Finfish Commercial Regulations Table

Updated as of October 3, 2014
SpeciesFisherySeason (Open - Close)Size LimitPossession Limit
American Eel (1)AllJan 01 - Dec 319 inNo Limit
(2)WeirsJan 01 - Dec 3112 inNo Daily Limit
All Gears Except WeirsJan 01 Mar 3112 in100 lb
All Gears Except WeirsApr 01 - Aug 04N/A0 lb
Fish PotsAug 05- Sept 712 in300 lb
Hook & LineAug 05- Sept 712 in150 lb
Mobile GearAug 05- Sept 712 in150 lb
BluefishAllJan 01 - Quota Dep.No Limit5,000 lb
Cod (3)(4)North of Cape CodJan 01 - Dec 3119 in800 lb
East & South of Cape CodJan 01 - Dec 3119 in1,000 lb
Dab (Plaice) (3)AllJan 01 - Dec 3112 inNo Limit
Fluke (5)P1: NetsJan 01 - Jan 3114 inw/o LOA: Prohibited
P1: NetsFeb 01 - Apr 2214 inw/o LOA: 500 lb
P1: NetsJan 01 - Apr 22  14 inw/ LOA: 1,000 lb per week 
P2: Nets Apr 23 - Jun 9 14 in100 lb 
P2: Longlines Apr 23 - Jun 9 14 in100 lb 
P2: Handlines or Rod & Reel Apr 23 - Jun 9 14 inProhibited 
P2: Nets Jun 10 - Quota Dep.14 in300 lb
P2: Longlines Jun 10 - Quota Dep.14 in200 lb 
P2: Handlines or Rod & ReelJun 10 - Quota Dep.14 in200 lb 
Haddock (3)AllJan 01 - Dec 3116 inNo Limit
Illex Squid (6)AllJan 01 - Quota Dep.No Limit No Limit
Longfin Squid (loligo) (6)    AllJan 01 - Apr 30No LimitNo Limit
AllMay 1 - Jul 9No LimitNo Limit
AllJul 10 - Aug 31No LimitNo Limit
AllSep 01 - Quota Dep.  No LimitNo Limit
Menhaden (7)Open AccessJan 01 - Quota Dep.No Limit6,000 lb
Limited AccessJan 01 - Quota Dep.No Limit125,000 lbs until 75% of quota harvested
25,000 lbs until 95% of quota harvested
6,000 lbs until 100% of quota harvested
Monkfish (3)(8)AllJan 01 - Dec 3117 in536 lb tails, 1,560 lb whole
Ocean Pout (3)AllN/AN/AProhibited
Pollock (3)AllJan 01 - Dec 3119 inNo Limit
Redfish (3)AllJan 01 - Dec 317 inNo Limit
Scup (9)      Winter IJan 01 - Apr 309 in50,000 lb
Fish WeirMay 01 - Quota Dep.9 inNo Daily Limit
TrawlersMay 01 - Quota Dep.9 in2,000 lb
Non-TrawlMay 01 - May 319 in 800 lb
Non-TrawlJun 01 - Jun 309 in400 lb
Non-TrawlJul 01- Quota Dep.9 in 2,000 lb
Winter IINov 01 - Quota Dep.9 in18,000 lb
SmeltHook & Line OnlyJun 16 - Mar 14No Limit50 fish
Smooth DogfishAll Gears But LonglinesJan 01 - Dec 31No Limit100 lb
Spiny Dogfish All GearsMay 01 - Quota Dep.No Limit 5,000 lb
Striped Bass (10)  Rod & Reel and Individual Permits: Mon, ThursJun 23 - Sept 134 in 2 fish
Boat Permits: Mon, ThursJun 23 - Sept 134 in15 fish
Tautog (11)AllApr 16 - May 416 in 40 fish
All Sep 01 - Quota Dep.16 in40 fish
WeakfishAllJan 01 - Dec 3116 in100 lb
Windowpane (3)All N/AN/AProhibited 
Winter Flounder (12)Gulf of Maine Jan 01 - Dec 3112 in500 lb
Southern New EnglandJan 01 - Dec 3112 in50 lb
Witch Flounder (3)(12)AllJan 01 - Dec 3113 in1,000 lb
WolffishAll N/AN/AProhibited 
Yellowtail FlounderAllJan 01 - Dec 3112 in250 lb

Notes:

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 10,000 pound annual quota allocation. From August 5 until the annual quota has been landed, the open fishing days for all gear types are Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 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. However, for all species other than winter flounder, federal permit holders must adhere to the state’s groundfish trip limits while fishing in state waters.  Fishing for groundfish in state waters is subject various closures spatial/temporal closures, gear type closures and species closures. , species and area closures; please review 322 CMR 4.09 , 4.11 , 8.09 , 8.12 , 8.15 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 ).

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) 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 www.nmfs.noaa.gov for more details.

7) Limited entry regulated menhaden fishery permit endorsement will be issued for the first time in 2014.  All permit holders who landed more than 6,000 lbs of menhaden during any trip from 2009-2011 or currently hold a Coastal Access Permit or Inshore Net Permit are authorized to obtain a limited entry menhaden permit and thereby fish at higher trip limits.  All other persons may fish for menhaden without a regulated fishery permit endorsement, but are subject to the 6,000 lb trip limit. The bycatch limit applies once the 100% of the menhaden quota is taken. To fish under the bycatch limit the menhaden landings may not exceed 5% the total weight of the commercial landings.

8) 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.

9) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 275,000 pound annual quota allocation. During the May 1 – October 31 inshore scup fishery, specific gear types are subject to closed fishing days. For scup potters and hook and line fishermen, the scup fishery is closed: on Fri/Sat from May 1 – May 31; Mon/Thurs/Fri/Sat from June 1 – June 31; and Fri/Sat from July 1 until the fishery closes for the season.  For draggers, the scup fishery is closed on Fri/Sat during the fluke season from June 10 until the fishery closes for the season. The Winter I and Winter II periods are managed by the federal government and seasons and limits may be adjusted by NMFS.  

10) Striped bass may be taken by hook and line gear only; netting, spearing and snagging striped bass is prohibited. High-grading and fillet striped bass is prohibited. 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.   

11) The spring tautog season runs from April 16 to May 15 or until 28% of the annual quota is projected to be landed. The winter tautog season runs from September 1 through November 30 or until 100% of the annual quota is projected to be harvested.

12) Winter flounder cannot be taken inside the spawning closure area or the inshore net areas between February 1 and May 31. It is unlawful for commercial fishermen to take winter flounder inside Mt. Hope Bay and its tributaries.  

Finfish - Definitions

Angling: 
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
Edible CrabsJan 1 - Apr 30All--------
Blue Crabs (1)Jan 1 - Apr 30All5"----25 crabs/day
 Lobsters (2) *    --   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.

2) 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.

Lobstering - Definitions

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 and Gulf of Maine Recreational Lobster Area): It is unlawful for any commercial fisherman fishing or authorized to fish in LCMA 1 or non-commercial fishermen fishing in the Gulf of Maine Recreational Lobster Area 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 and Southern New England Rec Lobster Area): 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, or non-commercial fishermen fishing in the Southern New England Recreational Lobster Area 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 and OCC Recreational Lobster Area): It is unlawful for any commercial fisherman fishing or authorized to fish in the Outer Cape Cod LCMA or any non-commercial fisherman fishing in the Outer Cape Cod Recreational Lobster Area 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, 4, 5, 6, or Outer Cape Cod shall rig their traps with rectangular vents that measure at least two inches by 5 3/4 inches or two circular vents that measure at least 2 5/8 inches. Commercial lobstermen fishing in LCMA 3 shall rig their traps with rectangular vents that measure at least 2 1/16 inches by 5 3/4 inches or two circular vents that measure at least 2 11/16 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
Conchs (Knobbed & Channeled Whelk)--1,000 lb mixed limit for draggers (CAP Holders)2 7/8" width
Surf Clams--400 Bu/48 hr5"
Oysters----3"
Soft-shell Clams----2"
Sea Scallops **--200 meat lbs or 2,000 lbs shell-on4" height
Quahogs----1" thickness
Sea UrchinsScuba: 5/1 - 8/31
Mobile Gear: 3/1 - 10/31
--2" exclude spines

* subject to modification by Town Regulations
** pursuant to the authority found in 322 CMR 7.01(7), see permit conditions issued to Coastal Access Permit holders

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.