Squam Lakes For Beauty, Splendor And Smallies

It's unlikely, but there might come a time when you've forgotten why you love to fish.

 If you ever find yourself in that unfortunate situation, take a trip to Squam Lakes — you will quickly be reminded of why bass fishing should remain your passion.

 Located in the central reaches of New Hampshire, Squam Lakes — just northwest of its bigger and more famous cousin Lake Winnipesaukee — is managed as a two-tiered fishery for coldwater and warmwater species, and is complemented by its breathtaking natural beauty and opportunities for wildlife viewing. Landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, largemouth bass, pickerel, white perch and yellow perch are some of the highlights for sport angling pleasures, but it's the smallmouth bass that keep anglers coming back.

 "It's possible to have 50-fish days, with every one at least 2 pounds," points out local lake guru Mark Beauchesne. Beauchesne, who has been a serious angler for nearly four decades, has spent the past 20 years casting in this fishery.

 Squam provides what he calls "classic smallmouth water," with deep dropoff points, gravel flats, rockpiles, mixes of gravel and sand, timber and aquatic

vegetation.

 The action begins in earnest in the spring, a couple of weeks after ice-out. Beauchesne likes to use suspended jerkbaits like the Husky Jerk at this time, concentrating on natural colors due to the water clarity, and using an aggressive retrieve. Slow rolled spinnerbaits can be productive, as well.

 "It's one of the clearest lakes in the Northeast," he says. "This will mandate use of lighter line, natural-colored baits and true-to-life imitations." He also points out that, like many smallmouth-friendly environments, the primary forage is crawfish, with yellow perch and smelt rounding out the bulk of the smallies' menu.

 "Squam is one of those places you go to catch a bunch of fish," Beauchesne muses, "but then you realize that you're there for another purpose as well — to relax, look at the mountains, and observe the wildlife." There is no doubt that a day on the water here will make you fall in love with fishing all over again.

 Trip check report

 Name:

 Squam Lakes

 Location:

 Squam Lakes is located near Holderness, N.H., 40 miles north of Concord.

 Lodging:

 Comfort Inn in Ashland (800-228-5150); The Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness (800-545-2141). For more information on area lodging, contact Squam Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce (603-968-4494).

 Local Info:

 A.J.'s Bait and Tackle in Meredith (603-279-3152) has the equipment and knowledge needed to get you started. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Inland Fisheries Division can be reached at 603-271-2501 or 603-271-2502. Local guide Mark Beauchesne is a knowledgeable, friendly and accomplished guide (603-478-1179; www.nhoutdoors.com/mark's_guide_service.htm). Squam Livery (603-968-7721) rents out Boston Whalers, and there are local facilities where you can launch your own.

 Weighing In

 6,675 — Surface acres of Squam Lakes

 1981 — The year the movie On Golden Pond was filmed on Squam Lakes

 40 — The maximum speed (in mph) for boats on Squam

 0 — The number of jet skis you will see on the lake: They are prohibited

 Bassmaster Extra

 More On Squam Lakes

 As the water temperature rises above 55 degrees, topwaters become king. Some of lake expert Mark Beauchesne's favorites are poppers, floating walk-the-dog stickbaits and the Strike King Zulu. Once the water warms to about 73 degrees or higher in summer, it's time to go deeper and slower, preferably with quarter-ounce jigs with grub trailers and natural colors like purple, smoke and watermelon.

 Soft plastics like Senkos will do well at this time of year also, and Beauchesne like to use circle hooks with these: "(The smallmouths) suck them right in," he says, "and the circle hooks help to reduce mortality." Mornings during the warm months can also reward the topwater and spinnerbait angler, and he uses the latter a lot on windy days.

 "On bright, windy days, it's all about spinnerbaits," he told us. As late summer asserts itself, crankbaits in perch and crawfish patterns account for plenty of bronzebacks. Then, as the season comes round to autumn, curled-tail grubs on jigheads, Carolina rigs and stickbaits are good, and spinnerbaits continue to turn plenty of fish's heads.

 When to go

 From ice-out (mid- to late April) through the middle of October.

 Best Lures/Patterns

 Early spring: aggressive suspending crankbaits (such as the Husky Jerk), jerkbaits, slow rolled spinnerbaits. Late spring into summer: topwaters — poppers, floating stickbaits, Strike King Zulu. Summer: 1/4-ounce jigs with grubs, crawfish imitations, soft plastics, spinnerbaits and surface lures early/late in day. Late summer: crawfish- and perch-pattern crankbaits. Autumn: grubs, spinnerbaits, Carolina rigs, stickbaits. Natural colors throughout.

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