Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region
P.O. Box 240
2756 Dam Road
Errol, NH 03579
(603) 482-3415

Fish of Umbagog Lake and Surrounding Watersheds

Fishing Regulations

Children enjoying "Take Me Fishing" in Errol, NH. Credit: USFWS
  Children enjoying "Take Me Fishing" in Errol, NH. Credit: USFWS
  • Those fishing within the refuge must follow all fishing and bag limit regulations as described in the New Hampshire or Maine fishing guides.
  • You must have a valid New Hampshire or Maine license to fish in interstate waters (interstate waters include: Umbagog Lake, the Androscoggin River upstream of Errol Dam, the Magalloway River in New Hampshire and the Rapid River upstream to the marker at Cedar Stump in Maine.
  • We expect that you will fish responsibly, obeying interstate fishing regulations and respecting Refuge and private property. Follow these links to New Hampshire and Maine fishing regulations:

* Maine fishing regulations
* New Hampshire fishing regulations

Help Preserve our Native Fisheries

Illegal fish stocking is devastating to our native fish populations, especially brook trout and landlocked salmon. White perch, crappie, bass, and northern pike are among many non-native fish species that are now destroying native populations in many New England waters. These predatory species eat our native game fish and harm the aquatic ecosystems. Moving any fish species from one body of water to another without a permit is a crime. Fines can be as high as $10,000. To report illegal introduction of fish, call Operation Game Theft at 1-800-253-7887.

Fishing is a popular pastime on Umbagog Lake and the surrounding rivers, including the Androscoggin, Magalloway and Rapid Rivers. Before you grab your fishing pole, there a few things you should know. This guide is intended to help you find the fish, identify your catch, and learn more about fish ecology. Learn more from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

Brook trout. Credit: Eric Engbretson/USFWS
Brook trout. Credit: Eric Engbretson  

Brook Trout or Brookie (Salvelinus fontinalis)

Habitat: Clear cold water brooks and rivers with high oxygen content. Cold lakes. Various substrates and depths. Need water below 68 degrees F.

Food: Aquatic insect nymphs crustaceans, leeches, terrestrial insects, and small fish.

Size and Description: Olive Green with wavy lines on back and dorsal fin. Numerous spots with blue halos. Orange on fins. 10-12 inches when mature. Smaller in streams and lakes.

Umbagog Lake Region: Prized native game fish, 18-inch minimum. Very common on Umbagog Lake and in surrounding rivers.

Fishing Tips: Look for brookies in the shelter of a boulder or overhanging bank in swift water. Flies, small spinners and even earthworms work to catch brookies. Fish in the morning or evening when they are most likely feeding. Hatchery-stocked in many places.

Atlantic salmon parr. Credit: E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS
  Atlantic salmon parr. Credit: E. Peter Steenstra

Landlocked Salmon (Salmo salar)

Habitat: Cold, deep oxygen-rich lakes and river basins. Salmon prefer lake depths of 40-70 ft. They spawn in outlet streams with gravel bottoms.

Food: Forage fish such as smelt, minnows and yellow perch. Young eat aquatic insects.

Size and Description: Silvery body with black spots, forked tail. No spots on tail. Occasionally 10-12 lbs. Usually 2-3 lbs.

Umbagog Lake Region: Not native. 14-inch minimum on Umbagog Lake and surrounding rivers. They average 17.3 inches and 1.54 pounds.

Fishing Tips: Look for young salmon in rivers and streams. Adults can often be found in rivers in the fall when they are spawning and in deeper water in the summer. Try using a streamer fly near the surface during the spring. Trolling with artificial spoons or with natural bait can be effective in deeper water.

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui)

Habitat: Large, shallow, clear water lakes and ponds with gravel or rocky bottoms and little vegetation.

Food: Fish, crayfish, and frogs. Young eat plankton, insects and small fish.

Size and Description: Dark greenish brown back, light bronze sides with irregular dark markings. Upper jaw does not extend behind eye. First dorsal fin is gently rounded. Occasionally 4-6 lbs. Most large smallmouth are 2-3 lbs. 11.3 inches average at 4 years.

Umbagog Lake Region: Illegally introduced into Umbagog Lake in the early 1990s. Now common.

Fishing Tips: Look for smallmouth near submerged reefs or ledges and near stumps and boulders. Can be caught with artificial lures or live bait (worms, minnows, hellgrammites, or crayfish). Try fly casting, trolling or plug or spinner casting. Smallmouth are tough fighters and will often jump when hooked.

Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax)

Habitat: Deep, clear cold lakes and warm-water ponds. Spawn early in spring in tributary steams.

Food: Plankton, insects, young fish, larger insects, small crustaceans. Larger smelt are often cannibalistic, feeding almost exclusively on small smelt.

Size and Description: Olive green bank with silvery underside and silver band along side. Elongated, somewhat transparent body with deeply forked tail. Seven to nine inches in oceans. Only four inches long in lakes.

Umbagog Lake Region: Landlocked variety. Probably introduced into the area.

Fishing Tips: Look for rainbow smelt in the early spring in gravelly steams where they spawn. Smelt are known to school. They are a good bait fish as they are a favorite food of trout or salmon.

Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)

Habitat: Warm, weedy lakes and ponds with mud bottoms. Usually found in schools.

Food: Aquatic insects, crustaceans, young fish, burrowing insect larvae.

Size and Description: Yellow green with 6-8 dark vertical bars. High, compressed body with sloping head and large mouth. Up to 12 inches long. If food is abundant, they may be 5 inches after year 2 and 8 inches after year 3.

Umbagog Lake Region: The most common fish in Umbagog Lake in 1970; now less common.

Fishing Tips: Look for yellow perch spawning near a weedy shore or in a sheltered cove or backwater in the spring. Young prefer the shallows while the adults can be caught in deeper water near submerged cover. Yellow perch are easy to catch with all methods at any time of year. Try artificial flies, spinning lures, trolled spoons, or natural bait.

Chain Pickerel (Esox niger)

Habitat: Quiet, shallow warm water with a mud bottom.

Food: A voracious sit-and-wait predator, the chain pickerel eats yellow perch, minnows, frogs, snakes, ducklings, golden shiners, brown bullheads, sunfish and anything else it can catch.

Size and Description: Slender and elongated golden-green with dark chain-like markings. Large mouth with formidable teeth. Can be 4-5 lbs. and over 14 inches long after 3 years in ideal conditions.

Umbagog Lake Region: Probably introduced into Umbagog Lake. Pickerel in Umbagog Lake average 15.3 inches and 0.86 pounds.

Fishing Tips: Look for chain pickerel near aquatic vegetation in shallow areas. Trolling and spin casting with plugs, spinners, or spoons can be effective. Just after ice-out, they may be found spawning in shallow backwaters. This is also a popular ice fishing species, often caught using hand line or a "tip-up" device.

Longnose Sucker (Catostomus catostomus)

Habitat: Deep water in cold lakes. Cold rapid-flowing, gravel-bottomed trout streams.

Food: Bottom feeder. Larval insects, snails, worms, crustaceans, algae.

Size and Description: Dark olive-gray to brown with whitish belly. Similar to common white sucker with long-cylindrical body and pointed snout. 8-10 inches on average.

Umbagog Lake Region: Native species. Less abundant than common white sucker.

Fishing Tips: Look for longnose suckers in deep areas in lakes and in gravel-bottomed streams. They spawn in early spring in shallow, rapid-flowing sections of small tributaries. Principle food of lake trout. Good food for other trout species as well.

Common White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni)

Habitat: Adaptable. Found in lakes, ponds and streams with various substrates, water speeds, temperatures and vegetation cover.

Food: Snails and bottom aquatic life. Larvae, small mussels, worms, algae and occasionally fish eggs.

Size and Description: Olive green or light brown with a forked tail, elongated cylindrical body and an extendible mouth on the lower side of its head. 10-18 inches long as adults and 0.5 to 3 lbs.

Umbagog Lake Region: Native species. Averages 14.1 inches and 1.06 pounds on Umbagog Lake.

Fishing Tips: Look for common white suckers spawning in the early spring upstream and in the shallow margins of lakes. Later in the season, they can be found in deeper water. This species is known to be firm and sweet tasting in the spring, but has a poor flavor in the summer.

Brown Bullhead or Hornpout (Ameiurus nebulosus)

Habitat: Weedy waters of lakes and slow streams. Mud bottom with or without vegetation.

Food: Bottom feeder. This scavengers species will eat snails, crayfish, insects, aquatic plants, and small fish, among others.

Size and Description: Mottled greenish brown with pale sides and no visible scales. Black or gray barbels on broad, round head. Commonly 6-14 inches and less than one pound. Up to 18 inches and 4 lbs.

Umbagog Lake Region: Might not be native to Androscoggin watershed. Native to Umbagog Lake. Average size on Umbagog--7.4 inches and 0.20 lbs.

Fishing Tips: Look for brown bullheads at the bottom of weedy areas and sheltered bays of large lakes. They can e caught using most kinds of tackle or with live minnows, dough balls, or hellgrammites. This nocturnal species is most often caught in the early morning, evening or cloudy parts of the day. Bullheads are firm and sweet tasting.

Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)

Artist rendering of a pumpkinseed sunfish. Credit: Duane Raver
  Drawing of a pumpkinseed sunfish. Credit: Duane Raver

Habitat: Warm, shallow lakes and ponds. Streams with quiet or slow water. Prefers to lie in aquatic vegetation.

Food: Molluscs, terrestrial and aquatic insects, aquatic plants, snails, crustaceans.

Size and Description: Orange to olive green back, sometimes with blue marking on cheek. Long pectoral fins. Small red spot near edge of gill cover. Orange and rust-colored spots on side. 5-7 inches long and up to 0.5 lbs.

Umbagog Lake Region: Favorite fish for kids to catch.

Fishing Tips: Look for pumpkinseed sunfish in weedy areas with muddy bottoms. This tasty pan fish is easy to catch with hook worm or bobber. It is not considered a game fish.

Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis)

Habitat: Adaptable species--warm or cold lakes, trout streams, large rivers. Open areas or moderate vegetation. Prefers rocky bottoms and clear, gravel pools in slower flow areas of large streams.

Food: Omnivore. Insects, fish, crayfish and algae.

Size and Description: Silvery to bronze or purplish with a white belly. A heavy-bodied minnow with a large, blunt conical head and large mouth. Up to 14-16 inches and 2-3 lbs. Usually 5-8 inches long.

Umbagog Lake Region: Common native minnow. Average on Umbagog Lake--9.4 inches and 0.40 lbs.

Fishing Tips: Look for fallfish schooling trout stream pools in open areas. Fallfish are often used as bait fish, especially as cut bait for winter lake trout fishing. They are used as sewn-on minnows in trolling for lake trout and salmon. Often caught while fishing for trout in streams.

Landlocked Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus)

Habitat: Close to shore in lakes and in tributary streams. Alewives are anadromous in native range (born in freshwater, mature at sea, return to freshwater to spawn).

Food: Plankton, small aquatic organisms, copepods, amphipods, and mysids.

Size and Description: Deep and compressed body, gray-green back and silvery sides. Dark blotch on either side behind gill cover. Averages 4-6 inches and about 4 ounces.

Umbagog Lake Region: Introduced. Averages 6.9 inches and about 00.8 lbs. on Umbagog Lake.

Fishing Tips: Look for alewives near the shore of lakes. Alewives are forage fish for trout and salmon. They are commonly found in schools. This is a commercial species, salted and smoked as food along the Atlantic Coast. It is illegal to use this species as a baitfish in Maine or New Hampshire.

Lake Trout or Togue (Salvelinus namaycush)

Habitat: Large, deep coldwater lakes with high oxygen content.

Food: Fish, including suckers, yellow perch, and minnows. Also aquatic insects.

Size and Description: Brownish gray elongated body with silvery sides and numerous light-colored spots over the body. Deeply forked tail. 3-6 lb. togue are common.

Behavior: Togue spawn in the fall in shallow water with rocky, gravel bottom.

Umbagog Lake Region: Not native. 18-inch minimum on Umbagog Lake.

Fishing Tips: Look for togue in shallow water in early spring and late fall. During the rest of the year, try fishing in deep, cool water. Deep trolling with heavy lines and heavy spinners or metal lures is often effective during the summer. Togue have a reputation as strong fighters.

Further Reading

Everhart, W. H. 1976. Fishes of Maine. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: Augusta, ME.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Open Water Fishing Regulations (current year).

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Be Aware of Aquatic Invaders: Stop Disastrous Illegal Fish Stocking. Pamphlet.

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Freshwater Fishing Digest (current year).

Robinson, L. and Guy Gannett. 1982. Official Gannett Maine Guide to Fish. Guy Gannett Books: Augusta, ME.

Scarola, J. F. 1987. Freshwater Fishes of New Hampshire. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

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Last updated: November 23, 2009