Most bass fishermen agree June is one of the best times to challenge New England's black bass. By the same token, few will agree May is a bad time.
As water temperatures continue warm, several things happen that make bass fishing extremely productive this month. First, the metabolism rate of the fish increases and, coming off the long winter, bass feed heavily. Second, their eagerness to feed makes them susceptible to a wide range of offerings.
And as water temperatures climb into that magical 50- to 60-degree range later this month things will only get better. This happens sooner in southern New England than it does in the northern part of the region, but by then bass are in or close to the spawning season. The fish will be found more and more often in shallow water creating beds or seeking mates, and they became aggressive and protective of their spawning sites.
Add it all up and it boils down to one thing: May can be a hot month for New England bass.
With that in mind, here are some waters that should provide some excellent bass action this month.
MESSALONSKEE LAKE, MAINE
Maine is blessed with world-class bass waters, but few are as well known as the seven lakes and ponds making up the Belgrade chain, just a hop, skip and jump north of Augusta, the state capital.
While all produce good bass action, and though it has experienced a milfoil infestation and illegal introduction of northern pike, Messalonskee Lake still gets a lot of attention for several reasons.
The lake is home to both largemouth and smallmouth, has good numbers of both, and the action can be fast and furious. Furthermore, some real lunkers are in the lake, which is easy to find and offers good access. At 3,500-acres, the lake also provides anglers plenty of places to wet a line.
The south end of the lake is shallow and quite marshy but holds tons of fish. The same is true of the abundant structure in Belgrade Stream from Wings Mills to the lake, a stretch of water best fished from canoes and smaller boats. Access on this end is possible off Route 27 in Belgrade.
Going up the lake any of the numerous coves, rocky points, islands and visible cover should produce action, particularly in the narrow northern arm heading towards Oakland. Average depth is just over 30 feet and visibility is generally good down to 10 feet. Anglers should find plenty of action with plastic worms allowed to sink to the bottom. Crankbaits such as the Grappler Shad and Jointed Grappler Shad from Cotton Cordell, Rebel's Big Claw, and Shad Rap and Jointed Shad Rap from Rapala should do well, too.
Messalonskee Lake also has a good forage base of smelt, golden shiners and chubs, and natural bait also take their share of bass.
Access for boats on trailers on the north end will be found off Route 11 in Oakland.
For more information on bag and length limits and regulation pertaining to bass fishing visit www.mefishwildlife.com or telephone (207) 287-8000.
LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
If history is any indication of the future, the bass spawn will be in progress early this month on New Hampshire's largest lake. For success with Winnipesaukee's abundant smallmouths, anglers at this time of year should target shallow rocky shorelines, points and gravelly flats, especially those offering 3 to 10 feet of water. With 72 square miles of surface area, more than 240 islands and over 180 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of these areas to choose from.
For those new to the lake, however, the inside of Rattlesnake and Sleepers Islands off West Alton, the Forty Island area, the bars and shallows around Mark, Mink and Bear Islands and other islands off Meredith Neck and those leading into Center Harbor are all perennial smallmouth hotspots this month. Don't forget to check out water around navigational buoys that mark rock piles, shoals and other shallow areas.
For smallmouth, tubes fixed to 1/8-ounce heads seem to do quite well. Some favorites include the gold pumpkin and silver ghost Mister Mino, the Turbo in watermelon/chartreuse, white/red gill and green pumpkin, and Fat Tube in white, pumpkin candy, watermelon candy and watermelon seed, all from Mister Twister.
The same offerings also work on the lake's largemouth, but often require a slower retrieve, and in different locations. To get started, try Paugus Bay, Alton Bay and the shorelines and islands of Moultonboro Bay, which are prime locations. This is especially true of the islands and shallow coves in the Lees Mills area.
State- or town-owned public boat- launch facilities will be found near each of these areas and provide easy access. A list of these sites, as well as lake depth maps, will be found on the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
Caution should be taken when navigating and fishing these shallow and often rock and boulder-strewn areas. Winnipesuakee's offers good visibility so take advantage of it.
Also keep in mind that until May 14 there is a two-bass daily limit, but no length limit, and starting May 15 to June 15 all bass must be released. Artificial lures and flies are the rule during this period as well.
LAKE CHAMPLAIN, VERMONT
There's lots of prime bass fishing in the Green Mountain State, but with all things considered none top Lake Champlain.
To begin with, the big lake offers good populations of both largemouth and smallmouth and it goes without saying there is plenty of room to wet a line even on days when the weather is windy or there are lots of other anglers on the water.
The size structure of Champlain bass is also good. Smallmouths of 2 and 3 pounds are nothing unusual and hooking fish of 4 and 5 pounds is a distinct possibility. Largemouth bass run slightly bigger, on average.
Fishermen will also find plenty of launch sights and marinas with prime bass water not far away, as well as other services.
Lake Champlain covers 435 square miles, 270 of which are in Vermont. It is not possible to list all the hotspots on water this big; but half the fun of fishing Champlain is exploring the lake and finding that secret honey hole. It is important to keep mind both largemouth and smallmouth bass are apt to be found throughout the lake, but certain parts of Champlain are best targeted for one or the other.
Largemouth bass, for example, dominate in soft-bottomed and marshy areas; they thrive in areas of the lake with plenty of weeds, wood and other cover. This would cover much of the southernmost shoreline, roughly from Benson Landing to Chimney Point. Even north of there, in Fields Bay, Porter Bay, the larger Hawkins Bay in Ferrisburg, Shelburne Bay and Mallets Bay in Colchester also hold good numbers of largemouth.
Other good locations would be any of the bays throughout the Champlain Islands and Missisquoi Bay in Swanton. Off the mouth of major tributaries, in particular the Lamoille and Missisquoi rivers and Otter Creek, and upstream as far as you can navigate in each of those streams, prime largemouth habitat exists.
North of Chimney Point to the islands and Inland Sea area, the habitat is prime smallmouth territory, especially close to shore near rocky points, boulder-strewn reefs and shoals, old cribbings and bridges, on both the mainland and around islands.
Concentrate efforts early and late in the day for both types of bass, and keep in mind that from the second Saturday in April to the Friday before the second Saturday in June no live or cut bait is allowed and catch-and-release is the name of the game.
Speaking of lures, while Champlain bass will readily accept a host of rubber offerings resembling natural foods as well as surface and sub-surface Rapala-type plugs and spinnerbaits, catching these bass on flies is extremely enjoyable. Try a Dahlberg Diver, Clouser Minnow, Marabou Matuka, Marabou Muddler or Woolly Bugger on a floating line for fun, but keep a sink-tip line handy just in case you have to go deeper.
For more information on fishing Lake Champlain and a list of boat launch sites, visit the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
GARDNER LAKE, CONNECTICUT
The largemouth and smallmouth bass in 487-acre Gardner Lake can be touchy and demanding but are well worth the effort. Gardner is a Bass Management Lake and produces some hefty specimens. Under special regulations, the daily creel limit is two fish with a 16-inch minimum length limit.
Maximum lake depth is around 40 feet, and because the water is well oxygenated and quite clear, bass tend to hold deep during the day. That makes early morning and late afternoon and evenings prime times to go bass fishing. The nighttime action can be excellent, but boat speed limit is restricted to 6 mph from sunset to 8 a.m.
The bottom of Gardner Lake consists primarily of sand and gravel, with scattered boulders. Some areas, though, are mud and there are shoreline shallows offering excellent weed cover. All hold bass, especially any visible deep holes and pockets.
For the best action, fish plastic offerings like Senkos in one of the smoke, watermelon or pumpkin variations, Flat Tubes or a 3- or 4-inch Sassy Shad from Mr. Twister in chartreuse bloodline or baby bass.
To find Gardner Lake from the Colchester area, take Route 354 south to the lakes southern end where there is a public launch facility.
For more information visit www.ct.gov/dep.
QUABBIN RESERVOIR , MASSACHUSETTS
Massachusetts is home to some excellent bass waters; among those, at least to anglers who know it well, the Quabbin Reservoir sits high on the list of the commonwealth's best. Due to its intimidating size (some 39 square miles), however, many anglers opt to go elsewhere.
Another reason this lake is under-fished is that many regulations govern both public access and the use of private watercraft here.
For example, shoreline access and angling is prohibited on most of the south end of the reservoir and all private boats must have a Quabbin Boat Seal that certifies the boat has gone through a Department of Conservation and Recreation approved decontamination process. The seals must be intact when the craft is inspected by attendants prior to launching. Private boats may be launched only at specific areas, restrictions are put on motor size, and there is a fee for launching and parking at those sites. Lead sinkers and other lead tackle are also prohibited.
A complete set of rules and regulations and information on fishing regulations, fees and open launch sites are available in the Quabbin Reservoir Fishing Guide at www.mass.gov/dcr, or telephone (413) 323-7221.
But if you follow the rules, the Quabbin offers some great bass angling. Smallmouths reign supreme, with many tipping the scale from 2 to 4 pounds, but largemouth are also available. The single or combined daily limit is five fish and the minimum length limit is 12 inches.
And finding good water is not a problem. Because the reservoir is deep and shorelines drop off quickly, finding shallow water can be a challenge. Still, rocky shores and points and an abundance of structure created when the reservoir was created do exist, especially around the islands on the north end and other islands to the south. There are also some good areas along the east shore in Petersham and especially on the east side of Prescott Peninsula in New Salem. The best advice here is to explore and enjoy.
For advice on top lures, check in with one of the local bait and tackle shops near the boat launch areas in Pelham, Belechertwon, Orange and Ware. As a general rule, though, 3- and 4-inch Senkos are always a good bet.
WORDEN POND, RHODE ISLAND
Located in South Kingston, Worden Pond covers 1,043 acres and is the largest freshwater pond in the state. The pond's average depth of just 4 feet, the dark water, marshy habitat, and weeded shorelines all make this pond arguably one of Rhode Island's premier largemouth bass habitats.
Worden Pond also has an abundance of aquatic life, including a population of landlocked alewives that help produce some lunker bass. While much of the pond offers good fishing, about two miles of the northern shore abut the Great Swamp Management Area, and this portion of the pond's shoreline is totally undeveloped ”€ providing some of the best and most productive bass habitat.
Because of Worden Pond's shallow depths and weedy cover, weedless rigs are quite popular. The Mister Minnow, Turbo, Flat Tubes and Sassy Shad from Mr. Twister, the Scum Frog in white or green, and the 5-inch Shad Assassin from Bass Assassin in black glitter, albino and glitter variations are good examples.
To find Warden's Pond from US Route 1 take Route 110 north at Perryville to Tucker Town Four Corners and then left on Warden's Pond Road to the public boat launch.
For more information visit www.dem.ri.gov.