Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Lake trout popular gamefish
Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont ice anglers find that lake trout (togue as they are called in Maine) are probably the most sought after gamefish in northern New England. Vermont seems to consistently produce some of the larger fish but Maine's fishery almost always produces bigger numbers while New Hampshire has some great fishing for middle-sized-fish and some great access to them.
In New Hampshire, only a few big lakes have enough lake trout to make them your target. And regulations are pretty much uniform from lake to lake, except those waters that are shared with the border state of Maine, which have separate Interstate Rules that are available in both state's rule books.
Lake Winnipesaukee is both the largest and most popular of the state's lake trout waters and for good reason. This lake is full of the kind of waters that lakers seek out, shoals in the 25-to-50-foot depths adjacent to very deep water. Coming in a close second are three other lakes - Lake Winnisquam, known for it's lunker fish, Squam Lake, also known for quality lakers, and Newfound Lake has some great laker water and clarity that allows sighting of fish as they approach the bait. A lake that is known for plenty of action on smaller lakers is the border Great East Lake. But if you want a northern experience and some of the best all-around laker action to be had, travel north to Pittsburg to fish the three Connecticut Lakes and also Lake Francis. Of these, First Connecticut no doubt is the winner of both action and size and also has a nice population of cusk, a fish that lake trout anglers often catch as a byproduct of their efforts. Again, further information on these lakes is available in the DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer, Page 13.
Some of Vermont's largest and most productive lake trout waters include Arrowhead Mountain Lake, Great Averill Pond, Caspian Lake, Lake Champlain, Crystal Lake, Dunmore Lake, Maidstone Lake, and last but not least, huge Lake Memphremagog. A good reference for more information on these lakes is on Page 10 of the DeLorme's Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer.
On some waters, Vermont's rules and regulations, especially pertaining to the amount of fishing gear and tip-ups you can use are especially liberal. But be prepared to fish some of the deepest and clearest bodies of water as well as the variable conditions of such huge lakes as Champlain and Memphremagog. Also know that Champlain's waters are shared with New York state and Memphremagog's most productive waters are located outside the United States in Canadian waters. Both of these big lakes have an incredible variety of fish and you'd best keep your Vermont rule book handy!
Maine has too many great lake trout waters to list. Know that mostly these fish are known by the name of togue. But two of their largest lakes, Sebago and Moosehead, share the problem of an overpopulation of lakers and have some of the fastest fishing imaginable. In both lakes, especially Moosehead, expect fish in the three pounds or under and you won't be disappointed. But each year some monster fish do come out of that lake. Sebago is just full of lakers. Catches of dozens of fish a day are not that rare, in fact some of the best fishermen there are concerned with catches under double digits per day. Sebago also has some huge fish that are caught each year and a respectable population of cusk, with the area called "the Camel's Pasture'' being noted as the place for cusk.
There is no blanket procedure for catching lake trout. On some waters, fishing with tip-ups will rule. The Vermont lakes are almost universally good tip-up waters.
In New Hampshire, jig fishing and using bait on tip-ups seems to be about equal in production. With New Hampshire's limit of only two lines on designated lake trout waters, it's commonplace for anglers to put out one tip-up and jig with the other line, often in a pattern of holes cut earlier.
On the ice on Maine's Sebago Lake, jig fishing rules, with some catches of dozens of lake trout a day being jigged from one hole. But this lake is one of the last lakes in Maine to freeze over because of its bowl-like shape and long reaches for the wind to keep the surface stirred up. It's best to check with local sources before heading out for a day's fishing there.
There are certain brands of jigs that are traditional and will always work. The Swedish Pimple is probably the most noted along with Leadfish and Airplane jigs.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.