The Atlantic Salmon Brood Stock Fishery
Since 1993, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, has provided a unique recreational fishing opportunity in the Merrimack River. Brood stock Atlantic salmon, weighing from 3 to 12 pounds, are released in the Merrimack and lower Pemigewasset rivers.
Last fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is ending its investment in the more than 30-year-long Atlantic salmon restoration effort in the Merrimack River watershed. That means the Brood Stock Atlantic Salmon Program is also likely to end after this year. Before they are released, these brood fish provide eggs for the restoration program’s fry-stocking efforts. Existing brood stock salmon (and salmon fry) will be stocked in the spring of 2014 at numbers similar to recent years. It is undetermined how much stocking will take place after that. So get out and enjoy catching these big beauties while you can!
Though the Atlantic salmon program is being phased out, work will continue in New Hampshire to improve habitat and upstream fish passage for other migratory species such as American eels, shad and river herring. The salmon that have been stocked in recent years that are currently playing out their life cycle will also benefit from these efforts.
Permit Required: Anglers age 16 and older must purchase an Atlantic Salmon Brood Stock Permit ($11) in addition to a regular NH freshwater fishing license. No license or permit is required for anglers younger than 16 years old.
Season: Year-round. Exception: Salmon taken from October 1 through March 31 must be immediately released.
Bag Limits: The daily limit for salmon is 1 fish. The season limit for salmon is 5 fish. The minimum total length for salmon is 15 inches.
Identification of Legal Salmon:
Anglers can identify brood stock salmon by a T-bar anchor tag attached to one side of the base of the dorsal fin. Only salmon marked with a T-bar anchor tag may be kept. The tag must remain attached to the salmon while on or leaving the water. Any salmon not identified by a T-bar anchor tag must be immediately released.
I. Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers from Garvins Falls Dam in Bow to the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol and their tributaries to the first upstream dam – salmon shall be taken by FLY-FISHING ONLY.
“Fly-fishing” means casting with only fly rod, fly reel and fly line combination with an artificial fly attached, to which no additional weight has been added to the fly line or leader, and does not include the use of spinning, spincast, and casting rods and reels and lead core lines.
A fly shall be a single- or double-pointed hook, unweighted, and shall not be baited. A fly is defined as a hook dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel or any similar material to which no spinner, spoon or similar device is added. The fly is unweighted if the material is added to the fly as an attractant only and will not make the fly sink.
Exceptions/Closed Areas include: Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin to a point approximately 150 ft. downstream is closed to all fishing.
Ayers Island Dam in Bristol to a point approximately 300 ft. downstream is closed to all fishing.
The reach of river 150 ft. downstream from Eastman Falls Dam to the Rte. 3 and 11 bridge is CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY.
II. Merrimack River from the MA/NH state line to the Garvins Falls Dam in Bow and its tributaries to the first upstream dam — salmon shall only be taken by fly fishing or by an artificial lure that only has one hook with no more than one hook point.
For more information and a map, see FishNH.com/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm or call (603) 271-2501.
Rivers and Streams Stocked with Juvenile Atlantic Salmon
Several rivers and streams are stocked with juvenile Atlantic salmon as part of cooperative state-federal agency restoration programs in the Merrimack River basin. Be sure to know the difference between Atlantic salmon and trout, as regulations require that all juvenile salmon be released (see Know the Difference!).
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.