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Ice Fishing: General Rules

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Ice fishing in most New Hampshire lakes and ponds begins at “ice-in” and ends at “ice-out.” Depending on the weather and ice safety, this “season” can be from late December through mid-April. These types of waters support mostly warmwater fish populations, including perch, pickerel, black crappie and bass, with a few waters providing opportunities to catch brook, rainbow or brown trout through the ice. For specific bag limits for certain species, see Lakes & Ponds: General Rules. Waters managed for lake trout and/or salmon have a defined season of January 1 through March 31. Remember—salmon may not be taken through the ice. Designated trout ponds are closed to ice fishing.

On most NH waters, the general rule is 6 ice fishing devices (lines) per person when ice fishing, with the following exceptions:

  • Ice anglers are limited to 5 lines while ice fishing on NH-Maine border waters, except Great East Lake, which has a 2-line limit.
  • Only 2 ice fishing devices (lines) per angler are allowed when fishing the designated lake trout and salmon lakes listed below (see exceptions under Cusk Fishing):

NOTE: See Interstate Waters for additional rules for ice fishing on interstate waters.

  • Waterbody

    Managed for
    Lake Trout

    Managed for Landlocked Salmon*

    Connecticut Lake, First

    Connecticut Lake, Second

    Connecticut Lake, Third

    Conway Lake

    Dan Hole Pond, Big

    Diamond Pond, Big

    Francis Lake

    Granite Lake

    Great East Lake

    Greenough Pond, Big

    Merrymeeting Lake

    Newfound Lake

    Nubanusit Lake

    Ossipee Lake

    Silver Lake (Harrisville)

    Silver Lake (Madison)

    Squam Lake, Big

    Squam Lake, Little

    Sunapee Lake

    Winnipesaukee Lake

    Winnisquam Lake

    *Note: salmon may not be taken while ice fishing

  • Hooks used for bait while ice fishing must have only a single hook with a single hook point per ice fishing device.
  • Bob houses must be removed from public waters, public property or private property no later than April 1. The owner’s name and address shall be plainly marked on the bob house and shall have 12 square inches of reflective material half-way up on the outside of each side.

Cusk fishing

Freshwater cusk (burbot) may be taken through the ice with a cusk fishing device (see definition) marked with the name and address of the user. In addition to the normal number of lines allowed (see line limits above), up to 6 cusk fishing lines may also be used. Any species other than cusk caught on a cusk line must be released immediately by cutting the line without removing the fish from the water.

The sinker of the cusk fishing device must rest on the bottom of the waterbody. Through the ice, cusk fishing devices will be permitted to be set and left unattended, except once during each 24-hour period, the bait end of the line must be inspected. “Bobbing,” “jigging,” or movement of the bait to attract fish is prohibited.

The use of cusk fishing devices is restricted to the following waters: First Connecticut Lake (Pittsburg), Second Connecticut Lake (Pittsburg), Third Connecticut Lake (Pittsburg), Lake Francis (Pittsburg), Lovell Lake (Wakefield), Merrymeeting Lake (New Durham), Newfound Lake (Bristol, Alexandria, Bridgewater, Hebron), Ossipee Lake (Freedom/Ossipee), Silver Lake (Madison), Big Squam Lake (Holderness, Center Harbor, Sandwich, Moultonboro), Little Squam Lake (Holderness, Ashland), South Pond (Stark), Sunapee Lake (Newbury, New London, Sunapee), Waukewan Lake (Meredith), Wentworth Lake (Wolfboro), Lake Winnipesaukee (Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, Moultonboro, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro), and Winnisquam Lake (Belmont, Sanbornton, Laconia, Tilton, Meredith).


Safety on Ice

Is the ice safe? You won’t know until you test it. Use a chisel or “spud” to thump the ice as hard as you can; if it does not break through, continue onto the ice. Make a test hole to check the thickness where you hit, and check the ice at intervals on your way out to your fishing spot.

Generally speaking, solid, clear ice of 5 to 6 inches is adequate for small groups; ice thickness of 8 inches and up is good for large groups. Be aware that ice can be weakened by objects frozen into it, because they hold the heat from the sun; avoid docks, large rocks and trees fallen onto the ice. Also avoid areas with springs or moving water under the ice.


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