Coastal Harvest Regulations

Harvesting marine species from New Hampshire's coastal and estuarine waters involves specific regulations and gear restrictions. Here's what you need to know:

Harvest Permit

  • Requirement: A permit is necessary 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.
  • Additional Requirement: 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.
  • Where to Obtain: Available at Fish and Game Region 3 Office in Durham.
  • Note: Netting of river herring, when allowed, by residents only and non-residents holding a non-resident Commercial Saltwater License.

Reporting

  • Monthly Reporting: Any person with a permit to net or harvest from coastal waters must submit a monthly report of fishing activities. Forms can be obtained from Fish and Game’s Region 3 Office in Durham.
  • Commercial Fishermen: Required to report catch information to the Department if fishing in state waters.
  • NOAA Fisheries Service Vessel Trip Report: Mandatory participation if fishing federal waters for specific species.

Coastal Harvest Regulations: Species Restrictions

Here are the regulations for harvesting specific species from New Hampshire's coastal and estuarine waters:

American Eel

  • Minimum Length: 9 inches
  • Limit: 25 (recreational)
  • Season: 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

  • No Minimum Length
  • Limit: 4 quarts liquid measure
  • Season: 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 (Alewife/Blueback Herring)

  • No Minimum Length
  • Limit: Closed to all harvest
  • Season: Closed in NH waters

Coastal Harvest Gear Restrictions

Here are the gear restrictions for coastal harvesting in New Hampshire:

Gill Nets (to take, transport, or possess groundfish only)

  • Size:
    • Minimum mesh 6.5 in.
    • Maximum length 300 ft.
  • Other:
    • 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 specific areas)

  • Size:
    • 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
  • Other:
    • Netter must be within unaided eyesight of net
    • 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 at (603) 868-1095.

Mobile Gear

  • Size: No size requirements
  • Restrictions: Not permitted for use in state waters to take finfish or crustaceans

Pots and Traps

  • Size: No size requirements with the exception of black sea bass
  • Other:
    • Tending must be done between sunrise and sunset
    • For black sea bass gear specifications, contact Marine Fisheries at (603) 868-1095

Seines

  • Size: Not greater than 50 sq. ft.
  • Other:
    • Minimum mesh ½ in.
    • Shall only be drawn manually, pulled or dragged through water

Weir

  • Size: No size requirements
  • Restrictions: Harvest of smelt prohibited

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