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Hard Water Salmon in New Hampshire

The hard water salmon are experiencing in New Hampshire could alter early spring fishing.

Winnipesaukee. A lake so named by the North American Indian tribe of Abernaki Indians, native to New England and Canada. The unwritten Abernaki tongue has its roots in the Algonquin language.

While the original meaning of the name Winnipesaukee may have been lost to history, more poetic meanings out of several proposed is "the smile of the great spirit," based on an old Indian folk tale.

If that meaning rings true, residents of the area must feel like the winter of 2013-2014 was more like a cold hard stare than a smile. Near-record snowfall and an extended cold temperature season has "left over two feet of ice on the lake," reports Large Lake Fisheries Biologist Donald Miller of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission.

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An abundance of "hard water" this year has put a damper on one of the area's most popular outdoor sports, salmon fishing. "Ice out is generally in mid-April, but this year we are predicting it to be a little later, somewhere around April 25th," says Miller. The ice fishing season ends by law on March 31st.

Along with bank fishing and small watercraft (like canoes) are allowed in available open water. General boating is not permitted on the lake until the majority of the ice has cleared.

According to Mike Nute of AJ's Bait and Tackle located in Meredith NH, "Right now the fishing is slow. The fish are chiefly being caught on live baits; smelt seems to be working well as most folks are bobber fishing from shore. The average fish taken is about 18 inches with some lake trout, which are also present in the area, getting up to 23 inches and four and a half pounds."

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The landlocked salmon are genetically identical to their Atlantic cousins, but do not grow to the same size.

Landlocked salmon (Salmo salar Sebago) are a subspecies of Atlantic salmon. The type found in New Hampshire is the Sebago salmon. Landlocked salmon, as the term suggests, never migrate to the sea. Their entire life cycle is different from the Atlantic variety and is spent entirely in freshwater.

According to Miller, the average Sebago salmon taken is 2 and a half to 3 and a half pounds, with a large fish reaching 5 and a half pounds.

Salmon and rainbow trout often congregate near dams. When the spillways are opened they will slide right through, and spend the remainder of their lives in the surrounding rivers. These types of fish are called "drop-down" fish.

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With warmer weather fast approaching, the fishing should pick up. The lake, as always, will eventually thaw and hard water will be just a memory until old man winter makes his way back again later this year.

As spring approaches, perhaps a quote from M.F. Sweetster's 1889 Guide to New England best describes the lake and its surrounding hamlets and wildlife. The concluding lines read: "Whose crystal wave, mid rock and isle, reflect unchanged the spirit's smile."

At least I like to think so anyway...

Do you plan to fish in New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee this spring? How will the later ice out date affect your plans?


Featured image via Wikimedia

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Hard Water Salmon in New Hampshire