Though lunker lakers may be taken in smaller water bodies, New Hampshire's most consistent producers of big togue are Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Newfound and First Connecticut lakes.
Lake Winnipesaukee's 44,586 acres contain most freshwater species including largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel and whitefish. Big white perch are among the most popular species targeted by hardwater anglers. It's common to catch white perch weighing over 1 pound, and annual derby winners here weigh in at more than 2.5 pounds. Moultonborough Bay is the classic white perch destination on the big lake, especially at the northern end.
Check DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 36, for area details.
Manning Lake in Gilmanton is stocked with brook trout and offers hardwater anglers a shot at largemouth and smallmouth bass and chain pickerel. The 199-acre lake may be accessed via Route 140 to Crystal Lake Road.
Check DeLorme's NHAG, Map 36, for details.
White Lake in Tamworth is another good destination for brookies. This 126-acre coldwater fishery is also known to give up chain pickerel through the auger holes. Access is via White Lake State Park off Route 16. For more information, check DeLorme's NHAG, Map 41.
Granite State ice-anglers have been reporting good numbers of rainbow and lake trout out of Silver Lake in Harrisville in recent winters. The 333-acre lake is home to smallmouth bass, pickerel and whitefish.
For more details, check DeLorme's NGAG, Map 20.
Laurel Lake in Fitzwilliam is another ice-angler's favorite, producing high numbers of browns and rainbow trout. This is a 180-acre, two-tier fishery that also features largemouth and smallmouth bass and chain pickerel.
For access, take Route 12 to Route 119 and Laurel Lake Road.
For warmwater options during hardwater season, try Highland Lake in Stoddard and Washington, Contoocook Lake in Ringe and Jaffrey or the Connecticut River setbacks from Hinsdale to Hanover. New Hampshire's best pike waters are the Connecticut River setbacks, especially in the areas of Hanover, Piermont and Hinsdale. Use caution, however, as water levels fluctuate. The setbacks are also productive for panfish, including some big yellow perch.
Visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us for a list of waters that are stocked with trout. For ice safety tips go to http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/fishing.htm, and click on publication cover.
For fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
Each winter, trout and surplus Atlantic salmon broodstock are poured into Ocean State waters in preparation for the ice-fishing season. Best bets in winter include Olney Pond in Lincoln, Barber Pond in South Kingstown, Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond and Carbuncle Pond in Coventry. Barber, Meadowbrook and Carbuncle receive spring and fall stockings of trout. Carbuncle is also a record-breaking largemouth bass destination.
Stafford Pond in Tiverton gets spring and fall trout, and surplus Atlantic salmon broodstock are dumped into the pond annually. The salmon average 5 to 8 pounds, but there are a few 14-pound fish stocked as well.
Access to Stafford Pond is off Route 81 on the left side of the highway. All Designated Trout Waters close to fishing on March 1. Always check the current rulebook before heading out.
For a chance to pull big pike up through the auger holes, head for 1,043-acre Worden Pond in South Kingstown. The largest freshwater pond in Rhode Island, Worden is stocked with 12- to 14-inch pike annually. Pike in the 10- to 15-pound range are taken frequently.
State-owned access is on Worden Pond Road off Route 110. Check DeLorme's Connecticut/Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 75 for area details.
Another great warmwater destination is Chapman's Pond in Westerly. This 164-acre pond offers excellent hardwater fishing for northern pike, largemouth bass, white and yellow perch and panfish. Access is via a state-owned area off the Westerly/Bradford Road (Route 91) about one mile east of Route 78. Check DeLorme's CT/RI AG, Map 74.
The Pascoag Reservoir is a popular ice-fishing destination for yellow perch. The 351-acre reservoir is also home to largemouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish. Nearby Spring Lake is another good destination for those species.
Check DeLorme's CT/RI AG, Map 64, for area details on both waters.
For more Rhode Island ice-fishing information, call (401) 789-7481 or visit www.dem.ri.gov.
There's no way to talk ice-fishing in the Green Mountain State without giving a nod to Lake Champlain. Ice-fishing on this 120-mile-long lake is good for landlocked salmon, lake trout, northern pike, yellow perch, white perch, walleyes and crappies.
"Lake Champlain attracts twice as much fishing activity during the winter as it does during the summer, particularly in the northern third of the lake," said Brian Chipman, a fisheries biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. "Its plentiful yellow perch are the mainstay of the winter fishery, but many ice-anglers also find good fishing for other species."
Ice-anglers targeting pike may want to try Kelley Bay, Missisquoi Bay, or the shallow flats south of the Sandbar Causeway between Milton and South Hero. As safe ice forms later in the season, landlocked salmon are often caught in the Inland Sea north of the causeway. If good ice forms in deeper portions of the lake, lake trout may be caught off the west shore of Grand Isle and in Outer Mallets Bay and Button Bay south to the Champlain Bridge. The most productive area for walleyes is at the southern end of the lake off Benson and Orwell, or at the north end in Swanton or Alburg.
Other excellent trout destinations include Lake Dunmore near Salisbury, where access to 985 acres of rainbow and brown trout waters may be had off West Shore Road, Caspian Lake in Craftsbury, which may be accessed off the Craftsbury Road and 1,777-acre Lake Seymour in Morgan, which may be accessed from Route 111.
Check out Lake Memphremagog for excellent largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing and Moore Reservoir for bronzebacks. Lake Memphremagog has state-owned access on the eastern shore and on the South Bay.
Check DeLorme's Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, maps 54 and 66, for details.
Moore Reservoir has two access areas maintained by Trans Canada — one on the Vermont side, and one on the New Hampshire side. For details, see DeLorme's VAG, Map 49.
In southwestern Vermont, bass anglers will want to drill some holes at Lake Bomoseen. This 2,360-acre lake is also home to brookies and brown trout, yellow perch and some big northern pike.
For details, see DeLorme's VAG, Map 28.
For a list of Vermont's approved bait dealers, and other fishing information, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit www.vtfishandwildlife. com.