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Cod Spawning Protection Area

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations New Hampshire Saltwater Fishing

Gulf of Maine Cod Spawning Protection Area

The Gulf of Maine Cod Spawning Protection Area (CSPA) is located in both state and federal waters south of the Isle of Shoals and is closed to all fishing, as well as take and possession of groundfish, in April, May and June, with the following exceptions:

In State waters (area depicted with red lines):

  • All cod caught in New Hampshire waters must be immediately released.
  • Fishing with either line or rod in hand with gear that has no more than 1 ounce of artificial weight or a single artificial lure weighing one ounce or less. (Note: In the federal waters portion of the CSPA, the use of any weights or weighted lures is prohibited.)
  • Commercial vessels using gear described in 50 CFR 648.2.
  • Private recreational or charter/party vessels that are transiting the area with groundfish caught outside the CSPA must have all bait and hooks removed from fishing rods or handlines and groundfish species on board must have been gutted.
  • Commercial vessels that are transiting the area with groundfish caught outside the CSPA must have gear stowed in accordance with the provisions of 50 CFR 648.23.

Additional federal rules may apply within the federal waters of the Gulf of Maine Cod Spawning Protection Area. Contact NOAA Fisheries at (978) 281-9315.

Catch & Release

  • Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An overplayed fish may become too weak to recover.
  • When landing fish, use a net with fine mesh to avoid injury. 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, try not to touch it when removing the hook and releasing it. When handling the fish, do not let it flop around or squeeze it. The fish can be gently held 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 by using the 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.

N.H. Fish and Game recommends that anglers using live or cut bait use circle hooks to reduce mortality on fish that will be released. Studies comparing baited circle hooks to the standard J hooks used by most anglers show a substantial reduction in post-release hooking mortality when circle hooks are used.

For more information, contact Fish and Game Marine Fisheries Division weekdays (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) at (603) 868-1095.

Landowner Protection

New Hampshire State law provides certain protections for landowners who open their land to those using it for outdoor recreation. For more information, visit

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