Atlantic Salmon Brood Stock Fishery

Access along the Merrimack and Lower Pemigewasset Rivers

See the action! Click the image to watch a 3-minute video of NH fishing guide Jon Lockwood fishing for brood stock salmon below Sewall's Falls.


Click here for more fishing videos.

The N.H. Fish and Game Department, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, offers a unique sport-fishing opportunity in the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers -- the Atlantic brood stock salmon program. This gives anglers a chance to target the "King of Fish" right here in New Hampshire.

Click here to buy your $11 salmon permit and fishing license online.

Permit Required: Any person age 16 and older taking or attempting to take Atlantic salmon from the Merrimack River or parts of the Pemigewasset River (and their tributaries to the first upstream dam) must have a New Hampshire fishing license and an Atlantic salmon permit, available online (click here to purchase), from any authorized license agent or at the N.H. Fish and Game Department in Concord. (Note that the salmon "permit" is a checkbox on the fishing license application.) Children under age 16 are not required to hold a fishing license or salmon permit in New Hampshire.

Season: Brood stock Atlantic salmon season is year-round. Exception: Salmon taken from October 1 through March 31 shall be immediately released. Spring fishing for brood stock salmon peaks during late April and May, and extends into June until water temperatures rise in mid-summer and these migratory fish head for the ocean. An additional stocking takes place in the fall, creating an opportunity to enjoy world-class salmon fishing while taking in New Hampshire's brilliant foliage in October/November.

Bag Limits

  • The daily limit for salmon is 1 fish, except in Area 1a (below Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin), which is catch-and-release only.
  • The season limit for salmon is 5 fish.
  • The minimum total length for salmon is 15 inches.

Identification of Legal Salmon
Anglers can identify brood stock salmon by a T-bar anchor tag attached to one side of the base of the dorsal fin. Only salmon marked with a T-bar anchor tag may be kept. The tag must remain attached to the salmon while on or leaving the water. Any salmon not identified by a T-bar anchor tag must be immediately released.

Where to Fish for Broodstock
broodstock salmon fishing access map

Two ways to download the Atlantic Salmon Fishing and Access Opportunities Map:

Download the Atlantic Salmon Fishing and Access Opportunities Map (two formats available):

I. Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers from Garvins Falls Dam in Bow to the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol and their tributaries to the first upstream dam -- salmon shall be taken by FLY-FISHING ONLY.

"Fly-fishing" means casting with only fly rod, fly reel and fly line combination with an artificial fly attached, to which no additional weight has been added to the fly line or leader, and does not include the use of spinning, spincast, and casting rods and reels and lead core lines.

A fly shall be a single- or double-pointed hook, unweighted, and shall not be baited.
A fly is defined as a hook dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel or any similar material to which no spinner, spoon or similar device is added. The fly is unweighted if the material is added to the fly as an attractant only and will not make the fly sink.

EXCEPTIONS/Closed Areas include:

  • Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin to a point approximately 150 ft. downstream is closed to all fishing.
  • Ayers Island Dam in Bristol to a point approximately 300 ft. downstream is closed to all fishing.
  • MANAGEMENT AREA 1a: 150 ft. downstream from Eastman Falls Dam to the Rte. 3 and 11 bridge is CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY.

II. Merrimack River from the MA/NH state line to the Garvins Falls Dam in Bow and its tributaries to the first upstream dam -- salmon shall only be taken by:

  • fly fishing; or
  • by an artificial lure that only has one hook having no more than one hook point.

NOTE: To be consistent with long-term existing Atlantic salmon fisheries in Canada and Maine, New Hampshire's regulations for taking Atlantic salmon will be moving in the direction of angling by fly-fishing only in the future.

Rotational Fishing/Salmon Angling Ethics
  • A concept honored in all great salmon waters, rotational fishing gives all anglers an equal opportunity to fish a salmon pool or a popular section of a river. To rotate properly, the angler should start at the upstream limit of the pool, make a few casts, then move downstream several steps before casting again. Maintain a safe casting distance from other anglers. Repeat the rotation by starting again at the upstream location.
  • Respect another angler's raise. If someone stimulates a rise from a salmon, allow them time to switch flies or to make additional casts to the fish.
  • Respect a salmon hooked by another angler. Reel your line in until the fish has been landed by the other angler. This will ensure your line will not get tangled with that of the angler who is playing the fish.
  • Help land a fish when asked.
  • Avoid disturbing salmon in the pool by being careful as you approach the river.
  • Be a role model for others. If you're an experienced salmon angler, give advice to the novice who requests it.
  • Practice catch-and-release fishing and use barbless hooks. Atlantic salmon are a limited resource. By releasing the fish you catch unharmed, you will provide angling opportunities for others.
  • Respect private property, and keep the river and adjacent land free of trash.
  • Observe all fishing regulations and report all violations to Operation Game Thief,
    1-800-344-4262.

NOTE: This web page provides a summary of the regulations pertaining to the Atlantic salmon brood stock fishery for the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers. This is not the full law or rules. For more detailed information concerning regulations, consult the N.H. Fish and Game Law Book. The rules are available and may be viewed at Fish and Game Department headquarters and Legislative Services in Concord, N.H.

Salmon Program Outlook

The brood stock program, operating since 1993, is part of the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program. Before they are released, these brood fish provide eggs for the restoration program's fry-stocking efforts. Each year, N.H. Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and conservation groups stock over one million fry in the Merrimack River and its tributaries.

While the brood stock program has generated a lot of enthusiasm among anglers, the sport-fishing opportunity is secondary to the overall goal of restoring salmon, shad and river herring to the Merrimack River. Once wild salmon return in significant numbers, the brood stock program will be phased out.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides Federal funding that helps support the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, which includes the Merrimack River Brood Stock Fishery. The brood stock salmon are raised at the federal hatchery in Nashua. Click here for more information on Fish and Game's Anadromous Fish Restoration program activities.

You can help support this cooperative state-federal restoration effort by purchasing a salmon permit-- whether or not you fish -- or by marking the fisheries donation box on your license application. Thank you!

Joan's Release by Arthur TaylorSUPPORT THE SALMON PROGRAM!
The late New Hampshire artist Arthur Taylor was well-known for his paintings of Atlantic salmon and their environments. A limited edition print of Joan Wulff -- the world's most renowned fly fisher woman, formerly of New Hampshire, who with her late husband Lee founded the Wulff school of fly fishing -- is available for purchase to benefit the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program.

"Joan's Release" by Arthur Taylor

All proceeds from the sale of this print support the salmon restoration program.

 


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NH Fish and Game Dept.
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301

603-271-3421
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