New England Bass Fishing Outlook 2018
April 10, 2018
New England bass resources and angling opportunities are some of the best in the East.
There was a time when black bass were looked down upon throughout much of New England.
For years after their introductions in the mid-and-late 1800s most states had no length, bag and weight limits on bass, nor any closed season or meaningful angling regulations until the turn of the century. All that has changed.
The Pine Tree State has long been known for its top-notch bass angling opportunities and its reputation is only getting better. In recent years at least a half a dozen waters have been listed among Bassmasters top 100 bass waters in the United States in the northeast category.
These top fisheries include Cobbosseecontee Lake between Winthrop and Manchester, Kezar Lake in Lovell and Sebago Lake, Maine's second-largest lake. Listings change year-to-year depending upon several factors, but China Lake in China, Great Pond in the Belgrade region and Webber Pond in Vassalboro made the cut in 2017.
Although Maine offers a diverse and healthy largemouth bass resource, the state is especially known for its smallmouth bass. Prime smallmouth waters are not difficult to find, but anglers can go wrong can't go wrong at South Branch Pond in Seboeis, West or East Grand Lakes in Washington County, Damariscotta Lake in Damariscotta, any of the lakes in the Belgrade chain or any of the lakes previously mentioned.
For river smallmouth, the 55-mile stretch of the Penobscot between Mattawamkeag and Old Town is tough to beat, but many others are also chuck full of smallmouths, including the St. Croix in Washington County along the border with New Brunswick, the Piscataquis River near Howland, and even smaller runs like the Sandy River near Farmington.
The fishing is especially good during the May and June peak season, but the action can remain great right into July and August. In those summer months the bass will generally be found at deeper depths until cooler water temperatures arrive in September and continue through fall.
It should be noted, Maine changed its bass fishing regulations in 2014, eliminating the "artificial lure only" restriction from April 1 to June 30. In 2015 the General Law open and closed season dates and bag limits were simplified by combining them into a single year-round regulation.
That same year, the S-15 special regulation code, which covers some waters, was also modified by expanding the protective length limit and reducing the daily bag limit. These changes were designed to provide more protection to larger bass in certain lakes.
As it stands now, on General Law waters there is a 10-inch minimum length and two fish daily limit, only one of which may exceed 14 inches.
For more information on regulations and on bass fishing in Maine visit www.mefishwildlife.com.
Under the General Fishing Rules bass fishing on New Hampshire's inland waters is a year-round opportunity, but bag and minimum limits vary. With few exceptions on lakes and ponds from Jan. 1 through March 31 the daily limit is two fish, only one of which can be 16 inches or greater.
From April 1 to May 14 and June 16 through June 30 the daily limit is two fish. From May 15 to June 15 all bass caught must be released and angling is restricted to artificial lures and flies only. And from July 1 through December 31 the daily limit is five fish and no length limit.
Rivers and streams under the general rules are basically the same, except the fishing season ends October 15, although some rivers are open year round. Fishermen should be sure to check the most recent Freshwater Fishing Digest for additional details and exceptions covering specific waters.
Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are found statewide but smallmouth dominate waters from about the Lakes Region northward. Largemouth tend to be more prevalent in the shallower, warmer waters southward.
However, anglers in the southern part of the state do have good smallmouth fisheries to hit: Spofford Lake in Chesterfield, in the southwest corner of the state holds some spectacular smallmouths, as does Bow Lake in Strafford.
Fishermen do well on with various power worms and tubes and Senkos. Scattered elsewhere about New Hampshire are excellent smallmouth waters such as Lake Wickwas and Lake Waukewan (both in Meredith), Webster Lake in Franklin, Conway Lake in Conway and Lake Umbagog on the Maine/New Hampshire border in Errol.
Fishermen looking for a mixed bag should hit one of the bigger lakes, especially Winnipesaukee and Squam. Both offer plenty of bays, coves, islands, rock piles, and good access. They are popular derby waters and are on Bassmasters list of top 100 lakes in the country.
And for largemouths, the smaller, shallower and more weedy waters such as Hermit Lake in Sanbornton, Baboosic Lake in Amherst, Balch Pond on the border with Maine in East Wakefield, and Upper and Lower Suncook Lakes in Barnstead are all worth fishing and getting to know.
Anglers should keep in mind boundary waters between Maine and New Hampshire and New Hampshire and Vermont may carry special regulations than water under General Rule so check for details. Fishermen are also reminded it is now illegal across the state to use lead sinkers or jigs weighing one ounce or less.
Fishermen just getting started in their hunt for bass should get their hands on a copy of the "Angler's Guide to New Hampshire."
Although Vermont is nationally known for its trout and salmon opportunities, bass fishing is also extremely popular among locals and is drawing increasing numbers of non-resident anglers each year.
Lake Champlain, Lake Bomoseen in Castleton, Lake Catherine in Wells, Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, Lake Seymour in Morgan and the Moore Reservoir in Waterford among others provide top-notch smallmouth bass opportunities as well as largemouth action in most cases. Even sections of the Connecticut River are becoming regionally and nationally known as prime hotspots, particularly the slower reaches and backwaters in the Springfield and Brattleboro areas.
But these are not the only bass waters in the Green Mountain State. In the Champlain Valley, Fairfield Pond is a popular destination for smallmouth while Shelburne Pond south of Burlington offers largemouth. In the Northeast Kingdom area, popular and productive smallmouth waters include Island Pond, Seymour Lake, Crystal Lake and previously mentioned Moore Reservoir, arguably the best of the lot (especially during the catch and release season). For largemouth, Derby Pond in Derby and Miles Pond in Concord can produce some big catches.
In the Central Valley Region, the Waterbury Reservoir is one of the best for smallmouth, with some bass running up to 5 pounds. For largemouth bass, anglers should wet lines in Fairlee and Morey lakes in Fairlee. To the south, the North Springfield Reservoir in Weathersfield is a great spot for largemouths as well.
Under the General Rules, Vermont's bass season opens the second Saturday in June, but a catch-and-release season with artificial lures and flies opens the second Saturday in April through the Friday before the second Saturday in June. Anglers should check specific waters for any special rules.
Smallmouth bass have occupied waters in Massachusetts only since about 1850, and largemouth since 1879. Stocking of both continued into the early 1960's but by then fisheries were self-sustaining and stocking programs were phased out. Today, both smallmouth and largemouth are found throughout the commonwealth under a liberal year-round fishing season. The daily limit is five fish and the minimum length limit is 12 inches.
Because many lakes, ponds and some reservoirs in Massachusetts have heavy or partial shore development, some of the best bass fishing is in April, May and June before warm weather lake activities get going. In the summer, often the best fishing takes place early and late in the day when things are quiet. Once water temperatures start to cool, the fall season is also highly productive and popular.
Although there are exceptions, smallmouth and largemouth bass in Massachusetts occupy the same waters. In some cases one species is dominate due to water chemistry and habitat conditions, but this is not always the case. A prime case in point are the bass ponds on Cape Cod.
Collectively Cape Cod ponds offer some of the best bass angling in Massachusetts. Due to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay, many of the ponds do not totally freeze. Bass here have a longer growing season, allowing them to reach larger size than bass typically found in other areas of the state that freeze over early and stay frozen longer.
Superior growth is also augmented by the fact that many of the ponds have outlets that dump into the ocean. These outlets experience herring runs each spring that provide an abundant food source.
There are some 360 ponds on Cape Cod and while many hold both largemouth and smallmouth, anglers new to the area would do best concentrating on just a handful to get started. On anyone's list should be Coonamessett Pond in Falmouth, Mashpee-Wakeby, Santuit and John's Pond (all in Mashpee), Long Pond in Brewster, and Middle Pond and Mystic Lake, both in Marston's Mills.
Bridge Pond and Great Pond are two other worthwhile fisheries. They are further out on the cape in Eastham but generally receive less attention and produce some big bass.
Anglers should keep in mind some of these ponds have outboard horsepower restrictions, and not all of these ponds have access for large watercraft, but all provide access for cartops, canoes, kayaks and most have access facilities for small trailered boats.
For more information on these and other Cape Cod ponds contact the MassWildlife Southeast District office in Buzzards Bay, telephone 1-(508) 759-3406. Maps with access information and other particulars on these ponds as well as ponds throughout Massachusetts can be found at www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw.
More spring bass tips
Considering its small size, Rhode Island offers some prime bass fishing opportunities during a year-round open season.
For the first time since the 1980's bass have been stocked in a handful of ponds to boost the fishery, and in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the RIDEM continues efforts to control the spread of the Largemouth Bass Virus.
Thanks in part to the participation and diligence or anglers the virus has been detected in just two ponds, Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods State Park in 2011 and more recently in Echo Lake in Pascoag in 2014. For more information on the virus anglers can contact the RIDEM or by telephoning 1-(401) 222-3070.
Most of the bass angling in Rhode Island is for largemouth, although smallmouth are also available. For smallies anglers might try Carr Pond inside Big River Wildlife Management Area in West Greenwich, Groton Pond in Apponaug, Indian Lake in South Kingston or Stafford Pond in Tiverton. Several rivers also hold good smallmouth, including sections of the Big River, Clear River, Pawtucket and Woods rivers.
For largemouth, anglers shouldn't be disappointed wetting lines at Indian Lake, Wallum Pond Burrillville, Beach Pond in Exeter, Watchaug Pond in Charlestown or Worden Pond in South Kingston. A new state record largemouth weighing 11.2 pounds was catch at Johnson's Pond, also known as Flat River Reservoir, in 2016. Anglers should also keep in mind many of the state reservoirs are also open to angling and offer excellent bassing opportunities.
For more information visit www.dem.ri.gov.
Connecticut offers some of the best bass fishing opportunities in southern New England thanks to its Bass Management Lake program. Program regulations, which include slot, length and creel limits that are different from the statewide regulations, are designed to enhance the fishing. While bass are found throughout the state, these special waters have proven extremely popular and productive.
Some of the waters on the list include Moodus Reservoir in East Haddam, Pattagansett in East Lyme, Lake Saltonstall in Branford, Gardner Lake in Salem, Highland Lake in Winchester, Taftville in Borwich, Bashan Lake in Bashan and the Bolton Lakes, Upper, Middle and Lower in Bolton and Coventry. Anglers should keep in mind that a careful check of the regulations in advised. A more comprehensive list of waters under the special program will be found in the latest Angler's Guide.