Fishing in New Hampshire: The Complete Guide for 2024

Jun 21, 2024 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

With just 13 miles of coastline, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Granite State wasn’t the biggest fishing hotspot on the East Coast. However, New Hampshire is blessed with more than 900 lakes and an expanse of rivers and streams stretching over 12,000 miles, along with its access to the Atlantic. You can enjoy the quiet of mountain streams or lakes, or even head offshore! Fishing in New Hampshire is a year-round pleasure that everyone can enjoy.

A view across some crashing waves towards a lighthouse in Portsmouth, NH, with a fishing boat visible near it on a clear day

Here, every angling adventure is unique, whether you’re casting lines in the shadow of the White Mountains or navigating the serene waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. And we’re here to help you see just that. We’ll delve into the prime fishing spots, share top techniques, and more. Let’s dive in!

Best Fish to Catch in New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s waters are home to a remarkable mix of species. Anglers can cast for coldwater trophies like Lake Trout and landlocked Salmon in northern lakes, or chase after Brook Trout in cool, bubbling streams. For those who prefer warmer waters, Largemouth Bass and Bluegill provide thrilling catches, too. And just beyond the coast, Striped Bass and Mackerel challenge even the most skilled anglers. Let’s take a closer look at them…

Trout

An elderly angler in an orange baseball cap and sunglasses, crouching down next to a river while holding his Brown Trout catch
Photo courtesy of Thank Goodness I Fly Fish

When it comes to fishing in New Hampshire, Trout are a real catch. Lake Trout thrive in oxygen-rich lakes like Winnipesaukee, Newfound, and Sunapee. In summer, trolling below the thermocline is effective, while, in fall, they move to shallow reefs for spawning. Anglers typically catch Lakers from 5 to 10 pounds, but sometimes you can come across a 20 lb trophy.

Rainbow Trout populate everything from Trout ponds to the Connecticut River. These fish are known for their migratory habits, spending their spawning season in gravel streams. Fly fishermen in spring, especially in swift streams, target 1–3 pounders, with some reaching up to 5 pounds.

Then, there are Brook Trout, New Hampshire’s state fish. Anglers seek Brookies in the cool streams of Suncook River and Androscoggin in early mornings or late evenings. Not to be outdone, Brown Trout bring an extra layer of challenge. Most active in the crisp air of fall during their spawning run, Brownies usually weigh around the same as Rainbows. 

Bass 

Two men in bucket hats and sunglasses aboard a fishing charter showing off a Striped Bass each on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Central NH Guides

New Hampshire’s myriad of lakes and rivers are prime battlegrounds for Bass, especially Largemouths. These green-backed fish dominate weedy sanctuaries like Lake Winnipesaukee and the hidden depths of Pawtuckaway Lake. As summer heats up, Largemouth move into the shallows, where the average catch can weigh between 3 and 5 pounds.

The state’s rocky rivers and clear lakes, meanwhile, are the perfect playgrounds for Smallmouth Bass. The swift currents of the Merrimack River and the submerged boulder fields of Squam Lake are local favorites. Drop-shot rigs and crankbaits are popular methods to lure these prized catches, which usually weigh between 1 and 3 pounds.

But that’s not all. New Hampshire’s brief coastline is brimming with Striped Bass, especially around the Great Bay Estuary. The merging of fresh and saltwater here creates a fertile feeding ground, drawing Stripers that chase migrating bait fish like herring and mackerel. You can use surfcasting rods with heavy spoons or fly fishing setups with streamers to mimic local prey. We suggest you experiment!

Cod and Haddock 

A man in a baseball cap smiling as he holds a Cod towards the camera aboard a New Hampshire fishing charter on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Vintage Fish Company

Venture beyond the tranquil bays of New Hampshire into the deeper waters of the Atlantic, and you’ll find the playgrounds of Cod and Haddock. Cod, with their mild flavor and dense, flaky texture, have long been a favorite among anglers and diners alike. Haddock share the same waters and culinary prestige, recognized by their slightly sweeter taste and finer flake.

Locals typically target these fish by bottom fishing. Heavy jigs or baited rigs are necessary to reach the seabed, where these fish dwell. Bait choices like clams, crabs, and prepared baits can make a significant difference, as can the color and style of artificial jigs. Offer them a tasty treat and it will be you who head home with something delicious!

Pollock 

Two middle-aged anglers smiling aboard a fishing charter on a sunny day and holding a Pollock towards the camera
Photo courtesy of Vintage Fish Company

Pollock are often hailed as spirited fighters in the Atlantic. While they usually weigh between 10 and 20 pounds, some catches can reach a whopping 30 pounds! These fish thrive in deeper waters off the coast. Use jigs and spoons to mimic the small fish and squid they feed on, and come in winter and early spring to fill your buckets. This is when they come closer to shore to feast on the abundant bait fish.

Understanding Pollock’s behavior is key to a successful day. They’re notorious for their sudden runs and deep dives, so you’ll need sturdy tackle. Heavy rods and reels are essential, and braided lines offer the sensitivity and strength to handle the fight. Hooking into one of these feisty fish can feel like you’ve snagged a freight train!

Sharks 

Three men in full fishing gear posing on a dock next to a huge Thresher Shark that's hanging from above
Photo courtesy of Forever Two Worlds

New Hampshire’s Shark lineup includes Blue, Shortfin Mako, Spiny Dogfish, Porbeagle, and Thresher Sharks. Hooking into one of these toothy torpedoes is sure to get your adrenaline pumping and test your gear to the limit, so you’ll want to come prepared. Naturally, you’ll need heavy tackle and wire leaders to handle their sharp teeth. And when it comes to the best technique, chumming is always the most effective. 

Blue Sharks thrive in deeper offshore waters, becoming more active near the surface during summer. They range widely in size, but you can expect to land a Blue somewhere around 6–10 feet long. Shortfin Mako and Porbeagle, meanwhile, grow to around 8 feet are prized for their speed and agility. Makos are especially active during their migration in late spring and early summer. In contrast, Porbeagles are more common in the cooler months.

Spiny Dogfish and Thresher add diversity to New Hampshire’s Shark fishing scene. Dogfish are often caught inshore and typically around 3 to 4 feet long. Thresher Sharks, with their distinctive long tails they use to stun prey, are a rare treat. These gorgeous monsters hang out in deeper waters and can grow to impressive sizes, often exceeding 10 feet.

Tuna

A man with long hair crouches down while struggling to hold a monsterous Tuna that can barely fit into the image on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Ledge Runner Charters

New Hampshire waters host a variety of Tuna species, with Bluefin Tuna ranking top as the state’s true heavyweights. These ocean giants can even grow to over 1,000 pounds!

Yellowfin and Albacore Tuna are two exciting alternatives to their bigger cousins. Yellowfins typically weigh under 200 pounds, while Albacore are smaller, ranging between 30 and 50 pounds, offering a fast-paced fishing experience using light tackle.

Specialized deep-sea fishing methods and gear, including deep trolling and using squid or other deep-dwelling bait, are a must – whatever Tuna you end up going for. It’s always the catch of the day, and you’ll be made to work hard for yours!

How to Go Fishing in New Hampshire

Now that you know what’s biting, it’s time to unpack the how part. There are various tips and techniques for every type of fishing method you can employ in the Granite State. Let’s talk about how you can refine your fly fishing skills or gear up for a charter adventure:

NH Fly Fishing 

A view from behind of an elderly fly fisherman casting his line into the shallow waters of a stream in New Hampshire on a sunny day

Fly fishing in New Hampshire is about as dreamy as it gets. The state’s rivers are teeming with Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout – world-renowned staples of the fly fishing scene. The best fly fishing spans from April to October, timed perfectly with the lifecycle of the aquatic insects that Trout feast upon. The fly hatches of the Connecticut and Sugar Rivers provide both the perfect challenge for seasoned pros and a peaceful retreat for those honing their craft. 

Essential techniques like nymphing and using streamers are your best bet throughout these months. Naturally, fly selection is paramount here. Whether you’re mimicking delicate mayflies or robust stoneflies, the right fly can make all the difference. Practicing catch and release, using barbless hooks, and respecting the natural beauty are a must in New Hampshire.

NH Ice Fishing

A view across a frozen lake in New Hampshire on a clear day with plenty of ice huts set up across the frozen water

Ice fishing in New Hampshire is a cherished winter tradition, with enthusiasts gathering at frozen lakes like Winnipesaukee and Crystal Lake. As the season spans from December to April, the icy expanses become lively with anglers targeting Lake Trout, White Perch, and the nocturnal Cusk, lurking in the lake’s deeper, darker parts. Always verify the ice’s thickness before setting out. Generally, 4–6 inches is advised for safety.

For cutting through the ice, some might opt for a hand auger, while others might choose power augers for faster setup. Tip-ups allow fishing in multiple locations at once, with flags to signal bites. For a more engaging experience, jigging with live bait or lures can connect you directly with the action below the ice.

NH Deep Sea Fishing

A view from behind of an angler struggling with heavy duty fishing gear aboard a charter in the Atlantic Ocean
Photo courtesy of Ledge Runner Charters

Setting sail on a New Hampshire deep sea fishing trip is a tale of man versus fish. The Gulf of Maine’s bountiful waters are home to sought-after species like Haddock, Pollock, and the storied Atlantic Cod, not to mention Sharks and Tuna. Despite New Hampshire’s modest shoreline, the opportunities here are immense.

When gearing up for the deep blue, robust rods and reels are mandatory. Whether you’re bottom fishing with hefty jigs for Haddock and Cod, or trolling for swift-swimming Tuna, the right technique is key. We suggest pairing up with a savvy NH charter captain who’ll have everything you need – including local knowledge and experience!

NH Charter Fishing

A view across the water towards a typical New Hampshire fishing charter as it sets off on a grey day
Photo courtesy of Ledge Runner Charters

Speaking of charter captains, booking a New Hampshire fishing charter is step one to transform the casual angler into a seasoned fish whisperer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re casting lines in tranquil inland lakes or braving the Atlantic – trips can be tailored for beginners eager to wet their lines or old salts targeting trophies like Striped Bass or Tuna.

Charters usually come fully equipped with rods, reels, bait and tackle, ensuring that every angler, regardless of experience, has everything they need for a successful day. Safety is also paramount, with life jackets and first-aid essentials on board. With a professional guide, you can learn and master any technique you like. It’s your guide to unlocking the riches of the Granite State!

New Hampshire Fishing Seasons

A group of happy anglers crowded on the deck of a fishing charter in New Hampshire on a sunny day and showing off their haul of Striped Bass
Photo courtesy of Ledge Runner Charters

New Hampshire’s fishing seasons vary by species, each with its own prime time for anglers. Deep-sea adventurers find the best action from late spring through early fall, when Tuna and other fish follow warm currents closer to shore. 

For Trout aficionados, the season starts as early as January and lasts until mid-fall in rivers and streams. Note that Wild Trout streams and ponds have a shorter window, opening on the fourth Saturday in April and closing on Labor Day. Lake Trout and landlocked Salmon are fair game from January 1 to September 30, with ice fishing opportunities from January through March.

Regarding specific species, Striped Bass can be pursued year-round, thriving especially during the summer. In contrast, Atlantic Cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine is subject to designated periods to comply with conservation efforts. Always check with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department or consult with your captain in advance to ensure you’re informed about optimal fishing times.

NH Fishing Tournaments

New Hampshire’s wealth of fishing tournaments is designed to deepen your love for the sport year-round. Bass fishing tournaments are particularly popular, with organizations submitting their entries from October 1 to December 1. During winter, the state’s frozen lakes host ice fishing tournaments, where competitors vie to catch the largest Trout, Perch, or Pike.

As the seasons warm, open water tournaments kick off across New Hampshire’s lakes and rivers. There are also special events for young anglers. For more detailed information about these events, refer to the NHFDC.

New Hampshire Fishing Spots

A view from a hill of a lake in New Hampshire during fall, with foliage visible on all sides of the calm lake

We’ve already mentioned the diverse fisheries on offer in New Hampshire, so let’s take a closer look at some of them. Just note that these spots are just the beginning of what New Hampshire has to offer!

Top NH Freshwater Spots

  • Lake Winnipesaukee (Central NH). The largest lake in the state is ideal for chasing Lake Trout.
  • Newfound Lake (Central NH). Known for its deep, clear waters, this lake is perfect for targeting Smallmouth Bass and Lakers.
  • Massabesic Lake (Southeast/Merrimack Valley). Thanks to restricted boat traffic, you can peacefully hunt for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass.
  • Silver Lake (Southeast/Merrimack Valley). If you’re looking to just wet your line, hit this lake for some Perch and Bass.
  • Contoocook River (Monadnock Region/Southwest). This river flows through several towns and serves as a perfect fly fishing spot for Rainbow and Brown Trout.
  • Highland Lake (Monadnock Region/Southwest). This lake is widely favored for its Trout activity in spring and ice fishing in the winter months.
  • Androscoggin River (White Mountain/Great North Woods). A Trout haven, this river is known as one of the region’s top fly fishing locations.

Top NH Saltwater Spots

  • Portsmouth Harbor. This area is a hub for anglers targeting Striped Bass and Bluefish. The mix of deep channels and bridge structures provides a lot of opportunities for both boat and shore fishing.
  • Hampton State Beach. The extensive beachfront makes this a prime location for surfcasting, with anglers often catching Striped Bass and Flounder right from shore.
  • Great Bay Estuary. This estuary is a vital fishing area where Little Bay and the Squamscott River meet. The region is known for its large schools of bait fish, which attract species like Striped Bass and Flounder, especially during the herring run in spring.
  • Peirce Island. Located close to Portsmouth, this island is known for shore fishing spots that are particularly effective for catching Striped Bass. The bite is best during high tide, thanks to the island’s strategic position near water flows.

NH Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of New Hampshire above text that says "New Hampshire fishing regulations, All you need to know," along with an illustration of a boat underneath against a blue background

In New Hampshire, anglers aged 16 and older must obtain a fishing license for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Feel free to get detailed information on acquiring these permits in our comprehensive guide

The state also mandates the use of two hooks per line, with exceptions in certain areas. Practices such as snagging are prohibited, as well as the use of specific live baits like alewives. Additionally, there are specific size and bag limits which vary by species and sometimes by water body or time of year. 

Navigating New Hampshire’s fishing regulations is key to protecting its aquatic life and ensuring a great fishing experience. You can always consult with your guide or check them out online

New Hampshire Fishing: Cast, Catch, and Conquer

A view across the water towards the deck of a fishing boat crowded with anglers who are posing with their catch of a large Tuna
Photo courtesy of Steaker Charters LLC

Getting hooked on fishing in New Hampshire is easy. You can cast into the crisp waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, drill through the ice for winter Trout, or surfcast for Stripers along the rugged Atlantic. Don’t just fish in your dreams, though. Book a trip and reel in stories you’ll share for a lifetime!

Have you ever been fishing in New Hampshire? What’s your favorite lake or river to fish in the state? Perhaps you’re more into saltwater fishing? Let us know all your stories in the comments below!

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Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.

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