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Massachusetts Fishing Regulations

Massachusetts fishing regulations and legal bag limits for saltwater fish and shellfish. Open season dates, recreational and marine fishing information with contacts to important state marine fisheries offices. Please be aware that some information may change at any time. For the absolute most current and up-to-date fishing regulations please refer to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

322 CMR (full text)
Recreational Fishing/Research Programs
Sportfish Biologists
Division of Law Enforcement
Regulation Summaries (July 2005)  If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader Click Here
Abstracts of MarineFisheries Regulations
MarineFisheries Email Listserv

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Recreational Finfish Regulations as of Oct 10, 2004
Open - Close
Size Limit
Possession Limit
  American Eel (1)
All Year 6 in 50 fish
  Black Sea Bass (2)
All Year 12 in 20 fish
  Blue Marlin (7)
All Year 86 in 1 fish
All Year none 10 fish
All Year 22 in 10 fish
  Dab (Plaice)
All Year 14 in none
All Year none none
All Year 17 in 7 fish
  Gray Sole (Witch)
All Year 14 in none
  Haddock (8)
All Year 19 in none
  Halibut (8)
All Year 36 in 1 fish
All Year 17 in none
All Year none none
All Year 9 in none
  River Herring (6)
All Year none 25 fish
  Sailfish (7)
All Year 57 in 1 fish
  Scup (3)
May 01 - Aug 31 10.5 in 25 fish
All Year none 6 fish
Federal rules apply. Consult NOAA Fisheries
Mar 15 - Jun 15 none none
  Striped Bass (4)
All Year 28 in 2 fish
All Year 16 in 3 fish
Federal rules apply. Consult NOAA Fisheries
All Year 16 in 10 fish
  White Marlin (7)
All Year 62 in 1 fish
  White Perch
All Year 8 in 25 fish
All Year 12 in none
  Winter Flounder (5)
  North of Cape Cod
All Year 12 in 8 fish
  Winter Flounder (5)
South and East of Cape Cod
Apr 23 - May 22 12 in 4 fish
Sep 24 - Oct 23 12 in 4 fish
  Yellowtail Flounder
All Year 13 in none
1) Subject to regulation by the Division and local community. Consult local regulations
2) Black sea bass are measured from the tip of the snout or jaw (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail, not including the tail filament
3) Scup has a recreational limit of 40 fish per angler with a maximum of 80 fish per private vessel with 2 or more fishermen on board. Anglers on board party/charter boats are allowed 40 fish per angler.
4) Bass must be kept whole, with head, tail and body intact - no mutilation permitted (other than evisceration). The discard of dead, legal size striped bass is prohibited. To prohibit the practice of high-grading, recreational fishermen may not retain legal-sized striped bass and release said fish in favor of another larger legal-sized striped bass captured subsequently. It shall be unlawful to keep striped bass alive in the water by attaching a line or chain to the fish or placing the fish in a live well or holding car. Striped bass are measured from the tip of the snout or jaw (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail.
5) Winter flounder may not be taken from Mount Hope Bay and its tributaries except recreational fishermen may take 4 fish between Apr 13 and May 19 and between Sep 28 and Oct 28
6) River herring may not be taken on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Sundays. It is prohibited to catch river herring with any net other than hand-held dip nets. River herring are also subject to regulation by the local community. Consult local regulations.
7) Billfish are measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the tail fork
8) Federal rules apply beyond state waters. consult NOAA Fisheries.


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Recreational Shellfish Regulations
Minimum Size
Other Restrictions
 Blue Crab
4 1/8" shell width
(spine to spine)
egg bearers cannot be taken; 50 crabs/day; no pots; closed season is 1/1 - 4/30, inclusive
 Other Edible Crabs
(excludes green crabs)
same as for blue crab

3 ¼" carapace length
5" carapace maximum length on lobster taken from the Gulf of Maine (includes Cape Cod Bay)

egg bearers cannot be taken; v-notched female lobster cannot be taken; state license required
 Bay Scallop
well defined growth ring
consult town regulations
2 ¾" shell width
consult town regulations
3" shell diameter
consult town regulations
1" shell thickness
consult town regulations
 Sea Scallop
3 ½" shell height
daily limit of 1 bushel in shell, or 4 quarts of shucked meats
 Softshell Clam
2" shell diameter
consult town regulations
 Surf Clam
5" shell diameter
consult town regulations

Regulations are subject to change; contact the Division for details (617) 626-1520.

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Gulf of Maine
Recreational Lobster Area
Recreational Lobster Area
 Minimum Size
3 1/4"
3 3/8"
 Maximum Size
5 "

Zero-Tolerance definition:
(V-shaped notch of any size with or without setal hairs)

ASFMC definition:
(1/4" to 1/2" straight-sized triangular cut without setal hairs)
 Escape Vent
1 15/16” x 5 3/4" or
two circular vents of 2 7/16”
2” x 5 3/4" or
two circular vents of 2 1/2"
 Bag Limit
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Anadromous Fish: Saltwater fish that return to fresh water systems to reproduce.

Angling: Fishing with handline or rod, with naturally or artificially baited hook.

Closed Season: The time when fish cannot be lawfully taken.

Fish: Any animal life inhabiting the ocean or connecting waters, including crustacea or marine fish, whether free swimming or free moving, any shellfish or sea worms, whether or not imbedded in the soil.

Coastal Waters Under the Jurisdiction of the Commonwealth: All the waters within the rise and fall of the tide extending out to three miles from an established coastal baseline and all the waters of Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and Nantucket Sound. It does not include the waters within or above any fishladder or dam, nor the waters above any tidal bound established by DEP in streams flowing to the sea.

Minimum Size Limits are measured as the greatest straight line (not curved over the body) length in inches as measured on a fish with its mouth closed from the anterior tip of the jaw or snout to the farthest extremity of the tail. For fish with forked tails, the upper and lower fork may be squeezed together to measure the tail extremity.

Sale of Fish: A commercial permit is required to sell fish.

Snagging or Snatching: The taking of fish not attracted by bait or artificial lure with hooks, gangs or lures whether baited or unbaited, in a manner as to pierce and hook a fish in any part of the body other than the mouth.

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Snagging, Snatching of Anadromous Fish: including shad, smelt, white perch, striped bass, trout, and salmon, but excluding alewives or river herring is prohibited.

The taking of striped bass by any other means other than hook and line is prohibited.

The discard of dead, legal size striped bass is prohibited.

The taking of billfish using other than a rod and reel is prohibited.

The taking of Atlantic Salmon, Sturgeon, all Marine Mammals, all sea turtles and the Diamond Back Terrapin from Massachusetts waters is prohibited.

For anyone, except the owner, to handle destroy or molest any lobster or crab pot or other fishing gear including any gear swept up on the shore, beaches or flats whether public or private, or to take fish there from is illegal.

To take crabs by pot without a permit is illegal.

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Presently, there is no license requirement for recreational saltwater angling, however, a commercial permit is required when any fish are sold.

Non Commercial Lobster Permits are required to fish for or take lobsters for personal use, using a maximum of 10 pots. This authorizes the holder and members of the holder's immediate family, residing in the same residence, to fish for and take lobsters. The immediate family is defined as the spouse, parents, children, grandparents, sisters and brothers of the permit holder. This permit may be endorsed for diving by only the permit holder. Other family members may purchase additional permits for diving only.

> Renew your Non-Commercial Lobster Permit online

Recreational Shellfishing is permitted in designated clean areas and regulated by the individual Towns. Contact your Town department of Natural Resources for local regulations and permit acquisition.

Note: A person may, without a special permit, use a small net of no more than 200 square feet inside those inshore waters listed in 322 CMR 4.02(2) or inside any estuary, embayment, salt pond, tidal creek, river, or an other similar body of inshore water for the sole purpose of obtaining bait fish for personal use.

DMF Recreational Fishing/Research Programs
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Tagging - Periodically the Division conducts tagging studies of a particular finfish species to develop a better understanding of local movements, habitat preference, migration, growth, and general abundance. The angler plays a significant role in retrieving valuable data. Carefully examine your catch for tags. If found, record the tag number if returning fish to water, or snip off the tag if keeping fish. Contact the address printed on the tag and you will be briefed on the tagging study and may even receive a reward. Note: Recently, snapper bluefish, striped bass, winter flounder, and cunner have been tagged in our waters. The Division participates in federal tagging programs as well.

Saltwater Fishing Derby - Our Division sponsors an annual fishing derby. Contact our Pocasset office for details.

Catch & Release - The Division encourages the proper handling of fish that are to be released. Catch and release practitioners should follow accepted handling conventions such as reduced play time, minimizing exposure to air, and minimizing physical damage from hooking and handling to ensure the highest possible chances for survival.

Division of Marine Fisheries Sportfish Biologists -- top ^
Boston Headquarters
251 Causeway Street, Suite 400
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 626-1520
FAX: (617) 626-1509
Sportfish Biologists
Annisquam River Station
30 Emerson Avenue
Gloucester, MA 01930
(978) 282-0308
FAX: (617) 727-3337
Pocasset Office
50 A Portside Drive
Pocasset, MA 02559
(508) 563-1779
FAX: (508) 563-5482
Brad Chase- North Shore

Paul Caruso

- Cape Cod
- South Shore
- Wareham to Westport
Martha's Vineyard Office
P.O. Box 68
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
(508) 693-4157
FAX:(508) 693-0600 call first
Greg Skomal - Islands
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Division of Law Enforcement
Hewitts Cove (617) 727 - 0082
Radio Room (617) 727 - 6398
North Coastal Bureau (978) 283 - 7764
Toll Free Number(800) 632 - 8075
For more information see chapter 130 of the Massachusetts General Laws and Code of Massachusetts Regulations, Title 322.
The rules and regulations are subject to change without notice. Contact the Division of Marine Fisheries for current regulations.
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