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Open-Water Casting: Season Kicks Off Quietly in N.H.

  • Bill Latva of Sunapee fly fishes for Salmon on a dock in Sunapee Harbor in Sunapee, N.H., on April 1, 2014. Latva has fished on Sunapee for around 60 years, and said there will be more people out fishing once the lake melts, as many people prefer to fish from boats.  (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

    Bill Latva of Sunapee fly fishes for Salmon on a dock in Sunapee Harbor in Sunapee, N.H., on April 1, 2014. Latva has fished on Sunapee for around 60 years, and said there will be more people out fishing once the lake melts, as many people prefer to fish from boats. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Larry Richardson looks out onto Lake Sunapee from the dock he was fishing on in Sunapee, N.H., on April 1, 2014. Richardson, who was spending the morning fishing for Lake Trout, said though there is more ice than usual, the beginning of April is generally not the best time to catch many fish. "But I'd rather be here than in front of my TV," Richardson said. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

    Larry Richardson looks out onto Lake Sunapee from the dock he was fishing on in Sunapee, N.H., on April 1, 2014. Richardson, who was spending the morning fishing for Lake Trout, said though there is more ice than usual, the beginning of April is generally not the best time to catch many fish. "But I'd rather be here than in front of my TV," Richardson said. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bill Latva of Sunapee fly fishes for Salmon on a dock in Sunapee Harbor in Sunapee, N.H., on April 1, 2014. Latva has fished on Sunapee for around 60 years, and said there will be more people out fishing once the lake melts, as many people prefer to fish from boats.  (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)
  • Larry Richardson looks out onto Lake Sunapee from the dock he was fishing on in Sunapee, N.H., on April 1, 2014. Richardson, who was spending the morning fishing for Lake Trout, said though there is more ice than usual, the beginning of April is generally not the best time to catch many fish. "But I'd rather be here than in front of my TV," Richardson said. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

Sunapee — Their fishing poles slung over their shoulders, Aaron Noyes and George Caccavaro left the docks at Lake Sunapee harbor Tuesday with empty buckets, no fish to show for nearly 6 hours with lines in the water.

That did little to dampen their spirits, however, on a crisp, sunny April 1 that marked the beginning of open-water fishing for landlocked salmon and lake trout in New Hampshire.

“I’ve been ice fishing all winter,” Plainfield’s Noyes said, “but the first day of open water is always something to look forward to. ... It beats the rush of everyday life.”

“It’s the first real sign of spring,” said Caccavaro, of Croydon. “For me, it’s tradition. Every year for at least the past 20 years, I’ve been out here April 1.”

The two men work together at Hypertherm, and got to the docks around 6 a.m. A thick sheet of ice — Noyes estimated more than two feet in some places — still covers most of the lake, but submerged pumps near the docks keep the water moving and ice-free.

That’s good enough for Larry Richardson, of Newport, who had joined the scene around 8 a.m. and showed no sign of slowing down as noon approached, despite a lack of catches.

“Five minutes can change your whole day,” he said, smiling.

In addition to marking the opening day for landlocked salmon and lake trout on the big lakes managed by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Tuesday also marked the end of ice-fishing on those lakes. Ice fishing is still allowed on other “general regulation” lakes where fishing for landlocked salmon and lake trout is not regulated.

“As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of open water available,” said John Viar, a fisheries biologist with the department, noting that’s forcing fishermen to “target landlocked pockets” such as the waters off the docks in Sunapee.

The ice-out date on Lake Sunapee might be considered the date that boats could travel from one end of the lake to the other, Viar said, but the “fishing ice-out” date could be even sooner — when boats are able to get in the water and chase fish.

Although that date seemed distant on Tuesday, as anglers looked out over the lake covered in ice, Viar said it could come sooner than one might expect with the help of sunny days and a few good rainstorms.

The lake ice is thick for this time of year compared to the last 10 years, he said, but in prior decades, few people would have blinked.

“For the last 10 years, it seems like, oh my lord, (24 inches is) tons of ice for the time of year, but statistically it’s not,” Viar said. “I can remember being younger and seeing that quite often.”

Vermont’s spring trout fishing season begins on the second Saturday in April, which this year is the 12th.

“Most waters in Vermont trout fishing is restricted to casting and trolling rather than ice fishing,” Vermont officials said in a news release. “Anglers should take note that on rivers, streams, and lakes with seasonal closures, they may not cut a hole through the ice to go ice-fishing for trout during the open-water trout season.”

Rich Kirn, the trout team leader for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, said people who fish in Vermont are used to coping with tough weather conditions.

“Vermont anglers, they know what’s up with spring, and when we have a late spring, it’s going to compromise fishing conditions, at least in part of the state,” he said. “Some people are going to go regardless of conditions and we do see big fish caught early in the season.”

Bill Latva lives in Sunapee near the harbor docks and was out to cast his lines on Tuesday. Latva said he and the rest of the fishing community in the area are “ready for good weather.”

“Everybody’s glad to get out of their houses,” he said, “even if they don’t catch anything.”

For more information on New Hampshire fishing regulations, navigate to the Freshwater Fishing Digest at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s website at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us, email Viar at john.viar@wildlife.nh.gov, or call 603-271-3421. For more information on Vermont fishing regulations, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com or call 802-828-1000.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.