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 trying for the smallmouth bass. “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 1- to 3-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.
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.
Smallies will continue to strike with abandon through most of the summer during the early-morning hours, but you’ll have to move off the island shorelines and out 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 3 feet of the bottom to stay in the strike zone.
Salmon, rainbow and lake trout fans will catch 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 troll plugs and spoons right along it to really hammer the fish.
“Weirs, Meredith and on out toward Six Mile Island can be a salmon and trout mecca from late June through August,” notes 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 a overwhelming, you can always head fish in 8 to 20 feet of water with a live worm and target panfish, such as yellow perch, panfish or catfish. Set your bait 3 feet below a float for a mix of perch, sunnies and an occasional bass, or 2 feet below a 1/4-ounce bell sinker or split shot for a mix of catfish, sunnies and bass. The shallows of Paugus Bay are a great spot for this type of fishing.
Bait & Tackle
- AJ’s Bait & Tackle (Meredith) (603-279-3152)
- Paugus Bay Sports Shop (Laconia) (603-524-4319)
- Anchor Marine (Weirs Beach) (603-366-4311)
- Trexler’s Marina (Moultonboro) (603-253-7315)
- Wolfeboro Bay Outfitters (Wolfeboro) (603-569-1114)
- Capt. Chuck Kenney (603-344-1314)
A New Hampshire Recreational Saltwater Fishing License is required for individuals age 16 and older participating in recreational saltwater fishing for finfish from coastal and estuarine waters of New Hampshire. Click here for FAQs about the N.H. recreational saltwater fishing license. The fee is $11 for both residents and non-residents. Anglers with a saltwater license from Maine or Massachusetts are exempt. The license expires on December 31.
- Persons fishing from a licensed charter or partyboat do not need a license.
- Persons who purchased a Lifetime Fishing or combination license prior to 2011 may obtain a Limited Annual Saltwater License for Lifetime Licensees to fish for saltwater smelt, American shad, trout and salmon in coastal and estuarine waters. This permit must be applied for each year by mail or at Fish & Game in Concord and is good only for the fish listed above. Persons who want to fish for other fish species such as striped bass, flounder and cod must purchase the NH Recreational Saltwater License.
To purchase a license online, go to:
Seasons, Catch & Size Limits
For a list of state regulations, by species: