The outlook is good for New England's trout fishermen in 2006. Here's what anglers can expect this season. (March 2006)
New England's trout enthusiasts have every reason to expect an exciting and productive season this year. Across the region, state fisheries departments have been revisiting their management programs and making changes where necessary to improve programs that are already in place.
In Maine, the Quality Fishing Initiative introduced in 1994 under Commissioner Bucky Owen featured reduced bag limits, higher length limits and tackle restrictions on about 400 wild brook trout ponds. The program has been a great success, and plans are under consideration to add more waters to the list.
Across the border in New Hampshire, Quality Trout Fisheries and Wild Trout Fisheries regulations designed to enhance fish quality and the overall angling experience have been paying off with big dividends as well.
In Massachusetts, some new catch-and-release areas were added a few years ago, and MassWildlife continues to stock the highest numbers of large trout in the region. Meanwhile, Connecticut is continuing with its successful trout management program.
The Pine Tree State has more trout habitat than the other New England states combined, and Maine has always been a hotspot for trout fishermen.
The Quality Fishing Initiative was a direct attempt to offer higher quality angling opportunities and experiences for the species.
Finding brook trout in Maine, whether stocked or native, is not a problem. A good starting point for native fish would have to include Baxter State Park. The 200,000-acre preserve offers at least a dozen high-quality trout waters.
The park contains Nesowadnehunk Stream and Trout Brook for moving water fans. Another good stretch of moving water is the Rapid River, which leaves Lower Richardson Lake at Middle Dam.
The northern half of the state is peppered with several hundred small, remote, high-quality ponds, as well as hundreds of miles of streams where native squaretails are the primary or sole inhabitants. Finding good water is a matter of making a choice and taking the time to get there.
In addition, MIDFW hatchery personnel will stock another 900,000 brook trout totaling more than 195,000 pounds.
Still another piece of exciting news is the effort underway to keep all stocked trout rivers and streams in the state open to fishing through the fall. Currently, the fishing seasons on much of the moving trout water in the state close earlier than most lakes and ponds in Maine.
Also under consideration is a new proposal to simplify trout-fishing regulations. If adopted, the 22 different trout regulations now on the books would be whittled down to just eight.
While Maine is famous for its brook trout, the state also has its share of other trout species. Brown trout were first introduced in 1885 and today are found in more than 100 lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, largely in the southern half of the state.
In recent years, approximately 160,000 browns totaling about 70,000 pounds have been stocked annually. Branch Lake in Ellsworth, Hancock Pond in Denmark and Pennamaquan Lake in Pembroke with its new launch site at the end of the Porter Landing Road, are three of the best brown trout lakes in the state, each capable of producing fish in the 5-pound range. Moving water enthusiasts should investigate the Little Androscoggin River in the Minot, Mechanic Falls and Auburn areas, the Kennebec River in Benton and Waterville or the Cold River in Stow.
Rainbow trout are back in Maine, and the MDIFW is in the middle of a five-year stocking program to see how these Western transplants will fare in Maine waters. Just over 10,000 rainbows are being stocked annually. So far, the results have been encouraging.
The Androscoggin River in Bethel and Gilead, the Little Androscoggin River in Oxford and Auburn and sections of the Kennebec River have been producing some good catches.
Maine was one of the first states to experiment with splake, a hybrid cross between lake trout and brook trout, and these fish are now present in more than 50 waters, 10 of which are under trophy management.
Add in the scores of lakes offering lake trout, and the state's ongoing sea-run brown trout program in the Ogunquit, Mousam and handful of other coastal streams, and it's easy to see that Maine has plenty to offer.
For more information on trout- fishing opportunities in Maine, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by calling (207) 287-8000 or visit the agency's Web site at www.mefishwildlife.com /a>.
In terms of diversity and quality, the trout-fishing opportunities in the Granite State have been improving steadily in recent years. The state's trout waters are now generally classified under four categories, each designed to enhance the overall angling experience, and in some cases to protect native resources.
Under the heading of Remote Trout Ponds, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has selected a list of 53 special waters that offer a wilderness experience, in some cases for native brook trout, or waters that are supplemented by aerial stocking by helicopter. Access in many cases is by hiking trail or 4wd vehicles. Because fishing pressure is rather light, trout have a chance to grow.
Carter Pond in Bean's Purchase, Derby Pond in Canaan, Judd Pond, Carr Pond and Shehan Flowage all in Clarksville, Fourmile Pond in Dix's Grant and Upper, Lower and Middle Three Ponds in Ellsworth are some examples.
Quality Trout Fisheries are selected waters that provide larger-than-average trout in terms of size, and higher-than-average catch rates. In most cases, these waters carry special regulations, such as reduced bag limits, special minimum length requirements or specific tackle requirements.
Archery Pond in Allenstown, Cole Pond in Enfield, Upper Hall Pond in Sandwich and sections of the Androscoggin, the South Branch Ashuelot, Connecticut, Contoocook and Ellis rivers, Perry Stream, and parts of the Saco River, Sugar and Swift rivers are on the list.
Alder Brook in Second College Grant, part of the Androscoggin River in Berlin, Gorham and Shelburne, Flint's Brook in Hollis, Gulf Brook in Chesterfield, Lyman Brook in Columbia and the West Branch Mohawk River in Colebrook, along with abo
ut 10 other special waters across New Hampshire, are managed as Wild Trout Fisheries. These waters are protected by special tackle requirements, catch-and-release regulations and shorter seasons specifically designed to offer anglers a chance to catch wild or native trout that occur naturally, providing a unique and rewarding angling experience.
Nearly 100 waters in the state are managed for trout but allow angling year 'round with no closed season. Waters under this heading are stocked annually with rainbows, browns and brook trout or any combination thereof, and generally have more liberal bag and length limits and less restrictive tackle requirements.
Included on the list are some of the best known lakes and ponds in New Hampshire, including Crystal Lake in Gilmanton, Chocorua Lake in Tamworth, Crystal Lake in Eaton, Wentworth Lake in Wolfeboro, Lebanon Reservoir in Lebanon and Mirror Lake in Woodstock.
There are also eight rivers in the state that offer trout angling year 'round including sections of the Androscoggin, Exeter, Merrimack, Pemigewasset, Suncook and Taylor.
New Hampshire, of course has its share of big lakes, too. Newfound Lake, Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Big Dan Hole, Big and Little Squam and the three Connecticut lakes have all been offering superb opportunities for impressive lake trout, browns and rainbows depending upon the area.
For more information on trout fishing, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-3211, or visit the Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is doing a good job of giving trout anglers what they want, including diverse fisheries, quality fish and plenty of opportunities.
Vermont is home to nearly 8,000 miles of rivers and brooks and over 800 lakes and ponds. The fact is, no matter where you go in this state, you will find productive trout water nearby.
The department stocked 680,000 smolt and catchable trout in 2005, and a similar number is planned for this year. Along with its wild and holdover trout populations, there should be plenty of fish to go around.
Over the years, the department's fisheries division has been one of the most innovative in New England. In addition to inventorying, monitoring the abundance, diversity and quality of its fisheries and their habitat, the division continually tries to come up with new programs that provide high-quality angling experiences.
One of the more successful efforts of late has been the division's Trophy Fish Stocking Program. Currently under the program are just four waters -- the Black, Lamoille and Winooski rivers and Otter Creek -- but considering its popularity that may change. These waters have been receiving a total of over 5,100 rainbow and brown trout in excess of 14 inches! Most hatchery-released trout in Vermont range between 9 and 11 inches, so these waters offer a real chance at some larger than usual trout.
Fish are released in late April or in May depending upon weather and water conditions, and by the time conditions are conducive to wetting a line, some prime opportunities are available.
In Lake Champlain, the big lake's successful coldwater restoration program continues to pay off and now offers some of the finest angling for brown, rainbows, steelhead and lake trout in the East from ice-out to ice-in.
Browns and steelhead also make seasonal migrations into some of the lake's tributaries and offer great sport and a challenge on the Lamoille and Winooski rivers and Lewis Creek. In the Northeast Kingdom, Lake Memphremagog will continue to offer fine opportunities for both rainbows and browns, and its tributaries, the Clyde River in Newport and Barton River near Orleans (which includes the Willoughby River), will no doubt draw their share of spring and fall anglers looking for lake-run trout.
The region is also home to some of the top trout lakes in the state, including Caspian Lake, Seymour Lake and Lake Willoughby to name but a few, and the Connecticut River between Bloomfield and Canaan should continue to produce excellent angling for rainbows and browns.
Central Vermont contains some of the best trout streams in the state, and these waters are specifically managed for browns and rainbows, and in some cases, brook trout.
The Lamoille River between Wolcott and Johnson offers good rainbow trout fishing, as does the Winooski River between Middlesex and North Duxbury. The Dog River below Northfield is prime water, too. Also, the Waits River from Topsham to about Bradford, and the Wells River in Groton and Ryegate offer a mixed bag of browns, rainbows and brookies.
For more information, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit the agency's Web site at www.anr.state.vt.us/fw/fwhome. Ask for the Vermont Guide and Map to Fishing.
Massachusetts will be stocking another 500,000 trout this year, continuing one of the most aggressive stocking programs of any state in New England.
What is impressive is that a high percentage of those brown, rainbow and brook trout will be 12 inches or longer, which means anglers should find good numbers of catchable-sized fish waiting for them.
While Massachusetts has few large lakes, it does have miles of rivers where trout fishing is available, including a dozen waters managed as catch-and-release areas.
Sections of the Deerfield River near Rowe, the Swift River in Belchertown and the East Branch Westfield River in Chesterfield are among the best known in the western district, but catch-and-release areas are also available in the northeast, southeast, central and Connecticut Valley districts as well.
A list of stocked waters and catch- and-release areas in the state is available on the MassWildlife Web site.
Many of the state parks in Massachusetts offer good trout fishing as well, and MassWildlife is making an effort to increase angling opportunities at many of them by increasing the number of trout or the size of trout released.
Anglers can expect to find good lake trout fishing at Quabbin Reservoir and good fishing for lakers and rainbows at Wachusett Reservoir.
At Quabbin, lakers may be found just about everywhere in April and May, while the best fishing starting in mid-July generally occurs around the barrels on the Gate 8 side. Landlocked salmon are also a possibility.
On the Wachusett, spring and fall are typically the best times for lake and rainbow trout.
For access and fishing information on Quabbin Reservoir, call the Metropolitan District Commissi
on (MDC) at (413) 323-7221. Information on Wachusett Reservoir may be obtained by calling the MDC station at (978) 365-3272.
For more information on trout fishing in Massachusetts, call MassWildlife at (508) 792-7270, or visit the agency's Web site at www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw.
The Nutmeg State continues to manage its trout fisheries under its new trout management program, which includes new Trout Management Areas, Trout Parks, Trophy Trout Areas, Wild Trout Management Areas and Sea-Run Trout Streams.
These areas were specifically selected to enhance trout fishing in general and also to provide a variety of angling opportunities.
In all, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection will stock between 700,000 and 800,000 browns, rainbows and brook trout, and a high percentage of these will be between 9 and 12 inches.
About 60,000 fish will go into Trout Management Areas, which feature specific angling regulations, such as fly-fishing only and catch-and-release. About 40,000 trout will go into ponds and streams managed as Trout Parks, areas that offer easy access and which will receive multiple stockings throughout the season, generally on a weekly basis. Another 30,000 trout will be stocked in ponds and streams designated as Trophy Trout areas, where the DEP releases larger trout and special regulations may be in effect.
The DEP will also release between 200,000 and 220,000 catchable-sized trout in more than 250 streams that offer public access.
In addition, the DEP will continue its stocking of sea-run brown trout. About 60,000 fish are scheduled for release in the Farm River in East Haven, Eightmile River in Lyme, the Hammonasset River in Guilford and the Manus River in Greenwich.
For more information on trout fishing in the Nutmeg State, contact the Connecticut DEP at (860) 424-3474, or visit the agency's Web site at www.dep.state.ct.us.
Be sure to ask for the Trout Management Program Guide, 2006 Angler's Guide and A Guide to Lakes and Ponds in Connecticut.
Our smallest state also has fewer freshwater areas than any state in New England, but Rhode Island offers some wonderful trout fishing.
Scattered about the state are some of the finest trout streams in New England, including the Flat River, Falls River, Breakheart Brook and Woods River in Exeter and neighboring towns, and the Big River in West Greenwich.
Certain waters may be governed by special tackle restrictions, so check the fishing regulations. At Deep Pond in Exeter and A.L. Mowry Pond in Smithfield, for example, only artificial lures and flies may be used. Other waters carry special regulations.
Rhode Island fishermen should also note that there will be two free fishing days this season, June 3 and 4, when residents and non-residents are not required to have a freshwater fishing license.
For more information, contact the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management at (401) 789-0821 or visit the agency's Web site at www.dem.ri.gov.