New Hampshire smallies await

It takes a lot to tempt a deer hunter out of the New England woods in November. But, if you are a hunter who is also an angler that brushes off cold temperatures and dreams of five fish limits of 4-plus-pound smallmouth bass, then the New Hampshire section of the Connecticut River in November is for you. 

Smallmouth bass are not native to New Hampshire and were introduced to the Connecticut River in 1867. Since then, the river has become one of the best and most consistent smallmouth fisheries in New Hampshire. Primary forage includes golden and spottail shiners, yellow perch, suckers and crawfish. 

In November, huge schools of big smallmouth move to deeper water found above and below dams and in numerous holes throughout the river. Catching 20 to 60 quality bass per day is not uncommon. Bass are generally caught in 15 to 50 feet of water using a variety of methods including football and shaky head jigs, tubes, drop shots and blade baits. Target dropoffs, rockpiles and deep flats. Local tournament angler Jim Hanatow generally has his best luck during increasing flows, such as when dams begin releasing water. Pay close attention to your fishfinder as bass are often hugging bottom. Several anglers have reported catching bass so tight to bottom that fish had mud on their stomachs when landed.

Bellows Falls DamTournaments are rare at this time of year, but ones that take place are well rewarded. Sean Graves, president of the Legacy Bass Club, held tournaments on the river last November and can’t praise this fishery enough. “If you want some serious smallmouth fun, hit the river in November with a spinning rod, 8-pound-test and a blade bait,” said Graves. “About a third of the smallmouth weighed in during our two tournaments last November were at least 4 pounds, and that is exceptional for New England.” 

Besides smallmouth fishing, the river offers a diverse selection of other sportfish. Anglers targeting smallmouth also catch walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass and big yellow perch. 

Trip Check:

Location: New England’s longest river passes through 26 New Hampshire towns before entering Massachusetts.  There are 13 mainstem dams on the New Hampshire section. The river divides New Hampshire and Vermont, draining an area of 11,250 square miles between the two states. In 2012, the river was designated as the first National Blueway, a new federal program providing a national emphasis on the value and significance of a “headwater to mouth” approach to river management.

Lodging: For hotel/motel and Bed and Breakfast/Country Inn information visit here.

Local info: To find local boat ramps or inquire about river and fishing conditions, contact New Hampshire Fish and Game’s Region 4 office at 603-352-9669. Visit here and here for river flow and hydroelectric dam release forecasts.

Website: For fishing licenses and regulations visit fishnh.com

Weighing in:

Average air temperature (Fahrenheit) in November 2011: 43

Number of miles of Connecticut River in New Hampshire: 255

Number of bridges crossing the Connecticut River registered with the National Register of Historic Places: 10

Year of earliest permanent European settlement (Fort #4 in what is now Charlestown, NH): 1743

Lures to pack:

An assortment of tubes, football and shaky head jigs, drop shot sinkers and hooks, accompanying soft plastics, and blade baits should be all you need for a successful outing. Football jigs, such as the Jim Moynagh Football Head Jig from All-Terrain Tackle, in 3/8 and 1/2 ounce, are a necessity for the rocks you will often encounter. Shaky head jigs such as those from VMC or Strike King are great for focusing on shallower water areas, as are Owner’s Jig Rigs. Make sure to bring some larger drop shot weights for deeper areas.

In November, huge schools of big smallmouth move to deeper water.Watermelon, green pumpkin, pumpkinseed and white are some productive colors for plastics. Crawfish or creature baits such as Zoom Baby Brush Hogs and Super Speed Craw, Chigger Craws, Havoc Craw Fatty, Z-Man Flappin CrawZ and Hag’s Undertaker Junior work well on this river when used in conjunction with football jigs. Good shaky head worms to bring include those from Zoom and Berkley PowerBait and Strike King Finesse Worms. Favorite local drop shot plastics include the 4.25-inch Paddletail from Mayo’s Hand Poured Baits, Zoom Meatheads and Lunker City’s Ribster and 3-inch Slug-Go in alewife color. I like to add a bit of Smelly Jelly (bass feast) to all my soft plastics when fishing the river.

Local tournament angler Sean Graves recommends the following blade baits: Silver Buddy, Heddon Sonics and Binsky. He uses 1/4- to 3/4-ounce baits depending on the depth he is fishing and how strong the current is. For tubes, he suggests Berkley Power Tubes or Bass Pro Shops Tender Tubes.