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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 May 12, 2022.

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

Species Fishery Season Open Days Size limit Possession Limit
American eel (1) All 1/1/ - 12/31 Sun - Sat 9 in. no limit
Black sea bass (2) All gears  1/1/ - 3/31 Sun - Sat 12 in.  100 lb.
  Weirs 4/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 12 in. No trip limit. Annual catch capped at 24,000 lb. 
  Trawl  4/23 - Quota Sun - Sat 12 in 100 lb.
  Pots 7/1 - 9/14 Sun - Thu 12 in. 500 lb. 
  Pots 9/15 - Quota Sun - Sat 12 in. 600 lb. if >15% of quota remains; otherwise 500 lb.
  Hook/Other 7/1 - 9/14 Sun - Thu 12 in. 250 lb.
  Hook/Other 9/15 - Quota Sun - Sat 12 in. 300 lb. if >15% of quota remains; otherwise 250 lb.
Bluefish All 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 16 in. 5,000 lb.
Cod (3) (4) Gulf of Maine 1/1/ - 12/31 Sun - Sat 19 in. 400 lb.
  Southern New England 1/1/ - 12/31 Sun - Sat 19 in. 1,000 lb.
Dab (plaice) (3) All 1/1/ - 12/31 Sun - Sat 12 in. no limit
Fluke (5) P1: All Gear 1/1/ - 12/31 Sun - Sat 14 in. 3,000 lb.; 100 lb. once 30% of quota harvested. 
  P2: Nets 4/23 - 8/31 Sun - Sat 14 in. 500 lb. 
100 lb. if fishing with small mesh or possessing > 250 lb. of longfin squid
  P2: Hook 4/23 - 8/31 Sun - Sat 14 in. 300 lb.
  P2: Nets 9/1 - 9/30 Sun - Sat 14 in.  800 lb. if >20% of quota remains, otherwise 500 lb. 
  P2: Hook 9/1 - 9/30 Sun - Sat 14 in.  800 lb. if >20% of quota remains, otherwise 300 lb. 
  P2: All Gear 10/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 14 in 3,000 lb. if >5% of quota remains; otherwise 800 lb. 
Haddock (3) All 1/1/ - 12/31 Sun - Sat 16 in. no limit
Horseshoe crab (6) Biomedical 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 7 in. 1,000 crabs
  Mobile gear (permit) 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 7 in. 300 crabs
  Mobile gear (open) 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 7 in. 75 crabs 
  Other Gears 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 7 in. 400 crabs
Illex squid  All 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit no limit
Longfin squid (7) All 1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit no limit
  All 5/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit no limit
  All 9/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit no limit
Menhaden (8) Open Access  1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit 6,000 lb.
  Limited Access
Non-Weir
6/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit 125,000 lb. until 85% of quota harvested
25,000 lb. until 100% of quota harvested
  Limited Access
Weir
1/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit 125,000 lb. until 85% of quota harvested
25,000 lb. until 100% of quota harvested
  Incidental Catch Quota - 12/31 Sun - Sat no limit 6,000 lb.
Monkfish (3) (9) All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 17 in. 536 lb. tails, 1,560 lb. whole
Ocean pout (3) N/A N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Pollock (3) All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 19 in. no limit
Redfish (3) All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 7 in. no limit
Sand Lance All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat N/A 200 lb.
Scup (10) Winter I 1/1 - 4/30 Sun - Sat 9 in. 50,000 lb. in federal waters
2,000 lb. in state waters
  Trawl 5/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 9 in.  10,000 lb. weekly aggregate. 
  Weir 5/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 9 in. No trip limit. Annual catch capped at 300,000 lb.
  Hook/Pot 5/1 - 5/31 Sun - Thu 9 in. 800 lb.
  Hook/Pot 6/1 - 6/30 Sun/Tue/Wed 9 in. 400 lb.
  Hook/Pot 7/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 9 in. 1,500 lb.
  Winter II 10/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 9 in. TBD if federal waters
2,000 lb. in state waters
Smelt Hook 6/16 - 3/14 Sun - Sat no limit 50 fish
Smooth dogfish All Gear 5/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit 100 lb. 
Spiny dogfish All Gear 5/1 - Quota Sun - Sat no limit 7,500 lb.
Striped Bass (11) Boat Based 6/16 - 9/30 Mon - Wed 35 in. 15 fish
  Boat Based 10/1 - Quota Mon - Fri  35 in.  15 fish
  All Other 6/16 - 9/30 Mon - Wed 35 in.  2 fish
  All Other 10/1 - Quota Mon - Fri 35 in 2 fish
Tautog (12) All 9/1 - Quota Sun - Sat 16 in. 40 fish
Weakfish All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 16 in. 100 lb.
Windowpane (3) N/A N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Winter flounder (3) Gulf of Maine 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 12 in. 500 lb.
  Southern New England 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 12 in. 50 lb.
Witch flounder (3) All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 13 in. 750 lb.
Wolffish (3) N/A N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Yellowtail flounder (3) All 1/1 - 12/31 Sun - Sat 12 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. 


2) Black Sea Bass: From January 1 - March 31 period, and subject to a Letter of Authorization, vessels are allowed to possess non-conforming quantities of black sea bass 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. 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 2022, the season start date is July 3. 1) American Eel: Subject to regulation by the Division and the municipality. Please consult local regulations.

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. 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: Throughout P1 and during P2 after October 1, subject to a Letter of Authorization, 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" or in possession of more than 250 pounds of squid. 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 8 p.m.-6 a.m. 

6) Horseshoe Crabs: 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. All horseshoe crab harvest is subject to 5-day closures around new and full moons from late April through June; for 2022 these closures occur Apr 14 - Apr 18, Apr 28 - May 2, May 14 - May 18, May 28 - Jun 1, Jun 12 - Jun 16, and Jun 26 - Jun 30. 

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: If 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 waters is prohibited without an inshore net permit; small bait nets of no more than 250 ft. are exempt from this prohibition. 

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. 

11Striped 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 2022 this is June 20. With consecutive open fishing days, commercial fishers are afforded the opportunity to fish overnight tides spanning open fishing days. For instance, a fishery may retain, land, and sell striped bass on Monday and then begin fishing again on Monday and continue fishing into Tuesday morning to land and sell fish again Tuesday, 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 or the quota remains open on Labor Day, the commercial striped bass fishery will be closed. 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. 

12) 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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