Lakes & Ponds: General and Special Rules
New Hampshire Freshwater Fishing
General Fishing Rules
General Fishing Rules apply to most lakes and ponds in the state. Follow the seasons, bag limits, length limits, and important notes listed with each species in the chart on the facing page. 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.
This section has information on lakes and ponds with Special Rules. These waterbodies have rules that may differ from, or be in addition to, the General Fishing Rules for Lakes & Ponds.
Turn to Lakes & Ponds: Special Rules. If you find the waterbody you intend to fish in the table, look to the right for the waterbody’s designation under the “Special Rules” column. It will either be a Lake Trout and/or Salmon Lake, a Fly-Fishing-Only Pond, a Trout Pond, a Wild Trout Pond, or a miscellaneous special regulation water.
This page (see below) has information on season dates, bag limits, length limits and other species information for these special waters.
Several waterbodies are managed for lake trout and/or landlocked salmon, and are open year-round subject to restrictions listed below. For information on bag and length limits for species other than trout and salmon in this waterbody, see Lakes & Ponds: General Rules on the next page.
- 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.
- Minimum Length:
- Brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and their hybrids: 15 inches.
- Lake Trout: 18 inches
- Landlocked salmon: 15 inches.
- The head and tail must remain intact while on or leaving the waters of the state.
- From January 1 to March 31:
- Fish may be taken by ice fishing only;
- The combined daily bag limit for all trout species, including lake trout, is 2 fish;
- Closed to the taking of landlocked salmon (salmon season is from April 1 to September 30);
- Two (2) ice fishing devices are allowed per person. Single hook with single hook point for bait, or an artificial lure or flies shall be used to take fish through the ice;
- Six (6) cusk fishing devices may be used to take cusk on approved waterbodies.
- From April 1 to September 30:
- The combined daily limit for lake trout, salmon, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and their hybrids is 2 fish;
- Open to the taking of all species, except no smelt may be taken from March 15 to June 15.
- From October 1 until December 31:
- Closed to the taking of lake trout, salmon, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and shad (whitefish).
- From April 1 through December 31, no person may take fish through the ice, from the ice, or from any object supported by the ice.
Designated Trout Ponds are managed for trout, and are open to fishing for all species from the fourth Saturday in April through October 15. Fishing for any species is prohibited from October 16 until the fourth Saturday in April the following year. For information on bag and length limits for species other than trout, see Lakes & Ponds: General Rules.
- The taking of brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, trout hybrids and salmon between two hours after sunset and one hour before sunrise is prohibited.
- Trout ponds open on the fourth Saturday in April. Closed to salmon October 1 and to all species October 16.
- The daily combined limit for trout is 5 fish or 5 pounds, whichever limit is reached first.
- The use or possession of live fish, or their eggs, for bait is prohibited. The use of salmon eggs, however, is permitted.
All rules listed above for Trout Ponds apply. In addition, fish may be taken only by 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).
Wild Trout Ponds
All rules listed above for Trout Ponds apply, except:
- Open season dates are from the fourth Saturday in April through Labor Day;
- All fish shall be immediately released; and
- Only single hook, barbless artificial lures and flies shall be used.
Water Supply Reservoirs
The waters listed at right are partially or wholly closed to fishing because they are public water supply reservoirs. Contact NHDES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau (603-271-7061) for more details.
- Babbidge Reservoir (Roxbury)
- Bradley Lake (Andover)
- Canaan Street Lake (Canaan)
- Hanover Reservoirs (Hanover)
- Gilman Pond (Unity)
- Massabesic Lake (Manchester/Auburn)
- Penacook Lake (Concord)
- Rochester Reservoirs (Rochester/Strafford)
- Round Pond (Barrington)
- Upper Beech Pond (Wolfeboro)
- Woodward Pond (Roxbury)
Want Answers About Your Favorite Lake’s Water Quality?
Join the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP) and find out!
Be a VLAP Volunteer!
Volunteers provide critical water quality data to DES by collecting water samples from lakes that they live near or fish most. This data helps DES to determine if lakes are meeting water quality standards and if lake restoration projects are required.
For more information about your favorite lake or how to join VLAP, contact Sara Steiner, VLAP Coordinator, at (603) 271-2658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.