Hot or wet weather isn't keeping anglers' lines dry

Union Leader Correspondent
July 15. 2013 6:45PM
Amanda Chop of Manchester fly fishes for rainbow trout in the Piscataquog River in Goffstown. Fishing, especially for cold-water species like trout, slows down in the mid-summer heat, and this week's high temperatures won't be helping matters. (.NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

Though the weather has posed some challenges to recreational fishing in the Granite State, hearty anglers are finding ways to work around the rain and the heat.

There's been no shortage of rain in New Hampshire in recent weeks, alternating with the kind of heavy, thick heat one would expect to experience in the Mississippi Delta, not New England. But the weather itself hasn't kept fishermen indoors, said Alan Nute, owner of AJ's Bait and Tackle in Meredith.

"The rain doesn't keep fishermen away," he said.

Lightning, however, should, said Janet Thompson, owner of North Country Angler in North Conway.

"You don't want to get caught in the water during a thunderstorm with a fishing rod in your hand," said Thompson. "And don't hide under a tree with a fly rod or you'll become a lightning rod."

Thompson said that more fishermen are struck by lightning than any other group, including golfers, so packing up when the sky starts rumbling is a smart idea.

Swift rivers

Fishing big rivers when the water is running high and fast can be a waste of a perfectly good morning, said Nute, but you can strike it rich in the smaller streams and tributaries.

When big rivers are flooded, the water gets muddy, making it hard for the fish to see the lures even if the angler can sink them deep enough to reach the fish in spite of the current, said Nute.

And besides, the fish go into survival mode, said Johnson.

"When the water's running too fast, it's unsafe for the fishermen, and the fish are going to be hunkered down at the bottom of the river so they're not swept downstream," she said. "They're not going to come out for food. They're going to feed on stuff that falls to the bottom."

Because the water at the top of the river moves fastest, Thompson said, a fly fisherman's lure is "just going to be doing a lot of surfing."

But all the rain has made for good news for those who like fishing in rivers. In normal years, the smaller streams that feed the rivers have stopped running by now, but this year the rain has kept them full.

"The small trout streams are great," said Nute. "They're lasting longer into the season than usual."

Warm ponds, cold fish

For folks who like to fish from the shores of a lake or a pond, the high water and warm temperatures are also creating some difficulties.

First, just finding a place to stand around the swollen lakes has made fishing a challenge, said fisherman Michael Achorn of Penacook.

"The water's too high, and it's too warm, so the fish have gone deep," Achorn said. "I'm just getting skunked everywhere I go. All we're catching is sunfish.

Achorn spent most of Sunday chasing fish, traveling from rivers up north, including the Mad and Baker rivers, before making a final few casts in Drew Lake in Weare.

"When the water's warm like this, you need a boat to get to the deeper water," he said. "That's where the fish are."

Lon Robinson, a fish culturalist at the Milford Fish Hatchery, said the temperatures are just not good for trout.

"They prefer 55 to 60 degree water, though the brown trout can handle a bit warmer," he said. "But they won't survive if it gets much warmer."

Right now, the trout that can't find cold, oxygen-rich water are becoming lethargic and losing interest in dinner.

However, in the cool of the evening, when the mayflies are out, trout and salmon may be happy to head to the surface to feed, said Regional Fisheries Biologist Don Miller in a recent fishing report.

Saltwater stories

On the Seacoast, it's a great year for striped bass, said George Taylor of Taylor's Trading Post in Madbury, but again the rivers aren't offering the best yields.

"I think there's too much fresh water in the rivers and the stripers don't like that," said Taylor. "But out on (Great Bay), the stripers are biting big time. Everybody seems to be doing well."

Flounder are also feeding well, according to a fishing report from Marine Biologist Robert Eckert, and bluefish will be making their way in closer to shore soon as well.

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