It's time to unlimber the fishing rod and the binoculars as you begin planning your 2003 family fishing vacation trips. Here's a sampling of highly rated hotspots that are sure to provide lasting memories for everyone.
Photo by Chester Moore Jr.
By Joel Fawcett
It's June and vacation time is fast approaching. Most of New England's outdoor-oriented families are likely to be engaged in serious discussions concerning the activities (in addition to topnotch angling) each member of the family would like to see included in the 2003 summer vacation agenda.
There's no need to travel deep into the bush and rough it like Lewis and Clark to find superb fishing action in the Northeast. All of the New England states teem with outstanding angling destinations that also feature a variety of family-style activities nearby. A sensible vacation schedule that includes angling during the dawn and twilight hours, and then engaging in other activities when the fish are most apt to be active during the midday doldrums makes for a harmonious and fun-filled vacation for everyone.
Below is a sampling of New England's best vacation destinations, each one offering great fishing and intriguing enterprises for the family to savor.
RHODE ISLAND "Little Rhody" contains a heap of bountiful angling hotspots. One example is 395-acre Beach Pond, a border lake in Voluntown, Connecticut and Exeter, Rhode Island. Largemouth bass are the dominant species here, but the lake also contains viable populations of big, holdover brown and rainbow trout. The lake's shoreline features a shallow flat that drops off abruptly from 3 to 12 feet, a prime area to connect with a jumbo largemouth or trout.
The best way to get here is via Interstate Route 95 west to Noosenook (Exit 5), and then take Route 102 south to its junction with Route 165. This leads to the Beach Pond boat launch. Camping is available at nearby Acadia State Park campground off Route 165. Call (401) 539-7117.
Attractive midday pursuits in the area include visiting the University of Rhode Island's Environmental Center in West Greenwich or walking the nature trails of the Audubon Bird Sanctuary in Charlestown, and the kids will have a ball at The Enchanted Forest amusement park in Hopkinton.
If your dream vacation includes tying into a wallhanger largemouth, a trip to Aquidneck Island on Narragansett Bay is highly recommended. There are 10 underfished but prolific bass ponds on the island. No boating is allowed, but all of the ponds have public access and can be fished from shore.
Aquidneck Island's ponds yield an inordinate number of bragging-sized lunkers. Seven-pounders are not unusual, and bass over 9 pounds have been taken here! This wealth of trophy bass can be attributed to the ponds' rich food supply. Several of these ponds drain into the ocean, and others connect to those that do, thus the bass grow fat and sassy on a copious diet of mummichogs, alewives, herring and other saltwater minnows.
To fish here, catch I-195 out of Providence to the Route 24 turnoff, and take this route to Aquidneck Island. Accommodations are a bit pricey here, but there's a first-rate campground in Middletown. Call (401) 846-5781. While here, sailing fans may opt to stop at the Newport Sailing Center in Fort Adams State Park, rent a sailboat and sail around Narragansett Bay, or visit the Equestrian Center in Middletown for a horseback trail and beach ride. Maybe you'd prefer to swim or sift through the sand at a few of the many public saltwater beaches on the island.
CONNECTICUT For a shoreline that's mostly undeveloped, has light fishing pressure, beautiful scenery and blue-ribbon angling, try 467-acre Quaddick Reservoir in Thompson, Connecticut. A terrific vacation destination for the angling family, Quaddick is one of the best lakes in the state for trophy 6-pound and up bigmouths, but use a heavy shock tippet leader because the reservoir also contains some monster pike.
If the opportunity to hook one of these trophy bass or northerns sounds exciting, take Route 44 east out of Hartford to Thompson. A secondary road leads to Quaddick State Forest and a state boat ramp. Overnight camping is available at Grosvenor Dale state recreational area 10 miles north of Thompson on Route 12 in West Thompson.
During off time from fishing, history buffs may want to drive to Hartford, the state capitol, and tour the Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe houses, the Lutz Children's Museum and the Museum of Connecticut History, which houses the Colt firearms collection and other Connecticut memorabilia.
Bob Jacobs, the Nutmeg State's bass program director, said 201-acre Mudge Pond in Sharon is one of Connecticut's top four waters for consistent catches of 18-inch-plus largemouths. There's a 12- to 18-inch slot limit, and a six-bass daily bag limit of which no more than one may be 18 inches or over. Mudge Pond's shoreline is mostly undeveloped and weeds, rocks and blowdowns provide an abundance of potent bass-holding structures.
To access Mudge Pond, travel Route 7 from Danbury to Cornwall, and take Route 4 west to Sharon. The state boat landing is off Route 41 out of Sharon. Campers will find a state campground at nearby Housatonic Meadows in Cornwall. While in this area, you may want to skip over to Norfolk and attend one of the Yale summer concerts, browse about the many antique and gift shops in the village of Kent, or hike along the Appalachian Trail which crosses Route 7 near the campground.
MASSACHUSETTS For a crackerjack Bay State trout-fishing vacation, put a trip to the Miller River, a tributary of the Connecticut River, in northcentral Massachusetts on your 2003 vacation agenda. The Miller receives an annual stocking of browns and rainbows, but the big attraction here is the prolific number of big, holdover trout, many over 4 pounds, in the river.
Two sections of the Miller are regulated under catch-and-release, artificial lures-only regulations, and these areas offer the best angling for big, holdover trout. The upper section, a remote and lightly fished run, starts in South Royalston and ends seven miles downstream at Athol. The lower catch-and-release water begins in West Orange and runs three miles downstream to Erving.
The easy way here is I-91 north to Greenfield, and then Route 2 east to West Orange and the river. Camping is available at Erving State Forest also on Route 2. Call (508) 544-3939
After fishing the morning hatch, take a drive over the 63-mile scenic Mohawk Trail from West Orange to Williamsport, or take in a performance at the Williamsport Theatre Festival; or if you
prefer to stay closer to camp, you can bike, hike or horseback ride over the trails of Erving State Forest.
If you fish out of a canoe or other light carry-in craft, a potent bigmouth lake that biologists say may be the best trophy bass water in the state is the A-1 Site, also called Stump Pond, in Westboro. This 325-acre flowage averages about 3 feet in depth, but it's loaded with 4- and 5-pound trophies. Trees, stumps, rocks, etc., were not removed before the lake was flooded, and these provide prime cover for bass, though anglers may find it perilous to maneuver a canoe and a lunker bass through the many obstructions. Topwater or weedless lures are a must here.
The best way to access the A-1 Site is to take the Route 135 south turnoff off Route 9 (out of Boston) to Westboro. Mill Street leads to the carry-in boat landing.
Nearby camping can be found at Moore State Park in Paxton. Call (508) 792-3969. To get to the campground, take Route 9 west to Leicester, and then Route 56 north to Paxton and the park.
There are some interesting tourist attractions available in nearby Worcester. Perhaps you'd like to tour the Worcester Art Museum, or stop at the Ecotarium, a center for environmental exploration. West of the city is Old Sturbridge Village, a living recreation of a rural 1830s New England settlement.
VERMONT Vermont's Northeast Kingdom is renowned for its outstanding trout fishing, but the Kingdom also has some prolific smallmouth waters. Most of the brown bass enthusiasts who visit the area direct their attention to 6,000-acre Lake Memphremagog, but Eric Palmer, state fisheries director, urges smallie anglers to consider a couple of Lake Memphremagog's tributaries: 778-acre Crystal Lake in Barton and 177-acre Lake Seymour in Morgan. Both lakes, he says, harbor a mother lode of 3- and 4-pound bronzebacks. There's also potent trout and panfish angling in both lakes.
If wetting a line in Crystal and Seymour lakes intrigues you, travel I-91 north to Barton (Exit 25), and then take Route 16 east to Crystal Lake. For Lake Seymour, continue on I-91 to Derby Center, and then take Route 111 to Morgan and Lake Seymour. Full-service camping facilities are available at the Char-Bo Campground in Derby. Call (802) 766-8807.
Here in the backcountry, most activities for off times from fishing are outdoor-related, i.e., hiking, observing wildlife, etc. For something different, try a side trip to Lydonville where there are five covered bridges dating back to 1795.
Chet McKenzie, regional fisheries biologist for west-central Vermont, recommends 985-acre Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, 191-acre Glen Lake in West Castleton and 852-acre Lake St. Catherine in Poultney for bountiful rainbow trout fishing. The prime time to hit the water during the summer months, the biologist advises, is around twilight, when anglers can take advantage of the evening hatches. However, if the rainbows are off their feed, these lakes also contain a heap of bragging-sized pike and lunker largemouths.
If a vacation safari to these lakes sounds appealing, take Route 4 west to Rutland, and then Route 7 north to Salisbury. Route 53 takes you east to Lake Dunmore. To fish Lake St. Catherine or Glen Lake, return to Route 4 and go west to Castleton Corners, and then take Route 30 south to Poultney and Lake St. Catherine. Or turn north on West Castleton Road to the carry-in access trail to Glen Lake.
There's a full-service campground on the shore of Lake Dunmore. Call (802) 352-4501 or visit their Web site at www.kampersville.com. There's also a state campground on Lake St. Catherine.
Activities in addition to fishing include a visit to the New England Maple Museum and Maple Market in Rutland, a trip to Manchester to tour the Fly-Fishing Museum and a stop at The Orvis Company to shop for fishing gear and gifts.
NEW HAMPSHIRE An exciting vacation destination the entire family will enjoy is 3,017-acre Lake Wentworth in the heart of the Lakes Region in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
"Lake Wentworth," said Don Miller, the regional fisheries biologist for the Lakes Region, "is perhaps the best white perch lake in the state and it also bristles with obese smallmouths and husky rainbows."
To fish here, head north via I-93 to New Hampton, Route 104 east to Meredith, Route 25 to Moultonboro, and then take Route 109 to Wolfboro and Lake Wentworth.
Accommodations here include the Family Campground on Lake Wentworth at (603) 569-9848, and there's also a first-rate motel on the lakeshore at (800) 732-8507.
If fly-fishing for lunker brook trout turns you on, it's not necessary to head for the remote North Country to satisfy this craving. There are several small fly-fishing-only ponds in the Granite State's lakes region, including 13-acre Skye Pond in New Hampton, 17-acre Cole Pond in Enfield, 24-acre Upper Hall Pond in Sandwich and 15-acre Shaw Pond in Freedom. All of these ponds are managed as Special Regulations, Quality Initiative waters, with a 12- to 16-inch slot limit, and a two-trout daily bag limit, only one of which may be over 16 inches. Cole Pond, a remote hike-in access pond, has yielded the best trout, some over 5 pounds, Miller said.
The easy route to these ponds is Route 104 west out of New Hampton to Danbury, and then take Route 4 west to Enfield and the hike-in trail to Cole Pond. To fish Skye Pond, retrace your steps to New Hampton. For Upper Hall Pond, travel Route 104 east to Meredith and take Route 25 east to Sandwich and Upper Hall Pond. For Shaw Pond, continue on Route 25 to Freedom and the Shaw Pond Road. For information about lodging, contact The Lakes Association at (800) 60LAKES.
Family attractions in the Lakes Region include visits to Waterslide Park in Weirs Beach, the Loon Center in Center Harbor and the Castle In The Clouds, a $7-million mansion on a 6,000-acre estate in the Ossipee Mountains in Moultonboro, where you can, among other things, feed the giant trout in Shannon Pond, picnic at scenic areas where you can view breathtaking vistas of the mountains and lakes, or take a guided, Western- style horseback ride over mountain trails.
MAINE If you're looking for a vacation destination offering extraordinary smallmouth fishing where you're more likely to observe wildlife than other anglers, a safari to Indian Pond at The Forks in the Maine North Country should turn you on.
My wife, Lillian, and I have been making annual bronzeback angling forays to Indian Pond for the past 10 years, and on practically every trip we've caught and released a heap of 3- to 5-pound brown bass.
To get there, take Route 201 north out of Waterville to The Forks, and then take Indian Pond Road to Harris Dam and the boat landing at the foot of Indian Pond. We usually stay at Northern Outdoors in The Forks. Call (800) 765-7238 or visit them on the Web at www.northernoutdoors.com. They offer a choice of campsite, cabin tent, cabin, mini-condo or lodge accommodations. Northern Outdoors also offers, if desired, American Plan and guide services.
Interesting activities other than fishing at The Forks include whitewater rafting adventures on the Kennebec and Dead rivers, "sportyaking" on the Dead River, kayak touring on a nearby wilderness lake and rock climbing.
If a monster brook trout tops your wish list, David Basley, the regional fishery biologist for the Pine Tree State's far northern region, suggests putting a trip to the Fish River on your 2003 vacation agenda.
"The Fish River abounds with big, feisty speckled trout," Basley enthused.
His picks for the best opportunity to land a bragging-sized speckled trout are in the thoroughfares connecting Long, Mud, Cross, Eagle and St. Froid lakes, and the Fish River Falls section of the main river. A wealth of jumbo landlocked salmon also inhabits the river.
However, before heading for the river there are some special regulations anglers should be aware of. Between Aug. 16 and Sept. 30, fly-fishing only is allowed on the thoroughfares connecting Long, Mud, Cross, Eagle and St. Froid lakes, while only artificial lures are permitted on the main river upstream of the Route 1 bridge in Fort Kent to Eagle Lake. The total daily bag limit of trout, salmon or togue is one fish on all of these waters.
The best travel itinerary for southern New Englanders is to take I-95 to Sherman (Exit 58), and then take Route 11 to Fort Kent, the Fish River and its thoroughfares. Accommodations are available at the Birch Haven Camping Area in Eagle Lake, a full-service campground at (207) 444-5102. Cabin rentals are available at Dean's Den in Eagle Lake at (207) 444-5379.
Most of the activities in this remote area are tied to the outdoors and include canoeing the Fish River and nearby lakes, observing and photographing wildlife, swimming, etc.
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