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Top Fishing Charters in Portsmouth NH

Fishing in Portsmouth NH

Summary

Despite its small size, the coastal fishing that New Hampshire has to offer is no pushover.  There is Striped Bass aplenty and Bluefin Tuna lurking off the coast; you can tick off a few items on your bucket list as you fill buckets full of gorgeous fish. Portsmouth, NH fishing charters have a lot to offer to any angler. Whether it’s fishing for Stripers with flies or tackle or heading out past the Isles of Shoals going after big deep sea fish, you can find your prey in the waters of New Hampshire.

Fishing spots

The Great Bay - Aptly named, this bay provides some of the best Striped Bass fishing in the Northeastern US. During the early spring the Great Bay itself is home to many Striped Bass. In the late spring and early summer the Bass will move downstream. You can find them in ample numbers in Little Bay and Pisqatua River, they’re following the Alewives and pre-spawned Herrings, the Bass’ preferred meal. Schoolie Stripers are most entertaining to catch when fished with light tackle or fly fishing gear, that way they put up a much better fight.

Piscataqua River - While it’s not the longest river around (slightly over 20 miles in length), Piscataqua River has some of the best Striped Bass and Flounder fishing waters in the region. This river offers anglers many opportunities to target the famed Striped Bass. If you’re casting from the shore, Hilton Park and Little Bay Bridge offer amazing fishing. Their position allows you to fish the fast-moving waters where Striped Bass like to lurk. Slick waters and edges of eddies are spots you should look out for. The best time to fish the river is between 4 and 6 AM, though the action can move far into the day with a bit of luck. If you’re fishing from a boat make sure you have enough space to move around – fishing Striped Bass schoolies requires an agile angler.


Isles of Shoals - The local legend states that the Isles are named that way because the early settlers saw “shoals” (schools) of fish all around the island chain. While the amount of fish has certainly decreased since the 1600s, the Isles offer excellent saltwater fishing to this day. Bluefish are the prime target in this area, though anglers should be wary as these tricky predators like to bite half of your bait off. In recent years Striped Bass have been spotted in nearby waters, feeding on Lobsters that local commercial fishermen discard. Other fish you can target in the area are Cod, Haddocks, Pollocks, and Flounders.


Offshore - The famed Bluefin Tuna is the main attraction when it comes to deep sea fishing in New Hampshire. Schools of these predators are the most common target, but anglers have the chance to target fish weighing over 100 lbs. However, the big ones are unpredictable, so don’t count on running into one. That being said, in 2017 a New Hampshire trooper managed to reel in a 650 lb Bluefin off the coast of New Hampshire, so you might just snag a trophy fish!

Fishing techniques

Schools or Striped Bass in the Piscataqua River or the Great Bay are suckers for soft plastics. Light tackle or fly fishing will produce an excellent fight from these beautiful fish. If fishing from the shore is your style, drifting chunks of Mackerel is recommended if you’re trying for bigger Striped Bass. You can also freespool some live Mackerel, Eels, or Pogies.

Circle hooks are recommended for all species, but especially for Striped Bass. The shape of the hook means there’s a much smaller chance of catching a fish in the gills. Additionally, you usually don’t need to set the circle hook once you get a bite, as it’s designed to hook the lip.

For Tuna fans trolling with feathered jigs, spoons, and lures is the way to go against the big beasts. If you prefer live bait Sardines, Squids, Anchovies, and other small fish produce good results. You should keep your fresh bait in the water for two minutes at a time. If it has a bloody nose or red eyes, replace it straight away. Lures which look like they are wounded are often ignored.

Need to know

Don’t underestimate the morning chill in New Hampshire, mornings (when the Bass are the hottest) can be quite chilly even during summer heats.

The minimum size required to keep a Striped Bass is 28 inches. The head and tail must remain intact while on or leaving state waters, gaffing is also prohibited. There’s a limit of 1 fish per day. All sea-run Atlantic Salmon caught in coastal or estuarine waters must be immediately released. Recreational possession of Cod is prohibited. Alewives cannot be fished from sunrise on Wednesday to sunrise on Thursday. The minimum size for keeping Bluefin Tuna is 27 inches – it’s measured using curved fork length.

All anglers aged 16 and above require a New Hampshire state fishing license if fishing alone. You can find information on these licenses online. The captain’s license covers up to 6 anglers on the boat.

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Portsmouth NH Fishing Seasons

Fishing in Portsmouth is mostly a warm weather affair. While the weather is still cold and windy you can target winter Flounder, the Piscataqua River is one of the places you can find them. Smelts are still going strong if you’re looking for some light action.

Portsmouth is a summer tourist destination so most shops and hotels will be closed this time of year. Despite that if you bundle up well enough you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Great Bay.

Fishing is mostly still in a lull during March, but the Haddock season opens on March 1st. You can still catch tasty winter Flounders, mostly in sheltered and mud-bottomed areas of the Little Bay and Great Bay.

If the weather brightens up enough the early season can start for this area. Captains will start targeting offshore Cod, Haddocks, and Pollocks around deep-water structures starting at 10 miles offshore. Haddock season ends on April 14th and won’t be back until fall. 

The real fishing season starts in May, when the waters warm up enough and the Striped Bass and Mackerel arrive late in the month. They’ll swarm the waters of Piscataqua River and make their way into the bays and tributaries nearby. Most of them are schoolies but bigger Bass can be found.

Things heat up around June and this is when it’s prime-time to see why this region is famous for its Striped Bass fishing. The Great Bay is teeming with both these great fish and the many anglers who are itching to catch some. Bluefish start to arrive near the end of June.

Schools of Bluefin Tuna start moving in the offshore waters of New Hampshire in July. Most of the fish are schoolies but you still have the chance of landing a monster. Jeffrey’s Ledge has been a popular location with anglers in the recent years. 

Larger schools of Bluefish start to appear around the start of August, feeding on Peanut Bunkers – excellent bait for Striped Bass too! The fishing season is in full swing still, so make sure to book your charter in advance.

On September 17th Haddock season opens again for a little while, if you’re itching for some Haddock now’s the time to get them. Surface feeding schools of Striped Bass and Bluefish are abundant, look for feeding birds on the water to spot them.

Haddock season will close again on October 31st and won’t be open until March next year. This is the last month to do serious Striped Bass or Bluefin Tuna fishing, as the weather gets colder they’ll migrate away.

As the waters grow cold most offshore pelagics have moved on, same as the Striped Bass and Bluefish. If you head inshore you can snag some winter Flounders in muddy bottoms of the bays and rivers that dot the area.

The whole town moves into hibernation for the cold month of December, with most tourist locations being closed down until the weather brightens up. One way to shake off the winter blues is to head into the Great Bay and go for the schools of Smelts who love the cold weather!

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