Fishing Lake Winnipesaukee

Winnie offers tremendous smallmouth fishing


At 21 miles long and 213 feet at its deepest point, Lake Winnipesaukee supports a varied and enticing array of hard-fighting and tasty freshwater game fish, including salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, pickerel, whitefish, yellow perch, horned pout (bullhead catfish), sunfish and even a codfish relative called cusk. Salmon, bass, and trout, however, are the main targets.

During May and June, local fishing guide Chuck Kenney suggests targeting smallmouth. “Just after the spawn in early June, the bronzeback fishing can be incredible around here,” he notes. “Just drift or anchor off any rocky hump or island and the odds are you’ll score with smallmouths in the one- to three-pound class, plus a few bigger ones to keep things interesting.” Kenney likes to use suspending Rogues, gold-colored Long-A Bombers, medium- to deep-diving crankbaits, quarter-ounce Buddies and jig-and-pigs to tempt these fish.

Smallies will continue to strike with abandon through most of the summer during the early-morning hours, but you’ll have to move to deeper water and “fish the cabbage” if you want to stay on the fish. Work drop-offs and deep-water grass lines with rock, shale, and gravel bottoms in depths of 10 to 35 feet once the sun gets high and the water temperature begins to reach the upper 50s. If you go this deep route during the summer months, use Carolina-rigged lizards, 4- to 6-inch Senko worms, grubs, tube baits, and spider jigs. Jig within three feet of the bottom to stay in the strike zone.

Salmon, rainbow, and lake trout fans will take plenty of fish on spinners, plugs, and spoons in relatively shallow water during the spring, but the real steady action sets up with the definition of the lake’s thermocline sometime in July and August. Once the thermocline, a sharp break in water temperature that “locks in” the bait at a set depth, is established, anglers can troll plugs and spoons right along it to really hammer the fish.

Cant. Jason Parent of Salmon Patrol Charters shows off a Lake Winnie spring salmon. Photo AJ Derosa

“Weirs, Meredith, and on out toward Six Mile Island can be a salmon and trout mecca from late June through August,” reveals Kenney. “There are days you can catch fish until your arms are ready to fall off, if you use planer boards and downriggers to get your lures into the strike zone.”

Saltwater anglers with a little freshwater experience should have little trouble scoring with the right plugs and spoons. But if the thought of trying for salmon, trout or smallmouth on such a large lake seems overwhelming, you can always head fish in 8 to 20 feet of water with a live worm and target panfish, such as yellow perch, sunfish, bluegill or pickerel. Set your bait three feet below a float for a mix of perch, sunnies, and an occasional bass, or two feet below a quarter-ounce bell sinker or split shot for a mix of species. The shallows of Paugus Bay are a great spot for this type of fishing.

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