Recreational fishing changes for 2017

CONCORD — New Hampshire anglers should be aware of several new rules in effect for 2017.

New Freshwater Fishing Rules for 2017:

• New Hampshire law now prohibits the use and sale of lead sinkers and jigs with a total weight of one ounce or less, regardless of length. This change took effect on June 1, 2016.

• A freshwater bait dealer's license now allows the sale of aquatic invertebrates for use as fishing bait.

• No more than 6 fishing bait traps may be used for personal use to take fishing bait, and all traps, holding boxes or other receptacles shall be plainly marked with the name and address of the owner or user.

• Starting in 2017, the fee to conduct a fishing tournament will increase to $49; the fee to conduct a fishing tournament that is catch, measure and immediate release shall be $10.

• It is illegal to tag, brand, fin-clip or otherwise mark any fish prior to release without a written permit to do so.

• The season for round whitefish is now closed, as it has become a state-listed species.

New Recreational Saltwater Rules for 2017:

• Changes have been made to the recreational closed season, daily limit, minimum size and minimum fillet size for cod (see page 7 of the NH Saltwater Fishing Digest, available at This change took effect on August 1, 2016.

• The recreational closed season and daily limit for haddock have changed (see page 7 of the NH Saltwater Fishing Digest). This change took effect on May 1, 2016.

Note for Boaters: In order to help prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants and animals, RSA 487:16-d now requires boaters to drain their boat and other equipment that holds water, including live wells and bilges, when leaving a waterbody (fresh or salt water).


Let’s Go Fishing! Free winter ice fishing programs offered

CONCORD — The temperatures are dropping, and lakes and ponds have formed some great ice this year. Now that the holidays are over, why not get outside and enjoy the New Hampshire winter by learning how to go ice fishing?

The state Fish and Game Department's Let's Go Fishing Program is offering free ice fishing classes at many locations around the state this winter. These classes are designed for beginners and are geared toward families who are new to ice fishing.

All the ice fishing classes include a hands-on indoor classroom session in which students learn about ice fishing equipment, ice safety, fish identification and winter ecology of lakes and ponds. Then they head out to a local pond or lake to put their newly learned skills to the test! All fishing gear and materials are provided.

Classes are open to anyone age 8 years and older, however, those age 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. No experience is required. Participants are exempt from holding a fishing license during the program.

The classes are free, but online registration is required. To register, visit and select "View the current class schedule" then "View upcoming events." Select the date and location that works for you.

Fish and Game's "Let's Go Fishing" program has taught thousands of children and adults to be safe, ethical and successful anglers. The program is federally funded through the Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Fish and Game works to conserve, manage and protect the state's fish and wildlife and their habitats, as well as providing the public with opportunities to use and appreciate these resources. Visit


Hundreds of ducks banded in annual pre-season effort

CONCORD — Each year state Fish and Game wildlife biologists attach hundreds of metal bands to ducks throughout the state in August and September as part of the pre-season banding effort conducted in US states and Canadian provinces throughout the Atlantic Flyway. This considerable effort provides survival rate data that is used in combination with breeding plot data, parts collection data, and HIP (National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program) survey data as inputs for the model used to determine annual season regulations in the spring.

Each metal band has a unique sequence of numbers, and biologists record the species, age and sex of each duck before it is released. At the end of the season, all the data is submitted to the Bird Banding Lab at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md.

When a hunter harvests a duck with a metal band, or a wildlife viewer reads the band through a spotting scope, they are asked to report the information to a website provided on the band ( It takes just a few minutes to report the encounter.

"Please take the time to report your bands," urges Wildlife Biologist Jessica Carloni, the state Fish and Game Department's waterfowl biologist. "A substantial amount of effort went into putting these markers on, and band reports provide important management data."

This year, a total of 834 ducks were banded in New Hampshire during the pre-hunting season effort — the second highest total banded in the 28 years of the program. This included: 649 mallards, 154 wood ducks, 24 black ducks and 7 black duck/mallard hybrids.


Banding ducks is not as simple as it might sound.  Biologists invest quite a bit of time putting out bait to attract ducks to locations where they can be banded. Numerous capture techniques exist for catching ducks; the two most widely used in New Hampshire are bait traps and rocket nets.  Bait traps are simple enclosures with a closing-door mechanism to trap ducks.  Bait traps accounted for 50 percent of the ducks banded this year, closely followed by rocket nets, which accounted for 48 percent of captures.  Rocket nets are very effective at catching large groups of birds.  Three rockets are attached to a large net; each rocket contains a load of black powder.  When the ducks are close enough, the biologist triggers a detonator and fires the rockets, which propel the net into the air, catching the unharmed ducks underneath.
Following 28 consecutive years of pre-season duck banding, nearly 10,000 ducks have now been banded in New Hampshire. 
“We are extremely grateful to private landowners for allowing us access to their property to band ducks,” said Carloni. “Their support makes collection of this valuable information possible.”
Late season waterfowl hunting opportunities remain available in New Hampshire. Learn more at



Ice safety awareness urged as school vacation weeks get underway

CONCORD — With the Massachusetts and New Hampshire school vacations over the next two weeks, thousands of snowmobilers, ice anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts will be recreating in the Granite State.

While dozens of lakes and ponds across the state have safe ice conditions for winter activities, state Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers want to stress that there are numerous areas across the state, particularly on our largest lakes — like Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Newfound and others — that have large areas of either open water or thin, unsafe ice. Some parts of these and other lakes and ponds may have over 18 inches of solid ice, while ice may be less than an inch thick — or non-existent — on other sections of the same waterbody.

"It is imperative that you personally check the ice thickness across an entire waterbody before you venture out on foot or on a snowmobile or off-highway recreational vehicle," said Major John Wimsatt, who coordinates OHRV Enforcement and Safety Education for Fish and Game. "Do not assume that just because the ice is safe in one location, that it will be safe 100 feet farther away. If you don't know, don't go."

Wimsatt adds that you should also be sure to bring along a rescue rope, ice picks and a personal flotation device such as a typical life preserver (or wear specialty clothing designed specifically to float the user).

Because of the unpredictable ice conditions, it is not advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice. Those on foot should carefully assess ice safety before venturing out by using an ice chisel or auger to determine ice thickness and condition. Continue to do this as you get further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the waterbody. See a short video of how to check ice thickness at

Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, offers a "rule of thumb" on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and eight to ten inches of hard ice for snow machine or all-terrain vehicle travel.

Keep in mind that thick ice does not always mean safe ice. It is possible for ice to be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Weak ice is formed when warming trends break down ice, then the slushy surface re-freezes. Be especially careful of areas with current, such as inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin.

Tips for staying safe on the ice include:

• Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Don't go on the ice during thaws.

• Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and ice may also indicate weak spots.

• Don't assume a snowmobile trail is safe just because it exists; ask about trail conditions at local snowmobile clubs or sporting goods shops before you go.

• Remember that small bodies of water tend to freeze thicker. Rivers and lakes are more prone to wind, currents and wave action that weaken ice.

• Don't gather in large groups or drive large vehicles onto the ice.

• If you do break through the ice, do not panic. Move or swim back to where you fell in, where you know the ice was solid. Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. A set of ice picks can help you pull yourself out if you do fall through the ice; wear them around your neck or put them in an easily accessible pocket. Once out of the water, roll away from the hole until you reach solid ice.