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New Hampshire

Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater Fishing

Coastal Harvest

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, when allowed, 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 (see Recreational Licenses). 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 (Commercial Saltwater Fishing — Finfish)

Dogfish, Spiny

Refer to Commercial Fishing section (Commercial Saltwater Fishing — Finfish)

Horseshoe Crab

Refer to Invertebrate section (Northern Shrimp, Other Invertebrates & Marine Plants)

Rainbow Smelt
(see also Recreational Fishing section, Recreational Saltwater Fishing — Finfish)

No min. length

  • 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)

No min. length

Closed to all harvest

  • Closed in NH waters

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

Gill Nets/ Small-Scale Purse Seines (Menheden/coastal waters)

Call Marine Fisheries Division for current rules, (603) 868-1095, or see Fish and Game rule Fis 603.21 at

Mobile Gear

No size requirements

Not permitted for use in state waters to take finfish or crustaceans

Pots and Traps
(used for taking finfish)

No size requirements with the exception of black sea bass

  • Tending must be done between sunrise and sunset
  • For black sea bass gear specifications contact Marine Fisheries at (603) 868-1095

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


No size requirements

  • Harvest of smelt prohibited
  • For more information, call
    Marine Fisheries (603) 868-1095