Anglers going after the "king of fish" -- broodstock Atlantic salmon -- will be happy to hear that stocking of the big fish is expected to get underway this week.
After a more typical winter, river flows are holding steady at about average for this time of year. Snow melt continues in the mountains, keeping the water temperature cold in the Pemigewasset River. Cold water temperatures and steady flows can make for a good spring season of salmon fishing.
"With no major rain in the forecast, we have decided to seize the opportunity and stock the broodstock early this year," said Matt Carpenter, the fisheries biologist who manages the salmon broodstock fishery. "Hopefully, this will make for a long and productive spring season of fishing."
The fish will be spread between stocking sites beginning in Bristol and working south to Concord and Hooksett, N.H. Fish and Game stocks broodstock Atlantic salmon each spring and fall, giving New Hampshire the only managed Atlantic salmon river fishery in New England.
"We have about 300 fish to stock this spring. What we lack in numbers this year we make up for in size," said Carpenter. "Some of these fish easily weigh in at over 10 pounds!"
To fish for broodstock salmon, anglers need a current New Hampshire fishing license and an $11 broodstock salmon permit. Both can be purchased online at http://www.fishnh.com or from license agents statewide. Only salmon marked by Fish and Game with a T-bar anchor at the base of the dorsal fin may be kept. The bag limit is one per day and five total for the season.
The big broodstock salmon being stocked this spring have completed their maternal duty, producing the fry (young salmon) used in the Atlantic salmon restoration program, a partnership between the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
"Spring is when we stock the robust 3- and 4-year-old salmon, as opposed to the two-year-olds stocked in the fall," said Carpenter. "Salmon are not ready to produce eggs until they are at least three-years-old. In the fall, we stock extra fish that will not be needed to provide eggs for the program. In the spring, we stock extra fish that have already spawned the previous fall."
Purchase of broodstock salmon permits help support this cooperative state-federal restoration effort, along with a number of other fish conservation projects. The program is also supported through federal funds from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Broodstock salmon are also a big hit right here. Several hundred were stocked in ponds all across this state two weeks ago to the delight of anglers far and near. These fish were 3 to 6 pounds each and were divided up between each of the five districts.
Unlike New Hampshire, you do not need a salmon stamp to catch one of these great fighting fish. What you do need is a good fishing rod and reel. The reel should be equipped with 8-pound test line and I would throw spoons at these jumpers.
A local angler, Dan LeBlanc, hooked one last week at Baddacook and the fish towed him around the pond in his canoe before he was able to bring the 4-pound fighter to the net.
Ponds stocked include Baddacook, Comet, Horn, Sluice, Mattawa, Onata, Laurel Lake and Quinsigamond in Worcester. For most of these bodies of water its a second salmon stocking of this year.
Trout stocking of all the streams has been all but completed. It's possible a couple more might get fish but for the most part they are done for the year. Now it's restocking of the lakes and ponds and then another round for the rivers. By then they will be out of fish.
Turkey season is at the midway point now. Hunters are finding gobblers here and there and checking them in online or at the check station in Ayer. Hunters are allowed two bearded males each spring.
Bill Biswanger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.