Spring is landlocked salmon time in New England's northern rivers, and May is prime time for these silvery beauties. Here's a look at five of the best rivers for hot salmon action this month. (May 2006)
Across northern New England, fishing for landlocked salmon and springtime go together like baked beans and franks. Challenging these silver-sided fighters in moving water is the pinnacle of the fishing season for many anglers. If nothing else, it's a most exciting way to get the season started.
Here is a look at five of the best salmon rivers the region has to offer:
Grand Lake Stream
Maine's Grand Lake Stream is well-known for its fall salmon fishing, but its early-season action can be second to none. The stream opens to fishing April 1, but high, cold water conditions are not always conducive to good fishing at that time, especially when wading.
From opening day through Aug. 15, the daily bag limit on salmon is one fish. The entire stream is restricted to fly-fishing only. Traditionally, May and June are considered prime time by locals and those who know the stream, because water levels have dropped and temperatures have warmed up a bit. During this period, the stream takes on its normal appearance and character, making it easier to get around, read the various pools and strategically work a fly.
Floating lines and traditional smelt-imitating streamers should produce action. The Pine Tree, located in the center of the village of Grand Lake Stream, maintains a supply of the hottest patterns including some local favorites. The proprietors of that establishment, avid salmon fishermen all, are always willing to offer some helpful suggestions. You can reach them at (207) 796-5027, or visit www.pinetreestore.com -- their Web site also contains some helpful and informative information on streams, including water flow and temperature updates during the season.
The areas upstream of the Hatchery Pool to the Dam Pool are all with easy walking distance from lodging facilities in the village, while areas downstream may easily be reached by vehicle using the road paralleling the stream on the east side.
There is ample lodging in the area, but Canal Side Cabins (at 1-888-796-2796) is about a minute's walk from the Dam Pool. Check their Web site at www.canalsidecabins.com.
You can obtain more information on other lodging services by visiting www.grandlakestream.com, the Web site of the Grand Lake Stream Chamber of Commerce.
West Branch Penobscot
The West Branch Penobscot River, between Ripogenus Dam and Nesowadnehunk deadwater, has long been considered the top landlocked salmon river in the Northeast. And despite the flotillas of whitewater rafters using the river these days, it still ranks among the very best. The fish here are wild and there are some big ones. The scenery is second to none, and fly-fishing or artificial lures are allowed, depending upon the section being fished.
The fly-fishing section runs from Ripogenus Dam down to the Telos Road Bridge. The daily limit on salmon is one fish, with a minimum length limit of 26 inches. Downstream from that point, artificial lures are allowed until Aug. 15. The bag limit remains one fish, but the minimum length limit is 18 inches. Some of the best fishing comes in May when salmon move upriver from downstream deadwaters and other deep wintering areas in search of smelts and other food fish. June fishing is very productive.
One of the most popular fishing spots is at Big Eddy, but above and below that area there is ample water, some of which may be waded or fished from shore. Some areas can be fished by canoe, depending upon water conditions. The Golden Road crosses the river at Abol Bridge and offers easy access to the river. This is big water, so cautious wading is advised. These days the best salmon action often comes very early and late in the day, before and after the rafters take over the river.
There are no lodges along the river, but there are two campgrounds. One is the Abol Bridge Campground.. They have no phone; so write them at Box 536, Millinocket, ME 04462. The other is Big Eddy Campground, at (207) 350-1599 or (207) 882-7323. You can also visit their Web site at www.bigeddy.org.
For more information on fishing regulations, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit www.mefishwildlife.com.
Lake Region Hotspots
Ice-out in New Hampshire's lakes region generally occurs in mid- to late April, but there are no guarantees. Fishermen would be wise to check out some of the bridges, public docks and channels in the area.
According to Don Miller, Region 2 fisheries biologist for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the public docks on Lake Winnipesaukee at Glendale, Meredith, Weirs Beach, Center Harbor and Alton are great places to dip a smelt or shiner. Each of these areas is kept free of ice by aerators around the dock pilings, and that well-oxygenated water draws schools of bait and some large predatory fish.
Miller also said that both ends of the Squam Channel connecting Big and Little Squam lakes could be productive. It is accessible from the boat ramp in Holderness.
Other spots include the bridges on the Fowler River and the outlet of the Newfound River at the lower end of Newfound Lake. Also try the area around the Long Island Bridge, reached via the Moultonborough Neck Road from Route 25 east of center Harbor; and the Governor's Island bridge, accessed from Route 118 east of Weirs.
On Lake Winnisquam, the Winnipesaukee River is another good area, as is the outlet of Lake Winnisquam at Lochmere. Fishermen should check the most current fishing summary for special rules and regulations that might exist in these areas.
For information on lodging, contact the Lake Region Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-60-LAKES, or visit their Web site, www.lakesregion.org.
For more information on these specific areas, contact the Region 2 of the New Hampshire Fish and Game department at (603) 744-5470.
Upper Androscoggin River
In May and early June, the upper reaches of the Androscoggin River near Errol consistently produce some of the best spring salmon-fishing action in northern New Hampshire.
Fishermen will find about one mile of challenging water running from the dam in Errol downstream to Bragg Bay, easily accessible from the south using Route 16. This stretch offers a mixture of riffles and pools above the Route 26 bridge and rapids starting near the bridge. It is all good salmon water. Most of the fishing in this section is done by wading or from shore, and fly-fishing is the rule.
Bragg Bay is bigger, wider and deeper and is best fished from canoes or small boats. Watercraft may be launched downstream of the Route 26 bridge on the east bank. Artificial lures are legal in this section.
The L. L. Cote Sports Center, at 25 Main Street in Errol, has a full line of flies and lures, and is a good contact for updated water conditions. Reach them at 1-800-287-7700 or via their Web site at www.llcote.com.
For information on lodging and other services in the area, contact the Umbagog Area Chamber of Commerce at (603) 482-3906, or visit their Web site at www.umbagogchambercommerce.com.
For additional fishing information, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271- 3421, or visit the agency's Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
The Winooski River, particularly the area locally known as the "Salmon Hole" in Winooski and Burlington, is worth keeping an eye on this month. Salmon move into this stretch on the heels of the smelt run. And while some years are less productive than others, it can produce some exciting action.
A public parking lot is on the Burlington side of the river, on the west side of Riverside Avenue (U.S. Route 2/7) a few hundred yards south of the Winooski Bridge.
For information on tackle shops and lodging facilities in the area, contact the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce at (877) 686-5253 or (802) 863-3489, or visit their Web site at www.vermont.org.
For more information on fishing in Vermont, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit their Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.