Weird winter makes for late start for good salmon fishing


LACONIA — Today, April 1, marks the start of the open-water fishing season on New Hampshire's large lakes managed for landlocked salmon and lake trout, including Big Squam, Sunapee and Lake Winnipesaukee.
But the weird weather experienced this year, especially in recent weeks, means that there will be little open water available for anglers to get their boats into the water and troll for salmon.
John Viar, fisheries biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, said areas of Lake Winnipesaukee which were completely ice-free just three weeks ago have seen established ice extended during recent cold snaps and now have ice 3 to 4 inches thick in those areas which were once open water.
"I've never seen anything like this winter, where the ice actually expands its coverage area and gets thicker this late in the season," says Viar. He said that the ice in some cover areas is still 16 to 18 inches thick.
He said there is very little open water in the area and that it will be two or three weeks before there are substantial areas of open water. He said shore anglers should explore the Winnipesaukee River, which flows through the Weirs channel into Paugus Bay, and through the Lakeport Dam/Lake Opechee area. Other traditional areas include the Winnipesaukee River through Laconia to Dixon Point at Lake Winnisquam, and the Lochmere Dam at Silver Lake. There is often a sizable piece of open water in Lake Winnisquam where the river drains into the lake. This water can be easily accessed by the state Fish and Game boat access ramp, just upstream in Laconia.
The Newfound River in Bristol offers fly-fishing-only water that can often produce rainbows and an occasional salmon. Additionally, several popular Winnipesaukee shore fishing locations exist in the Merrymeeting River (fly-fishing only, barbless, catch and release), and the mouth of the Merrymeeting River as it enters Alton Bay, downstream of the famous stone arch bridge.
Other traditional sites with well known potential include the Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough, Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, Smith River inlet at Wolfeboro Bay, and Meredith and Center Harbor town docks. At these locations, everything from smelt, shiners and worms under a slip bobber to small jigs will take salmon, as well as rainbow trout, and an occasional prowling lake trout.
New Hampshire Fish and Game also manages 11 other lakes for landlocked salmon, including Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound Lake, Ossipee Lake, Little Squam Lake, and Winnisquam Lake. Pleasant Lake in New London also is managed for landlocked salmon, but is classified as a designated trout pond, with a 2017 opening date of April 22.
Landlocked salmon populations in New Hampshire originated with Atlantic salmon transferred from the St. Croix River in Maine. These fish were stocked in Newfound Lake in 1866 and then in Winnipesaukee, Squam and Sunapee Lakes in 1867. A number of New Hampshire lakes contain suitable cold water habitat for the species in the summer, but spawning habitat is marginal in the rivers and stream that flow into these lakes. Poor recruitment from natural spawning and heavy fishing pressure makes the use of hatchery stocks necessary to maintain a fishable population. Natural reproduction does take place in some tributaries, with the best examples of natural spawning runs occurring in the Cockermouth and Fowlers Rivers, which flow into Newfound Lake.
Recently, the growing popularity of the fishery has resulted in an increase in the rate of hook wounding on landlocked salmon. Hook wounds can occur when salmon are repeatedly caught and released. While anglers are allowed to harvest two fish per day in most salmon lakes between April 1 and Sept. 30, catch-and-release rates are more difficult to manage through regulation. Accidental capture by ice fisherman, increased pressure from guided fishing trips, and poor year class survival can all contribute to an increase in the rate of hook wounding among the landlocked salmon population. As hook wounds heal, they can result in deformities of the jaw, which may limit the ability of the salmon to feed. Fish with hook wounds show a significant decrease in growth compared to healthy fish of the same year class.

Fishermen are urged to use care in removing hooks and to harvest hook-wounded salmon when possible rather than releasing them back into the lake.

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A lucky fisherman landed this 5-pound, 25-inch-long landlocked salmon last year while fishing in Lake Winnipesaukee aboard the Cool Water charter operated by Travis Williams. (Courtesy photo)

Laconia in top 20 small communities across US for wealth


LACONIA — The Laconia micropolitan statistical area, which consists of the city and 10 towns of Belknap County, has placed among the 20 wealthiest small communities in the United States as measured by the Bloomberg Index of Affluent Micro Areas.
Laconia finds itself in fast company. Summit Park, Utah, 20 miles east of Salt Lake City, topped the list followed by Edwards, Colorado, Jackson Hole Wyoming, and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where half the homes in the town of Chilmark are worth more than $1 million. In Key West, Florida, ranked ninth, nearly three-quarters of the homes in North Key Largo top the $1 million mark. Laconia and the towns of Belknap County owe their place on the list to the presence of the lakes, particularly Lake Winnipesaukee.
The United States Census Bureau defines a micropolitan statistical area as a region with one urban center with a population of more than 10,000 but less than 50,000 and at least one with an aggregate population lot less than 20 percent that of a metropolitan region.
The index includes four equally weighted factors: median household income, percentage of households with incomes of more than $200,000, median value and percentage of homes valued at more than $1 million of households with incomes. The factors are melded to produce a score that determines the ranking. The index included only those micropolitan areas where at least ten percent of the total housing units are classified as vacation homes.
Laconia ranked 18th and was joined in the top 20 by the Lebanon-Claremont micropolitan statistical area, consisting of Grafton and Sullivan counties in New Hampshire and Orange and Windsor counties in Vermont, which placed 20th.
With a median household income of $62,159, 3.7 percent of households earning at least $200,000, a median home value of $219,600 and 1.8 percent of all housing units worth $1 million or more, Laconia scored 93.4.
Claremont-Lebanon scored 91.4 with median household income of $54,744, 4.5 of households earning $200,000. a median home value of $199,500 and 1.5 oh ones valued at $1 million or more.

Teachers getting out of comfort zone at Pleasant Street School


LACONIA — The 318 students of Pleasant Street School do some of their best learning outside the classroom.

You can find them conducting a mock trial at the courthouse, visiting city hall to see how municipal government works or going to the post office to talk to the mailman.

A close connection to the community is one of the strengths for this school, and something that could help it in the final round of competition for the prestigious New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award.

Principal David Levesque was playing host to a committee from the awards organization on Friday.

Attempting to become the state's 2017 Elementary School of Excellence also involved submission of a five-page essay and a visit before a committee in Concord.

"We take it seriously," he said. "It has taken a lot of time and effort, but for us the feeling is that we were ready to do it."

The school's location, a mile from downtown, means that field trips can often be taken on foot.

Walking is good for kids, says first-grade teacher Caitlin Friend.

"They were exhausted by the time we walked back home, but they experienced things," she said. "Half of my kids didn't know what the post office was."

It's not always easy to stage and conduct such trips.

"It's kind of scary to take 200 kids to pumpkin carving, or to take kids downtown," Levesque said. "But that's what we do here. The teachers have really embraced the idea of taking risks. It's OK to try something. If it doesn't work, we'll revamp it and try something different."

Audrey Dunleavy, 10, enjoys activities like amassing 400 jars of peanut butter for donation to a group that provides food to the needy, or holding a bake sell, or participating in a treasure hunt, where "gold" is redeemed at local businesses in an exercise that also helps with dollars-and-cents math skills.

"I don't wake up in the morning and say, 'Ah, I've got to go to school,'" she said. "I'm excited to go to school because we get to do a lot of fun stuff."

Gail Bourn, the academic coordinator of teaching and learning, said that not only are the children gaining knowledge when they go out into the community, they are developing social skills, and most importantly, helping others.

The second-grade class has developed a relationship with seniors at the Taylor Community.

"Rather than just sitting in class and the kids learning about the senior community, we say, 'No let's go there. Let's meet our residents. Let's talk to them. Let's do things.'"

"Last year we emptied the building to do a writing marathon, where they went to different places across the community to write about that place _ learning, working and living within our community."

Many of the students face economic struggles. Sixty percent of the students receive free or reduced cost lunches and about 5 percent of the children are experiencing homelessness.

First-graders wrote letters to GMI Asphalt to ask for a walking path. The company donated the path. Some children didn't have athletic shoes to participate in physical education. Persuasive essays were sent to tennis shoe companies, which responded with dozens of sneakers.

Parent involvement is emphasized.

When school officials realized that many parents weren't participating in evening sessions to help kids with writing and math, a daytime event was organized around a Thanksgiving meal. Participation went up.

A group of teachers spent several days at Harvard University working with Lee Teitel, the author of "Instructional Rounds," a book that described a process in which a group of teachers "makes rounds" similar to doctors in a hospital. In this way, the educators learn from each other about best practices in the classroom.

One technique for helping students involves teaching children in small groups, where questions can get asked and answered more easily and student progress can be monitored more closely.

Still, getting out of the classroom remains the underlying theme at this school, and also provides a way to give children lasting positive memories about education.

"We had the fourth-grade take a field trip this year to the Boston Red Sox to drop eggs from the Green Monster as part of learning about science, technology, engineering and math," the principal said. "We took kids out of small-town Laconia and went to Boston. These are experiences these kids may never get.

"That's why it's exciting here every day."

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Second-grade teacher Carmella Gagne works in her classroom with Kendra Walter, 7, and Ryan Forni, 8, in Pleasant Street School. The school is competing for a New Hampshire Excellence in Education award. (Photo by Rick Green, Laconia Daily Sun)