West Hill Pond is a destination lake for both summer fishing by boat, and ice fishing. The complete anglers guide (CT DEEP) to fishing in CT is available from the CT DEEP Angler’s page as a flip guide or pdf [10mb download]. Be sure to understand and observe the season, size and creel limits (page 12 and 31 in the pdf) and other regulations especially those related to transport of vegetation on a boat or trailer or release of any aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Fishing by Boat
West Hill has a year-round daytime speed limit of 15 mph and a dusk to dawn speed limit of 6 mph. In addition, boats with mounted engines in excess of 8 hp must have propellors removed. To avoid scaring fish, access with an electric motor is recommended. When you arrive at the State Boat ramp with your trailer, you will likely as not be greeted by an Aquatic Invasive Monitor. Please be nice to these volunteer monitors. They are simply trying to keep West Hill Pond as one of the best fishing lakes in the state. They will be thrilled if you can share information about what you have seen at other lakes. There are also State of CT DEEP employees who monitor anyone accessing the lake (including fisherman) for the proper safety equipment.
Where Do the Fish Lurk?
What do fish like? Oxygen and zooplankton! So why that oxygen “bump” at about 8-9 meters depth? That “bump” corresponds to a high density layer of water at a point where water temperature changes rapidly with depth. The water temperature starts dropping quickly at about 5 meters (16 feet) and temperature continues dropping until about 9 meters (29 feet) when it reaches 10°C (50°F). That zone of rapid temperature drop is referred to as the metalimnion. Water at the surface dropped from 78°F (26°C) to 75°F (24°C) at 5 meters, and then abruptly dropped to 50°F (10°C) at 9 meters, reaching as low as 44°F (6.9°C) at the bottom. Certain photosynthetic algae that are adapted to low temperatures and low light intensity are found in high abundance in the metalimnion (the thermocline) and their photosynthetic activity result in greater than 100% oxygen saturation, in this sample it reached 122% saturation (13 mg/L)! All that photosynthetic plankton is food for another type of plankton – zooplankton. If you were a trout or Salmon – all that food (zooplankton) and oxygen rich water – make that the place to be!
Stocking of Fish
West Hill Pond is stocked by the State of Connecticut with both Trout and Kokanee. Kokanee Salmon are related to the Pacific Coast Sockeye Salmon which return to west coast rivers to spawn. Kokanee Salmon are just one of the reasons the use of live alewives, blueback herring, gizzard, hickory, or threadfin shad as bait is specifically prohibited in West Hill Pond! West Hill Pond also has populations of panfish – Bluegills, Sunfish, Pumkinseed – which are near surface year-round. Small Mouth Bass are also active in fall and spring when the water temperatures are colder and oxygen levels higher. West Hill Pond is one of Connecticut’s Trout Management Lakes.
According to the State’s Fish Distribution Report (see the 2014 below) – the State of CT DEP stocked West Hill Pond with over 12,535 Trout …
- 2400 Adult Brook
- 1200 Adult Brown
- 1400 Adult Rainbow
According to the State’s Fish Distribution Report (see page 11) – the State of CT DEP stocked West Hill Pond with over 14,305 Trout …
- 2000 Adult Brook
- 6825 Adult Brown
- 1000 Adult Brown greater than 12 inches
- 4400 Adult Rainbow
In addition, in December of 2014 DEEP stocked West Hill with 50 Seeforellen-strain brown trout averaging a whopping 15 pounds each. Some will exceed 20 pounds, making them larger than the current Connecticut state record brown trout of 18 pounds, 5 ounces caught by angler Tony Urbanowicz from the Saugatuck Reservoir in 2011. The Seeforellen brown trout are a German strain of large, lake-dwelling brown trout. These fish are capable of reaching very large sizes, preferring deep cool water lakes. These are fish from the State breeding program whose egg production has tailed off with age, and release for catch seems a better fate than alternatives. There are neither estimates of the number remaining (caught), nor the expected lifespan of those that were stocked. In addition to West Hill Pond, Highland and East Twin both in Northwest CT were stocked as well as Squantz pond Mashapaug and others. Brown Trout is not a native lake species.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE … be sure to review and adhere to all regulations including the restrictions on horsepower and speed. There are lots of long distance swimmers that train in West Hill Pond, and swim from near the location of the boat ramp, down the middle of the lake towards the island, and then back. Sometimes they swim in groups, sometimes alone. Be careful and watch out for swimmers! The typical swim season is late May through October, but swimmers could be present any time there is open water, and should be expected.
At nearly 1000 feet of elevation, West Hill Pond can get some of the coldest weather, and therefore seems intuitively to be one of the best opportunities for ice in Connecticut. However, deep waters and high winds conspire to make West Hill one of the last lakes to freeze over in the State. In fact, West Hill Pond did not freeze over in 2011/12 or in 2010/11 though it did freeze over in 2013/14. What this means is that a potential ice-fisherman should exercise extreme caution when considering West Hill Pond as their ice-fishing destination. There is no responsible entity for measuring the ice and therefore no flags or other visual signals that the ice is safe for human transport. Exercise extreme caution and judgement when considering walking on West Hill Pond ice. And never, ever go alone!
Other Boating and Recreation
For numerous reasons West Hill Pond has become an attractive destination for other types of recreational boaters. Perhaps because water skiing and personal watercraft are not allowed, West Hill Pond has become a great destination for kayaks, stand up paddleboards (SUPs), canoes, sailboats, and for boaters of all ages. In addition, West Hill Pond is a target destination for long distance swimmers. It is not uncommon to encounter as many as a dozen swimmers working their way down the middle of the lake. This is another reason for the daytime year-round speed limit of 15 mph. The water is exceptionally clear and clean and the boat ramp allows easy access. Be aware that there are no shore or island destinations where you can legally exit your boat (besides the State owned boat ramp) unless at the invitation by a private property owner. Be sure to follow all safety regulations pertinent to the watercraft of your choice.
Access to West Hill
The State of CT maintains a web-page providing both access information and up to date information on regulations including a map of the bathymetry. West Hill Pond has a State of Connecticut boat launch ramp and nearby parking for cars and trailers. Beyond creel limits, the primary restriction at West Hill Pond includes boat speed year round (15 mph day-time and 6 mph dusk to dawn) and an 8 horsepower maximum motor limit from Memorial Day through September 15th. There is a seasonal toilet (chemical) in the DEEP parking lot, but no provisions for facilities or shoreline access at any point except the boat launch.
West Hill Pond, like other bodies of water without invasive aquatic plants, is making every effort to remain free of aquatic invasives. The boat launch is often staffed with a DEEP Representative providing safety checks and inspecting trailers for aquatic plants as well as a set of trained volunteers inspecting trailers for plants. There is no provision for wash down at West Hill Pond so be sure the trailer and equipment are decontaminated before arriving. Do not unwittingly bring any unwanted hitch-hikers. Click here to read more about our efforts to manage aquatic vegetation.
Anglers are reminded that any person who intentionally discards fishing line or other litter in the waters of the state, on public property of the state or on private property not owned by such person is subject to a fine under section 22a-250 of the general statutes. Each year, DEEP’s Wildlife Division receives numerous reports of birds and other animals that have been injured or killed after getting tangled in our trash. Discarded fishing line, hooks, lures and weights are often left behind by unthinking anglers at fishing sites, and have caused serious injury, illness or death to wildlife. Please dispose of these items and all other trash properly.