October 1, 2020


Submitted - 2005-09-22
By Jon Greenwood, Coordinator, Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program

If you're looking for some challenging catch-and-release sport fishing while you're out enjoying the beautiful fall weather, head to the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers to hook the King of Fish -- Atlantic salmon. Fisheries statistics tell us that the success rate for catching salmon is higher in the fall than in the spring season, thanks to better wading conditions and cooler temperatures.

This fall, Fish and Game will stock the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers with big salmon -- about 500 brood stock Atlantic salmon weighing from 3 to 8 pounds each. You might also hook into some of the brood stock salmon stocked last spring. Expect some great fishing by the first week in October, as the fall stocking will take place very soon. Note that the brood stock Atlantic salmon season runs year-round, but all salmon caught from October 1 through March 31 must be released immediately.

Brood stock anglers need a New Hampshire fishing license and an $11 Atlantic salmon permit; both can be purchased online at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us, or from license agents statewide. (As of 2005, stamp and possession tags are not required for salmon anglers.) By buying a permit you're supporting a good cause: all proceeds from salmon stamp 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.

The salmon being stocked this fall are surplus brood stock from the Warren Fish Hatchery. Brood stock salmon are kept 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.

The brood stock salmon released in the Merrimack give New Hampshire anglers an exciting recreational fishing opportunity. This fall, the large fish will be stocked in the Franklin-Bristol area. The first good spots to try for the big 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 and below the Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin. Because the fish are migratory, anglers should also try fishing downstream as the season progresses: in the Stirrup Iron Brook area, the Contoocook River at Boscawen, Penacook and Sewall's Falls Park, and below the dams at Hooksett and Garvins Falls in Bow. Find more information and an access map at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm.

My gear recommendations for fly anglers include 7- to 9-weight rods with either floating or sink tip lines, depending on the height and speed of the river flow. While most fly anglers prefer heavy weight rods with 10-pound test line, nymph fishing with lighter gear has proven successful in catching big salmon. Recommended flies include traditional hair wing flies and streamers. Some patterns to try are green highlander, black bear green butt, cosseboom, soft hackle marabou and muddler minnow.

As the season progresses, try the area below the Garvin's Falls dam in Bow to the Massachusetts/ N.H. border, which is open to both fly and spin fishing. The best areas include the section of the river just below the Garvin's Falls and Hooksett dams, where the river is fast flowing. Fishing success in these two areas is best angling from a boat. Excellent boat access is provided at Public Service of New Hampshire's ramp on the west side of the river in Bow and at the state-owned ramp on the east side of the river below the Hooksett Dam.

Brood stock salmon anglers can help the program by reporting their catch to Fish and Game; fishing diaries submitted by January 15 are eligible for a prize drawing. For a printable salmon diary and more on how to send in your report, visit http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

So get out and enjoy New Hampshire's great fall fishing!
This report was provided by NH Fish and Game Department in Concord, NH. Follow this link for more specific information on the reports or the area - http://wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/fishing.htm