Fish Species Profiles for Popular N.H. Fish (freshwater)
Click on the species name for a description of the fish.
Also called "squaretail" or "speckled trout," the brook trout requires well-oxygenated cold water, 68 degrees or less. It can be found in meadow brooks, rivers, streams and ponds. The brookie is easily caught with flies or small spinners. Earthworms are the most effective live bait.
Due to the low levels of nutrients in the water bodies housing brookies, they are short-lived and rarely exceed 6 inches in length. Sixty remote ponds are stocked with fingerling brook trout and are managed for put-grow-and-take. It is possible to catch a 4-pound trout in some of these ponds, due to the light fishing pressure they receive.
The rainbow trout thrives best in cold water, but can withstand temperatures up to 77 degrees if the water is well aerated. This species is well adapted to lakes and streams. Any trout fishing method can be used to catch rainbows. Spinners, flies, small spoons and bait are effective. The usual size of rainbows found in streams and ponds is between 6 and 12 inches and less than one pound. In larger lakes, however, 3-5 pound rainbows can be caught.
Temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees are best for brown trout. They are found in deep, quiet pools or in the lower sections of streams that are slower moving and usually warmer.
In New Hampshire, brown trout are usually between 7 and 14 inches and weigh less than one pound. However, it is not uncommon to find fish that weigh between 2 and 4 pounds. After reaching about 12 inches, they feed almost solely on baitfish during twilight and nighttime hours. Live bait, spinners and flies fished at dusk are equally effective on brown trout.
The landlocked salmon was originally an ocean fish that became trapped in inland lakes. They are stocked in larger lakes, and prefer water temperatures in the mid-50s. During summer, landlocked salmon are usually found 40 feet below the surface, where it's cold.
Early spring and late September are the best times to catch salmon. In the spring, they follow smelt when these bait fish spawn. During the day, salmon cruise the shallow water of the lake near stream mouths. In the fall, salmon swim upstream to spawn. Salmon can be caught on streamer flies trolled close behind a boat at a rapid pace. Trolled spoons, wobblers and sewn-on bait are also excellent.
The lake trout is prized as a game fish, mainly because of its size and power. Fish weighing between 3 and 6 pounds are caught regularly, and individuals as large as 10 pounds are not uncommon. The ideal temperature for lake trout is near 50 degrees, so theyre usually found on or near the bottom of the water body.
Winter ice fishing on New Hampshires big lakes centers around bobhouse colonies. Jigging with lures or cut sucker bait are effective ways of catching lakers through the ice. In early spring, just after "ice out," they are generally taken by trolling near the surface with spoons or wobblers and natural bait, such as shiners or suckers. In summer, troll deep with wire or lead-core lines or downriggers, with sewn-on bait or spoons.
Two species of whitefish, or shad, are found in a few New Hampshire lakes: the lake whitefish and round whitefish. The lake whitefish typically inhabits deep, clear, cold lakes. The round whitefish (right, above) does well in cold lakes, but in shallower water.
Lake whitefish (right, below) can be taken almost any time of year, though most fishing is done through the ice. Summer or winter, the usual method is by baiting the location with chum (cut-up fish) several days before fishing, then bobbing a light sinker and small hook baited with a piece of cut-up fish near the bottom. During ice out, lake whitefish may be taken with flies at the surface.
All bass are spring spawners, with nest-building occurring in mid-May when the water temperatures are in the high 50s and low 60s. Spawning smallmouths are found in areas with gravel and boulder bottoms. In the summer, they will stay in deeper water than largemouths because they like the cooler temperatures. Look for smallmouths along rocks near drop-offs. On summer nights, smallmouths will head to shallow water looking for crayfish.
Several methods may be used to take smallmouths, including fly casting with floating bugs, and trolling or casting with a plug or spinner. The most common and successful method is still-fishing with live bait, such as worms, minnows, hellgrammites and crayfish. Fall brings them back into shallower water, which awakens a drive to eat and put on weight for the winter.
Largemouth bass thrive best in warm, shallow, mud-bottomed lakes, ponds or streams with plenty of weeds. It is a solitary fish. Most of its time is spent lurking among aquatic vegetation, beneath an overhanging branch or under a brush-covered bank, waiting for prey to swim by. Its diet consists of frogs and bait fish, though almost anything can become a meal: snakes, mice, snails and worms.
Not as spectacular a fighter as the smallmouth, the largemouth is best caught by fishing the open places among lily pads, around sunken logs or stumps or along a stream bank. Surface poppers and plastic worm lures probably take most bass, but live minnows and crayfish, artificial flies and streamers, and trolled lures will all work.
Any quiet, shallow water with a mud bottom, an abundance of aquatic vegetation and food fishes is ideal for the chain, or Eastern, pickerel. Their optimum water temperature is apparently 80 to 90 degrees. Pickerel like to hide in weeds waiting for a meal to swim by.
The chain pickerel is a voracious carnivore. Its diet includes golden shiners, brown bullheads, yellow perch and sunfish. The pickerels popularity peaks during the winter, when considerable numbers are taken with ease through the ice. Most ice anglers fish with a "tip-up" device, using a live minnow. Pickerel fishing in open water is also profitable. Trolling, still fishing with a live minnow or frog, or spincasting with plugs, spinners or spoons all produce good results.
The horned pout, also known as "brown bullhead," is found chiefly in small lakes, ponds and the sluggish parts of streams and rivers. It also inhabits large lakes, where it is most abundant in sheltered bays.
A horned pout prefers a mud bottom, but does well with or without vegetative growth. It is a hardy fish and can survive extreme conditions that cause other fish to perish, such as water temperatures of 90 degrees and oxygen levels as low as one part per million.
The horned pout can be caught by any angler, skilled or unskilled, using most any type of tackle. Earthworms are probably the most common bait. Live minnows, crayfish, corn kernels, hellgrammites and dough balls are also good, if fished near the bottom. Fishing in the evening, at night or early morning hours is usually best.
The white perch is a determined fighter when hooked, and is one of our tastier and more popular panfishes. It is an easy fish to catch and will accept most any kind of bait: worms, live minnows, pork rind, artificial flies, and spoons. White perch fishing is best at dusk, when schools of feeding fish tend to move into shallow water near shore. This fish, unfortunately, often becomes overcrowded and stunted in fresh water. Handle these fish with care; the spines on the back are sharp.
The northern pike is a fast-growing, voracious predator that is highly prized as a sport fish. They can only be found in a few select water bodies in the state.
A northern pike, like the pickerel, eats other fish. As the pike gets bigger, other animals, such as frogs, ducklings, and even small muskrats, are also consumed. Although the northern pike prefers cooler waters than the pickerel, both fish are usually found in quiet, shallow, weedy areas. Northern pike are generally fished in the same manner as chain pickerel.
Both lakes and streams serve as walleye habitat. It thrives best in clean water and prefers areas with a firm bottom, such as gravel or bedrock. It is a nocturnal fish, moving onto sandbars or rocky shoals at night to feed and remaining in deeper water during the day.
Walleye are found only in select New Hampshire water bodies, and are prized by successful anglers. Fishing methods include still fishing with live minnows or by trolling or casting almost any artificial lure, spoon, spinner or minnow and spinner combination. The most productive fishing is generally in the evening and early morning.
Introduced recently to New Hampshire, black crappies are found in few bodies of water, mostly in the southern part of the state. It inhabits quiet, weedy areas of lakes, ponds and streams. As its range grows, the crappie is becoming an important panfish in New Hampshire. Small jigs fished in open water or through the ice are successful crappies lures.
Not a New Hampshire native, the bluegill, sometimes called "kibbee," has extended its range into the Granite State. The bluegill is at home in quiet, warm, weedy waters similar to those inhabited by other sunfish, such as the pumpkinseed.
This is a much esteemed and highly valued panfish throughout much of its range. Like other sunfish, the bluegill is easily caught with simple tackle. Small flies, panfish poppers, and live bait such as grubs and worms all work well.
Yellow perch are a schooling fish and can be located in relatively shallow, weedy water. They spawn in April or early May in sheltered coves and backwaters. These fish feed mainly on small aquatic insects, crustaceans and small fishes.
They are not difficult to catch and can be taken year round. In the summer, an artificial fly, spinning lure, trolling spoon and live minnow work well. In winter, the tip-up or handline with live minnows are good methods for catching yellow perch. Fishing for yellow perch is fun and encouraged. They often compete with game fish for habitat and need to be harvested to keep numbers manageable.
Illustrations © Joseph Tomelleri