Gulf of Maine Cod Spawning Protection Area

The Gulf of Maine Cod Spawning Protection Area (CSPA) encompasses both state and federal waters, situated south of the Isles of Shoals. During the spawning months of April, May, and June, this area is entirely closed to fishing activities and the take and possession of groundfish. However, there are some exceptions outlined below:

In State Waters (area depicted with red lines):

  1. Cod Catch: All cod captured in New Hampshire waters must be promptly released.

  2. Fishing Gear:

    • Fishing with either line or rod in hand is allowed, provided the gear contains no more than 1 ounce of artificial weight or a single artificial lure weighing one ounce or less.
    • Note: In the federal waters portion of the CSPA, the use of any weights or weighted lures is prohibited.
  3. Commercial Vessels: Commercial vessels using gear described in 50 CFR 648.2 are permitted to operate within the area.

  4. Recreational or Charter/Party Vessels:

    • Vessels transiting the area with groundfish caught outside the CSPA must ensure all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods or handlines, and any groundfish species on board must have been gutted.
  5. Transiting Commercial Vessels:

    • Commercial vessels passing through the area with groundfish caught outside the CSPA must have their gear stowed as per the provisions of 50 CFR 648.23.

Additional Federal Regulations:

Additional federal rules may apply within the federal waters of the Gulf of Maine Cod Spawning Protection Area. For further information, contact NOAA Fisheries at (978) 281-9315.

New Hampshire Cod Spawning Protection Area

Catch & Release

When engaging in catch and release fishing, it's crucial to prioritize the well-being of the fish. Follow these guidelines to ensure a successful release:

  1. Swift Release: Time is critical. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible to prevent exhaustion.

  2. Use a Proper Net: Employ a net with fine mesh to land the fish, minimizing the risk of injury. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible to avoid suffocation and injury.

  3. Handle with Care: When releasing a fish, avoid touching it unnecessarily. When removing the hook, handle the fish gently to prevent injury. Hold the fish around the middle and upside down to calm it and prevent excessive movement.

  4. Hook Removal: Use small pliers or your thumb and forefinger to remove the hook. If the hook is deeply embedded or cannot be easily removed, cut the leader as close as possible to the hook. The hook will eventually rust or fall out.

  5. Reviving Tired Fish: Hold the fish in a swimming position, supporting its bottom jaw with one hand and grasping it in front of the tail with the other hand. Gently move the fish back and forth through the water until it can swim away on its own.

  6. Circle Hooks: Non-offset circle hooks are mandatory for certain species like striped bass, sharks, and bluefish when using bait. NH Fish and Game suggests using circle hooks for all other species when using live or cut bait to reduce mortality rates. Studies have shown that baited circle hooks significantly reduce post-release hooking mortality compared to standard J hooks.

For further assistance or information, contact Fish and Game Marine Fisheries Division on weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at (603) 868-1095.

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