Fishing for Piscataqua River
By Mike Christy
The Piscataqua River provides a
fairly narrow channel to the ocean for six different rivers as well as Great and Little
Bay. It's depth ranges to greater than 70 feet. With tidal currents running at an average
of 4 knots, some of the fastest currents on the east coast are found in its waters. It is
a border river with the State of Maine on it's northern bank and New Hampshire on its
There are unlimited points of structure and good water found
throughout it's entire run. It would take a lifetime of fishing on the Piscataqua to know
every bass holding eddy and hole, and some of those areas change daily or even hourly with
Most successful anglers primarily fish live bait on structure
because of the river's fast currents and hard, craggy bottom. You will find little
surface action on the Piscataqua. Except for the rare explosion of a pod of bass on bait,
blind casting into rocky coastal shallows will be most productive for plug casting
fishermen. Fly fishing is ever increasing in popularity and despite fast currents, there
are many tidal flats that provide excellent fishing opportunities.
Trolling along drop offs and rocky shores with surge tubes and large
spoons has been a proven method for boating stripers, just watch the bottom line on your
depth finder so not to get snagged.
Below you will find two maps presenting an overview of striped bass producing
hot spots on the upper and lower Piscataqua. They encompass waters from from the mouth of
the river near New Castle up to Goat Island in Newington. The Red markers on the maps are
fishing spots, the green markers are public access boat launches.
Also listed are access points for fishing from shore for both sections of the
river. Soaking chunks of mackerel is the prefered method for taking bass from shore.
The upper portion of the Piscataqua is dominated by the General Sullivan
bridge which spans the river from Newington to Dover Point. All of the water from Great
and Little Bay must pass under this bridge twice a day. Actually there are two bridges, one carries traffic, the other
is closed which gives the angler an opportunity to try for a keeper bass from its
railings. Hilton State Park provides both a boat ramp and shore fishing access. Farther
down the river on the Maine side is Dead Duck Landing in Eliot. Depending on your location
on this section of the river, add 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours to the time of the tide for
Upper River Hot Spots (Red)
1. The point across from the Shiller Plant (Daymarker #4 ) holds an
incredible tidal rip with a deep drop off. Drift by it as close as you can on either tide.
2. A good drift is within sight of the white house on the hill. Outgoing tides are
best. Motor just inside the little cove and drift down to spot #1.
3. Drifting live bait on both tides inside the green cans #9 and #11 produce bass at
spot 3. Across the river from here is a large flat and drop off into the main channel
which could hold bass at any time.
4. Both tides produces fish either drifting from or towards the green can #13 and the
General Sullivan bridge. The Maine side is good too. The sunken abutments of an old bridge
just east of the GSB very often holds stripers.
5. Like #4, drifting under the bridge catches bass here. You can drift to almost to the
6. A good drift at #6 past Carter rock and the marina produces fish.
7. Drifting past Goat Island is a long time favorite when the tide is running.
Upper River Boat Launches (Green)
1. Hilton State Park, Route 4 Dover. Ample Parking, not accessible at
2. Great Bay Marina, Newington. Ample Parking, not accessible at all tides.
3. Little Bay Marina, Dover. Limited parking, not accessible at all tides.
4. Town of Eliot Public Launch (Dead Duck) Route 103 Eliot Maine , accessible at all tides
|Upper River Shore
Spots to try on the Upper Piscataqua
- The perimeter of Hilton State Park off of Route 4
in Dover Point offers many great spots for striper fishing.
- The point just east of the bridges between spots
#4 and #5 in Newington is a popular site.
- Dropping a line from the old General Sullivan
bridge, or under it has caught many a bass.
- The culvert on River Road (Route 103) in Eliot
Maine during outgoing tides should provide action.
- Dead Duck Landing off of Route 103 in Eliot
provides excellent shore access to the Piscataqua.
- William Bray Memorial Park off of Route 101 in So.
Berwick has great potential for fly fishermen.
The main focus of the lower section of the Piscataqua river is the
Portsmouth Navel Shipyard located on Seavy Island. The tide flows around the navy yard in two channels, the large main
channel and the smaller back channel. Both channels provide excellent striped bass water.
Peirce Island hosts the main public boat launch as well as shore access to the main
channel for striper fishermen. The Memorial and Sara Mildred Long bridges span the river
in this section also, and provide structure for ambushing bass. The ice breaker on the New
Hampshire side of the river sits in 15' of water which quickly drops off to 45' near the
green cans. Fishing this ledge has proven very beneficial in the past.
Lower River Hot Spots
1. The back channel behind the Navy Yard has numerous honey holes which
hold keeper bass. Drift under either bridge, but please dont anchor, be considerate of
others. This flow of water was the original main river channel pre-dynamite.
2. The rocky New Hampshire shore line can produce fish at any time or tide. Cast plugs
or use balloons with live or cut bait in close to the rocks.
3. The mouth of the river during out going tides produces, also around Wood Island and
Whaleback Light. Pluggin around the old abutments near Fort Foster is good at high tide.
In front of the Sisters is a good bet in good weather.
4. In front of the Navy Yard on the Maine side is a great spot for live lining as is
drifting along side of the icebreaker on the NH side. All tides can be productive.
5. A fishy spot for striped bass is at the mouth of Spruce Creek. Drifting over the
reef and drop off near green can #3 during flood tides has great potential
6. Drifting under the Sara Long bridge on the Maine side during any tide with live bait
is excellent. Fly fishermen may try in the cove near the gypsum plant on the NH side for
schoolies as well as the small cove just south of the bridge on the Maine side.
7. The flats leading to the mouth of the Chauncy Creek is popular for fly fishermen,
theres a good drop off into 30' of water near Fishing Island.
Lower River Boat Launches (Green)
1. Peirce Island, Mechanic St., Portsmouth. Accessible at all tides,
2. Odiorne State Park, Rye. Not Accessible at all tides, ample parking.
3. Traip Academy, Kittery. Not accessible at all tides, ample parking
|Lower River Shore
Spots to try on the lower Piscataqua
- The shores of Peirce Island allows excellent
access to a great rip on the main channel for shore fishermen. Adjacent Four Tree Island
has some great spots to cast from too.
- The second Route 1B bridge to New Castle is a
popular site, parking is limited. Pick your side to fish depending on the direction of the
- Under the Sara Long bridge in Kittery Maine has
access to a great tidal rip over a shallow ledge. Take the Route 1 Bypass and park under
- Believe it or not, but the small bridge on
Maplewood Ave which crosses the North Mill Pond near the newspaper building has harbored
big fish. Try the point at the end of Marsh Lane just after the bridge too.
- There are several spots to pull over on Route 1A
as it winds along the rocky N.H. coast. Throw out a chunk or plug and you never know when
or where a bass might be lurking about.
- Fort Stark and Great Island Common (both with
jetties) on Route 1B in New Castle is highly recommended for pluggin around the coastal
rocks and breakers.
- Sea Point Beach and Fort Foster in Kittery Point
is popular for picnickers and swimmers, but big bass hang out there too. Fort Foster has a
large pier near prime striper territory.
- There's always Pirates Cove and the Rye Beaches
after the sun bathers go home. 40 inch+ fish have been pulled from these beaches in recent
times. High tides are your best bet after dusk.
- Odiorne State Park has access to a jetty which
should produce and great access to a rocky shore. Both are a good hike.
- You may try the Kittery Public Landing on the back
channel, if you dont mind the smell of lobster bait. Large gill netters and trawlers are
sometimes docked and may get in the way.
- Behind Warrens Lobster House Restaurant on Route 1
in Kittery has a small embankment to the water, many schoolies have been pulled from
State of Maine
- Season: June 10 to October 15
- Size and Bag Limit: One fish between 20 and 26 inches in total length per day or one
fish 40 inches or greater per day
- Gear is restricted to hook and line only
- Use of a gaff to land a striped bass is illegal
- It is illegal to sell Maine caught striped bass.
- Striped Bass fishing is prohibited from December 1 through April 30 in special waters
including the Kennebec and Sheepscot watersheds. Also gear is restricted to hook and line
with single hooked artificial lures only between May 1 through June 30.
- Contact the Maine department of Marine Resources
for more information.
- There is no minimum size. The daily bag limit is 3 fish per angler per day.
State of New Hampshire
- Season: no closed season
- Size and Bag Limit: one fish 28 inches or greater per day (fish must be kept with head
and tail intact)
- Sale of striped bass is prohibited
- Netting is prohibited (except landing nets)
- Gaffing is prohibited
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