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Fishing Regulations New Hampshire Freshwater Fishing

Angling: The taking of fish by line in hand or rod in hand to which is attached a cast of artificial flies, or an artificial bait, or hooks, or other devices for the attachment of bait. A person may use up to two lines. Rod holders are permitted.

Artificial bait: Any fishing bait constructed by humans as an imitation or substitute for natural bait or fish forage and includes, but is not limited to spinners, spoons, poppers, plugs, jigs and plastic, rubber or other artificial imitations of natural bait. Artificial bait does not include a fly.

Bag and creel limit: The number or weight of any kind of wildlife permitted to be killed in a specified time.

Bait: Dead or live natural bait whether in part or whole and includes but is not limited to fish, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, invertebrates, reptiles, or their progeny or eggs, and power bait or any ingestible substance.

Black bass: Largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Brook trout: Brook, Rainbow, Brown and Golden trout, Loch Leven trout and all their hybrids.

Cast of artificial flies: No more than 3 flies.

Closed Season: That period of time during which fish, game, wild or fur-bearing animals or marine species may not be taken or killed, and all periods of time not included within the open season.

Culling: The act of exchanging a fish for one of the same species already in possession.

Cusk fishing device: A device for storing line in a manner which is not free-running and is securely attached to the device and to which is attached a sinker, weighing at least one ounce, not more than 6 inches above, and independent of, an attached single hook for bait. The weight must rest on the bottom of the lake. The device shall be plainly marked with name and address of the person using it. These devices may only be used on certain approved waterbodies listed.

Fly: A hook dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel or any similar material to which no spinner, spoon or similar device is added.

Fly-fishing: Fishing by trolling or casting with only fly rod, fly reel, and fly line combination with an artificial fly or cast of artificial flies attached, and does not include the use of spinning, spincast, and casting rods and reels and lead core lines.

Ice fishing: Taking freshwater fish during the open season through man-made openings in the ice by the use of ice fishing devices.

Ice fishing device: Any device used to take fish through the ice, including a tip-up, jig stick, rod in hand or handline, exclusive of a
cusk fishing device.

Ice-in: That period when the surface of a body of water or a portion thereof is covered with sufficient ice to safely support a person.

Inclusion of dates: Whenever a period is named during which an act is permitted or prohibited, both the first and second dates named shall be included within such period.

Man-made opening: A hole in the ice made by an ice cutting tool, including but not limited to augers, chisels, and saws. Man-made openings shall not include areas that remain ice-free due to current and movement created by dock aerators and similar devices.

Minimum length or minimum total length: The shortest total length of a fish allowed to be taken.

Net: Any open fabric constructed of string, cord, thread, or wire knotted or woven together in such a way as to be capable of entraining or entrapping finfish.

Open Season: That period of time during which wildlife may be legally taken or killed.

Set line: An unattended line placed in the fresh waters of the state (including through the ice) for the purpose of taking fish, which is not under the direct view and control of the person placing the line.

Single hook artificial lure: An artificial lure with one single hook with not more than 3 hook points.

Snagging, snatching, or lifting: The taking or attempting to take of any fish by foul hooking; that is, hooking the fish in any part of the body other than inside the mouth.

Take or Taking: Includes pursuing, shooting, hunting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, and netting wildlife, and all lesser acts, such as disturbing, harrying, worrying, wounding, or placing, setting, drawing, or using any net or other device commonly used to take wildlife, whether they result in taking or not. Includes every attempt to take and every act of assistance to every other person in taking or attempting to take wildlife, provided that whenever taking is allowed by law, reference is had to taking by lawful means and in lawful manner.

Tandem fly: Two single pointed hooks dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel or any similar material and joined together by a single strand of wire or line, one behind the other to form a single artificial fly. There shall be no spinner, spoon or similar device added.

Tip-up: A fishing device for storing line, designed to be set through the ice and to indicate when something has disturbed the bait attached thereto.

Total length: The greatest possible length of the fish with mouth closed and caudal (tail) fin rays squeezed together to give the maximum overall measurement. For all fish that have a total length limit, the head and tail must remain intact while on or leaving the waters of the state.

Tributary: Any waters flowing directly or indirectly into a waterbody.

Trolling: Angling by trailing a line from a vessel defined in RSA 270-D:1 XI being propelled by machinery, electric, or manual power.

New Rules for 2017

  • New Hampshire law now prohibits the use and sale of lead sinkers and jigs with a total weight of one ounce or less, regardless of length.
  • A bait dealer’s license is now required to sell aquatic invertebrates for use as fishing bait.
  • No more than 6 fishing bait traps shall be used for personal use to take fishing bait, and all traps, holding boxes or other receptacles shall be plainly marked with the name and address of the owner or user.
  • Starting in 2017, the fee to conduct a fishing tournament will increase to $49; the fee to conduct a fishing tournament that is catch, measure and immediate release shall be $10.
  • In order to help prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants and animals, RSA 487:16-d now requires boaters to drain their boat and other equipment that holds water, including live wells and bilges, when leaving a waterbody.
  • A winter Free Fishing Day has been established in New Hampshire. The 2017 N.H. winter Free Fishing Day will take place on January 21.

Buy Your Annual Hike Safe Card

$25 for individual or $35 per family. Available through online purchase only, at Hike Safe Cards are good for the calendar year (expiring on December 31). Exempts the holder from rescue cost reimbursement (unless caused by intentional or reckless conduct per RSA 153-A:24). Purchase is voluntary.

A great way to support the Fish and Game Search and Rescue Fund.

If you have a current N.H. fishing or hunting license or OHRV, snowmobile or boat registration, you are already covered!

Help Protect Nongame Wildlife

When you buy your fishing license, consider adding a donation to Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. Nongame projects protect endangered fish, conserve key wetland habitats, and help a wide range of species. Donate online at

Did You Know?

While designated Trout Ponds are closed from October 16 to the fourth Saturday in April, many ponds and lakes remain open for trout fishing year round.

2017 Free Fishing Days

Saturday, January 21

Saturday, June 3

  • Freshwater or saltwater fishing
    by angling only
  • Resident or nonresident
  • All other regulations apply

* Anglers participating in fishing tournaments on Free Fishing Days must have a license.

Landowner Protections

New Hampshire State law provides certain protections for landowners who open their land to those using it for outdoor recreation. Learn more at