Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fly Fishing Southern New Hampshire: The Lamprey River

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Once an extremely important river for anadromous fish like the Atlantic Salmon.  Today, with some luck, you still find important migratory species such as the American Eel.  Luckily, I found this slippery fellow stuck at the top of the newly built fish ladder (there was no running water in the ladder).  I crawled into the ladder, donned my wet cotton socks and recovered him/her. After a quick show and tell to some kids, I placed the eel back into the river.

Lamprey River Facts

Location:  New Hampshire. Google Maps:
Fishing Season: April to October.  Please visit
Special Rules: Yes.  From October 16th, until the 4th Saturday in April, this is a single hook, catch-n-release fishery.
Licensed Required: Yes, general fishing only.
Floating:  Yes. Walk-Wade. Wet-Wading in summer.
Entrance Fee:  No; however, anglers should strongly consider donating to Three Rivers Stocking Association. For information
Camping: No.
Length: 50.2 Miles.
Origin: Meadow Lake in Northwood, NH.
Termination: Great Bay and Piscataqua River, or for some, downtown Newmarket, NH. 
Fly Rods: 1wt-4wt during mid/late summer. Perhaps, with high water, 5wt early spring.
Fly Lines:  99.9% Floating.
Flies:  Fish are not picky, but we only share this information with our FCFF clients.  

The Lamprey River is a 50.2-mile-long (80.8 km)[1] river in southeastern New Hampshire, the United States. It rises in Meadow Lake in Northwood, and flows south, then generally east past RaymondEppingLee and finally Newmarket. Here, it meets Great Bay, atidal inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, to which it is connected by a tidal estuary, the Piscataqua River. The river from the Bunker Pond Dam in Epping to the confluence with the Piscassic River is part of the designated National Wild and Scenic River System.

The shoreline of the Lamprey River, its floodplain and its wetlands provide a wide range of valuable wildlife habitats. Its anadromous fishery is one of the strongest in the Great Bay watershed. Anadromous fish species that use the Lamprey River include shad, river herring, smelt and even Atlantic salmon. These fish are hatched in the river, then spend most of their lives out at sea, returning to the river to spawn. The fish species will move up the river as far as Durham, where they are prevented from moving further upstream by Wiswall Dam.

The river is also rich in species of freshwater mussels. The river is managed by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department for several different types of game fish, including brook trout which is native to the river. Rainbow trout and brown trout are also stocked in many parts of the river but are not native to the area.
The Lamprey River derives its name from the American Brook Lamprey, which is native to the river. The American Brook Lamprey is a type of freshwater jawless fish sometimes incorrectly referred to as the "Lamprey eel". The American Brook Lamprey is classified as an endangered species by New Hampshire Fish and Game but was once used as a valuable food source in the area. Lampreys were once eaten due to the fact that they contain no bones in their body other than in their head, which was ideal for small children.
Segments of the river are rich in history. Saw- and gristmills which operated by water power were common along the river. The Wiswall Falls Mill Site in Durham is on theNational Register of Historic Places. Originally a sawmill, the site was used subsequently to make knives, nuts and bolts, pitchforkscarriagesmatches and wallpaper. Sites such as Wadleigh Falls show the remnants of old mills and the rich river culture that used to be. Wadleigh Falls, located in Lee, is the remains of a dam created to power a mill which fed a 150-acre (61 ha) mill pond at one point.

Along the banks are hardwood forests and numerous farms. The area is under pressure from suburban development, however, as one of the fastest-growing areas in New England. There is a strong local culture surrounding the Lamprey River with several local events held on the river, including numerous town-run fishing derbies and the Lamprey River Canoe Race held annually in Epping.
During the course of its journey from the Saddleback Mountains in Northwood down to Newmarket, the Lamprey changes from a small torrential stream to a large tidal river. The river between these points has slow meanders and rapids, and small waterfalls such as Packers Falls in Durham.

Why Fish the Lamprey River
  • Native Species:  American Eel,  Lamprey Eel, Chub, Suckers, Pumpkin Seed/Sun Fish, Perch, Golden Shiner, Alewives. Hundreds of years ago, the Lamprey sustained Atlantic Salmon runs.
  • Non-Native Species:  Small Mouth Bass and Crappie.
  • Stocked Fish: The NH Fish & Game stocks in the spring only.  Rainbow and Brown Trout, and Brook Trout. 
  • Location:  A short drive from all points in southern NH and Boston, MA. 
  • Experience:  Though not my favorite river, the convenience of the Lamprey makes this one of the better rivers to fish on the New Hampshire seacoast.
  • Size: long and wide enough to do some great walk-n-wade fishing; and in slow water, fish from a kayak or canoe. 
  • Structure and Depth:  Varies greatly.
  • Scenery:  Not bad, but you never seem to far from a road. 

How to Fish the Lamprey River

Final Word:

Enjoy! The Lamprey River is a great mid-sized river that offers both warm and cold water fishing.
Thanks for reading.  We hope you enjoyed reading this post.

Gone Fishing,