Freshwater fishing regulations

Before you fish, it's important to learn the rules of the sport. MassWildlife manages freshwater fish and sets fishing seasons and limits to keep populations healthy and provide a variety of opportunities. Get to know the seasons, limits, and other fishing regulations.

Table of Contents

Freshwater fishing licenses

Anglers ages 15 years or older need a license to fish. Fishing licenses are free for anglers ages 15-17 and for anglers ages 70 and older. Buy a fishing license on MassFishHunt.

Fishing seasons and limits

Species

Open season
(all dates inclusive)

Number of fish you can keep per day (daily creel limit)

minimum length (in inches)1

Trout 2
Lakes, ponds, major rivers 3, 5, 6

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

3

Housatonic River 4

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

1

20

All other rivers and brooks

Apr. 1 – Sept. 10


Sept. 11 – Mar. 31

8

 


3

Lake Trout
Wachusett Reservoir 6

(see note 6)

3

Quabbin Reservoir 6

(see note 6)

2

18

Landlocked Salmon 6

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

2

15

American Shad 7 (Connecticut and Merrimack rivers only, including their tributaries.)

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

3

Chain Pickerel

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

5

15

Black Bass (Largemouth and Smallmouth, in any combination):

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

5

12

Northern Pike

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

1

28

Tiger Muskellunge

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

1

28

Walleye

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

5

14

Smelt 8

Jan. 1 – Feb. 28
May 16 – Dec. 31

All Other Freshwater Species 9

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

 

Striped bass and herring: check with the Division of Marine Fisheries at (617) 626-1520 or mass.gov/marinefisheries.

Possession is illegal for: Sturgeon (all species), American Brook Lamprey, Atlantic (sea-run) Salmon, Bridle Shiner, Burbot, Eastern Silvery Minnow, Lake Chub, Longnose Sucker, and Northern Redbelly Dace. If they are caught, they must be released immediately. This means remove hook or cut line and return fish to water immediately — do not wait to take pictures, use a stringer, put it in a net, or delay in any way the immediate return and release of these rare fish to the water!

1 Minimum length is measured in a straight line (not curved over the body) from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail. The tips of any forked tail may be squeezed together for the final measurement.

2 Trout is defined here as brook, brown, rainbow, and tiger trout (a cross between a female brown and a male brook trout). From Apr. 1 to Sept. 10, no more than 8 of these trout may be taken daily, and only 3 of those trout may be from lakes, ponds, or major rivers3. From Sept. 11 to Mar. 31, no more than 3 of these trout may be taken daily.

3 Major rivers: Childs, Coonamessett, Deerfield, Farmington, Green (Colrain), Green (Great Barrington), Ipswich, Jones, Mashpee, Millers, Nissitissit, North (Colrain), North (West Branch), Parker, Quaboag, Quinapoxet, Quinebaug, Seven Mile, Santuit, Scorton Creek, Shawsheen, Squannacook, Stillwater (Sterling, Princeton), Swift (East Branch), Swift (Winsor Dam to Ware River, except where posted), Tully (East and West Branches), Ware, Ware (East Branch), Westfield (all branches).

4 Mainstem Housatonic only, from the confluence of the East and West Branches to the border between MA and CT, except catch-and-release areas where no trout may be kept.

5 Special brown trout water: South Pond (Quacumquasit), Brookfield. Total daily limit is 3 trout, only 1 may be a brown trout and it must be at least 15 inches.

6 Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs: The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) sets these fishing season dates.

Quabbin Reservoir fishing season generally starts the third Saturday of April and ends after the third Saturday in October. These dates can change due to weather and other factors. Except during this open season, Quabbin Reservoir and its tributary streams within the Quabbin Reservation are closed to fishing. For a Quabbin Fishing Guide, visit mass.gov/dcr/quabbinfish o call (413) 323-7221.

Wachusett/Sudbury/West Waushacum fishing season generally starts the first Saturday in April and ends November 30. These dates can change depending on ice conditions. At Wachusett Reservoir, shoreline fishing only is allowed from Gate 6 on Route 70 to Gate 36 on Route 110. For a Wachusett and Sudbury Reservoir Fishing Guide, visit  mass.gov/dcr/wachusettfish or call (508) 792-7806.

7 American Shad are Catch-and-Release ONLY on all waters except the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers, including their tributaries.

8 Smelt may be taken by hook and line only.

9 Except for the state- and federally-listed species listed in the “Possession is illegal for:” section below the table above

Bait

It is unlawful to take fish from the inland waters of the state to sell as bait. Anglers who trap fish for personal use as bait may use only one trap.

Licensed anglers may take bait for personal use at any time by any legal method. These methods include a rectangular net not to exceed 36 square feet in net area, a circular or ring net not to exceed six feet in diameter, or a fish trap with openings not to exceed one inch. Nets designed to catch fish through its gills may no be used. For personal use as bait, dead or alive, licensed anglers may only take these species:

  • Banded killifish
  • Fallfish
  • Fathead minnow
  • Golden shiner
  • Mummichog
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Rainbow smelt*
  • Yellow perch
  • White sucker

* Smelt may be taken only by hook and line. Possession or use of smelt as bait in inland waters other than during the smelt season is prohibited.

Frogs (except leopard frogs) 2.5 inches or less snout to vent may be taken by licensed anglers and used as bait; 10 daily, 10 in possession, and they may not be sold.

Herring: check with the Division of Marine Fisheries at (617) 626-1520 or mass.gov/marinefisheries.

Ice fishing

All anglers are allowed up to five hooks in the ice at one time. A hook is defined as an angling device attached to the line of a tip-up or jig stick that is designed to take one fish. This includes plain hooks, treble hooks, spinners, spoons, bait harnesses, jigs, or plugs. The device is not restricted to a single hook – lures with multiple treble hooks count as one hook in the water. Hooks can be on any combination of tip-ups or jig sticks, but no more than five hooks are allowed in total.

Anglers must be able to tend their own hooks (tip-ups or jig sticks). Adults may assist kids with cutting holes or removing hooks, but kids must be able to tend tip-ups or jig sticks on their own. See tips on ice density and safety.

Catch-and-release fishing areas

8 areas in the state are restricted to catch-and-release fishing. In these areas, only artificial lures may be used, and you may not possess any type of bait.

  1. Housatonic River
    No fishing is allowed from June 15–Aug. 31 within 100 feet of the mouths of Beartown Brook, Goose Pond Brook, Hop Brook, and Mohawk Brook.
    Housatonic River upper section map (Rt. 20 bridge in Lee downstream to Willow Mill Dam)
    Housatonic River lower section map (Glendale Dam downstream to the railroad bridge in Stockbridge)
  2. Westfield River, East Branch
    Westfield River map (Chesterfield Gorge parking lot in Chesterfield to the gate north of the Corps of Engineers parking lot at Knightville in Huntington)
  3. Deerfield River
    Deerfield River upper section map (Fife Brook Dam to Hoosac tunnel)
    Deerfield River lower section map (Pelham Brook to the Mohawk Campground)
  4. Swift River
    Special regulations: only fly fishing is allowed from Winsor Dam to Rte. 9. From Rte.9 to Cady Lane, only catch-and-release/artificial lures are allowed from July 1-Dec 31, and fish harvest and bait are allowed Jan.1-June 3
    Swift River map (Winsor Dam to Cady Lane)
  5. Millers River
    Millers River upper section map (Templeton/Athol railroad bridge to the first dam in Athol)
    Millers River lower section map (From Wendell Road bridge in Orange to the breached dam in Erving Center)
  6. Nissitissit River
    Special regulations: Fly fishing only
    Nissitissit River map (New Hampshire border to the Prescott Street Bridge)
  7. Red Brook
    Red Brook map (Outlet of White Island Pond to the inlet of Buttermilk Bay)
  8. Quashnet River
    Quashnet River map (Catch-and-release sections: from the outlet of John’s Pond to the sign 0.1 mile below Route 28)

Fishing regulations on interstate ponds

Wallum Lake in Douglas: Fishing is permitted by anglers licensed in MA or RI. RI regulations apply.

Lake Monomonac and Robbins Pond in Winchendon; Long Pond in Tyngsboro and Dracut; Bent Pond in Warwick; Tuxbury Pond in Amesbury: Fishing is permitted by anglers licensed in MA or NH. NH regulations apply.

Colebrook Reservoir in Tolland; Perry Pond in Dudley; Muddy Pond in Southbridge; Breakneck Pond in Sturbridge; Congamond Lake in Southwick; Hamilton Reservoir in Holland: Fishing is permitted by anglers licensed in MA or CT. CT regulations apply to Colebrook Reservoir, Breakneck Pond, Perry Pond and Muddy Pond. MA regulations apply to Congamond Lake and Hamilton Reservoir.

Sherman Reservoir in Rowe: MA regulations apply, and MA license is required in MA. VT regulations apply, and VT license required in VT.

Prohibitions while fishing

  • More than two hooks for fishing open water or more than five hooks when ice fishing. A hook is defined as an angling device attached to a fishing line that is designed to take one fish at a time but is not limited to devices commonly called spinners, spoons, bait harnesses, jigs, or plugs.
  • The taking of any fish from the inland waters of the Commonwealth for the purposes of sale.
  • Lead sinkers, lead weights, and lead jigs weighing less than an ounce. Any sinker or weight made from lead that weighs less than 1 ounce, and any lead jig (meaning any lead-weighted hook) that weighs less than 1 ounce, is prohibited for use in all inland waters of the Commonwealth. The term lead sinker shall not include any other sinkers, weights, fishing lures or fishing tackle including, but not limited to, artificial lures, hooks, weighted flies, and lead-core or other weighted fishing lines.
  • Possession of: Sturgeon (all species), American brook lamprey, Atlantic (sea-run) salmon, bridle shiner, burbot, eastern silvery minnow, lake chub, longnose sucker, and northern redbelly dace is illegal. If caught, release immediately. This means remove hook or cut line and return fish to water immediately — do not pose for photos, place on a stringer, hold in a net, or delay in any way the immediate return and release of the fish.
  • Releasing live fish or spawn into inland waters, except by permit.
  • Transporting live fish (except bait for personal use) without a permit.
  • Jug, toggle, or trot line fishing.
  • Snagging
  • Poisons, explosives
  • Littering in inland waters.

Reptiles and amphibians

Species

Open season

Number you can keep per day (daily limit)

Possession limit

Size limit

For personal use
Bullfrog, green frog

July 16 – Sept. 30

12

24

none

Snapping turtle

Jan. 1 – Apr. 30
July 17 – Dec. 31

2

2

12 in.*

For Bait
Bullfrog, green frog, pickerel frog, wood frog

Jan. 1 – Dec. 31

10

10

less than
2½ in.**

*Straight line carapace (shell) length **Snout to vent length

A fishing license is required to take reptiles or amphibians. Bullfrogs, green frogs, wood frogs, and pickerel frogs may be taken by hand or by hand-held dip net. Snapping turtles may be taken by hand, hand-held dip net, or gaff.

Other fishing regulations

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