Regulations on Possession and Use of Live Fish for Bait

When fishing in any freshwaters of the state, only the following species are permitted to be possessed and used as live fish for bait:

  • Rainbow smelt
  • Longnose dace
  • Blacknose dace
  • Northern redbelly dace
  • Lake chub
  • Creek chub
  • Fallfish
  • Golden shiner
  • Common shiner
  • Emerald shiner
  • Spottail shiner
  • Silvery minnow
  • Creek chubsucker
  • Longnose sucker
  • White sucker
  • Killifish/tomcod

Personal Use Regulations:

  • Anglers with a valid license may take approved bait fish species for personal use using specific gear, including traps or nets.
  • Daily limit for personal use is 2 quarts (liquid measure), except for white suckers, which have no daily limit.

Commercial Harvesting:

  • Commercial harvesting of bait fish is allowed with a bait dealer’s license under specific regulations outlined by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

Additional Regulations:

  • Using up to two hooks per line for open-water fishing, with specific hook requirements depending on the species being targeted.
  • Anglers may use up to two lines for fishing in open water.
  • Fishing is permitted at any time of day or night, with certain exceptions for trout and salmon during specified hours.
  • Traps, nets, and other equipment used to take or hold live bait fish must be marked with the owner’s name and address.
  • During guided angling trips, the number of lines used for trolling must not exceed the legal limit for each angler, excluding the guide(s).

Fishing Tournaments:

  • Fishing tournaments on New Hampshire waters require a permit, with fees varying based on the type of tournament.
  • Bass fishing tournaments have specific application procedures, with permits issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

Unlawful Actions in Fishing

Here are the regulations outlining prohibited actions when fishing in New Hampshire:

Sales and Snagging:

  • The sale of freshwater fish is strictly prohibited, except for approved bait fish sold by licensed individuals.
  • Snagging fish in freshwaters is illegal. Any fish accidentally snagged must be immediately released back into the water.

Fishing Methods and Limits:

  • Using set lines, such as "jug fishing," to catch fish in freshwater is prohibited.
  • Exceeding daily bag limits for fish, whether caught from one or multiple waterbodies, is not allowed.
  • Possessing more wildlife, including fish, than legally permitted for a two-day period is unlawful.

Possession and Release:

  • It's illegal to possess live lake trout, landlocked salmon, trout, black bass, northern pike, or black crappie, except under specific circumstances outlined in permits.
  • Releasing fish into waters other than where they were caught is prohibited, unless permitted otherwise.
  • Culling fish, except during permitted bass tournaments, is not allowed.

Specific Prohibitions:

  • Fishing in the water surrounding any dam containing a fishway is prohibited.
  • Using certain fish species, like alewives, carp, or goldfish, as live bait is not permitted.
  • Importing live fish or their eggs, including bait fish, requires a special permit.
  • Using prohibited equipment, such as poisons, explosives, or certain devices for killing fish, is illegal.

Other Prohibitions:

  • Assisting or counseling another person to violate fishing rules is against the law.
  • The use of lead sinkers and jigs weighing 1 ounce or less is prohibited in all freshwater areas.
  • Using a gaff to take fish in freshwater is not allowed.
  • Continuing to fish after reaching the daily bag limit for a species is unlawful.
  • Marking fish prior to release without written permission from the N.H. Fish and Game Executive Director is prohibited.

Lead Tackle Restrictions in New Hampshire

New Hampshire state law imposes strict regulations on the use and sale of lead sinkers and jigs in freshwater areas. Here's what you need to know:

Prohibition Details:

  • Restricted Items: The law prohibits the use and sale of all lead sinkers and jigs weighing one ounce or less, irrespective of their length, in all freshwater bodies across the state.
  • Exceptions: Certain fishing gear, such as lead core line, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, spoons, poppers, plugs, and flies, are exempt from this restriction.

Impact on Wildlife:

  • Lead Poisoning Risk: Waterbirds like loons are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning when they ingest lead sinkers and jigs lost by anglers.
  • Research Findings: Biologists have conducted extensive studies on the effects of lead tackle on waterbirds since the 1970s. Research indicates that lead sinkers or jigs contribute significantly to the mortality of adult loons, accounting for up to half of dead loons found in breeding areas in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada.

What You Can Do:

  • Avoid Lead Tackle: Refrain from using lead sinkers and jigs to prevent harm to wildlife.
  • Spread Awareness: Educate fellow anglers about the dangers associated with lead tackle.
  • Dispose Properly: Safely discard old lead sinkers and jigs at designated drop-off locations, including all NH Fish and Game offices.
  • Learn More: Visit for further information and resources on lead-free fishing alternatives.

Catch & Release Best Practices

When practicing catch and release, it's crucial to prioritize the well-being of the fish. Here are some essential guidelines to follow:

Quick Release:

  • Time Sensitivity: Minimize the time spent handling the fish by releasing it swiftly and carefully.
  • Use of Nets: Employ a net with fine mesh or rubber material to land the fish, especially for larger species. However, for small fish, a net may not be necessary.
  • Keep Fish in Water: Whenever possible, keep the fish submerged in water. Avoid leaving it out of water for extended periods, as this can lead to suffocation and potential injury.

Gentle Handling:

  • Minimal Handling: Handle the fish as little as possible when removing the hook. Excessive handling can stress the fish and increase the risk of injury.
  • Proper Gripping: Hold the fish gently around the middle and upside down while removing the hook. This position helps calm the fish and prevents it from thrashing.

Hook Removal:

  • Use Tools: Utilize small pliers or your thumb and forefinger to carefully remove the hook. If the hook is deeply embedded or difficult to remove, consider cutting the leader as close to the hook as possible.
  • Natural Dissolution: In cases where the hook cannot be easily removed, the hook will naturally rust or fall out over time.

Revival Process:

  • Swimming Position: Hold the fish in a swimming position, supporting it under the bottom jaw and grasping it gently in front of the tail.
  • Gentle Movement: Move the fish gently back and forth through the water until it shows signs of revived strength.

When in doubt about whether a fish you have caught is legal, play it safe and release the fish unharmed.

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.