By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ALTON — It is typically quiet around the lake at 6 a.m., as most animals and people are still sleeping and boats have yet to be launched for a day of leisure. However, certain pockets of shoreline awake earlier than others, as dozens of avid fisherman arrive at the lake shoreline early to prepare for a day of competitive bass fishing.
Throughout the state, bass fishing has been a sport that has attracted many a large demographic of people from all regions of New Hampshire. The Lakes Region is host a multitude of tournaments that occur throughout the April through October season, which are run by a number of fishing clubs in the area.
The New Hampshire Bass Federation has been hosting tournaments for more than a decade and is currently in the middle of a strong 2017 season, according to Justin Brighan, vice president of the federation.
Brighan has held the position of vice president for 15 years, and during that time he has various changes take place in the bass fishing community.
Some of the changes have been technical changes, including different sizes of boats being used and advanced safety technology that promotes catch and release. The evolution of boats and storage systems are seen as positive changes by Brighan, as they allow for better fishing and a higher survival rate of fish that are caught.
One of the contested changes, that some people believe has a largely negative impact on the fishing community, is the prevalence of Rock Bass in the lakes. Lake Sunapee experienced an overpopulation of rock bass a few years ago, which resulted in the pushing out of smallmouth bass. But, with efforts conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, the number of Rock Bass residing in the lake has decreased and fisherman are catching much bigger bass now than they had in the past, according to Brighan.
The changes in technology and the ecology of bass fishing in the region has been coupled with an additional change in demographics of people participating in the tournaments.
“A huge change that we have seen is in who is going out to the tournaments now,” said Brighan. “Now we are seeing a lot of youth, because there has been a big push for younger people to get involved with fishing to continue the sport on for years to come.”
The push for more young people to become involved in fishing for sport has also been expressed by various school districts in the area that now offer fishing as a school sport. By getting involved in fishing at the high school level, young people are able to learn new skills and techniques and begin competing in tournaments.
The early entry into fishing tournaments often incites younger people to stay involved in events later in their lives. However, those who are a more seasoned fisherman and have not participated in a tournament are still encouraged to register for an upcoming event.
“I know that it can be overwhelming for people to come out to a tournament if they are not used to it,” said Brighan. “With our federation we try to be streamlined and welcome all people whether they are on shore or on the lake as a kayaker or boaters. We don’t want to be intimidating.”
The process of getting involved in a fishing tournament differs depending on the fisherman’s interest. Fishermen who want to participate in tournaments frequently are encouraged to join one of the many fishing clubs that has emerged throughout the state. Those who do not want to commit to frequent fishing tournaments or want are a first time tournament goer can participate in one of the public tournaments held in the area.
On Sunday, Aug. 20, the Massachusetts Bass Federation will be hosting a public tournament on Winnisquam Lake, which will be launched out of State and Martels location in Alton. For more information about the fishing tournament visit the Fish and Game website at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/tournaments.html.
Other open tournaments have been planned for the next few months, including one held by the New Hampshire Bass Federation on Sunday, Oct. 22, on Squam Lake in Holderness. For this tournament, like most others, fisherman are asked to arrive around 6 a.m., approximately one hour before the 7 a.m. launch time. Fisherman must have boats inspected to be sure they are not bringing fish into the lake from other water bodies, and a registration form must be completed. During open-tournaments a registration fee is required, but a membership fee is not.
Following the launch, an average of 50 fisherman usually takes to the lake in the hopes of catching a prize bass. On Lake Winnipesaukee, fisherman often catch smallmouth bass between 3 to 4 pounds and largemouth bass anywhere from 6 to 8 pounds.
“We’ve seen fisherman catch some really big fish, although it really does depend on the size of the lake you are fishing on and the season that you are fishing,” said Brighan. “The best time to fish is in the spring or the fall because there is less activity on the lake with boats and the fish are feeding more.”
As prime bass fishing season is approaching with the start of the fall, Brighan suggests that people begin planning for upcoming tournaments ahead of time. For more information on the fall fishing tournament conducted by the New Hampshire Bass Federation visit nhbassfederation.com.
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