Tips & Tricks for NH Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked salmon, Lake Winnipesaukee. Photo AJ DeRosa

April 1 marks the start of the 2018 open-water fishing season on New Hampshire’s large lakes managed for landlocked salmon and lake trout, including Big Squam, Sunapee, and Winnipesaukee.

Along with these well-known waterbodies, New Hampshire Fish & Game also manages 11 other lakes for landlocked salmon, including Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound Lake, Ossipee Lake, Little Squam Lake, and Winnisquam Lake. Pleasant Lake in New London is also managed for landlocked salmon, but is classified as a designated trout pond, with a 2018 opening date of April 28.

Downriggers are commonly employed when trolling for early-season salmon. Photo Tom Richardson

Salmon Hot Spots

NH Fish & Game reports that anglers in small craft are often able to fish 1-2 weeks in advance of full ice-out declarations, on select ice-free portions of the lakes. Meanwhile, shore anglers can explore the Winnipesaukee River, which flows through the Weirs channel into Paugus Bay and through the Lakeport Dam/Lake Opechee area. “Drop-down” salmon (and rainbow trout) are found throughout these river reaches.

Other traditional fishing areas according to NH F&G include the Winnipesaukee River through Laconia to Dixon Point at Lake Winnisquam and the Lochmere Dam at Silver Lake. There is often a sizable piece of open water in Lake Winnisquam where the river empties into the lake. This water can be easily accessed by the N.H. Fish & Game boat access ramp, just upstream in Laconia. Similarly, the southern portion of Opechee Lake/Bay can offer trolling opportunities in the earliest part of the season.

The Newfound River in Bristol offers fly-fishing-only water that can often produce rainbows and an occasional salmon. Additionally, several popular Winnipesaukee shore-fishing locations exist in the Merrymeeting River (fly-fishing-only, barbless, catch and release) and the mouth of the Merrymeeting River as it enters Alton Bay, downstream of the stone arch bridge. Depending on the prevailing conditions, anglers can often still-fish from small craft or troll a stretch of open water out into the bay.

A variety of small, shiny metal spoons can be slow-trolled for salmon. Photo Tom Richardson

Salmon Fishing Techniques

Other sites with well-known potential include the Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough, Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, Smith River inlet at Wolfeboro Bay, and Meredith and Center Harbor town docks. At these locations, everything from smelt, shiners and worms under a slip bobber to small jigs will take salmon, as well as rainbow trout and the occasional lake trout.

In early spring, salmon can be caught by trolling everything from spoons (DB Smelt, Sutton, Mooselook, Top Gun, and Smelt Gun) to traditional streamer flies (Maynard’s Marvel, Pumpkinhead, Mickey Finn, Joe’s Smelt, Grey Ghost), and live smelt or shiners. Most early-season fish are caught from the surface down to about 15 feet. Everything from planer board set-ups, sink-tip fly lines, downriggers and monofilament flat lines set 50 to 150 feet behind the boat will take fish.  When the wind kicks up, drifting live smelt or shiners on top can be highly effective. Fisheries managers remind anglers that only single hooks can be used with natural bait on certain salmon/lake trout lakes, including Squam, Newfound, Sunapee, Winnipesaukee, and Winnisquam. (See the N.H. Freshwater Fishing Digestfor a complete list.) Also, current regulations stipulate that only 2 lines can be trolled per licensed angler.

Winnipesaukee guide Jason Parent displays a nice salmon taken on trolling gear. Photo Tom Richardson

Catch & Release Tips

To ensure the future of high-quality landlocked salmon fisheries, anglers should take extra care when releasing salmon, as the percentage of hook-wounded fish continues to be a problem. Hook-wounded/scarred/injured fish are significantly shorter and poorer in body condition than non-hook-wounded counterparts of the same age. Using rubber nets and proper release techniques (for example, don’t “shake” fish off the hook), and releasing lightly hooked healthy salmon, while choosing to harvest previously hook-wounded fish, are ways to minimize the negative effects of hook wounding, thereby increasing the number of trophy salmon available.

Watch a video and read a brochure about landlocked salmon in New Hampshire, and tips for safe handling of these fish.

Live baits can only be fished on single hooks in some waterbodies. Photo Tom Richardson


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Free information on fishing in New Hampshire, from depth maps to tackle tips, is contained in the N.H. Freshwater Fishing Digest.