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Article by Jason Foster
Added on February 14, 2008
No, I am not talking about the ski mountain with the annoying advertising jingle. I am talking about one of the states premier waterbodies, Wachusett Reservoir. This fantastic, but sometimes humbling fishery is scheduled to open in Saturday April 5th this year, and the opening day is always popular with the anglers here in MA was well as a few out of state folks. The Chu as some call her, is a large water supply reservoir for many communities of MA. The vast shoreline is completely undeveloped and is shore fishing only from the fist Saturday in April (if ice has thawed) until November 30th. These restrictions combine a great fishery with pleasing scenery and lots of wildlife. In fact, Wachusett has more state record fish than any other freshwater lake in the state, holding six top spots out of twenty two categories.
Lake Trout is the most common coldwater species caught, as the reservoir has had an overpopulation of these fish since the mid 1990's. They are a self sustained (non-stocked) fish that can be found in almost the entire reservoir in the early and late seasons when waters are still cold. However, most of the fish are caught in the main body, and will only be found in very deep water when the temperatures rise.
Landlocked Atlantic Salmon are also self sustaining in the reservoir, using some select tributaries to spawn in late October and November. These great fighting fish are far less common than the lake trout, but do offer a nice surprise for persistent anglers. During coldwater months they can be almost anywhere, even the tributaries. But they will suspend over deeper drop offs come summer.
The Rainbow trout are all of hatchery origin. They are usually stocked in the reservoirs major tributaries and in the Quinopoxet and Stillwater basins, but many work there way into the main body, hold over and grow. The 1999 state record of 13lbs 13oz shows that some can get real nice, but that is an exception.
Brown trout are the stuff of legend at Wachusett. Back in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, monster browns grew fat on then healthy smelt stocks. While some tributaries still have wild and stocked browns, this fishery has long ago declined with the smelt. A catch of a large brown at the reservoir these days is very rare. But some smaller browns are still caught at the pump station near the mouth of the Quinopoxet River.
Black Bass are also an attraction to the reservoir. While bass fishing at the Chu starts getting better as we move into May and June, some are caught earlier in the season. Smallmouth dominate most of lake, but there are some good sized largemouths to be had and they get more common in the weedy areas of the coves and basins of the reservoir.
White Perch are another angler favorite there and are common. Most of the fish average about 1lb, but have been caught up to the 3lbs 5oz. With these sizes I felt compelled to include these panfish in the list of gamefish here.
The reservoir also includes many other species of fish such as Chain Pickerel, Bluegill, Black Crappie, Rock Bass, Yellow Perch, Brown Bullheads, and a variety of baitfish.
Bait techniques vary, but can often be applied with success for multi-species. The most common method used on Wachusett is an egg sinker above a barrel swivel with a 3 foot leader. Usually attached to the bait holder hook is a live shiner or an inflated night crawler. The shiner rig probably takes more lake trout on the Chu than any other method, but it also accounts for many smallmouth bass and occasionally other species. I prefer to hook the bait through the nose, but some like the tail or back. This rig with an inflated crawler is effective for almost any of the species in the lake, but is particularly good for rainbow trout and white perch. When fishing this rig, it is advised to anchor the rod and open the bail so the fish can run the bait. I like to put a small stone on the line to keep the wind from blowing some out, but easy enough for a fish to pull off. The crawler is inflated with a worm blower device sold at the reservoir area shops. Make sure it floats before casting.
Another common method is the classic bobber and shiner. I like to have 3-4 feet between the float and hook and a tiny split shot weight about 8 above the bait to keep it down. This is great for almost all the game species here when the fish are near the surface or when fishing shallow water.
Free lined bait is another method. If the depth is 10 feet or more, I love to lob a full crawler or crayfish with no weight over these spots. The slow descend into the water sometime is too much for the fish to resist. Great for bass, white perch and rainbows.
Almost any lure technique will take fish. For lakers and salmon, I like to throw large spoons so I can cover water and reach deep spots. Lakers love a slow retrieve just above the bottom with a jigging type action. Salmon and rainbows are usually 5-15 feet below the surface in April and May and will take a spoon reeled fast with action added. Favorite spoons are the Krocdille, Castmaster, and Phoebe. I will also throw large inline spinners like the Thomas EP Spin or a big Panther Martin and work the same levels as the spoons but without the jigging action. Sinking and suspending stickbaits are also a good choice for lakers, rainbows and salmon as well.
Bass anglers try it all. Jigs, Senkos, power worms, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, stickbaits, to name a few. Almost all are effective in the right areas. Look for large rock structures for bass, particularly smallmouths. Weedy shallow coves and basins can be great for bigmouths.
Both B & A Bait and Anglers and Archers are right near the reservoir in the town of West Boylston for all the supplies and bait you may need.
Here are some additional links about Wachusett from the MassWildlife site.
Good luck and please keep the reservoir clean.