The Lamprey river is a 50 mile long river originating in Northwood, NH. It flows through several towns before it empties into Great Bay and eventually into the Piscataqua river. This is a local favorite for many as it offers great warm water fishing for bass and other species, but also offers fantastic trout fishing. The river is open to anglers year round, but has a single, barbless hook and catch and release regulation implemented between January 1st and the 4th Saturday in April. It is considered one of the most diverse water bodies do to the extensive androgynous fish populations.
The river houses many native species, but most fly fishers in the area target the large rainbow trout, brook trout and brown trout population. The brookies are native to the river, but Fish and Game as well as Three Rivers Stocking Association regularly stock the river with all three species of trout. This leaves great angling nearly year round.
This post is has a mixture of my experiences on the Lamprey, as well as useful information for any angler. I’ve developed a liking for the river since I went to the University of New Hampshire, and frequented the river every month of the year.
Lamprey River Fishing Season
Year round fishing is allowed. Catch and release, barbless hook and artificial lures only between October 16th, until the 4th Saturday in April.
The Three Rivers Stocking Association stocks this river in the fall. This generally occurs in mid to late October. If water flows are low, they will delay it. If you would like to know when they stock the river, befriend the members who frequent the Lamprey, Cocheco and Isinglass…but the better option would be to make a donation, recurring or one time. If you donate, they will keep you updated on stocking information. You can also follow their Facebook group for updates here.
Where to Fish the Lamprey
Now the Lamprey is a well fished area, so I am not giving away any hidden gem spots here, but the most popular areas to fish in Durham are at Wiswell Dam (on either side of the river below the dam) or at Packers Falls down the road a little further. Here is a little map for you:
Wiswell: You can park at John Hatch Park.
Packers Falls: There is a small parking area right at the falls on Bennet Road.
My first fish on the fly rod
It took me way too long to get my first fish on the fly rod, but I got it on the Lamprey, and it was the smallest bass you have ever seen. But damn was I happy. I fished for hours, in the pouring rain, the experienced fly fisherman next to me had landed two nice rainbows, and I was discouraged. To be fully honest, I was so hooked on fly fishing before I even caught my first fish, before I even got my first pole in fact. It happened so fast, I just caught a bug, and never looked back. It took me 1 month to upgrade polls and the whole summer to learn how to consistently catch fish with it.
Nailing the Rainbows!
The Lamprey gets stocked with some big fat bows, and I must admit that it’s quite fun, especially on one of those days where you can land a few really beautiful fish. Hope you enjoy my video edit of some fish from the Lamprey! Unfortunately I missed filming on some of my best days ever, but I managed to get some decent clips from here.
I am yet to catch a brookie in the Lamprey, I am not exactly sure how they have managed to avoid me, but they have. I have had a few on the line, but am yet to land one.
Alwives, Shad, River Herring (really whatever you want to call them)
The Lamprey is also home to a very large androgynous fish population. In the right season, you will find yourself constantly hooking into the alwives. They used to have to stop in Durham before a fish ladder allowed them to pass and to continue up the river. Since the implementation of this, the population has continued to grow back to historical numbers.
You may also find the occasional Lamprey…they are insane looking. I can’t find a picture of one that I had, but you should look it up if your not aware.
Unfortunately the Lamprey is not where it use to be in its prime when all sorts of androgynous species made their way up. Like salmon. Man that would be awesome to have a salmon fishery right here on the Lamprey. Unfortunately, the dams destroyed this.
If you would like to learn more about the river’s history, fish populations, old salmon runs and more, I would encourage checking our LampreyRiver.org
When the summer gets hot and the water gets warm, the Lamprey can nearly dry out in sections, and kill off almost all of the trout. This means you shouldn’t be afraid to keep a few if you get any later in the summer, because most likely they will not hold over anyways. When this time of year comes around, there is a good chance you can still catch bass, suckers, sunfish and alwives. This definitely isn’t as fun, but they are often super easy to catch.
I personally like throwing dry flies out and watching the very small bass and sunfish go crazy for them. (even on the rainy days, and yes I know thats not a dry fly in this pic).
The water is often warm and low in the summer months. This happens frequently in the summer, making the warmer months better for targeting non-trout species.
This post has a lot of Rainbow trout in a river that is pretty close to the ocean. Curious about the difference between steelhead and rainbow trout?
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