February 02, 2016
By Stephen D. Carpenteri
Saltwater, freshwater, big water, small streams; New England offers excellent angling in every state year-round. We've picked three proven destinations for each month of the year.
New England offers "best of" angling ranging from world-class inland ice-fishing to surf and off-shore saltwater action. Whether you prefer casting delicate dry flies to finicky salmon or bottom-chunking for mud-running catfish, there's a place for you to wet a line in the Northeast.
Here's a look at 36 top picks for New England fishermen to consider while making their 2016 angling vacation plans.
Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., Yellow Perch
It doesn't take long for shanty villages to appear in Winnipesaukee's many coves and bays when safe ice forms. Schools of big perch roam the shoreline, points and drop-offs all winter, providing plenty of exciting action for anglers using flashy jigs or a variety of live or cut bait.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maine's Moosehead Lake is the place to be this month for hot brook trout action. Great fishing can be had near Greenville, Rockwood and Kineo this month. On the coast, hardy anglers head offshore from Boston-area harbors to take on big winter Atlantic cod.
Quinsigamond, Mass., Bluegills
This popular Worcester-area lake combines easy access with plenty of fishing options all along its lengthy shoreline. Comparatively shallow and weedy, the lake is loaded with palm-sized bluegills that take mousies, grubs, maggots and worms.
OTHER OPTIONS: Connecticut's Candlewood Lake offers some great winter trout fishing when safe ice forms. Work the entire water column in deep water till fish are found. Vermont's Lake Champlain is the place to go for big winter pike. Target points, drop-offs and weed beds with large, lively shiners or jigs.
Natchaug River, Ct., Trout
Trout season is open year-round on the Natchaug. Go now to work on big holdover rainbows that survived last year's angling onslaught. Use small plugs and crankbaits and focus on undercut banks, ledges and deep-water structure where the big ones wait to ambush forage species lost in the swift current.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maine's Sebago Lake produces some excellent lake trout fishing in the waning weeks of winter. Fish large baits or jigs just off the bottom in deep water. Rhode Island's Worden Pond may be ice-free this month, and yellow perch are among the most popular early spring targets.
Farmington River, Ct., Trout
Opening Day on the Farmington can be a carnival-like affair, but the best fishing starts now and continues well into summer. Pick a pool and be patient while other anglers come and go. Fish deep and slow with nymphs, Woolly Buggers or tiny jigs and crankbaits to reach sluggish early-season rainbows and browns.
OTHER OPTIONS: Massachusetts' Cape Cod "kettle ponds" are just starting to produce good catches of bass this month. Fish deep at first, and then work closer to shore till pre-spawn largemouths respond. Vermont's Connecticut River trout begin to provide consistent action in April. Watch the water temperature and fish where midday sun warms eddies and pools to 55 degrees.
West Branch Penobscot, Me., Trout
Fly-fishermen are in their glory now as Maine's most famous trout river comes into its peak production period. Expect plenty of competition and finicky fish in the most popular pools. Look for pockets of untapped water between heavily-fished sections.
OTHER OPTIONS: Slow troll Vermont's Lake Seymour with minnow imitations for big lake trout, which are often found just under the surface at this time of year. Connecticut's Mono Pond is a sleeper for giant largemouths. Target structure and small pockets of open water among the weeds and lily pads.
Penobscot River, Me, Smallmouths
Bass anglers rejoice as smallmouths begin to spawn this month. The famed Penobscot River is home to some of the state's largest bronzebacks, which are best fished from a canoe or kayak using shallow-diving crankbaits and small spinnerbaits under shoreline brush, rocks and blown-down trees.
OTHER OPTIONS: Stripers are the name of the game along Rhode Island's endless shoreline. Live eels, cut bait and big, noisy plugs tossed into the surf will generate rod-bending strikes. Head for New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest for classic small-stream trout fishing. Nearly every culvert crossing in the forest contains pocket water full of colorful native brookies.
Connecticut River, Ct., Catfish
Summertime is catfishing time and the mighty Connecticut River is renowned for its population of channel cats and bullheads. Fish the deep water below any bridge abutment or old pilings. Most anglers use stout rods and heavy weights to counter the river's relentless current.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maine's Kennebec River schoolie stripers may be taken from shore or boat. Watch for strong tidal shifts and fish where fast rips and sunken ledges offer forage and cover for hungry bass. Rhode Island's Wallum Lake is a sleeper hotspot for July largemouths. Fish near shore early and late in the day using weedless top-water lures, rubber worms or poppers.
Connecticut River, Ct., Pike
Lunker northerns lurk in the coves and bends of the sultry Connecticut River in August. This fish are apex ambush predators and the big ones eat big things — fish habitat and choose baits accordingly. Drift along shore and cast to the edges of brush and weed beds, and be sure to target stand-alone structure such as logs, rocks and sunken ledges.
Fish early and late in the day in shallow water, then switch to deep channels during the midday heat.
OTHER OPTIONS: Massachusetts Onota Lake bullheads are on the move this month, providing easy fishing from shore or boat in muddy, shallow bays and coves. Patient fishermen using worms, cut bait and standard stink baits can fill a boat with tasty horned pout, especially at night.
Also, try night fishing. For a unique experience, try casting poppers and small deer-hair flies to New Hampshire's Ossipee Lake smallmouths. Avoid the crowds by going early or late in the day and get there mid-week to enjoy some elbow-room.
Lake Champlain, Vt., Northern Pike
A northern pike weighing over 46 pounds was caught in Lake Champlain during September. Pike are abundant throughout the lake, forming a substantial base population from which big fish can be recruited. Most anglers go with large, lively baits or flashy minnow-imitating lures fished near weeds, drop-offs and structure.
OTHER OPTIONS: Connecticut's Long Island Sound is the place to be for big stripers during the fall months. Charter boats work The Rips where 50-pound specimens are not uncommon. For a unique angling experience, try Maine's Kennebec River for big browns. These fish are notoriously hook-shy but experienced fly-rodders use patience and persistence to fool them hatch-matching dries, nymphs and Woolly Buggers.
Charles River, Mass., Smallmouths
One of the Bay State's best fall bass hotspots, the Charles is full of feisty bronzebacks that will take just about anything thrown at them. Popular lures include Rapalas, Mepps spinners and crawfish-imitating crank baits.
You can also try something very popular among anglers at the southern end of smallmouths' range: soft plastic Senkos or Yum Dingers. Focus on the heads and tails of deep pools and current seams where natural forage is carried to bass waiting in quiet eddies and pockets.
OTHER OPTIONS: Some of Cape Cod's biggest cow stripers are taken in fall just a few feet beyond the surf. Stripers will be busy foraging all day but the most productive angling for lunker bass takes place at night. Rhode Island's Misquamicut Beach is a good starting point for big bluefish this month. Blues pushing 20 pounds may be caught on live baits including eels, mackerel, cut bait and assorted large lures that imitate these forage species.
Narragansett Bay, R.I., Blackfish
Head for the Ocean State coast for some hot tautog fishing. It's all about the ledges now, where rocky crevices provide forage and cover for these tasty saltwater fish. Toss crabs, clams and cut bait from shore or boat using heavy tackle. Check your line frequently for signs of abrasion.
OTHER OPTIONS: Slow troll on New Hampshire's Piscataqua River for schoolie stripers. Good fishing will be found close to shore and near ledges, pilings and on current seams on both sides of the river. Connecticut's Mashapaug Lake offers some great cool-season bass fishing in shallow water early and late in the day. Try deep holes at midday with colorful jigs and bottom-bumping plastics.
Center Pond, Me., Pickerel
Anglers eager for ice-fishing season to begin will find plenty of action on Center Pond, where chainsides abound near shore and below the causeway bridge. Lively shiners fished three or four feet below the surface will produce hot action throughout the day. Wait for solid ice to form and start dropping baits as soon as it's safe to do so.
OTHER OPTIONS: Head for Massachusetts' Cape Cod shoreline for giant late-season stripers. Good fishing can be enjoyed night or day this month but be sure to dress for existing conditions. Most of the action takes place just beyond the breakers.
For freshwater excitement, Connecticut's Mansfield Hollow crappies may be fooled by slow trolling using tiny crankbaits, streamers and spoons or casting jigs and spinners from shore.