Get hooked on fishing in New Hampshire
Where to get your fishing license, great fishing spots and what basic gear you really need
With ponds, lakes, rivers and coastal and estuarine waters, New Hampshire is a natural lure for anglers from all over. Want to find out what’s biting this summer? Here’s how to introduce your family to the kid-friendly sport of fishing.
What you need to know before you go fishing for the first time
Compared to the high cost of suiting up for some sports, fishing doesn’t require much of an investment to get the entire family outfitted with gear. What will you need? For beginning adults and kids, basic rod-and-reel fishing poles can be easily found at sporting goods stores or large discount stores, or even yard sales. While shopping for poles pick up a plastic tackle box and fill with a mix of hooks, non-leaded sinkers, bobbers, extra fishing line and a pair of pliers. A helpful tip when it comes to hooks? For safety reasons, buy barbless hooks which are easier to remove from clothing, fish (should you decide to “catch and release”) and fingers.
You can also buy artificial bait and fishing lures to dangle off your rods, but if the real thing is preferred, finding live bait is as easy as filling up a lidded plastic tub with fresh-dug worms from the garden. Other essentials you will need for your fishing trip include sunscreen, which is a must, as are hats and caps; extra clothing if it gets cool, sunglasses, snacks and drinks, first aid kit, and chairs or a blanket to keep you comfortable as you await the big catch. If your kids will be wading in the water to fish or will be fishing from a boat, make sure everyone has a life jacket.
Another must? A multi-day or annual fishing license. According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, fishing licenses are required for everyone 16 years of age and older (kids under 16 aren’t required to have a license to go fishing). Licenses can be purchased at fishnh.com, at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, from licensed agents at bait and tackle shops, sports and supercenters (like Walmart and Dicks Sporting Goods) and through some town or city clerk offices.
For a full list of where to buy licenses, go to wildlife.state.nh.us/licensing/agents.html . If you are just getting your feet wet with fishing, in 2020 a one-day freshwater fishing license costs $10 per person or $45 for the entire season. A recreational saltwater annual license is $11. (Click here for all hunting and fishing prices.)
COVID-19 update for summer 2020: Visitors to public recreation areas in New Hampshire are requested to practice social distancing of staying six feet apart; when social distancing is not possible, visitors should wear a face covering. In some public park areas, restrooms may be closed and other expected amenities, including snack bars, bait shops, parking and boat rentals may be unavailable or have limited access. Check for updated rules and plan accordingly before your outing.
Where to go fishing in NH
To find a family-friendly fishing hole, Fish and Game recommends seeking out waters with easier-to-catch varieties of panfish, including crappies, sunfish and perch. Great fishing spots for panfish (so named because these varieties of fish are the perfect size to fry in a pan) can be found throughout the state.
Where to cast your first line? If you are in the Merrimack Valley, head to Massabesic Lake on the Auburn-Manchester line. With easy access from Route 101, lakeside Front Park offers plentiful parking and plentiful fishing. According to Fish and Game Inland Fisheries, the submerged vegetation of Massabesic Lake is an irresistible attraction for perch.
In the city of Manchester, anglers have been known to have good luck at the city’s Piscataquog River Park where the trail system provides fishing spots on both sides of the river. The park’s main park entrance is on the east side of the river, off Douglas Street.
Nashua’s Mine Falls Park’s network of trails follows the Nashua River, offering countless fishing spots along the way. One of the park’s most popular destinations for anglers is the river’s Mill Pond. With easy shoreline access, your catch could range from perch to largemouth bass. Parking and access to the Mill Pond can be found off Riverside Street.
Want to fish the Merrimack River? Head to the Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area in Concord, a reserve administered by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. From the entrance to the nature area off Portsmouth Street, follow the trail to take up position along the area’s half-mile of river frontage. Local anglers claim they pull bass from this particular spot every year.
On Lake Winnipesaukee, the fishing is plentiful at Ellacoya State Park in Gilford. Other good locations for shoreline fishing, according to A.J.’s Bait and Tackle Shop in Meredith, include the town docks in Meredith and Center Harbor town docks, Weirs Channel in Laconia, Long Island Bridge in Moultonborough, Governors Island Bridge in Gilford, and the Smith River inlet in Wolfeboro Bay.
For freshwater fishing on the Seacoast, try Pawtuckaway Lake in Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham. If you’re up for more adventure, give saltwater fishing a try. Shoreline “beach fishing” is permitted at Jenness State Beach and Rye Harbor State Park in Rye, North Hampton State Park, and Hampton Harbor State Park. Varieties of saltwater fish caught close to shore include monkfish, smelt and white perch.
More information and fishing resources
To teach new anglers how to properly bait a hook and cast a line, NH Fish and Game holds fishing classes through its Let’s Go Fishing program. For the current schedule, go to http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/lets-go-fishing.html. NH Fish and Game maintains a bi-weekly fishing report over the summer to keep anglers up to date on fishing conditions across the state.
Jacqueline Tourville is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives on the Seacoast.