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Atlantic Salmon: Catch the King!

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The Atlantic Salmon Brood Stock Fishery

In 1993, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, in cooperation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, created the Atlantic salmon brood stock program to provide a unique recreational fishing opportunity in the Merrimack River. Approximately 1,500 brood stock Atlantic salmon, weighing 3 to 12 pounds each, are released annually in the Merrimack and lower Pemigewasset rivers. The fishery includes both a spring and a fall stocking program.

The brood stock program is part of the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program. Before they are released, these brood fish provide eggs for the restoration program’s fry-stocking efforts. Each year, the NH Fish and Game Department, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service and conservation groups stock over one million fry in the Merrimack River and its tributaries.

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While the brood stock program has generated a lot of enthusiasm among anglers, the recreational fishing opportunity is secondary to the overall goal of restoring salmon, shad and river herring to the Merrimack River.

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.

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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.

Where to Fish: Method and Area Designations

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 or call (603) 271-2501.

Rivers and Streams Stocked with Juvenile Atlantic Salmon

A number of rivers and streams are stocked with juvenile Atlantic salmon as part of cooperative state-federal agency restoration programs in the Merrimack and Connecticut River basins. Be sure to know the difference between Atlantic salmon and trout, as regulations require that all juvenile salmon be released.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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