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Important Laws & Rules

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  • Possession and use of live fish for bait: Only the following species shall be possessed and used as live fish for bait when fishing any freshwaters of the state: rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae), blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus), northern redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos), lake chub (Couesius plumbeus), creek chub (Semotilius atromaculatus), fallfish (Semotilius corporalis), golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas), common shiner (Luxilus cornutus), emerald shiner (Notropis atherinoides), spottail shiner (Notropis hudsonius), silvery minnow (Hybognathus nuchalis), creek chubsucker (Erimyzon oblongus), longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus), white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) and killifish/tomcod (Fundulus sp.).
  • Approved bait fish species (excluding white suckers) may be taken for personal use by licensed anglers with up to six traps not over 18 inches long each, with an opening not over one inch in diameter, or a circular drop net not over 48 inches in diameter; or a square net of equal area. Each trap must have the angler’s name and address on it. Daily limit 2 quarts (liquid measure). There is no daily limit for white suckers.
  • Commercial harvesting of bait fish is permitted with a bait dealer’s license and under specific rules. The license is available from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
  • While taking fish in open water, two hooks may be used for bait per line, one with a single hook point and the other with no more than three hook points, except for certain lake trout and salmon lakes, where only a single hook with a single hook point may be used (see Lakes & Ponds: General Rules and Lakes & Ponds with Special Rules).
  • A person may use up to 2 lines for open-water fishing.
  • The taking of brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, trout hybrids, and salmon between two hours after sunset and one hour before sunrise is prohibited.
  • Traps, nets, fish houses, holding boxes or other receptacles used to take, hold or to keep live bait fish in public waters must be marked with the name and address of the owner and user.
  • While anglers are being guided, as defined in RSA 207:1 XII and XIII, and taking freshwater fish by trolling (as defined under Definitions) the number of lines being used for angling shall not exceed the legal number of lines allowed for each angler, excluding the guide(s).
  • Fishing tournaments on New Hampshire waters require a permit. Applications are taken on a first-come, first-served basis and are available from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (except for bass tournaments).
  • Bass fishing tournaments: Applications are accepted beginning October 1 for permits requested for the following year. Applications for each bass tournament event received between October 1 and December 1 will be assigned a random computer-generated number. Applications received after December 1 will be issued a sequential number on a first-come, first-served basis. When there are multiple requests for bass tournaments on the same date and waterbody, preference will be given to the application(s) for bass tournament(s) with the lowest assigned number(s).

Unlawful Actions

  • The sale of freshwater fish is prohibited, other than approved baitfish sold by licensed individuals.
  • Snagging fish in freshwaters is prohibited. Any fish accidentally snagged must be immediately released to the water.
  • No fish may be taken by use of a set line (as defined under Definitions) in freshwater, which would include so-called “jug fishing.”
  • Exceeding daily bag limits of fish is prohibited, whether taken from one or several water bodies.
  • No person may have in his possession at one time more wildlife than he may lawfully take in 2 days.
  • No person shall have live lake trout, landlocked salmon, brook trout, black bass, northern pike, or black crappie in their possession, except if the person is a bass tournament permittee or is an aquaculturist permittee or has a permit to import, possess, or release these fish.
  • Release of fish in waters other than where caught is prohibited. Fish must be returned to the water where taken.
  • Culling of fish, except during permitted bass tournaments, is prohibited.
  • The water surrounding any dam containing a fishway is closed to fishing. (See Rivers and Streams with Special Rules).
  • The use of alewives, carp or goldfish as live bait while fishing is prohibited. The use of shad or whitefish as bait for cusk is prohibited.
  • Importation of fish or their eggs, including bait fish, is prohibited without a special permit.
  • Except as otherwise specifically permitted, it is unlawful to use or have in possession a set line, net, fishing otter, trawl, grapple, spear, jack, jack light, poisons, explosives or electrical device or any other device for killing or stunning fish.
  • To counsel or aid another in violating a fishing rule is prohibited.
  • The use of lead sinkers (1 ounce or less) and jigs (less than 1 inch along its longest axis) is prohibited in all freshwater. Sale of lead sinkers (1 ounce or less) and jigs (less than 1 inch along its longest axis) is prohibited.
  • The use of a gaff to take fish in any fresh waters of the state is prohibited.
  • To continue to take or attempt to take fish after filling the daily bag limit for that species of fish.

Keep VHS Out

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia or VHS virus is a fish disease that arrived in the Great Lakes region just a few years ago. VHS is not a threat to people who handle or eat infected fish, but it can kill more than 25 fish species—making it the most significant fish disease problem in the US in the last 50 years, with the potential to devastate freshwater fish populations.

To date, there have been no VHS-infected fish collected in New Hampshire, but the virus has been found in several New York waters, and in Lake Champlain in Vermont; there is a real threat that it will reach our waters over time. There is no vaccination or cure for the disease, so it can’t be controlled—only contained. You can help by not moving fish, including baitfish, from one waterbody to another. If you suspect VHS virus or see a fish kill, immediately report it to N.H. Fish and Game at (603) 271-2501.

Catch & Release

  • Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible.
  • When landing a fish, use a net with fine mesh or rubber net to avoid injury. A net is probably not necessary for small fish. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. A fish out of water is suffocating and could be injured.
  • When releasing a fish, handle it as little as possible when removing the hook. When handling the fish, do not let it flop around or squeeze it. Gently hold the fish around the middle and upside down while removing the hook. This position calms the fish and deters it from moving around.
  • Remove the hook with small pliers or use your thumb and forefinger to loosen and back out the hook. If a hook cannot be easily removed, cut the leader as close as possible to the hook. The hook will rust or fall out in a short time.
  • To revive a tired fish, hold it in a swimming position with one hand under its bottom jaw and the other hand grasping the fish in front of the tail. Gently move the fish back and forth through the water until it is able to swim away.

Ban on Lead Sinkers and Jigs

State law prohibits the use of certain size lead sinkers and jigs in all fresh waters of New Hampshire. The ban prohibits the use of lead sinkers weighing 1 ounce or less and lead jigs less than 1 inch long along their longest axis. The sale of these lead sinkers and jigs is prohibited in the state of New Hampshire.

When in doubt about whether a fish you have caught is legal, play it safe and release the fish unharmed.

Violation of any fishing rule or regulation may result in the loss of the violator’s license or privilege to fish in New Hampshire.

Possession of Live Fish

No person shall have live lake trout, landlocked salmon, brook trout, black bass, northern pike, or black crappie in their possession, except if the person is a bass tournament permittee or holds an aquaculture license or has a permit to import, possess, or release these fish.

 

Don’t Spend All Your Time Fishin’ Around for Information

Just visit our website! FishNH.com

  • Buy your N.H. fishing license online
  • Sign up for weekly fishing reports
  • Find out where to fish
  • Let’s Go Fishing class schedule
  • Fishing tips & depth maps
  • Download the Freshwater Fishing Guide
  • Fish New Hampshire and relax…
    We have what you’re looking for!

 

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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Conservation Partner Advertisements: The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department allows appropriate advertising in its annual regulation guides in print and online, in order to defray or eliminate expenses to the state, and support enhanced communications with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Constituents. Through a unique partnership with J.F.Griffin Publishing, LLC & eRegulations.com, ‘Conservation Partners’ have been established that pay for advertising in support of the regulations both in print and online. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department neither endorses products or services listed or claims made; nor accepts any liability arising from the use of products or services listed. Advertisers interested in the Conservation Partners program should contact J.F.Griffin/eRegulations.com directly at 413-884-1001,
JF Griffin Media
J.F. Griffin Media reaches 9,000,000 sportsmen every year through our print and digital publications. We produce 30 hunting and fishing regulation guides for 15 state agencies. For advertising information, please visit: www.jfgriffin.com