N.H. anglers looking for some challenging catch-and-release sport fishing while they’re enjoying the fall foliage should head to the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers to hook the “King of Fish.” October and November are the best months for fall Atlantic salmon fishing in New Hampshire. This fall the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has stocked the Merrimack River basin with about 600 brood stock Atlantic salmon, averaging about 3 to 5 pounds each. The fish are now in, so get out and enjoy some great salmon fishing!

“This is the best looking group of fish for fall release that I’ve seen in a few years,” said Matt Carpenter, a Fisheries Biologist with the Anadromous Fisheries Restoration Program. “Anglers with experience catching broodstock salmon in the fall will be pleasantly surprised at the size of some of these fish.”

Fisheries statistics suggest that the success rate for catching salmon is higher in the fall than in the spring season. The brood stock Atlantic salmon season runs year-round, but all salmon caught from October 1 through March 31 must be released immediately.

To fish for brood stock salmon, anglers need a current New Hampshire fishing license and an $11 brood stock salmon permit; both are available at http://www.fishnh.com or from license agents statewide. All proceeds from salmon permits support the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, created in 1993 by Fish and Game, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to help restore migratory fish populations to the Merrimack River watershed.

To watch a 3-minute video of NH fishing guide Jon Lockwood fishing for brood stock Atlantic salmon in the Merrimack, visit http://www.fishnh.com/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm.

The brood stock salmon were stocked this fall at two sites — below the Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin and the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol. The majority of the fish were released in the Bristol area. The first good spots to try for the brood stock salmon are below the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol along the Coolidge Woods Road, the Profile Falls Recreation Area (the access site near the Smith River confluence), below the Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin and the public boat launch behind the Franklin High School on the Winnipesaukee River. Find more information and an access map at http://www.fishnh.com/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm.

Carpenter suggests that anglers use traditional salmon flies or trout streamers such as Grey Ghosts, Mickey Finns or any patterns that imitate small baitfish. Fishing with spinning gear is allowed in the section of the river below the Garvins Falls Dam in Bow. Anglers should review the special regulations for brood stock salmon at the Fish and Game website.

Brood stock salmon anglers can help the program by reporting their catch to Fish and Game. If you have questions, comments, or just want to share your fishing experience, call Matt Carpenter (603-271-2612).

Brood stock salmon are kept by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to produce offspring, or “fry,” more than a million of which are released each spring to in an effort to restore sea-running fish to the Merrimack River basin. After spawning at the hatchery, the brood stock fish are released in the Merrimack, creating the only managed salmon fishery in New England.

Logo courtesy New Hampshire Fish and Game

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