Fish study conducted at Naticook Lake

Friday, July 19, 2013


Staff Writer

Four biologists from the New Hampshire Fish & Game department boarded a compact research vessel and headed out upon Naticook Lake in Wasserman Park, 116 Naticook Road, as darkness fell on Wednesday, June 19.

Their mission was to secure a sampling of the fish in the lake and perform an assessment of the fish population’s health and its numbers.

Gabe Gries, a fisheries biologist, began the sampling activities at Naticook Lake by taking note of lake conditions, wind direction, air temperature and water temp. The lake temperature was 74 degrees. No gusts rippled the water.

A low-voltage zap from an electronic monitoring device momentarily stunned the groups of fish nearest the boat and bright lights allowed the biologists to see the fish. Gries and the other biologists used long-handled nets to scoop the fish from the water. The catch of hundreds of fish was counted, inspected for general health and released unharmed. Some fish were weighed. Their lengths were recorded. Others had a few scales scraped off for later microscopic inspection to determine how old the fish were and how fast they were growing.

The men aboard the motor boat recorded populations of yellow perch, large-mouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow bullhead catfish and brown bullhead, also known as hornpout, mud pout or mud cat. They also found black crappie, a variety of sunfish that has a rounded, greenish-black body and silvery sides.

In addition, they counted an abundance of pumpkinseed sunfish and bluegill sunfish. The pumpkinseed is a colorful freshwater fish often called a sunny, or a pond perch. It has a bright red dot on each of its black gill covers. The crimson markings make it easy to identify. The pumpkinseed sunfish, one of the most common catches for Merrimack anglers, generally measures 5-8 inches but may reach 10” long.

New Hampshire record breakers are listed on the state’s Fish & Game website ( None are from Naticook Lake. Nevertheless, a pair of pumpkinseeds taken from Lake Winnipesaukee are tied for the record at 13.6 pounds. The record-holder for bluegill sunfish, at 11.25 inches and 2-pounds 64-ounces, is a fish taken from Goodwin’s Pond in the town of Acworth, in Sullivan County.

Gries is the Warmwater Project leader for New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s Region 4, a region that includes Southwestern New Hampshire. Region 4 is one of six regions designated as state Fish & Game law-enforcement districts. Region 4 headquarters is in Keene, New Hampshire.

Biologist colleagues aboard the boat that evening included Ben Nugent, who works from Fish & Game’s headquarters in Concord. Nugent has eight years with the organization. Andy Schafermeyer, an 18-year veteran, was on hand. He is from the Region 1 office in Lancaster. Region 1 covers the northernmost third of New Hampshire. Jason Carrier, a fisheries biologist for 10 years, is from the Region 4 office, as is biologist Gries. The team will study many lakes in the course of a year.

“In general, we found a typical, well-rounded warmwater fish population,” Gries said. “Yellow perch numbers were low. Largemouth bass were numerous, but fish were generally small with most fish sampled between six and 10 inches, and no fish greater than 16 inches.”

Variables impacting the size and numbers of fish in the lake include the population’s diets, habitats, life cycles and predator activity upon the fish by turtles, herons, snakes and frogs.

Lake Naticook has many grassy banks from which anglers can fish. There also are wooden docks at the town beach that make for comfortable fishing spots when anglers bring a folding chair. Canoes and kayaks provide others a means of getting close to potential hot spots.

Currently, Fish & Game reports that there are 1,105 licensed Merrimack residents enjoying the sport of fishing. Bedford boasts 1,042 licensed fishermen, and women. Other towns have their fishing aficionados.

The New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s online site ( notes that state residents age 16 or more are required to obtain a fishing license, a permit that currently costs $35. Want to try fishing for a day? Purchase a one-day license for $10. Want to try it for a lifetime? A lifetime license is available with costs varying according to the age of the applicant. For example, a lifetime fishing license for a person of age 16 costs 976.67, whereas a person of age 36 will pay $723.72, and a person of age 67 will pay $35. As in other activities, such as operating an automobile, age and experience count toward discounts.

In addition to the traditional fishing license, several other types of fishing licenses offer benefits to people in special circumstances. A blind person can obtain a free fishing permit. A complimentary fishing permit can be had by a person at a nursing home or veterans’ hospital. The complimentary license also is available to a person who is developmentally challenged. In addition, A disabled veteran is welcome to a free fishing license. Various application procedures and occasional processing fees apply.

Traditional fishing licenses are available at many approved licensing agencies. They can be obtained from Wal-Mart, 85 Route 101A in Amherst, and from Bedford’s Wal-Mart, 17 Colby Court. Licenses for fishing also are available at Merrimack Firearms on 416 Daniel Webster Highway; The County Store, 321 Nashua St., in Milford; The Sports Authority, 213 Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua, and many other places.

The New Hampshire Fish & Game Department is a supported through proceeds of hunting licenses, fishing licenses, donations and federal grants. It’s mission is one of guardianship over the state’s fish, wildlife and marine resources.

Folks interested in fishing will find online a wealth of information including weekly fishing reports. Also available are fishing guides, depth charts for lakes and ponds, suggested fishing locations by species, plus online links to an abundance of resources related to fishing, hunting, boating, wildlife and other topics.

To learn more, visit:

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