Recreational Finfish Regulations

Updated as of May 14, 2014  
SpeciesSeasonSize LimitPossession Limit
American Eel (1)Jan 1 - Dec 319 in25 fish
Billfish (2) 
Black Sea Bass (3)   
PrivateMay 17 - Sep 1514 in8 fish
For-HireMay 17 - Sep 1514 in8 fish
For-Hire Special Access Program (LOA required*)May 17 - May 3114 in8 fish
Sept 1 - Sept 3014 in20 fish
BluefishJan 1 - Dec 31No Limit10 fish
Cod (4)(5)(8) (North of Cape Cod) 
Private and For-HireApr 16 - Oct 3119 in9 fish
For-HireNov 01 - Apr 1519 inClosed
PrivateNov 01 - Apr 1519 in2 fish/person (75 lb/boat)
Cod (4)(5) (South of Cape Cod)Jan 1 - Dec 3122 in10 fish
Dab (Plaice) (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 3114 inNo Limit
FlukeMay 22 - Sep 3016 in5 fish
Gray Sole (Witch) (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 3114 inNo Limit
Haddock (4)(5)(8) (North of Cape Cod)Jan 1 - Dec 3121 inNo Limit
Haddock (4)(5)(8) (South of Cape Cod)Jan 1 - Dec 3118 inNo Limit
Halibut (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 3141 in1 fish
Monkfish (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 31No LimitNo Limit
Ocean Pout (4)(5)ProhibitedN/AN/A
Pollock (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 31No LimitNo Limit
Redfish (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 31No LimitNo Limit
River HerringProhibitedN/AN/A
Scup   
 PrivateMay 1 - Dec 3110 in30 fish (150 fish vessel maximum)
For-Hire BonusMay 1 - June 3010 in45 fish
 For-Hire RegularJuly 1 - Dec 3110 in30 fish
Shad   
Merrimack RiverJan 1 - Dec 31No Limit3 fish
Connecticut RiverJan 1 - Dec 31No Limit3 fish
Other RiversJan 1 - Dec 31No LimitCatch and Release Only
Sharks** (excludes spiny dogfish)   Refer to Shark Section. Full regulations at 322 CMR 6.37
Smelt  Jun 16 - Mar 14No Limit50 fish
Spiny DogfishJan 1 - Dec 31No LimitNo Limit
Striped Bass (6)Jan 1 - Dec 3128 in2 fish
TautogJan 1 - Dec 3116 in3 fish
Tunas (7)   Federal rules apply. Consult NOAA Fisheries
Weakfish Jan 1 - Dec 3116 in1 fish
White PerchJan 1 - Dec 318 in25 fish
Windowpane (4)(5) Prohibited
Winter Flounder (4)(5) ( North of Cape Cod pdf format of winter_flounder_rec_map.pdf
)All Year 12 in8 fish
Winter Flounder (4)(5) ( South and East of Cape Cod pdf format of winter_flounder_rec_map.pdf
)March 1 - Dec 3112 in2 fish
Wolffish (4)(5)  Prohibited
Yellowtail Flounder (4)(5)Jan 1 - Dec 3113 inNo Limit

 **Rule making is on-going and some regulations are subject to change in 2014.

Notes:

1) Subject to regulation by DMF and the municipality. Please consult municipal regulations.

2) All billfish species are measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the tail fork. These species are managed by NOAA's Highly Migratory Species Office. Please consult NMFS for permitting requirements and regulations. 

3) 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.

4) Federal rules apply beyond state waters. Consult NOAA for permitting requirements and regulations.

5) It is unlawful to fish with hook and line gear in the Winter Cod Conservation Closure from November 15th through January 21. It is unlawful to take cod from the Spring Cod Conservation Closure from April 16th through July 21st. 

6) Striped bass are measured from the tip of the snout or jaw (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail. The discard of dead legal sized striped bass is unlawful. The practice of high-grading, whereby legal sized striped bass are released if favor of larger fish caught subsequently Is unlawful. Accordingly, it is also unlawful to keep a striped bass alive in water by attaching a line or chain to the fish or placing it in a live well or holding car. Striped bass must be kept whole, meaning the head, tail and body remain intact. Only evisceration is allowed. Permitted for-hire vessels may fillet striped bass for their customers.

7) These species are managed by NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Office. Please consult NMFS for permitting requirements and regulations.

8) Cod and haddock rules subject to change in 2014. 

Recreational Shark Regulations

SpeciesMinimum SizePossession Limit
All Permitted Sharks (exceptions listed below)54 inches1 total per trip
Atlantic Sharpnose SharkNo min sizeincluded in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Bonnethead SharkNo min sizeincluded in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Smooth DogfishNo min sizeincluded in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Blacknose SharkNo min sizeincluded in total shark bag limit
Finetooth SharkNo min sizeincluded in total shark bag limit
Hammerhead Shark78 inchesincluded in total shark bag limit

Permitted Species
The following species are allowed to be harvested:
Smooth Dogfish, Atlantic sharpnose, Bonnethead, Finetooth, Blacknose, Tiger, Blacktip, Spinner, Bull, Lemon, Nurse, Scalloped hammerhead, Great hammerhead, Smooth hammerhead, Shortfin mako, Porbeagle, Common thresher, Oceanic whitetip, Blue

Prohibited Species
The following species are prohibited from harvest:
Silky, Sandbar, Sand tiger, Bigeye sand tiger, Whale, Basking, White, Dusky, Bignose, Galapagos, Night, Caribbean reef, Narrowtooth, Caribbean sharpnose, Smalltail, Atlantic angel, Longfin mako, Bigeye thresher, Sharpnose sevengill, Bluntnose sixgill, Bigeye sixgill

Recreational Shellfish Regulations

SpeciesMinimum SizeOther Restrictions
Bay Scallopwell defined growth ringClosed 4/1 - 10/1 
consult town regulations
Conch2 7/8" shell widthconsult town regulations
Oyster3" shell diameterconsult town regulations
Quahog1" shell thicknessconsult town regulations
Sea Scallop3 1/2" shell diameterdaily limit of 1 bushel in shell, or 4 quarts of shucked meats
Softshell Clam2" shell diameterconsult town regulations
Surf Clam5" shell diameterconsult town regulations

Recreational Lobster Regulations

Gulf of Maine Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size3 1/4"
Maximum Size5"
V-Notched Females - DefinitionIllegal to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 inch with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit10 Traps
Escape VentOne rectangular vent 1 15/16" x 5 3/4" or two circular vents of 2 7/16" in diameter
Bag Limit15 lobsters per day
  
Outer Cape Cod Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size3 3/8"
Maximum Size-
V-Notched Females - DefinitionIllegal to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 inch with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit10 Traps
Escape VentOne rectangular vent 2" x 5 3/4" or two circular vents of 2 5/8" in diameter
Bag Limit15 lobsters per day
Southern New England Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size3 3/8"
Maximum Size5 1/4"
V-Notched Females - DefinitionIllegal to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 inch with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit10 Traps
Escape VentOne rectangular vent 2" x 5 3/4" or two circular vents of 2 5/8" in diameter
Bag Limit15 lobsters per day

Recreational Crab Regulations

SpeciesBlue CrabOther Edible Crabs (excludes Green Crabs)
Minimum Size5" shell width (spine to spine)None
Other RegulationsEgg-bearers cannot be taken; 25 crabs/day; no permit required unless using traps or SCUBA; closed season is Jan. 1 - Apr. 30, inclusive50 crabs total per day (including up to 25 blue) - other regulations are the same as for blue crab

*In order to harvest green crabs you must obtain a Letter of Authorization (LOA) from DMF. Please contact Kerry Allard for an LOA or more information (617-626-1633 or kerry.allard@state.ma.us).

How to Measure Your Catch

How to measure finfish
For Massachusetts marine waters, the minimum size for fish (exceptions listed below) is the greatest straight line length (not curved over the body) from the anterior tip of the jaw or snout (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail. Fish should be firmly grasped with both hands for proper measuring. Care should be taken so that the head firmly contacts the zero mark on rulers and tapes simultaneously with the tail extremity. For fish with forked tails, the upper and lower fork may be squeezed together to measure the tail extremity.

Black sea bass if the tail filament (tendril) is present, it is not included in the total length measurement.

Billfish (swordfish, sailfish, marlin) are measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the tail fork

Sharks are measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.

Tunas measurement is taken in a line, tracing the contour of the body from the tip of the upper jaw to the fork of the tail, which crosses the dorsal insertion of the pectoral fin and the dorsal side of the caudal keel.

How to Measure Lobster & Crab

Coming Soon

How to Measure Shellfish
Measurement rules vary by species

 

Image of Shell Diameter

Shell Diameter
surf clam, softshell clam, sea scallop, oyster

 

 

 

 

Image of Shell Thickness

Shell Thickness
quahogs

 

 

 

 

Image of Shell Width

Shell Width
whelks

Sportfish Biologists

Matt Ayer - North Shore; Boston to Hull

John Boardman - South Shore and South Coast

Environmental Law Enforcement

Hewitts Cove (Hingham): (781) 740-1163

Radio Room (Boston): (617) 626-1650

North Coastal Bureau (Gloucester): (978) 283 - 7764

Toll Free Number (Boston): (800) 632 - 8075