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New Hampshire

Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater Fishing

Lakes & Ponds: General Rules

General Fishing Rules

General Fishing Rules apply to most lakes and ponds in the state. Follow the seasons, bag limits, length limits, and important notes listed with each species in the chart on the facing page. 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.

Lakes & Ponds with Special Rules

This section has information on lakes and ponds with Special Rules. These waterbodies have rules that may differ from, or be in addition to, the General Fishing Rules for Lakes & Ponds.

Turn to Lakes & Ponds with Special Rules. If you find the waterbody you intend to fish in the table, look to the right for the waterbody’s designation under the “Special Rules” column. It will either be a Lake Trout and/or Salmon Lake, a Fly-Fishing-Only Pond, a Trout Pond, a Wild Trout Pond, or a miscellaneous special regulation water.

This page (see below) has information on season dates, bag limits, length limits and other species information for these special waters.

Interstate Waters:

See Interstate Waters.

Lake Trout and/or Salmon Lakes

Several waterbodies are managed for lake trout and/or landlocked salmon, and are open year-round subject to restrictions listed below. For information on bag and length limits for species other than trout and salmon in this waterbody, see Lakes & Ponds: General Rules on the next page.

  1. 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.
  2. Minimum Length:
    • Brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and their hybrids: 15 inches.
    • Lake trout: 18 inches
    • Landlocked salmon: 15 inches.
    • The head and tail must remain intact while on or leaving the waters of the state.
  3. From January 1 to March 31:
    • Fish may be taken by ice fishing only;
    • The combined daily bag limit for all trout species, including lake trout, is 2 fish;
    • Closed to the taking of landlocked salmon (salmon season is from April 1 to September 30);
    • Two (2) ice fishing devices are allowed per person. Single hook with single hook point for bait, or an artificial lure or flies shall be used to take fish through the ice;
    • Six (6) cusk fishing devices may be used to take cusk on approved waterbodies (see Ice Fishing Rules).
  4. From April 1 to September 30:
    • The combined daily limit for lake trout, salmon, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and their hybrids is 2 fish;
    • Open to the taking of all species, except no smelt may be taken from March 15 to June 15.
  5. From October 1 until December 31:
    • Closed to the taking of lake trout, salmon, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and shad (whitefish).
  6. From April 1 through December 31, no person may take fish through the ice, from the ice, or from any object supported by the ice.

Trout Ponds

Designated Trout Ponds are managed for trout, and are open to fishing for all species from the fourth Saturday in April through October 15. Fishing for any species is prohibited from October 16 until the fourth Saturday in April the following year. For information on bag and length limits for species other than trout, see Lakes & Ponds: General Rules on the next page.

  1. The taking of brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, trout hybrids and salmon between two hours after sunset and one hour before sunrise is prohibited.
  2. Trout ponds open on the fourth Saturday in April. Closed to salmon October 1 and to all species October 16.
  3. The daily combined limit for trout is 5 fish or 5 pounds, whichever limit is reached first.
  4. The use of live fish, or their eggs, for bait is prohibited. The use of salmon eggs, however, is permitted.

Fly-Fishing-Only Ponds

All rules listed above for Trout Ponds apply. In addition, fish may be taken only by fly-fishing (fishing by trolling or casting with only fly rod, fly reel, and fly line combination with an artificial fly or cast of artificial flies attached, and does not include the use of spinning, spincast, and casting rods and reels and lead core lines).

Wild Trout Ponds

All rules listed above for Trout Ponds apply, except:

  1. Open season dates are from the fourth Saturday in April through Labor Day;
  2. All fish shall be immediately released; and
  3. Only single hook, barbless artificial lures and flies shall be used.

General Fishing Rules for Lakes & Ponds

Species

Season

Bag Limits & Minimum Lengths

Important Notes

Black Bass

(Smallmouth Bass &
Largemouth Bass)

Jan. 1 to March 31

2 fish daily limit; only 1 fish >16 inches.

See exceptions for Clement Pond/Joe Silvia Lake, Grassy Pond, Gregg Lake, and Warren Lake.

April 1 to May 14

2 fish daily limit; no length limit.

May 15 to June 15

Catch and release only.

Artificial lures and flies only.

June 16 to June 30

2 fish daily limit; no length limit.


July 1 to Dec. 31

5 fish daily limit; no length limit.


Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and their hybrids

Open water
(ice-out to ice-in)

5 fish or 5 pounds daily limit, whichever is reached first; no length limit.

Many waterbodies with trout have special rules. Designated trout ponds and fly-fishing-only ponds open the fourth Saturday in April and close Oct. 15. Lake Trout and Salmon Lakes are closed to taking trout from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. Designated wild trout ponds open the fourth Saturday in April through Labor Day.

Through the ice

2 fish daily limit; no length limit.

Designated trout ponds are closed to ice fishing.

Lake Trout

Jan. 1 to Sept. 30

2 fish daily limit. Minimum length 18 inches. Daily bag limit for lake trout and salmon is 2 fish (2 lake trout, 2 salmon, or 1 of each).

Lake Trout and Salmon Lake rules are on Lakes & Ponds with Special Rules.

Stinson Lake (Rumney) and Tarleton Lake (Piermont) are examples of General Rules Waters that have lake trout.

Landlocked Salmon

April 1 to Sept. 30

2 fish daily limit. Minimum length 15 inches. Daily bag limit for lake trout and salmon is 2 fish (2 lake trout, 2 salmon, or 1 of each).

Most waterbodies with landlocked salmon are designated as Lake Trout and/or Salmon Lakes; Lakes & Ponds with Special Rules. Taking landlocked salmon from Oct. 1 through March 31 is prohibited.

Chain Pickerel

No closed season.

10 fish daily limit; no length or weight limits.

See Fish Identification.

Northern Pike

No closed season.

1 fish daily limit; minimum length 28 inches.

See Fish Identification.

Walleye

No closed season.

2 fish daily limit; minimum length 18 inches; no weight limit.

See Interstate Waters for walleye regulations in the Connecticut River.

White and Yellow Perch, Black Crappie, Sunfish, Horned Pout

No closed season.

25 fish each species daily limit; no more than 50 fish total combined; no length or weight limits.


Rock Bass

No closed season.

No daily limits; no length or weight limits.


Carp

No closed season.

No daily limits; no length or weight limits.

In addition to angling and ice fishing, carp may be taken by bow and arrow with a cord attached from the Connecticut River,
Merrimack River and Mascoma Lake.

Cusk

No closed season.

No daily limits; no length or weight limits.

Can be taken by all legal methods (angling, trolling, tip-ups).
For approved cusk fishing device waters, see Ice Fishing Rules.

River Herring

No open season.



American Shad

No closed season.

Catch and release only.


Lake Whitefish

Jan. 1 to Sept. 30

2 fish daily limit; no length or weight limits.


Round Whitefish

No open season.


All Round Whitefish must be immediately released.

Smelt

For smelt angling rules and waterbodies open to the taking of this species by dip net, see Freshwater Smelt.

Suckers

No closed season for angling, ice fishing or traps.

No daily limits; no length or weight limits.

Suckers may be taken for personal use with two traps, not more than 50 inches long, 30 inches wide, with an opening no smaller than 3½ inches in diameter.
All traps or holding boxes will have the name and address of the owner.

March 1 to May 31

No daily limits; no length or weight limits.

Suckers may be taken by hand dip nets not over 18 inches in diameter, drop nets not over 48 inches in diameter, spears or bow and arrow with cord attached. Suckers taken by spear or bow and arrow must not be left in, or adjacent to, the body of water.

Want Answers About Your Favorite Lake’s Water Quality?

Join the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP) and find out!

Be a VLAP Volunteer!

Volunteers provide critical water quality data to DES by collecting water samples from lakes that they live near or fish most. This data helps DES to determine if lakes are meeting water quality standards and if lake restoration projects are required.

For more information about your favorite lake or how to join VLAP, contact Sara Steiner, VLAP Coordinator, at (603) 271-2658 or sara.steiner@des.nh.gov.

Water Supply Reservoirs

The following waters are partially closed to human activity because they are public water supply reservoirs. Some public water supplies are closed. Contact NHDES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau (603-271-3503) for more details.

  • Massabesic Lake (Manchester/Auburn)-(1) The Back or West Pond of Lake Massabesic north and west of the following described line beginning at Fire Point, then due west to the Hillsborough-Rockingham county line, then southerly by the said line, crossing Birch Island to the mainland as marked by floats and signs; and (2) The outlet of Lake Massabesic from the outlet dam downstream to and including Mill Pond at Island Pond Road and the canal carrying the water to the pumping station.
  • Canaan Street Lake (Canaan)-A person shall not trespass, boat, bathe, swim, fish, or conduct any activity whatever, whether of recreational, occupational, or other nature, in the waters or on the ice of Canaan Street Lake, south of a line about 1,200 feet northwest of the lake’s southern most part, beginning at a point on the westerly shore at the center line of the road which exists adjacent to the present property line between the properties identified on tax map I-D as lots 38B and 39D, and extending across said lake to the stone jetty on the easterly shore on the property identified on tax map I-D as lot 56-1. The 2 extremities of such a line shall be properly marked by the local water works authority so that they can be readily identified and observed by the general public