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The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has regulations in place to protect fish species and habitats. You need to understand season dates, catch limits, and other rules before you head out for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. Even if you’re familiar with the laws, it’s important to brush up on them from time to time because regulations can and do change.
Most people need a freshwater fishing license to cast a line in Massachusetts lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Make sure you buy a freshwater fishing license if you need to.
Check open season dates, size limits, and catch limits before you head to the water. You can legally catch most freshwater game fish in Massachusetts year-round, but seasons can change. Catch (creel) limits — the number of fish you can keep in 1 day — vary by species. You must release fish back into the water if they don’t meet the minimum length for that species.
There are fishing regulations related to bait and lures that all anglers should know. Keep in mind these 2 important freshwater fishing rules:
You can’t keep some species of freshwater fish if you catch them. Remove the hook or cut line and return the fish to water immediately — do not pose for photographs, place on a stringer, hold in a net, or delay in any way the immediate return and release of these fish:
The following are prohibited while freshwater fishing in Massachusetts:
When you’ve made a great catch, it’s a cause for celebration. But before you eat the fish you catch, keep in mind that some people should steer clear of any freshwater fish unless it’s been stocked by MassWildlife. These groups include:
Environmental factors can affect fish from certain locations. Before you go fishing, check the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) fish consumption advisories to see if there are any areas with advisories or types of fish you shouldn’t eat.
8 a.m.– 4:30 p.m., M-F