Not much open water for salmon fishing

LACONIA — Ice has been the fisherman's friend this winter, offering a sturdy surfaces across the Lakes Region for bob houses and their occupants. Now that April's here, and with it the start of open-water fishing season, the ice is outstaying its welcome. Anglers looking for salmon will have to compete for areas of open water that are a lot smaller this spring than they have been in recent years.

Wednesday, April 1 marks the traditional opening of landlocked salmon season in New Hampshire. The season runs through the end of September.

New Hampshire Fish and Game manages 14 lakes for landlocked salmon: Big Dan Hole Pond, First and Second Connecticut Lakes, Conway Lake, Lake Francis, Merrymeeting Lake, Newfound Lake, Ossipee Lake, Big and Little Squam Lakes, Sunapee Lake, Lake Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lake.

John Viar, fisheries biologist for Fish and Game, said that while the ice on local lakes has lingered for longer than in recent years, this spring is still within the normal range over the long term. "This seems to be pretty normal to me," he said.

The ice will provide some protection for the landlocked salmon that Fish and Game stock into Lake Winnipesaukee, said Viar. He noted that although the stocking program that attempted to restore Atlantic salmon in N.H. rivers has ceased, the program stocking salmon in lakes for sport fishing has continued unchanged. The greater ice cover will mean that fewer fish will be accessible to anglers on April 1, and more salmon will remain in the lake for those who aren't able to fish until later in the season. "When things do open up, they'll be that much better," said Viar.

On Monday, Fish and Game was advising anglers to check out the Winnipesaukee River, which flows through the Weirs channel into Paugus Bay, and through the Lakeport Dam/Lake Opechee area. "Drop-down" salmon (and rainbow trout) are found throughout these river reaches. Other traditional areas include the Winnipesaukee River through Laconia to Dixon Point at Lake Winnisquam, and 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 N.H. Fish and Game boat access ramp, just off Water Street in Laconia.

The Newfound River in Bristol offers great fly-fishing-only water that can often produce drop-down rainbows and salmon, advised Fish and Game Additionally, several popular Winnipesaukee shore fishing locations exist at 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 good sites to visit 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.

Fish & Game's Viar's concern for this spring is the relatively little amount of spring runoff despite the depth of the snowpack. Viar thinks it's because so much of the snow fell during very cold temperatures. Even though the snowpack is beginning to reduce, it isn't leading to much water running off. "There's not much moisture content to that snow, it's like it's evaporating." The spring runoff is important to the local fishery because smelt, a small, silvery fish which are preyed upon by larger game fish, congregate to breed at areas where runoff enters their water body. "If we don't have a lot of runoff, it can affect their breeding. Their population is critical." 

The winter has been good for Alan Nute, owner of A.J.'s Bait and Tackle in Meredith. "We had good ice, the derby went off well," the only thing deterring anglers was all the wind and snow in February. "It was a good winter overall, I don't think you're ever going to have a perfect winter."

The first of April came a little early for his ice-fishing die hards this year, especially with so much ice still on the lakes. Fish and Game rules prohibit ice fishing on managed water bodies after March 31. "People would like to continue ice fishing if they could," said Nute, though he noted that ice fishing is still allowed on non-managed lakes, such as Waukewan and Winona.

Fishermen looking to take advantage of open water fishing will likely be found at the usual spots, he said. The Winnipesaukee River through downtown Laconia, both ends of Lake Opechee, the Weirs Channel, will all have some open water for fishing, though it will be less than what anglers are used to seeing. His advice to those heading out today? "Good luck to all of them. Bring shoulder pads, there's not going to be a lot of room."

Gilford police investigating reports of ice, tires thrown onto Laconia Bypass

GILFORD – Police are seeking information about three separate incidents regarding items being thrown off the Morrill Street overpass on to traffic traveling on the Laconia Bypass.

Lt. James Leach said two separate motorists reported at around 9 p.m. March 27 their vehicles were struck by balls or small chunks of ice. He said there was no damage to either car and the drivers were uninjured.

They both reported they saw two people standing on the bridge next to a car.

On March 28, a motorist on the Bypass reported that a car tire was tossed off the same bridge. Again there were no injuries to the people in the car and there was no damage to the car.

A police officer searched the area and found one car tire in the travel lane of the bypass and one car tire in the same area on the shoulder.

Police said they are increasing patrols in the area and are very concerned these "dangerous and irresponsible acts" will harm someone if they continue.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Gilford Police Department at 527-4737.

Lawyers advise Gilmanton that despite errors, votes on historic district still fail

GILMANTON – Town attorneys have advised the selectmen that even though each of the two property owners who wanted to secede from the historic district received a majority of the votes cast at last month's SB-2 voting session, the two should remain in the district because of the protest petitions filed by abutters.

The protest petitions stem from a little-known property statute in state law that says if a person petitions the town government to leave a historic district, abutters can file a protest petition to increase the number of votes needed to win from a simple majority to a two-thirds super majority.

Attorneys said the town got three protest petitions from abutters – three who own 42.21 percent of the land across the street from Craig Gardner and one from people who own a total of 45.51 percent of the land abutting Roland Huber.

Attorney Laura Spector-Morgan said that since all of the protest petitioners met the minimum land ownership requirement of RSA 675:5 of 20 percent, their protests were valid and since neither request to leave the district passed by a super-majority, the properties will stay in the historic district.

Gardner and Huber had both argued that the historic district rules were inconsistently applied and their enforcement is dependent on who was sitting of the board at the time.

Gardner complained when the district objected to a while vinyl fence off of his garage so he keep his dogs penned it. His contention was the fence was the same color of the house, was neat and clean, and was consistent with other materials used to build his house in 1977.

Huber's primary complaint is that any time he tries do make improvements, the historical district gets injunctions for stop-work orders. He said he had tried to put siding on his home but because it was not wood siding consistent with the period, he was told to stop.

Huber said the same thing happened when he wanted to replace his doors and windows with something more energy efficient and made from materials he could afford.

Not a man of means, Huber said he is frustrated because he feels those who run the district are trying to make him spend money he doesn't really have to make his property look good. His property has been in his wife's family for 150 years.

One of the protest petitioners who owns land abutting both properties said the historic district would be more than willing to work with Huber and Gardner, but its members are upset because neither party came to the board with a plan or tried to talk to the members about their plans.

Spector-Morgan also said that while the protest petitions should have been noticed and publicized, she didn't think the court would overturn the two-thirds majority requirement because of a "minor procedural error."