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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 October 23, 2020.

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 Size limit Possession Limit
American eel (1) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 9 in. no limit
Black sea bass (2) Weirs Jan 1 - Dec 31 12 in.  no daily limit
  All gears except weirs Jan 1 - Mar 31 12 in. 100 lb.
  Spring Trawl Fishery Apr 23 - Jun 9 12 in 100 lb.
  Summertime Trawl Fishery

Jun 10 - Quota 

12 in. 100 lbs
  Traps Jul 9 - Quota 12 in. 500 lb.
  Hook and Line Jul 9 - Quota 12 in. 250 lb.
Bluefish All Jan 1 - Quota no limit 5,000 lb.
Cod (3) (4) North of Cape Cod Jan 1 - Dec 31 19 in. 200 lb.
  East & South of Cape Cod Jan 1 - Dec 31 19 in. 1,000 lb.
Dab (plaice) (3) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 12 in. no limit
Fluke (5) P1: Nets Jan 1 - Quota 14 in. 2,000 lb.
  P2: Nets Apr 23 - Jun 09 14 in. 100 lb.
  P2: Longlines Apr 23 - Jun 09 14 in. 100 lb.
  P2: Handlines or rod & reel Apr 23 - Jun 09 14 in. prohibited
  P2: Nets Jun 10 - Sept 30 14 in. 600 lb.
  P2: Hook & Line Jun 10 - Sept 30 14 in. 250 lb.
  P2: All Gear Types Oct - Quota 14 in 1,000 lbs
Haddock (3) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 16 in. no limit
Horseshoe crab (6) Biomedical Jan 1 - Dec 31 7 in. 1,000 crabs
  Mobile gear (permitted) Jan 1 - Quota 7 in. 300 crabs
  Mobile gear (open entry) Jan 1 - Quota 7 in. 75 crabs 
  Other Gears Jan 1 - Quota 7 in. 400 crabs
Illex squid (7) All Jan 1 - Quota no limit no limit
Longfin squid (loligo) (7) All Jan 1 - Quota no limit no limit
  All May 1 - Quota no limit no limit
  All Sept 1 - Quota no limit no limit
Menhaden (8) Open Access & Small Scale Fishery Jan 1 - Quota no limit 6,000 lb.
  Limited Access Jan 1 - Oct 23 no limit 125,000 lb. until 85% of quota harvested
25,000 lb. until 100% of quota harvested
Monkfish (3) (9) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 17 in. 536 lb. tails, 1,560 lb. whole
Ocean pout (3) N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Pollock (3) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 19 in. no limit
Redfish (3) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 7 in. no limit
Sand Lance All Jan 1 - Dec 31 N/A 200 lbs
Scup (10) Winter I Jan 1 - Apr 30 9 in. TBD
  Fish weir May 1 - Quota 9 in. no daily limit
  Trawlers May 1 - Quota 9 in.

10,000 lb. weekly limit.

2,000 lb possession limit when using small mesh.

  Non-trawl May 1 - May 31 9 in. 800 lb.
  Non-trawl Jun 1 - Jun 30 9 in. 400 lb.
  Non-trawl Jul 1 - Quota 9 in. 1,500 lb.
  Winter II Oct 1 - Quota 9 in. 24,000 lb.
Smelt Hook & line only Jun 16 - Mar 14 no limit 50 fish
Smooth dogfish All gears but longline May 1 - Quota    
      no limit 6,000 lb.
Striped bass (11) Boat & lobster permit holders fishing from vessel named on the permit Jun 24 - Quota 35 in. 15 fish
  All other fishing activity Jun 24 - Quota 35 in. 2 fish
Tautog (12) All Sep 1 - Quota 16 in. 40 fish
Weakfish All Jan 1 - Dec 31 16 in. 100 lb.
Windowpane (3) N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Winter flounder (3) Gulf of Maine Jan 1 - Dec 31 12 in. 500 lb.
  Southern New England Jan 1 - Dec 31 12 in. 50 lb.
Witch flounder (3) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 13 in. 750 lb.
Wolffish (3) N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Yellowtail flounder (3) All Jan 1 - Dec 31 12 in. 250 lb.

Notes:

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. 

1) American eels are subject to regulation by the Division and the municipality. Please consult local regulations.

2) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 24,000-pound annual sub-quota allocation. When quota is available, trawlers may retain and land up to 100 pound of black sea bass incidentally caught in the springtime small mesh trawl squid fishery (April 23 - June 9) and summertime large mesh mixed trawl fishery (June 10 - October 31). Aggregate landings of black sea bass by trawlers fishing in the springtime small mesh trawl squid fishery are capped at 50,000 pounds; if that cap is reached then the retention and landing of black sea bass is prohibited. There are no closed fishing days during the springtime small mesh squid trawl fishery, whereas during the summertime large trawl fishery, the retention and landing of black sea bass may occur Sundays - Thursdays, consistent with the open fishing days for summer flounder. The directed trap and hook and line summertime fishery opens on the first open fishing day after July 8th and remains open until the annual quota has been landed. Open fishing days during the directed fishery are Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. However, in-season adjustments were made on August 21, 2020 and effective August 31, 2020 open fishing days are Sun - Thursday and then effective October 2 until 100% of the 2020 is taken there will be no closed commercial fishing days. Black sea bass are to be measured from the tip of the snout or jaw to the farthest extremity of the tail, not including the tail filament.

3) Groundfish species are 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. Additionally, these limits apply to 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) It is illegal to harvest 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) The P1 fishery (Jan 1 - Apr 22) is allocated 30% of the annual quota. The trip limit for P1 starts at 1,000 pounds and is reduced to 100 lbs once 25% of the quota is landed. The P1 trip limit may also be increased by an in-season adjustment to allow commercial fishermen to have greater access to the available quota allocation; in 2020, the P1 trip limit was increased to 2,000 in February. For 2020, DMF authorized a pilot program to allow vessels to possess trip limits from RI, CT or NY (if so permitted) when offloading in MA. The P2 (April 23 - Quota) fishery is allocated any quota that remains after P1 and is sub-divided into three seasons managed. During April 23 - June 9 season, longline fishermen and net fishermen may retain and land 100 pounds per trip and there are no closed fishing days; the retention and landing of fluke by other gear types is prohibited. During the directed summertime fishery (June 10 - September 30) open fishing days occur Sundays through Thursdays; it is unlawful to retain and land fluke on Fridays and Saturdays. For 2020, DMF will renew the pilot program allowing vessels to land consecutive daily trip limits of fluke provided the fluke from the first day is sealed in a container and tagged. During the offshore October 1 - December 31 fishery there are no closed fishing days and the trip limit is 500 pounds if less than 5% of the quota remains available on November or 1,000 pounds if 5% or more of the quota remains available on November 1.Year-round, it is unlawful to land fluke during the period of 8 p.m.-6 a.m. 

6) 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. Mobile gear participants are subject to closed days on Fridays and Saturdays beginning on June 10. Trawlers who do not hold a bait fishery permit are authorized to retain, possess and land up to 75 crabs as incidental catch. 

7) Longfin squid are federally regulated under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Management Plan. The annual commercial quota is allocated to three trimester periods - Trimester 1 (Jan 1 - April 30); Trimester 2 (May 1 - Aug 31) ; and Trimester 3 (Sept 1 - Dec 31). Federal limits are set by NOAA Fisheries 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. This season may be extended beyond June 9. 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. 

8) All commercial fisherman may retain and land up to 6,000 lbs of menhaden per day. This 6,000 lb limit remains in effect after 100% of the quota is taken, provided any purse seine net deployed or rigged on a vessel measures less than 50 fathom length or 8 fathom depth. Commercial fishermen with a limited entry menhaden commercial permit endorsement may take menhaden in excess of 6,000 lbs. The limited entry fishery is quota dependent and the trip limits are adjusted based on quota availability. The fishery opens with a 125,000 lb trip limit, which remains in effect until 85% of the quota is taken. A 25,000 lb trip limit goes into effect once 85% of the quota is taken and that trip limit remains in effect until 100% of the quota is taken. The use of nets within inshore waters is prohibited without an inshore net permit. The use of small bait nets of no more than 250 ft is authorized exempt from this prohibition. Consult 322 CMR 4.02 and 6.43 for more details.   

9) Monkfish may be processed at sea into tails and livers and landed as such products. Monkfish tails must be 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) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits or closed fishing days. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 300,000-pound annual quota allocation. Trawlers may land scup 7 days per week. 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. Hook and line and trap fishermen may land scup Sunday-Thursday during May; Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in June; and then 7 days per week beginning July 1. The Winter I and Winter II periods are managed by the federal government, and seasons and limits are set by NMFS and complemented by DMF. The 2020 Winter II limit is 24,000 pounds and there are no closed fishing or landing days.  

11) Striped bass may be taken by hook and line gear only. Netting, spearing, and snagging striped bass is prohibited (G.L. c. 130 §100B). High-grading and fillet striped bass is prohibited. Fishermen fishing under the authority of a commercial boat permit or lobster permit when fishing aboard the vessel named on the permit are subject to the 15-fish limit. However, fishermen fishing under the authority of a commercial boat permit or lobster permit when fishing from another location (e.g., shore or another vessel) are subject to the 2-fish limit. All Individual and Rod and Reel permit holders are subject to the 2-fish limit as well. The commercial striped bass open fishing days during the season are Monday and Wednesday. However, in-season adjustments were made on August 21, 2020 and effective September 1, 2020 open fishing days are Mondays - Wednesdays until the 2020 fishery closes. 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. Possession limits apply to both permit holders, regardless of the number of permits held, and vessels, regardless of the number of permits on board.   

12) Beginning in 2020, commercial fishermen must 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 the season. However, fishermen must obtain the tag applicator independently. Commercial fishermen 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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