About two hours from Boston, nestled along the border with Maine in the quiet pine forests of the White Mountains, lies a little town called Freedom, New Hampshire. This is the place where I first learned to fish, and where I continue to come back every year. It's a peaceful place full of memory, fresh air, clear waters, and unsurprisingly, tons of fish. In this post I'd like to take you through the experience of kayak fishing on the Ossipee River, the waters that run past my family home in Freedom on which I learned to fish.
Up With the Sun
Whenever I find myself up in Freedom, I always make sure to be up at sunrise, and out kayak fishing on the Ossipee River as the first rays of sun crack through the pines, and the mist slowly rises off the river. Things are fresh and new at first light, and the fish are at their peak (at least until the sun resettles into the forest at dusk). There are a variety of different species throughout the river, ranging from pickerel and bass to rainbow trout, and in the next few sections I'll explore some tactics for targeting the different residents of the Ossipee River.
I typically start by targeting pickerel, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass along the weed banks that line the river. The pickerel will generally hang in shallower water, whereas the bass will hang along the dropoffs and ledges that descend into the deeper water. Oftentimes however you will find them in the same areas. One of my favorite techniques for targeting these aggressive fish is the rubber worm (see photo above)!
The rubber worm is one of the most versatile freshwater presentations out there, and can be used to catch a wide variety of fish. It's also extremely adaptable and can be presented in a variety of different ways. For kayak fishing in the Ossipee River, I usually choose to fish a Yamamoto rubber worm in either brown or dark green, and rig it weedless on a specifically designed offset worm hook. Widely known as a "Texas rig," this prevents the lure from snagging on the plethora of river grass in the Ossipee. It also allows you to skim the worm over weed beds and structure where hungry fish lurk, without getting hung up. If you need to put more distance on your cast, or want the presentation to sink faster (when fishing a dropoff or ledge for example), you can use a sliding bullet weight above the worm. See the below diagram for a visual of how this works:
Endless Options of Target Species
In the early morning hours, I'll work the weed beds with this presentation as I work my way upriver. Kayak fishing on the Ossipee River is all about covering ground and trying different spots and techniques to see what's working. While the weedless worm is definitely the go-to presentation on this body of water, oftentimes I'll try to mix it up and use spinnerbaits, nightcrawlers and live shiners, depending on the bite and what I have available. The nightcrawler is the catch-all for the Ossipee - nearly every species of fish will take it. The biodiversity of the Ossipee River is amazing - there are rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, chain pickerel, bullhead catfish, yellow perch, white perch, river chubs, and carp, to name a few. The species of fish in large part depends on the proximity of the location on the river fished to Ossipee Lake, which dumps cold water into the river at an old wooden dam upriver.
Usually when fishing the Ossipee, I practice catch and release, but occasionally I will keep a few for the dinner table. Some of the tastier options are the rainbow trout and the white perch - if you find yourself with a couple good-sized white perch, try the fluke recipe mentioned in our Block Island fishing blog post.
Serenity & Scenery
One of the best parts about kayak fishing on the Ossipee River, and about kayak fishing on rivers generally in New England, is the peace and quiet it affords the angler. Oftentimes, you're the only one on the river, especially in the early morning and early evening as the sun rises or sets. New England is home to some truly majestic scenery, whether it be the mountains and forests that line the banks of the Ossipee, or the vast marshlands that hug the saltwater estuaries further south. In fishing, it's not always about the catching - it's about the overall experience. In my opinion, kayak fishing provides an immersion in and connection to nature without parallel in the angling world.