New England's anglers who want to begin planning their 2015 fishing forays have plenty of options to consider. Here's a look at 36 proven hotspots in the Northeast that should be on any fisherman's New Year's wish list:
Moosehead Lake, Maine, Landlocked Salmon
Renowned for its excellent brook trout, landlocked salmon and lake trout fishery, Moosehead remains the Mecca for winter anglers throughout the North Country. Most fishermen focus their energy on the Moose River outlet, the base of Mt. Kineo and around Farm, Sugar and Deer islands.
Other options: Vermont's Seymour Lake anglers use large, live suckers and shiners to fool bottom-cruising lake trout this month. In Connecticut, drift or troll live bait or large crankbaits for big Connecticut River northern pike.
Quinsigamond Lake, Mass., Bluegills
A popular destination for winter panfish, Quinsigamond is shallow and weedy, offering plenty of opportunities for anglers seeking quantity catches of bluegills and yellow perch. Set worms, maggots, mousies or small pieces of cut bait just above the weeds or a foot or so off the muddy bottom.
Other options: New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee offers great February trout-fishing action. Use live shiners or lively night crawlers to get the flags flying. Hardy party boat anglers head for the saltwater off the coast of Maine for some world-class cod fishing using clams, crabs and other proven live baits.
Kennebec River, Maine, Trout
A well-kept secret, the Kennebec produces some excellent catches of lunker brown trout in and from Augusta north. Use nymphs, woolly buggers and similar large flies to tempt sluggish cool-season fish.
Other options: Blackfish (tautog) will be hitting clams and crabs along Rhode Island's shoreline ledges. Try using purple jigs or rubber worms for late-ice largemouths on Mono Pond in Connecticut.
Deerfield River, Mass., Trout
Trout season opens this month on most New England rivers and streams, including the Deerfield River. Try slow-drifting dark nymphs and woolly buggers in deep holes and pockets where big Deerfield rainbows and browns lay in wait.
Other options: Mashapaug Pond in
Connecticut is a proven hotspot for early-season trout. Slow troll small lures and crankbaits to take big rainbows and brookies cruising just below the surface. Vermont's lower Connecticut River is a good place to start fishing for trout as the water begins to warm later this month.
Quabbin Res., Mass., Smallmouths
Known for its big spring smallmouths, Quabbin's fishery causes regulars to use deep-diving, slow-moving crankbaits to take lunker bronzebacks from shore. The most persistent, patient anglers catch the most fish, so pick a spot and work the water column slowly and methodically.
Other options: Maine's legendary West
Branch Penobscot River offers excellent fly-fishing for brook trout and salmon. Match the hatch for best results. New Hampshire's Ossipee Lake offers super shoreline fishing for spawning smallmouths. Use small spinners, crankbaits and deep-diving plugs to tempt them this month.
Cape Cod, Mass., Stripers
Now's the time to head for the saltwater to get in on some great Bay State striper fishing. Work the surf with eels or big tins, or ply the offshore rips with big, diving plugs. The best fishing will occur at night all through the summer.
Other options: More saltwater action awaits anglers on Connecticut's Long Island Sound shoreline. Blues and stripers may be taken with drifted live bait or jigged lures rigged for big, toothy fish. Try Vermont's White River for big rainbows. Use minnow-imitating plugs or dry flies to fool them early and late in the day.
Farmington River, Conn., Trout
July is prime time for the Farmington River's big browns. Look for bridge and culvert pools, deep holes and rocky outcroppings where lunker trout spend the hot summer days. Fish mornings and evenings well past sunset using lively shiners or big, chunky nymphs and streamers.
Other options: Massachusetts' Onota Lake offers some excellent largemouth fishing this month. Fish lively topwater
lures near weeds and other structure. For big lake trout, head for Maine's Sebago Lake. Fish slow and deep using live shiners or suckers suspended just off the bottom.
Piscataqua River, N.H., Stripers
Troll or cast big live baits or plugs close to shore and around ledges, pilings and other structure. Fish early and late in the day for the hottest action.
Other options: Cobbosseecontee Lake,
Maine, offers some excellent late-summer bass fishing thanks to its dense weed cover. Fish cut bait or lively night crawlers directly on the bottom of Rhode Island's Worden Pond.
Long Island Sound, Conn., Bluefish
Thousands of big bluefish lurk in the deep water off Connecticut's Long Island Sound shoreline. Target current seams with hefty tins or cast giant plugs to surface-feeding fish.
Other options: Big fall pike abound in the Nutmeg State's Connecticut River. Focus on shoreline cover in Keeney Cove in Glastonbury. Troll big minnow imitations for Vermont's Lake Champlain walleyes.
Cape Cod, Mass., Stripers
Big, late-season cow stripers may be caught off shore all along the Massachusetts shoreline. Fish at night with eels or large plugs and work the water just behind the breakers.
Other options: Connecticut's Natchaug River is full of big, holdover rainbows and browns and very few fishermen. Work small minnow imitations under rocks, logs and undercut banks. New Hampshire's Upper Connecticut River offers great fall fishing for big trout. Try big, dark nymphs and woolly buggers early and late in the day.
Kennebec River, Maine, Trout
Head back to the Kennebec for some late-season browns. Cool water temperatures energize summer's sluggish fish. Try big, high-riding dry flies or colorful wet-fly patterns this month.
Other options: Connecticut's Lake Candlewood bass fishing is best near the dam in Milford. Big jigs and rigged rubber worms fished just off the bottom produce the most fish. Southern Maine's rocky shoreline still produces great striper and bluefish angling from shore and among the ledges. Use eels and deep-diving plugs to reach them.
Branns Mill Pond, Maine, Pickerel
Start off the winter season with a trip to Branns Mill Pond near Dover-Foxcroft, where abundant pickerel take small, lively shiners near the dam and all along the brushy shoreline. Expect to catch bluegills as well as white and yellow perch as soon as safe ice forms.
Other options: Connecticut River
pike in the Nutmeg State are always an option in December. Drift live bait or cast into slow-moving, mist-covered pools. If open water persists, Quinsigamond Pond in Massachusetts has good drift-fishing for panfish using live bait, purple jigs or spinners.