Catch-and-release fishing areas

You can find freshwater catch-and-release areas along specific sections of rivers and brooks across Massachusetts.

Find a catch-and-release area

You may only use artificial lures in catch-and-release areas. You may not use bait. In designated Fly Fishing Areas, all anglers must use a conventional fly rod and fly line.

Housatonic River
  • Catch-and-release sections: route 20 bridge in Lee downstream to Willow Mill Dam, Glendale Dam downstream to the railroad bridge in Great Barrington
  • Special regulations: no fishing from June 15–Aug. 31 within 100 feet of mouths of Beartown Brook, Goose Pond Brook, Hop Brook, and Mohawk Brook
Red Brook
  • Catch-and-release sections: from the outlet of White Island Pond to the inlet of Buttermilk Bay
Nissitissit River
  • Catch-and-release sections: from New Hampshire border to the Prescott Street Bridge
  • Special regulations: fly fishing only
Swift River
  • Catch-and-release section: Winsor Dam to Route 9
  • Regulations: fly fishing only
  • Catch-and-release section: Route 9 to Cady Lane
  • Special regulations: Fish harvest and bait allowed Jan. 1–June 30 
Deerfield River
  • Catch-and-release sections: Fife Brook Dam to Hoosac Tunnel, Pelham Brook to the Mohawk Campground
Quashnet River
  • Catch-and-release sections: from the outlet of John’s Pond to the sign 0.1 mile below Route 28
Westfield River, East Branch
  • Catch-and-release sections: Chesterfield Gorge parking lot in Chesterfield to the gate north of the Corps of Engineers parking lot at Knightville in Huntington
Millers River
  • Catch-and-release sections: Templeton/Athol railroad bridge to the first dam in Athol, from Wendell Road bridge in Orange to the breached dam in Erving center

Catch and landing tips

Help protect the fish in catch-and-release areas by following a few simple tips. 

  • When you fish, try not to let the fish struggle for too long.
  • Set the hook in the fish’s mouth as soon as you get a bite so the fish doesn’t swallow it.
  • Use a landing net to cut down on catch time and stop the fish from thrashing.

Handling and release tips

To safely return a fish to the water, you should:

  • Wet your hands so you don’t harm the protective mucous on the fish
  • Support the fish by the belly when you remove your hook and avoid touching its gills or eyes
  • If the fish swallowed a hook: cut the line off as close to its mouth as possible
  • If the fish is tired, hold it in the water in a swimming position and move it back and forth horizontally until it can swim.

Enter your catch

You can get involved in MassWildlife’s Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program even if you release your fish. Check out the rules and length requirements for submitting catch-and-release fish.

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