We've discovered some great hotspots for northern pike fishing in southern New England this month. (February 2006)
Photo by Michael Skinner
As cold winds blow down from Canada across southern New England, ice-anglers struggle to keep warm against the frosty gales.
Fortunately, few things warm a winter angler's fingers faster than having the line rip through your hands as a pike peels away under the ice. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts teem with lakes and ponds with thriving northern pike populations.
Pack up your gear and spend some time on the following waters in pursuit of these hardwater tigers.
This 772-acre lake is close to Worcester and has developed a reputation for winter pike. Part of the attraction is that the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife has stocked the lake with northern pike since the early 1980s. Today, ice- fishermen routinely catch pike over the 28-inch length limit, with many fish pushing 20 pounds.
Ice-anglers will find three distinct sections of the lake. The northern basin of the lake is deep and narrow. This is where ice-anglers go when looking for trout. It averages about 33 feet.
The middle section, often called the "southern basin," is shallower, with numerous coves and islands. This is where anglers have the best chance of hooking into a northern pike or chain pickerel.
The southernmost section is known as "Flint Pond." This pond is shallow with an average depth of 9 feet. Flint Pond seems better suited for largemouth bass fishing, but some of the biggest pike turn up in this section.
The shore is highly developed, but anglers will find plenty of public access. Parking for the southern basin can be found at Quinsigamond State Park on the west side of the lake south of Route 9. North of Route 9, on the west side of the lake, Regatta Park provides access to the northern basin.
The lake has two launch ramps. The northern ramp is on North Quinsigamond Avenue in Shrewsbury (from Exit 22 off Interstate 290). Another boat ramp is on Flint Pond off Route 20 east of Worcester.
Ice-anglers enjoy abundant yellow perch, largemouth bass and crappies here, but it is the northern pike that is the big winter draw. MassWildlife began releasing northern pike into this 325-acre pond in 1988. Biologists have continued to stock the pond with pike to maintain the fishery.
This lake, often called "Stump Pond," was created when a dam was placed across the Assabet River. Trees and stumps were not removed from the lake before it was flooded. While much of the wood has since decayed, there is ample submerged cover for the fish. Pike anglers do well fishing near the larger piles of submerged logs and stumps.
The water of A-1 is stained brown, and local experts recommend adding a bright-colored spoon or jig to your tip-ups to improve pike success. Also, look for dropoffs. The average depth is only 3 feet, but there is a deep basin formed by the old river channel that drops down to 15 feet.
This pond has a good forage base of golden shiners, white suckers and yellow perch. All three make excellent Stump Pond pike baits. There is a vast amount of submerged timber, so keep your bait anchored tightly with plenty of weight. Free-swimming baits will tangle quickly in this pond.
Stout lines are also recommended to help fight big fish through the sunken wood.
Access to A-1 is provided through roadside parking. Take Exit 23 off I-495 onto Route 9 west toward Worcester. Turn south onto Route 30 into Westborough. About one mile past Westborough Center, turn right onto Mill Street to the lake.
A resident season license costs $27.50. Non-resident Massachusetts licenses cost $37.50 for the season or $23.50 for a three-day permit.
For more information, contact the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife at (617) 626-1591.
For tourism information, write to the Office of Travel and Tourism, 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4510, Boston, MA 02116; or call (800) 227-MASS.
Winchester Lake is a newcomer to Connecticut's northern pike fishery. The state Department of Environmental Protection began stocking pike fry into the lake about eight years ago. Anglers are now reporting fish exceeding the state's 26-inch size limit, with many of these fish going over 36 inches.
The lake is manmade, thanks to an earthen and masonry dam on the headwaters of the East Branch Naugatuck River. It covers about 250 acres with a maximum depth of 17 feet. The average depth is about 8 feet. When the lake was formed, the dam builders did not clear the trees from the land. Ice from previous winters has chopped off most of the trees below the surface. Fishermen need heavy lines to deal with the numerous underwater snags.
Winchester Lake has two distinct pike fisheries. In the early and mid-winter seasons, look for pike in the deeper water near the dam. As spring approaches, pike move into the shallow backwaters looking for spawning habitat. Most anglers move their tip-ups to the headwaters of the lake in late February and early March.
For the most part, Winchester Lake is undeveloped, giving it the illusion of fishing a mountain pond in northern New England.
Public access is via a state boat ramp on the southern shore adjacent to the dam. To get to the access, take Route 44 west from Winsted. Turn south on Route 263 for five miles to Winchester Center. Route 263 takes a sharp right turn. Approximately one-half mile past the center, turn onto West Road to the boat launch.
The resident season fishing license fee is $20. Non-resident fees are $40 for the season or $16 for a three-day permit.
Few things warm a winter angler's fingers faster than having the line rip through your hands as a pike peels away under the ice.
Pachaug Pond is a recent addition to the state's pike action. It is also an artificial pond created by damming the Pachaug River. Pike anglers will find 870 acres of water with a deep basin of 16 feet and an average depth of 6 feet.
Ice-anglers will find these depths somewhat misleading, as the water level is normally lowered a few feet every winter to allow shoreline residents the opportunity to work on their property. The water drop also keeps the weed growth somewhat at bay during the summer season.
The pond's shoreline is primarily wooded with open pasture. Shoreline development is moderate with areas of clustered houses and cottages.
Pachaug State Forest borders the northern shore of the pond where the public boat-launching area can be found.
Milfoil is one of the major submerged aquatic weeds on the pond. Pike hunters should look for edges of the old milfoil beds at the mouths of coves in the northern portion of the lake.
The golden shiner is one of the top forage species in the lake and makes great pike bait.
Public access is provided through a state boat launch adjacent to the Pachaug Pond dam. It is a large area that is plowed during the winter. The launch may be reached by taking Exit 85 off I-395 onto Route 138. Head east on Route 138 for about 2.5 miles to the launch.
For more information on pike fishing in Connecticut, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Inland Fisheries Division at (860) 424-3475.
For tourism information, write to the Connecticut Tourism Division, 14 Rumford St., West Hartford, CT 06107; or call (800) 282-6863.
Just a few miles west of Providence, Rhode Island ice-anglers will find some great pike fishing in Waterman Reservoir. This 306-acre reservoir has a maximum depth of 15 feet with an average depth of 7 feet. The shoreline is highly developed. The best access is from Exit 7 off I-295. Head west on Route 44 for about four miles. Look for roadside parking around the lake.
Fish the submerged points along the east side of the lake or cross the lake to the island complex. The lake has an extensive shoal area where pike move into the shallows to feed on golden shiners or drop deep to ambush stunted panfish.
Resident license fees are $9.50 for the season. Non-resident license fees are $31 for the season or $16 for a three-day permit.
For more Rhode Island fishing information, contact the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife at (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.