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Commercial finfish regulations

You can learn about the regulations that govern commercial finfish fishing in the documents attached below. Regulations tables were updated on April 18, 2024. Rules affecting horseshoe crabs will change on April 26, 2024.

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) works hard to keep these regulations tables accurate and up to date. This is an unofficial copy. The Secretary of State maintains the official copy of the 322 CMR. You can buy an official copy from the state bookstore. For more information on ordering a copy of 322 CMR, visit the Secretary of State website.

Commercial finfish regulations

SpeciesFisherySeasonOpen DaysSize limitPossession Limit
American eel (1)All1/1/ - 12/31Sun - Sat9 in.no limit
Black sea bass (2)All gears 1/1/ - 3/31Sun - Sat12 in. 100 lb.
 Weirs4/1 - QuotaSun - Sat12 in.No trip limit. Annual catch capped at 24,000 lb. 
 Trawl 4/23 - QuotaSun - Sat12 in100 lb.
 Pots7/1 - 9/14Sun - Thu12 in.500 lb. 
 Pots9/15 - QuotaSun - Sat12 in.600 lb. if >15% of quota remains; otherwise 500 lb.
 Hook/Other7/1 - 9/14Sun - Thu12 in.250 lb.
 Hook/Other9/15 - QuotaSun - Sat12 in.300 lb. if >15% of quota remains; otherwise 250 lb.
BluefishAll1/1 - QuotaSun - Sat16 in.5,000 lb.
Cod (3) (4)Gulf of Maine1/1/ - 12/31Sun - Sat19 in.400 lb.
 Southern New England1/1/ - 12/31Sun - Sat19 in.1,000 lb.
Dab (plaice) (3)All1/1/ - 12/31Sun - Sat12 in.no limit
Fluke (5)P1: All Gear1/1/ - 4/22Sun - Sat14 in.100 lb. 
 P2: Nets4/23 - 9/30Sun - Sat14 in.

600 lb. 

Limit reduced to 400 lb if > 75% of quota taken before 8/1. 

Limit increased to 800 if >20% quota remains on 9/1. 

 P2: Hook4/23 - 9/30Sun - Sat14 in.

400 lb.

Limit reduced to 250 lb if > 75% of quota taken before 8/1.

Limit increased to 800 if >20% quota remains on 9/1. 

 P2: All Gear10/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat14 in5,000 lb if >10% quota remains; others 800 lb. 
Haddock (3)All1/1/ - 12/31Sun - Sat16 in.no limit
Horseshoe crab (6)Biomedical1/1 - QuotaSun - Sat7 in.1,000 crabs
 Mobile gear (permit)1/1 - QuotaSun - Sat7 in.300 crabs
 Mobile gear (open)1/1 - QuotaSun - Sat7 in.75 crabs 
 Other Gears1/1 - QuotaSun - Sat7 in.400 crabs
Illex squid All1/1 - QuotaSun - Satno limitno limit
Longfin squid (7)All1/1 - QuotaSun - Satno limitno limit
 All5/1 - QuotaSun - Satno limitno limit
 All9/1 - QuotaSun - Satno limitno limit
MackerelState Waters5/1 - 4/30Sun - Satno limit

5,000 pounds reduced 2,500 pounds once 80% of federal quota is taken. 

No trip limit for weirs. 

Menhaden (8)Small Scale &
1/1 - 5/14Sun - Satno limit6,000 lb (no purse seines)
 Weir Exemption1/1 - 5/14Sun - Satno limit120,000 lb (with menhaden permit)
 Open Access Directed5/15 - QuotaSee footnoteno limit6,000 lb.
 Limited Access
5/15 - QuotaSee footnoteno limit

120,000 lb until 50% of quota 

25,000 lb until 90% of quota 

6,000 lb after 90% of quota

If 50% of quota is not taken by September 1, then trip limit remains at 120,000 lb until 90% of quota is taken and it is reduced to 25,000 lb. 

If more than 10% of quota remains on Oct 15, trip limit will increase to 360,000 pounds. 

 Small Scale & IncidentalQuota - 12/31Sun - Satno limit6,000 lb. (no purse seines). 
Monkfish (3) (9)All1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat17 in.536 lb. tails, 1,560 lb. whole
Ocean pout (3)N/AN/AN/AN/Aprohibited
Pollock (3)All1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat19 in.no limit
Redfish (3)All1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat7 in.no limit
Sand LanceAll1/1 - 12/31Sun - SatN/A200 lb.
Scup (10)Winter I1/1 - 4/30Sun - Sat9 in.50,000 lb. in federal waters
2,000 lb. in state waters
 Trawl5/1 - QuotaSun - Sat9 in. 10,000 lb. weekly aggregate. 
 Weir5/1 - QuotaSun - Sat9 in.No trip limit. Annual catch capped at 300,000 lb.
 Hook/Pot5/1 - 5/31Sun - Thu9 in.800 lb.
 Hook/Pot6/1 - 6/30Sun/Tue/Wed9 in.400 lb.
 Hook/Pot7/1 - QuotaSun - Sat9 in.1,500 lb.
 Winter II10/1 - QuotaSun - Sat9 in.TBD
SmeltHook6/16 - 3/14Sun - Satno limit50 fish
Smooth dogfishAll Gear5/1 - QuotaSun - Satno limit300 lb. 
Spiny dogfishAll Gear5/1 - QuotaSun - Satno limit7,500 lb.
Striped Bass (11)Boat Based6/18 - 9/30

Tue - Wed

Thu added if >30% of quota remains on 8/1.

35 in.15 fish
 Boat Based10/1 - QuotaMon - Fri 35 in. 15 fish
 All Other6/18 - 9/30

Tue - Wed

Thu added if >30% of quota remains on 8/1.

35 in. 2 fish
 All Other10/1 - QuotaMon - Fri35 in2 fish
Tautog (12)All9/1 - QuotaSun - Sat16 in.40 fish
WeakfishAll1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat16 in.100 lb.
Windowpane (3)N/AN/AN/AN/Aprohibited
Winter flounder (3)Gulf of Maine1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat12 in.500 lb.
 Southern New England1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat12 in.50 lb.
Witch flounder (3)All1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat13 in.750 lb.
Wolffish (3)N/AN/AN/AN/Aprohibited
Yellowtail flounder (3)All1/1 - 12/31Sun - Sat12 in.350 lb.

Footnotes: Unless weekly aggregate limits apply, all trip limits apply per calendar day or per trip, whichever is longer. 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. Limits for quota managed species may be adjusted in-season in response to quota utilization. 

1) American Eel: Subject to regulation by the Division and the municipality. Please consult local regulations.

2) Black Sea Bass: The directed summertime fishery opens on the first open fishing day on or after July 1 and remains open until the annual quota has been landed. For 2024, the season start date is July 1. 

3) Multi-Species Groundfish: 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 unless the federal limit is more restrictive.

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. Regulated groundfish species in state waters are defined as American plaice, cod, haddock, halibut, monkfish, ocean pout, pollock, redfish, windowpane flounder, winter flounder, witch flounder, wolfish and yellowtail flounder. 

Fishing for groundfish or with gears capable of catching groundfish in state waters is subject to various spatial/temporal closures, gear closures, and spawning closures. Please review 322 CMR 4.04, 4.06, 6.03 8.00 and 12.00 for more details. 

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

5) Fluke: During the periods of January 1 - April 22 and October 1 - December 31, vessels are allowed to possess non-conforming quantities of summer flounder that represent lawfully harvested trip limits from another state (if so permitted) when offloading in MA, provided the non-conforming quantities remain on the vessel.

Throughout P2, trawlers are limited to 100 pounds of summer flounder if fishing with mesh less than 5.5". Except as authorized for small mesh squid trawl fishery, minimum mesh size in state waters is 6.5" in cod end and 6" throughout remainder of net. Year-round, it is unlawful to land fluke during the period of 10PM p.m.-6 AM.

For 2024, DMF will renew the Consecutive Daily Trip Limit Pilot program for the summertime fishery that allows trawlers to possess and land two days' trip limits that were lawfully caught and retained over consecutive fishing days provided each day's catch is segregated and tagged. 

During any period, trawlers fishing with a net mesh of less than 5.5" diamond or 6" square are subject to bycatch limit 100 pounds of summer flounder. 

6) Horseshoe Crabs: Rules will be amended on April 26, 2024. This includes an April 15 - June 7 closure to all harvest and a uniform 300 crab trip limit for all bait fishers that is increased to 400 crabs if more than 50% of the quota remains on August 1 and is reduced to 200 crabs if more than 80% of quota is taken before September 15. 

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 be sold 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. 

7) Longfin Squid: Species is federally managed by NOAA Fisheries with the annual commercial quota allocated to three trimester periods - Trimester 1 (Jan 1 - April 30); Trimester 2 (May 1 - Aug 31) ; and Trimester 3 (Sept 1 - Dec 31). Trip limits are based on permit type and may be adjusted in season in response to quota consumption; if you hold a federal permit for longfin squid, contact NOAA Fisheries for more details.

From April 23 - June 9, the use of small mesh trawls for squid is authorized in those MA state-waters within the small mesh squid trawl exempted area (322 CMR 4.06) for those permit holders with a CAP-Squid regulated fishery endorsement. The season may be extended beyond June 9 based on the availability of squid. DMF does not manage this seasonal small mesh fishery with a trip limit. However, federal trip limits apply to federal permit holders if they are fishing in state-waters and DMF may establish a trip limit in response to any actions taken by NOAA Fisheries. Minimum mesh size is 1 7/8".

8) Menhaden: Purse seining is prohibited during the pre and post quota small scale and incidental catch fisheries. During the directed fishing season purse seining is allowed Monday - Thursday when there is a trip limit of 120,000 pounds and Monday - Friday thereafter. All other gears operating during the directed fishing season may fish seven days per week.

Carrier vessels may be used by large scale seining operations until 90% of the quota is taken, subject to a DMF issued Statement of Permit Conditions. Carrier vessels may not be used in Boston Harbor. Carrier vessels may receive, possess, transport and land menhaden from only a single harvester vessel during any calendar day, provided the calendar day is open to purse seining. A carrier vessel may not receive, possess, or land menhaden in quantities that exceed the applicable trip limit or land more than once per day. A harvester vessel may employ multiple carrier vessels during the same calendar day, provided the trip limit is not exceeded in aggregate, but may not also carry or land fish on a day that it is utilizing a carrier(s).

If taking menhaden above the 6,000 pound trip limit, the harvester or carrier vessel holding the fish must be assessed by a marine surveyor and have the holding space marked at the volumetric capacity of 120,000 pounds and 25,000 pounds. When fishing under the 6,000 pound limit, fish are to be immediately stowed in 55-gallon barrels or standard fish totes. A level filled barrel is the equivalent of 350 pounds and a level filled fish tote is the equivalent of 117 pounds. Fish may be stored in both totes and barrels during the same trip, with one barrel having the equivalent weight as three totes.

All purse seine fishing conducted under the 6,000 pound limit is subject to a maximum purse seine size of 450' length by 48' depth. The use of nets, including purse seines, within inshore restricted waters is prohibited without an inshore net permit; small bait nets of no more than 250 ft. are exempt from this prohibition. Seines must be annually certified by DMF or in another state with a similar program. 

9) Monkfish: At-sea processing into tails and livers is authorized. Monkfish tails must be at least 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 the whole monkfish being landed.

10) Scup: Trawlers fishing with mesh less than 5" are subject to a 1,000 lb possession limit from October 1 - April 14, a 2,000 lb possession limit from April 15 - June 15 and a 200 pound possession limit from June 16 - September 30. Except as authorized for small mesh squid trawl fishery, minimum mesh size in state waters is 6.5" in cod end and 6" throughout remainder of net.

The Winter I and Winter II limits are set annually by NOAA Fisheries with Massachusetts adopting a complementary possession and landing limit for fishing in federal waters and a 2,000 lb. catch limit for state waters. 

11) Striped Bass: Fishery is hook and line only; netting, spearing, and snagging striped bass is prohibited. No high-grading or filleting striped bass.

The commercial striped bass fishery opens on the first open fishing day on or after or after June 16; for 2024 this is Tuesday, June 18. Open fishing days will be Tuesdays and Wednesdays to start the season and Thursdays may be added on August 1 should 30% or more of the quota remain available. With consecutive open fishing days, commercial fishers may fish overnight tides spanning two open fishing days provided they do not possess or sell more than one limit during any single calendar day.

If an open fishing day falls on the 3rd or 4th of July, the commercial striped bass fishery will be closed. For 2024, this results in Wednesday, July 3 being closed to commercial fishing. 

For boat-based permit holders fishing from the vessel named on the permit, the daily limit is 15-fish; for all other activity it is 2-fish. If the annual quota is not taken by November 15, then the fishery closes on November 16. 

Commercial fishers may only sell striped bass to primary buyers on open commercial fishing days. Both the primary buyer and the commercial fisher must be present at this transaction. Dropping fish off at an unattended dealer facility is unlawful. Additionally, primary buyers must tag the striped bass upon taking possession of striped bass at primary purchase. Striped bass tags will be distributed to primary buyers in late-May/early-June.

The Cape Cod Canal remains closed to commercial striped bass fishing. Therefore, all striped bass retained from the Canal or possessed within 1,000 feet of the Canal (unless caught elsewhere and being actively transported to a dealer) must adhere to Massachusetts’ recreational fishing limits. For 2024, the recreational striped bass fishery is subject to a 1-fish per angler daily bag limit and a slot limit of 28″ to less than 31″.  

12) Tautog: Commercial fishers are required to tag their commercial catch of tautog through the operculum with a metal Tautog ID tag upon the completion of commercial fishing activity that day and prior to sale or carring. It is unlawful to sell any tautog or for any dealer to receive a tautog that does not bear a Tautog ID tag in its operculum. Tautog ID tags will be provided to tautog permit holders by DMF in advance of the September 1 start of t season. However, fishers must obtain the tag applicator independently. Commercial fishers will be required to return all unused tags and submit a tagging report to DMF following the close of the fishery. 

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