Commercial Regulations Table

Updated as of July 18, 2017
SpeciesFisherySeason (Open – Close)Size LimitPossession Limit
American Eel (1)AllJan 01 – Dec 319 in.No Limit
Black Sea Bass (2)WeirsJan 01 – Dec 3112 in.No Daily Limit
All Gears Except WeirsJan 01 – Mar 3112 in.100 lb.
Fish PotsJul 09 - Quota Dep.*12 in.300 lb.
Hook & LineJul 09 - Quota Dep.*12 in.150 lb.
Mobile GearJul 09 - Quota Dep.*12 in.150 lb.
BluefishAllJan 01 – Quota Dep.*No Limit5,000 lb.
Cod (3)(4)North of Cape CodJan 01 – Dec 3119 in.200 lb.
East & South of Cape CodJan 01 – Dec 3119 in.1,000 lb.
Dab (Plaice) (3)AllJan 01 – Dec 3112 in.No Limit
Fluke (5)P1: NetsJan 01 – Jan 3114 in.Prohibited
P1: NetsFeb 01 – Apr 2214 in.w/o LOA: 500 lb.
P1: NetsFeb 01 – Apr 22  14 in.w/ LOA: 1,000 lb. per week 
P2: Nets Apr 23 – Jun 09 14 in.100 lb. 
P2: Longlines Apr 23 – Jun 09 14 in.100 lb. 
P2: Handlines or Rod & Reel Apr 23 – Jun 09 14 in.Prohibited 
P2: NetsJun 10 – Jul 1814 in.300 lb.
P2: LonglinesJun 10 – Jul 1814 in.200 lb.
P2: Handlines or Rod & ReelJun 10 – Jul 1814 in.200 lb. 
Haddock (3)AllJan 01 – Dec 3116 in.No Limit
Horseshoe Crabs (6)BiomedicalJan 01 – Dec 317 in.1,000 crabs
Mobile GearJan 01 - Quota Dep.7 in.300 crabs
Other GearsJan 01 - Quota Dep.7 in.400 crabs
Illex Squid (7)AllJan 01 – Quota Dep.No Limit No Limit
Longfin Squid (loligo) (7AllJan 01 – Apr 30No LimitNo Limit
AllMay 01 – Jul 09No LimitNo Limit
AllJul 10 – Aug 31No LimitNo Limit
AllSep 01 – Quota Dep.  No LimitNo Limit
Menhaden (8)Open AccessJan 01 – Quota Dep.No Limit6,000 lb.
Limited AccessJan 01 – Quota Dep.No Limit125,000 lb. until 85% of quota harvested
25,000 lb. until 95% of quota harvested
6,000 lb. until 100% of quota harvested
Monkfish (3)(9)AllJan 01 – Dec 3117 in.536 lb. tails, 1,560 lb. whole
Ocean Pout (3)N/AN/AN/AProhibited
Pollock (3)AllJan 01 – Dec 3119 in.No Limit
Redfish (3)AllJan 01 – Dec 317 in.No Limit
Scup (10)    Winter IJan 01 – Apr 309 in.50,000 lb.
Fish WeirMay 01 – Quota Dep.9 in.No Daily Limit
TrawlersMay 01 - Quota Dep.9 in.10,000 lb. weekly limit
Non-TrawlMay 01 – May 319 in.800 lb.
Non-TrawlJun 01 – Jun 309 in.400 lb.
Non-TrawlJul 01– Quota Dep.9 in.1,500 lb.
Winter IINov 01 – Quota Dep.9 in.TBD
SmeltHook & Line OnlyJun 16 – Mar 14No Limit50 fish
Smooth DogfishAll Gears But LonglinesJan 01 – Dec 31No Limit100 lb.
Spiny DogfishAll GearsMay 01 – Quota Dep.No Limit 6,000 lb.
Striped Bass (11)Boat and lobster permits fishing from vessel named on the permitJun 26 – Quota Dep.34 in.15 fish
All other fishing activityJun 26 – Quota Dep.34 in.2 fish
TautogAll Sep 01 - Quota Dep.16 in.40 fish
WeakfishAllJan 01 – Dec 3116 in.100 lb.
Windowpane (3)All N/AN/AProhibited 
Winter Flounder (3)Gulf of Maine Jan 01 – Dec 3112 in.500 lb.
Southern New EnglandJan 01 – Dec 3112 in.50 lb.
Witch Flounder (3)AllJan 01 – Dec 3113 in.750 lb.
Wolffish (3)All N/AN/AProhibited 
Yellowtail Flounder (3)AllJan 01 – Dec 3112 in.250 lb.


* May be subject to change for 2017 based on Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approval of emergency regulations on June 15, 2017. 

Unless weekly aggregate limits apply, all trip limits apply per calendar day or per trip, whichever period of time is longest. For quota managed species, the trip limit additionally applies to the person, the permit holder or the vessel regardless of how many permits may be held. 

1) American eels are subject to regulation by the Division and the municipality. Please Consult Local Regulations.

2) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 15,000 pound annual sub-quota allocation. The fishery opens on the July 9th and remains open until the annual quota has been landed. Open fishing days are Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Black sea bass are to be measured from the tip of the snout or jaw to the farthest extremity of the tail, not including the tail filament.

3) Groundfish species are regulated under the federal Northeast Multispecies Management Plan and federal rules apply beyond state waters.  Federal permit holders may land groundfish in accordance with federal rules.  The trip limits listed apply to State Waters Groundfish Endorsement holders and federally permitted vessels while fishing in state-waters.  Commercial fishermen who do not hold a State Waters Groundfish Endorsement or federal limited entry permit may take up to 25-pounds of regulated groundfish per day while fishing in state waters. Fishing for groundfish or with gears capable of catching groundfish in state waters is subject various spatial/temporal closures, gear closures and spawning closures; please review 322 CMR 4.04, 4.06, 8.04, 8.05, 8.07, 8.09 and 12.04 for more details. 

4) It is illegal to harvest cod from portions of Massachusetts Bay during the period of November 15 to January 31 (Winter Cod Conservation Zone ) and April 16 to July 21 (Spring Cod Conservation Zone ). See 322 CMR 8.07 for more details.

5) The P1 daily trip limits for nets is 500 lbs or vessels may obtain an LOA to land 1,000 lbs per week. The P1 trip limit is reduced to 100 lbs for all participants once 25% of the quota is landed.  The P2 daily trip limit during for nets during the squid fishery (April 23 – June 9) is 100 lbs.  P2 open fishing days after the squid fishery (June 10 – Quota) are Sunday – Thursday; during this period it is unlawful to land fluke on Friday and Saturday. Year-round it is unlawful to land fluke during the period of 8PM to 6AM.

6) A special permit for biomedical harvest is required to participate in the biomedical fishery. A bait fishery permit endorsement holder may not also hold a biomedical harvest special permit. All crabs harvested for biomedical purposes may only sell the crabs to dealers authorized to purchase crabs harvested for biomedical purposes. After crabs are bled by the biomedical firm harvesters must return the crabs to the area of harvest. All horseshoe crab harvest is subject to 5-day closures around new and full moons from late April through June. Mobile gear participants are subject to closed days on Fridays and Saturdays beginning on June 10. Mobile gear fishing regulations are subject to change in 2017.  

7) Illex and Longfin squid are regulated under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid and Butterfish Management Plan. Seasons and limits may be adjusted by the federal government. Visit for more details.

8) Any commercial fisherman may catch and land up to 6,000 pounds of menhaden per day. Commercial fishermen with a limited entry menhaden commercial permit endorsement may take menhaden under the higher trip limits described in the table above; these trip limits are adjusted based on quota availability. The 1,000 pound bycatch limit applies once 100% of the menhaden quota is taken and the fishery is closed; when the bycatch limit is in effect, menhaden landings cannot exceed 5% the total weight of the commercial catch. The use of nets within inshore waters is prohibited without an inshore net permit; the use of small bait nets of no more than 250 ft is authorized exempt from this prohibition – consult 322 CMR 4.02 for more details.   

9) Monkfish may be processed at sea into tails and livers and landed as such products.  Monkfish tails must be 11 inches in length and the total weight of monkfish tails may not exceed 536 pounds. The weight of monkfish livers must not exceed 25% the weight of monkfish tails being landed or 10% the weight of whole monkfish being landed.

10) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits or closed fishing days. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 300,000 pound annual quota allocation. Trawlers may land scup 7-days per week. Hook and line and trap fishermen may land scup Sunday - Thursday during May; Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday in June; and then 7-days per week beginning on July 1. The Winter I and Winter II periods are managed by the federal government and seasons and limits are set by NMFS and complemented by DMF.  

11) Striped bass may be taken by hook and line gear only; netting, spearing and snagging striped bass is prohibited (G.L. c. 130 §100B). High-grading and fillet striped bass is prohibited. Fishermen fishing under the authority of a commercial boat permit or lobster permit when fishing aboard the vessel named on the permit are subject to the 15-fish limit. However, fishermen fishing under the authority of a commercial boat permit or lobster permit when fishing from another location (e.g., shore or another vessel) are subject to the 2-fish limit. All Individual and Rod and Reel permit holders are subject to the 2-fish limit as well. The commercial striped bass open fishing days during the season are Monday and Thursday for all gear types. Possession limits apply to both permit holders, regardless of the number of permits held, and vessels, regardless of the number of permits on board.   

Finfish - Definitions

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

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

"Coastal Waters" (Waters under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts):
Include all of Mass. Bay, Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound, the waters within the rise and fall of the tide and extends three miles offshore from an established baseline. It does not include the waters within or above any fishladder or dam, nor the waters above any tidal bound legally established by DEP in streams flowing into the sea.

Quota Dependent:
For quota-monitored fisheries, closing date(s) are dependent upon the fulfillment of either the state or coast-wide quotas. Click here to view current landings of all quota-monitored species.

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

The verb To Fish in all of its moods and tenses is to take or attempt to take fish by any means, whether or not such method or means results in their capture.

Weir, Pound Nets or Fish Traps may be set by a person.possessing written authorization to do so from the aldermen, city.council or selectmen in the community of use, and also the written.approval of the director of Marine Fisheries and DEP, subject to.such conditions as they may impose. Such weirs, traps or pound nets must be conspicuously marked in an approved manner.

Portions of Streams flowing into coastal waters may be closed.during spawning season for the purpose of protecting smelt and.their spawn. Notices of such closings are posted on or near such.closed areas giving the bounds thereof.

Finfish - Prohibitions

Trawling, Gillnetting, Seining, Torching and other fishing methods are illegal in certain areas at certain times of the year. Specific laws and regulations are available from the Division of Marine Fisheries, Boston.

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

The taking of Sturgeon, Atlantic Salmon, all marine mammals, all sea turtles and the Diamond Black Terrapin is prohibited.

The sale of Billfish (except Swordfish) landed in Massachusetts is prohibited.

No vessel (except purse seiners) over 90' registered length may fish in MA waters. Maximum vessel size is 72' length overall for draggers & scallopers.

Vessels using nets may not fish in coastal waters with disks, rollers, or rockhoppers greater than 12" in diameter.

Mobile gear fishing in coastal waters at night is prohibited.

Lobsters & Crabs Commercial Regulations Table

SpeciesClosed SeasonLCMA Min SizeMax SizeV-Notch Poss.Poss. Limit
Other Edible CrabsJan 1 - Apr 30All--------
Blue Crabs (1)Jan 1 - Apr 30All5"----25 crabs/day
Cancer Crabs (2)Jan 1 - Apr 30All4 3/4"----

No Limit for Lobster Trap Fishermen

1,000 crabs per trip for non-trap fishermen

 Lobsters (3) *    --   13 1/4"5"zero tolerance--
23 3/8"5 1/4" 1/8" --
33 17/32"6 3/4" 1/8" --
OCC3 3/8"-- **1/4" **--
Picture of measuring a lobster with a lobster gauge.
Measuring A Lobster

* Lobstermen permitted to fish in more than one LCMA must adhere to the most restrictive standards pertaining to minimum size, maximum size and v-notch possession standards of their permitted LCMAs.

** Federal permit holders must abide by the more restrictive federal rules of a 6 3/4 inch max gauge size and 1/8 inch with or w/out setal hairs v-notch definition.

1) Blue Crabs are measured across the shell from tip to tip of the posterior-most, longest spines along the lateral margins of the carapace. Any egg bearing crab or female crab with an egg mass or pouch must be returned to the water.

2) Cancer crabs refer to both the rock crab and Jonah crab species. The closed season applies to state waters only. The crabs are measured by carapace width. Egg bearing females must be returned to the water. Bycatch by net fishermen may not exceed the 1,000 crab limit, nor may it exceed 50% of the total catch by weight of all fish retained during the trip. Net fishermen are reminded that in order to possess and land cancer crabs in Massachusetts, they must hold a commercial lobster permit. 

3) Carapace length measured from rear of eye socket parallel to the center line of the bodyshell to the rear of the bodyshell. All lobsters measuring less than the minimum legal carapace length must be returned to the waters from which taken. All lobsters must be measured immediately. Egg bearing females must be returned to the water.

Lobstering - Definitions

Cancer Crab: inclusive of both rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) and Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis).

Closed Season: the time during which fish cannot be lawfully taken.

Crustacea: all lobster, crabs, and shrimp.

Edible Crab: any crab other than the green crab.

Blue Crab: a marine crustacean of the species, Callinectes sapidus.

Green Crab: a marine crustacean of the species, Carcinus meanus.

Lobster: the common American Lobster of the species, Homarus americanus.

V-notched female lobster: means any female lobster bearing a v-shaped notch in the right flipper adjacent to the middle flipper or any female lobster which is mutilated in a manner which could hide, obscure, or obliterate such a mark. The right flipper will be examined when the underside of the lobster is down and its tail is toward the person making the determination. See area-specific v-notch definitions below:

V-shaped notch (definition for LCMA 1): It is unlawful for any commercial fisherman fishing or authorized to fish in LCMA 1 to possess any female lobster bearing a v-shaped notch of any size with or without setal hairs.

V-shaped notch (definition for LCMAs 2,3,4,5,6): It is unlawful for any commercial fisherman fishing or authorized to fish in LCMAs 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 as defined in 322 CMR 6.33 to possess any female lobster bearing a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 inch, with or without setal hairs.

V-shaped notch (LCMA OCC): It is unlawful for any commercial fisherman fishing or authorized to fish in the Outer Cape Cod LCMA as defined in 322 CMR 6.33 to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/4 inch and tapering to a sharp point without setal hairs.

Lobster/Crabs - Permits

A lobster/crab permit is required of all persons to fish for lobster and edible crabs in coastal waters. To sell lobster and crabs, a commercial lobster/crab permit is required. However, no permit is required to take edible crabs for use by immediate family, provided that the number of crabs does not exceed fifty (50) in one day and that no pots or traps are used.

Minors under seventeen (17) years of age must have the written consent of a parent or guardian to obtain a lobster permit.

Non-residents of Massachusetts, who own in excess of $5,000 in Massachusetts real-estate and who will seasonally reside in a Massachusetts coastal town, may obtain a non-commercial lobster permit to take lobsters and edible crabs from June through September for consumption only by licensee and family.

Trip-Level or Annual Catch Reports are required of some licenses. These forms are provided by the Division of Marine Fisheries. Renewal licenses will not be issued until a catch report has been filed.

Lobster - Gears

Dive Gear Marking Image

Wooden lobster buoys may not be used.

All buoys and traps must be marked with licensee's Permit ID #. Non-commercial lobstermen shall also add the letter "N" prior to the last 5 digits of their Customer ID number, located in the upper right hand corner of the permit. The letter and permit numbers shall be at least 1/2" high x 1/8" thick. Buoys must be painted with licensee's approved color scheme. All lobster pots must have an official trap tag attached to the central bridge or cross member.

Before any buoy, pot, trap or lobster car is sold, transferred or given away, the owner must burn or cut the letter "T" after his old permit#. The new owner shall than burn or cut his permit# on the buoy, trap or lobster car.

All pots or traps used for the taking of lobsters in the coastal waters of the Commonwealth shall contain either a rectangular escape vent or two circular escape vents in the parlor section(s). The parlor section is the non-baited section of the pot from which lobsters are normally removed by the fisherman. Commercial lobstermen fishing in LCMA 1 shall rig their traps with rectangular vents that measure at least 1-15/16 inches by 5 3/4 inches or two circular vents that measure at least 2-7/16 inches. Commercial lobstermen fishing in LCMA 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or Outer Cape Cod shall rig their traps with rectangular vents that measure at least 2 inches by 5 3/4 inches or two circular vents that measure at least 2 5/8 inches. 

The maximum volume of lobster pots is 22,950 cubic inches.

Lobster traps not constructed entirely of wood must contain an "ghost panel" with the following specifications:

  1. The rectangular opening covered by the panel must be at least 3-3/4" x 3-3/4"
  2. The panel must be constructed of, or fastened to the trap with one of the following untreated materials: wood lath; cotton, hemp, sisal or jute twine not greater than 3/16" in diameter; or non-stainless, uncoated ferrous metal not greater than 3/32" in diameter.
  3. The door of the trap may serve as the escape panel if fastened with one of the specified materials.
  4. The escape panel must be located in the parlor(s) of the trap, but may not be on the bottom.

Boats for lobstering must display the licensee's buoy colors on each side of the hull(or upon panels attached to each side of the hull), or upon a single panel attached to the top of the bow or by mounting a buoy at least 11" long, 4" diameter with licensee's colors, upright, at least 6" above the roof of the boat. Color scheme on hull or panels must be a solid color strip 4" high, 18" wide. The rectangle or square resulting must be bordered on all sides with a black strip at least 1" wide.

Divers must display their assigned number upon their air tank and a floating marker (upright single panel, at least 12" x 12", white background, black numerals at least 3" high, 1/2" in thickness or width of line on both sides of the marker). A group of divers may use only one floating marker listing the license number of each diver in the group.

Lobster - Prohibitions

It is illegal for anyone, except the owner, to handle, destroy or molest any lobster or crab pot or other fishing gear, including any gear swept upon the shore, beaches or flats whether public or private, or to take fish therefrom.

Taking of lobsters and crabs from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise is strictly prohibited.

Spearing, dipping or dragging for lobsters is prohibited.

Removal of eggs from lobsters is prohibited. Egg-bearing lobsters or lobsters from which eggs have been removed must be immediately returned alive to the waters from which taken.

Mutilation of any lobster which affects its measurement or the possession of lobster parts shall be prima facie evidence that the lobster was less than the legal minimum size.

Taking v-notched female lobsters is strictly prohibited. V-notched female lobster must be immediately returned alive to the waters from which they were taken.

Shellfish & Sea Urchins Regulations Table

SpeciesClosed SeasonPossession LimitMin. Size
Bay Scallops4/1 - 10/110 Bu/day including Annual shells *Well-defined growth line
Knobbed & Channeled Whelk^12/15-4/14 for conch pot fishermen1,000 lb mixed limit for draggers (CAP Holders)Legal size determined through use of 2 7/8" chute gauge and any orientation method of measurement.
Surf Clams**&--200 Bu/Day or 400 Bu/48 hr5" (wild), 1.5" (aquaculture reared)
Oysters&----3" (wild), 2.5" (aquaculture reared)
Soft-shell Clams*----2"
Sea Scallops ***--200 meat lbs or 2,000 lbs shell-on3.5" height
Quahogs&--40 Bu/Day1" thickness (wild), 7/8" thickness(aquaculture reared and must be distributed out-of-state after primary sale to MA Wholesale Dealer)
Sea UrchinsScuba: 5/1 - 8/31
Mobile Gear: 3/1 - 10/31
--2" exclude spines

^ All chute gauges must be made of rigid material and measure at least 6" length by 2 7/8" internal width by 1 1/2" wall height. The chute gauge may not be modified in any manner that may affect measuring whelks; this does not include fastening the chute to a gunwale or culling table. Using the chute gauge, whelks are to be measured operculum facing down and as flat as possible on the bottom of the gauge and the siphonal canal in any orientation to the side walls of the gauge. Any whelks that fit through the chute gauge in this orientation are considered sub-legal and must be immediately returned to the sea. When measuring whelks with this method the animals may not be manipulated in any manner that may affect proper gauging. Dealers may possess sub-legal sized whelks provided the whelks were imported from a state with a different minimum size. All containers of whelks must bear a shellfish tag and if sub-legal sized whelks are present that shellfish tag must demonstrate the whelks were harvested in another state. 
* subject to modification by Town Regulations
** Federal surf clam permit holders may possess and land sub-legal surf clams provided surf clams were caught in federal waters and gear is stowed when transiting state-waters. Surf clam dealers may also possess sub-legal sized surf clams provided the surf clams were lawfully landed by federal permit holders or were imported from a state with different minimum size. All containers of surf clams must retain their original shellfish harvester tags and the origin of all containers of surf clams must be determinable through a federal trip report or bill of lading. 
*** pursuant to the authority found in 322 CMR 7.01(7), see permit conditions issued to Coastal Access Permit holders
& The minimum sizes for surf clams, quahogs and oysters differ if they are aquaculture raised. Aquaculture raised surf clams may be harvested and sold at a 1 1/2" minimum size and aquaculture raised oysters may be harvested and sold at a 2 1/2" minimum size. Aquaculture raised quahogs may be harvested at a 7/8" minimum size and sold to a Massachusetts primary buyer, however, all subsequent sales must be to entities outsdie the Commonwealth. All containers with non-conforming aquaculture raised shellfish must have the words "Aquaculture Reared" or "Farm Raised" on the shellfish tag. 

Minimum size measured by longest diameter. These sizes are subject to change, contact the Division for further information.

The taking of shellfish, eels and seaworms are subject to the control of the cities and towns. Consult local authorities for regulations and permits. However, the Division of Marine Fisheries has authority to regulate surf clams, ocean quahogs & shellfish taken from certain contaminated areas.

Sale of shellfish: To sell shellfish, an individual must possess a town/city commercial shellfish permit, a state commercial fisherman permit endorsed for shellfish, and a shellfish ID card issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries. Sales of shellfish may only be made to licensed wholesale dealers authorized to purchase shellfish.