Recreational Finfish Regulations

Updated as of March 19, 2015  
*Note: These regulations apply to state-waters only. Please click here for federal-waters recreational fishing regulations.
SpeciesSeasonSize LimitPossession Limit
American Eel (1)January 01–December 319 in.25 fish
Billfish and swordfish (2) 
Black Sea Bass (3)May 23–August 2714 in.8 fish
BluefishJanuary 01–December 31No Limit10 fish
Cod (4)(5)(8) (North of Cape Cod) 
Private and For-HireApril 16–October 3119 in.9 fish
For-HireNovember 01–April 1519 in.Closed
PrivateNovember 01–April 1519 in.2 fish/person (75 lb/boat)
Cod (4)(5) (South of Cape Cod)January 01–December 3122 in.10 fish
Dab (Plaice) (4)(5)January 01–December 3114 in.No Limit
FlukeMay 22–September 2316 in.5 fish
Gray Sole (Witch) (4)(5)January 01–December 3114 in.No Limit
Haddock (4)(5)(8) (North of Cape Cod)January 01–December 3121 in.No Limit
Haddock (4)(5)(8) (South of Cape Cod)January 01–December 3118 in.No Limit
Halibut (4)(5)January 01–December 3141 in.1 fish
Monkfish (4)(5)January 01–December 31No LimitNo Limit
Ocean Pout (4)(5)Prohibited
Pollock (4)(5)January 01–December 31No LimitNo Limit
Redfish (4)(5)January 01–December 31No LimitNo Limit
River HerringProhibited
Scup   
 PrivateMay 01–December 3110 in.30 fish
For-Hire BonusMay 1–June 3010 in.45 fish
 For-Hire RegularJuly 01–December 3110 in.30 fish
Shad   
Merrimack RiverJanuary 01–December 31No Limit3 fish
Connecticut RiverJanuary 01–December 31No Limit3 fish
Other RiversJanuary 01–December 31No LimitCatch and Release Only
Sharks** (excludes spiny dogfish)   Refer to Shark Section. Full regulations at 322 CMR 6.37
Smelt  June 16–March 14No Limit50 fish
Spiny DogfishJanuary 01–December 31No LimitNo Limit
Striped Bass (6)January 01–December 31TBDTBD
TautogJanuary 01–December 3116 in.3 fish
Tunas (7)   Federal rules apply. Consult NOAA Fisheries
Weakfish January 01–December 3116 in.1 fish
White PerchJanuary 01–December 318 in.25 fish
Windowpane (4)(5) Prohibited
Winter Flounder (4)(5) (North of Cape Cod pdf format of winter_flounder_rec_map.pdf
)All Year 12 in.8 fish
Winter Flounder (4)(5) (South and East of Cape Cod pdf format of winter_flounder_rec_map.pdf
)March 01–December 3112 in.2 fish
Wolffish (4)(5)  Prohibited
Yellowtail Flounder (4)(5)January 01–December 3113 in.No Limit

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

Notes:

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

2) All billfish species and swordfish 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 NOAA Fisheries 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 Fisheries for permitting requirements and regulations.

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

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 in 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 NOAA Fisheries 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 in.1 total per trip
Atlantic Sharpnose SharkNo minimum sizeincluded in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Bonnethead SharkNo minimum sizeincluded in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Smooth DogfishNo minimum sizeincluded in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Blacknose SharkNo minimum sizeincluded in total shark bag limit
Finetooth SharkNo minimum sizeincluded in total shark bag limit
Hammerhead Shark78 in.included 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 April 01–October 01 
consult town regulations
Conch3 in. shell widthconsult town regulations
Oyster3 in. shell diameterconsult town regulations
Quahog1 in. shell thicknessconsult town regulations
Sea Scallop3 1/2 in. shell diameterdaily limit of 1 bushel in shell, or 4 quarts of shucked meats
Softshell Clam2 in. shell diameterconsult town regulations
Surf Clam5 in. shell diameterconsult town regulations

Recreational Lobster Regulations

Gulf of Maine Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size3 1/4 in.
Maximum Size5 in.
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 in. with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit10 Traps
Escape VentOne rectangular vent 1 15/16 in. × 5 3/4 in. or two circular vents of 2 7/16 in. in diameter
Bag Limit15 lobsters per day
  
Outer Cape Cod Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size3 3/8 in.
Maximum SizeNone
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 in. with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit10 Traps
Escape VentOne rectangular vent 2 in. × 5 3/4 in. or two circular vents of 2 5/8 in. in diameter
Bag Limit15 lobsters per day
Southern New England Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size3 3/8 in.
Maximum Size5 1/4 in.
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 in. with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit10 Traps
Escape VentOne rectangular vent 2 in.× 5 3/4 in. or two circular vents of 2 5/8 in. in diameter
Bag Limit15 lobsters per day

Recreational Crab Regulations

SpeciesBlue CrabOther Edible Crabs (excludes Green Crabs)
Minimum Size5 in. 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 January 01–April 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 the Division. Please contact Kerry Allard for an LOA or more information at (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