Our Best North Country Salmon Hotspots
September 29, 2010
Northern New England remains the leader in producing big landlocked salmon. Here's where to go this spring for some world-class angling action. (May 2008)
Photo by Bill Banaszewski.
Northern New England's spring salmon anglers have so many destinations to choose from that your biggest challenge is deciding which one to try! Here's a roundup of some excellent waters to try this season:
Grand Lake Stream
Grand Lake Stream originates at the outlet of 14,000-acre West Grand Lake, which was one of the original homes of landlocked salmon in Maine. The eastern shore from Big Falls down to the meadow is owned by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. On the west bank below Big Lake, the MDIFW has negotiated conservation easements that provide additional access.
This 1,170-acre lake in Dexter is known for its voracious salmon in the 3- to 5-pound range.
A bridge, under which small boats may pass, divides the lake into Big Lake Wassookeag and Little Lake Wassookeag. Shoreline access is in several locations along or off Route 23, where a boat launch also provides access to Little Lake Wassookeag.
In Belgrade, 2,700-acre Long Pond offers some of the best salmon fishing to be had in central and southern Maine. There are plenty of fish ranging from 5 to 7 pounds.
From Augusta, take Route 27 and drive north for about 20 minutes. There's a state-owned launch off Castle Island Road. Shoreline access may be had from the Castle Island causeway or the picnic facility near Great Pond Dam in Belgrade Village.
This St. Agatha and T17R4 WELS lake gives up world-class landlocked salmon. In 1990, an ice-fishing world record was set here when a 12-pound salmon was taken on a tip-up.
In 2007, the lake gave up a salmon reputed to measure over 30 inches long and weigh in at 12 pounds, 14 ounces — verification is underway.
For more information, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit www.maine.gov/ifw .
For information on travel, you can visit www.visit maine.com , or call the Maine Office of Tourism at 1-888-624-6345.
In the Granite State, landlocked salmon may be caught from April 1 to Sept. 30 in most waters. Broodstock Atlantic salmon are open to catch-and-release fishing from Oct. 1 to March 31, and then there is a limit of one fish per day and five fish per season from April 1 to Sept. 30. A special permit is required, and regulations vary. Be sure to check the 2008 New Hampshire Freshwater Fishing Digest before heading out.
Some of New Hampshire's largest landlocked salmon have been pulled from 44,586-acre Lake Winnipesaukee. This big lake consistently produces salmon in the 18- to 20-inch range. From Alton to Wolfeboro, there are more than 20 boat launches to accommodate any vessel.
While Winnipesaukee is the Granite State's crown jewel, there are plenty of other treasuries to explore.
Big Squam Lake
According to John Viar, a New Hampshire Fish and Game Department fisheries biologist, fall netting at Big Squam yielded salmon that were up to 7 years old, a good number of those in the 5- to 6-pound range.
There is excellent state-owned access in the channel connecting Big Squam to Little Squam Lake, with a double-lane concrete launch, a dock and parking for up to 25 vehicles.
For access off Interstate Route 93, take Exit 24 and then Route 3/25 to Route 113. For other ways to access this 6,765-acre salmon water, check DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer, page 40.
Since 1993, broodstock Atlantic salmon have been stocked into the Merrimack River in spring and fall.
According to Jonathan Greenwood, a New Hampshire Fish and Game Department fisheries biologist, some of the biggest broodstock Atlantic salmon in the program's history were tagged in 2007.
Fisheries biologist Matt Carpenter noted that last October, 1,100 salmon weighing about 2.5 pounds were stocked, including 550 fish below Ayers Island Dam and another 550 near the mouth of the Winnipesaukee River.
Last year saw the release of 100 five-year-old broodstock salmon averaging 11 pounds, as well as 400 younger fish weighing nearly 7 pounds each.
Stockings generally take place during the last week of April, the first week of May and again in mid-May. Greenwood said that the best times to fish for broodstock Atlantic salmon are April and May, and then again in October and November.
"The most productive fly-fishing is in the fast free-flowing sections below the dams along the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers and their tributaries," Greenwood said. "Some of the best spots include the area below the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol.
"Two sections offer excellent wade-fishing: along Coolidge Woods Road on the east side of the river and the Profile Falls Recreation Area near the Smith River confluence on the east side of the river."
In Belgrade, 2,700-acre Long Pond offers some of the best salmon fishing to be had in central and southern Maine.
Other areas that Greenwood recommended include the catch-and-release section below the Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin, the river below this section in the vicinity of the Winnipesaukee River confluence, the section near the Stirrup Iron Brook in Boscawen, the Contoocook River below the first dam in Penacook, and the Sewalls Falls Recreational Park in Concord.
For a free brochure, including a map of salmon-fishing access points, call (603) 271-2501 or log on to www.wildnh.com/Fishing/atlantic_ salmon.htm .
For more fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us .
For travel information, call the New Hampshire Office of Travel and Tourism at (603) 271-2665, or visit www.visitnh.gov .
Lake Champlain gives up state-record-class salmon each year. Landlocked salmon fishing heats up in May and early June, especially north of Burlington in Outer Mallets Bay and north of the Sandbar Causeway in the Inland Sea. Salmon in the 4- to 5-pound range are typically taken on or near the surface while trolling, according to John Hall, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's information officer.
Access areas and boat ramps are detailed on maps in the 2008 Vermont Digest of Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Laws.
Each year, this 985-acre lake in Salisbury and Leicester is stocked with about 900 yearling Atlantic salmon that measure 11 to 12 inches and will reach the 15-inch minimum length in one year.
Regulations vary, depending on which part of the lake is being fished. Access may be had by taking Lake Dunmore Road east, and then turning right onto West Shore Road. Travel south half a mile. Access is on the left.
Or visit Waterhouse's Campground and Marina (the largest on the lake) where there's a camp store, fishing supplies, gas and other amenities.
Branbury State Park on the eastern shore of Lake Dunmore is at the base of Mount Moosalamoo. To the east is the Green Mountain National Forest.
Canoe rentals and boating and shoreline fishing access are available. Route 53 in Salisbury divides the park.
The Clyde River flows for 30 miles through the heart of the Northeast Kingdom. In recent years, it has been stocked with thousands of yearling salmon and fry.
Access may be had in East Charleston, adjacent to the bridge on Ten Mile Square Road.
For more fishing access information, check DeLorme's Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, page 54.
Great Averill Lake
Great Averill Lake lies south of the Canadian border in the Northeast Kingdom towns of Norton and Averill. It offers 812 acres of prime landlocked salmon fishing. State-owned access is off Cottage Road in Averill.
For more salmon fishing information, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com .
For travel information, log onto www.travel-vermont.com , or call the Vermont Department of Tourism at (802) 828-3237.