May, 2014
New Hampshire Fish and Game
Landowner Relations Program

Private landowners play an important role
in sustaining New Hampshire's wildlife.  
Question: I have a small, cold water stream that runs through my yard and every year I find brook trout swimming in the small pools.  What can I do as a landowner to help protect these fish to make sure they survive?
NH Fish and Game Fish Habitat Biologist, John Magee weighs in:  

Small streams can be the spawning factories of a watershed's wild brook trout populations.  Adult trout tend to ascend them in the fall, spawn, and then leave very soon thereafter, often spending only a few days in the stream, leaving the eggs and young to fend for themselves.  Not all adult trout come from elsewhere; some live their entire life in a very small stream, and it's quite a sight to see a 9 inch trout in a stream two feet wide.  Brook trout need habitat that offers them relatively slow water, food and protection from predators (mink are particularly good at catching trout). 


Streamside (or riparian) vegetation, especially trees, provide much of the needed shading to a stream, which helps cool a stream.  Certain stream fish species such as brook trout need cool water in the summer, and the removal of riparian trees typically leads to higher summer water temperatures.  Those riparian trees also provide stability to the stream banks and floodplain, and help reduce erosion that can smother fish eggs and habitat.


One of the most important habitat elements in streams is instream wood, which originates as trees in the streamside area.  When a tree dies and falls into a stream, it begins the long process of providing habitat to the stream's inhabitants, such as cover where fish can hide.  But it also does something indirectly - it can help form pools, where there is protection from fast-flowing water.  Additionally, instream wood can help catch sticks and leaves, and these wood/leaf jams are the hotspots of microbial activity in a stream.  Those microbes (bacteria and fungi) are able to absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous directly from the water.  They are eaten by shredder type aquatic insects that literally shred the leaves to eat them.  Most of the nutrients those insects get from this shredding are from the microbes, not the leaves.  Fish rely on instream insects for much of their diet, but particularly so in the spring, when they often do most of their growing for the year.


It can take 200+ years for many tree species in the northeast to live, die and then fall into a stream.  Research has shown that the streams with the healthiest levels of instream wood are found where the dominant riparian trees are 300+ years of age.  I like to say that "more wood = more trout" and that has been documented for brook trout in New Hampshire and elsewhere.  Our streams and fish deserve to be healthy, and one of the best ways to achieve that is to allow some riparian trees to get big and die naturally.


To learn more about NH Fish and Game's Fish Habitat Program click here.


The Landowner Relations Program is ready to assist you!  We are currently partnering with NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Science - USDA) to help bring financial assistance programs to New Hampshire landowners.  Some activities that could be covered include hiring a forester to create a Forest Management Plan, improving road/stream crossings, creating large wildlife openings and habitat diversity, improving pollinator habitat, plus many more opportunities. Contact Lindsay Webb at Fish & Game for more information: or 603-271-1137.   

New Hampshire state law provides certain protections for landowners who open their land to those using it for outdoor recreation. Read the laws here: RSA 508:14 Landowner Liability Limited and RSA 212:34 Duty of Care.  Please contact your legal representative for interpretations on how these laws apply to your particular land and situation. 

Operation Game Thief 

Protect New Hampshire's natural resources - report wildlife law violators!

Operation Game Thief is a silent witness, anti-poaching program that encourages the public to report any suspicious activity or knowledge about a poaching violation.   


Report Violations: 1-800-344-4262 or


This sign is used to prevent parking in roadways or in front of gates. 
How to get this sign:
Download the Operation Land Share participation agreement form and mail in with your request,  
If you're already enrolled in the Operation Land Share program, just call or email with your request, 603-271-3511,        

New Hampshire Fish and Game
Landowner Relations Program

 11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301