White Mountain National Forest

White Mountains National Forest
White Mountains National Forest (Stockbyte/Getty)

There are ample fishing opportunities in the White Mountain National Forest, with well-stocked streams and ponds yielding big trout and salmon catches to area anglers. A network of highways and foot trails offer both roadside and backcountry fishing opportunities, with many prime spots situated near backcountry camps or National Forest campgrounds.


The most widely distributed species of trout found in the Forest is the Eastern Brook Trout, also known as the Square Tail or Speckled Trout. The sides of this fish are usually sprinkled with red spots ringed with blue (no black spots). It has lower fins with a white margin, as well as dark "worm-like" markings on its back, dorsal fin, and tail. Insects (larval and adult), leeches, crustaceans, and small fish are its preferred cuisine.

Rainbow Trout, originally native to the West Coast, have in recent times been introduced into most sections of the U.S. Black or dark spots (no colored spots) cover the head, back, dorsal and adipose fins, and tail of these fish; adults also have a broad reddish band along their sides. Rainbow Trout normally spawn in the spring. These fish prefer insects, crustaceans, and small fish (their appetite for fish usually increases with growth).

Atlantic Salmon are native to the streams in the Forest. Historically, returning sea-run adults spawned in the headwater reaches and the young (parr) were reared in Forest streams for one to three years prior to migrating to sea as smolts. Parr have similar markings to a brown trout, with these differences: very forked tail, no spots on the dorsal fin, and no red tinge on the adipose fin. Smolts are silvery in appearance, lacking the vertical side bars of the salmon parr or young brown trout. As with the salmon parr, the tail is very forked. Parr and smolts eat insects, while adults in the ocean phase eat other fish (adults do not feed in freshwater).

Introduced in North America from Europe, Brown Trout are found in a few waters in the Forest. They are yellowish-brown in color with large black or brown spots on their sides, back, and dorsal fins (these spots are often surrounded by faint halos). A few red or orange spots are usually evident on the sides. Young brown trout can be distinguished from salmon parr by the tail, which is more rounded and less forked. Spots are usually evident on the dorsal fin. Young brown trout eat insects and crustaceans; adults eat insects, crustaceans, and fish.

Stream Fishing

There are approximately 750 miles of fishing streams on the National Forest. All are managed in cooperation with the respective state fishery agencies from New Hampshire and Maine. Eighteen rivers originate in the Forest, including the Ammonoosuc, the Mad River, the east branch of the Pemigewasset, the Saco, and the Zealand. These rivers also have many tributaries, which form the brooks that run through the rest of the Forest. Trout populations are supplemented by stocking programs in those rivers and brooks where fishing exceeds the ability of the stream to produce enough larger fish to meet the demand. Brook, brown, and rainbow trout are the species agencies of the New Hampshire and Maine state governments stock. Natural production of native brook trout in many of the smaller tributary streams is adequate to support fisheries without stocking.

Pond Fishing

There are 50 ponds on the National Forest capable of supporting fish. The total combined area of these ponds amounts to about 1,200 acres. As with streams, these are all managed as coldwater fisheries. Stocking happens in those ponds where natural trout production is inadequate to maintain quality fishing or where fishing pressure exceeds the capability of the pond to produce enough fish of harvestable size.

Evans Notch

The Evans Notch area that comprises the Forest's eastern section offers an especially concentrated wealth of fishing possibilities. The most commonly caught game fish in the Evans Notch area are Brook and Rainbow Trout. The accessibility of Wild River makes it a popular fishing area; it is stocked accordingly. Stocking is also heavy in the ponds in areas near Patte Brook. Spruce and Blue Brook, which feed into the Wild River, are also popular, but require hiking in a ways. Other well-liked areas are Cold River, Basin Pond, Province Pond, and ponds in the Crocker Area. Also, the recently acquired Virginia Lake in Stoneham, Maine has joined the ranks of well-fished waters.

With the exception of No-Ketchum Pond in Perkins Notch, all Evans Notch fishing locations are good places for day trips. Because of time and distance involved (approximately four hours), an individual or group on a trip to No-Ketchum Pond should plan on staying overnight. Perkins Notch Shelter is available for overnight use on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no fee charged to use backcountry shelters.

Fishing Licenses

All fishing on the White Mountain National Forest must be done in accordance with the laws and regulations established by the State of Maine or New Hampshire. State fishing licenses are required to fish on the National Forest and may be obtained from many sporting goods and general stores in the area. Non-residents may also apply for fishing licenses by writing to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Concord, New Hampshire 03301, or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Augusta, Maine 04333.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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