Coastal Harvest

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations New Hampshire Saltwater Fishing

There are regulations relating to the harvest of many marine species from New Hampshire’s coastal and estuarine waters, generally by means other than hook and line. Refer to the tables at right for general species regulations and gear restrictions for fish and invertebrates commonly harvested by coastal harvest permittees.

Harvest Permit: Required to take finfish by seine, net, weir, pot or trap, horseshoe crab by any method, or American eel by any method but angling, from coastal and estuarine waters of N.H. Also required to take any species, except lobsters and crabs, for commercial purposes from N.H. waters unless already reporting the catch to NOAA Fisheries via vessel trip reports. Available at Fish and Game Region 3 Office in Durham. Netting of river herring by residents only and non-residents holding a non-resident Commercial Saltwater License.

NOTE: If you are harvesting finfish for personal use only, you need to purchase a recreational saltwater license. If you plan to sell your catch, you need a commercial saltwater license.

Reporting: Any person holding a permit to net or harvest from coastal waters is required to submit a monthly report of fishing activities. Forms are available from Fish and Game’s Region 3 Office, Durham. Commercial fishermen are required to report catch information to the Department if fishing in state waters. Fishermen are also required to participate in the NOAA Fisheries Service Vessel Trip Report program, if fishing federal waters for specific species.

Coastal Harvest






American Eel

9 inches

25 (recreational)

  • No closed season
  • Except the downstream portion of a fishway is closed from Oct. 2 – June 14
Atlantic Sea Herring Refer to Commercial Fishing section
Dogfish, Spiny Refer to Commercial Fishing section
Horseshoe Crab Refer to Invertebrate section
Rainbow Smelt
  • 4 quarts liquid measure
  • Head and tail intact
  • Closed March 1 – December 15 to the taking by net or weir, in state waters which lie inland of the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth
River Herring
Blueback Herring)

See Squamscott River in Special River
, below

  • May not be taken on Wednesdays by any method
  • See Squamscott River and Taylor River in Special River Restrictions

Coastal Harvest Gear Restrictions




Gill Nets (to take, transport, or possess groundfish only)
  • Minimum mesh 6.5 in.
  • Maximum length 300 ft.
  • Limit of 25 gill nets per permittee
Weak links with a breaking strength of 1,100 lbs. shall be used in gill net panels set seaward of the harbor entrances.
Gill Nets (used in waters inland of the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, Little Harbor and Rye Harbor and their tributaries inland of the most seaward jetty, and inland of the Hampton Harbor Bridge)
  • Maximum mesh 3 in.
  • Maximum length 100 ft.; Maximum width 7 ft.
  • Permitted from April 16 – October 31 between 2 hours before sunrise until 2 hours after sunset
  • Netter must be within unaided eyesight of net
  • It is not permitted to set a net so it extends beyond the thread of the stream
  • A net may not be set within 1,000 feet of another net, measured along the thread of the stream
Mobile Gear Not permitted for use in state waters to take finfish or crustaceans
Pots and Traps
(used for taking finfish)
Tending must be done between sunrise and sunset
Pots and Traps
(used for taking
American eels)
Minimum mesh 1/2 in. throughout. Tending must be done between sunrise and sunset
  • Not greater than 50 sq. ft.
  • Minimum mesh ½ in.
Shall only be drawn manually, pulled or dragged through water
  • Harvest of smelt prohibited
  • For more information, call
    Marine Fisheries (603) 868-1095

Special River Restrictions

Fishways: No person is allowed to take finfish in fishways nor allowed in or on a fishway without permission. The waters surrounding any dam containing a fishway are closed to all fishing, except eels may be taken by traps, pots or spears within the tidal portions from June 15 – October 1:



Cocheco River Closed from the upstream side of Central Avenue Bridge to downstream side of Washington Street Bridge in Dover
Exeter River (downtown) Closed from the upstream side of High Street (Great) Bridge to downstream side of Chestnut Street (String) Bridge (on Squamscott River) in Exeter
Lamprey River
  • No person shall use any type of net or weir for the taking of finfish from the downstream side of the Macallen Dam to a line perpendicular with the two riverbanks from the north side of the Newmarket boat launch ramp
  • Closed from upstream side of Rte 108 Bridge to 275 feet below the downstream side of Macallen Dam (tidal water) in Newmarket
  • In the Lamprey River, use of nets, except weirs, shall be restricted to the period of sunrise to sunset
Oyster River Closed from the upstream side of dam and fishway, including a 50-foot radius in front of the fishway; closed to the taking of river herring from Mill Pond Dam, Durham, downstream to the river mouth in Little Bay
Piscataqua River Including Great Bay estuary and tributaries inland of Memorial Bridge, closed to the use of gill nets with mesh larger than 3 inches
Salmon Falls River Closed from the upstream side of the Route 4 Bridge to 150 feet downstream of South Berwick Dam
Squamscott River River herring: Squamscott River and its tributaries from the Route 108 bridge to the String Bridge in Exeter:

  • Open Mondays and Saturdays only from April 1 – June 30
  • Daily limit of 1 tote per person
  • Tote container measures 31.5 inches x 18 inches x 11.5 inches
  • Tote shall have the harvester’s permit number plainly visible on the outside of the tote
Taylor River
  • Closed from the railroad bridge to the head of tide dam in Hampton to the taking of river herring by netting of any method
  • Closed from the upstream side of fishway and dams, including a 50-foot radius in front of the fishway on the upstream side, to a line perpendicular to south end of south overflow culvert at Route 95 to opposite side of river (east)
Winnicut River
  • Closed to all fishing within a 25’ radius of the downstream portion of the fishway and a 6’ radius of the upstream portion of the fishway.
  • Closed to the taking of all fish, except by angling, from the south side of the Boston and Maine Railroad bridge to the Route 33 bridge.