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Important Laws & Rules

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

  • 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 in certain waters where only a single hook with a single hook point may be used (see Lakes & Ponds with Special Rules).
  • A person may use up to 2 lines for open-water fishing.
  • 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.).
  • 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).
  • Shiners 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 is an aquaculturist permittee or has a permit to import, possess, or release these fish.

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 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.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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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