Who needs a recreational saltwater fishing permit

Find out if you need a recreational saltwater fishing permit and where you can fish.

Who needs a permit?

Anglers ages 16-59 need:

  • A Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing permit, or
  • A recreational saltwater fishing permit from a state that has a reciprocity agreement with Massachusetts.

As of Feb. 17, 2011, Massachusetts has reciprocity agreements with:

These agreements allow MA recreational saltwater permit holders to recreationally fish in NH, RI, CT, and ME. Be aware that regulations vary from state to state.

Anglers over 60 need:

  • a free permit if fishing from a private vessel or from shore

Who does not need a permit?

  • Anglers under 16.
  • Anglers fishing on permitted for-hire vessels (for example, head boats and/or chartered boats)
  • Anglers who meet the definition of a disabled person in M.G.L. c. 19C.

Do all recreational anglers on a private vessel need to buy a recreational fishing permit?

Yes, all anglers 16 and older must have an individual permit. Massachusetts does not have a recreational boat permit available for a private vessel.

Does my for-hire permit allow me to fish recreationally in saltwater when not involved in for-hire activity?

If the for-hire permit is issued in your name, then yes. You must have the for-hire permit in your possession.

Does my commercial permit allow me to fish recreationally in saltwater?

No. You must get a recreational saltwater fishing permit.

If I have a Highly Migratory Species (HMS) permit, am I exempt from the Massachusetts permit?

If you are fishing only in federal waters and have an HMS permit, then you do not need a Massachusetts permit, unless

  • You transit in Massachusetts state waters in possession of the highly migratory fish
  • You fish in Massachusetts state waters in possession of the highly migratory fish
  • You land the highly migratory fish in Massachusetts

Where/what can I fish with my permit?

This permit covers Massachusetts marine waters, including water that flows between the ocean and the first upstream bridge over rivers or streams up to 3 nautical miles (nm) from the coastline (see Saltwater Fishing Boundary Exceptions).This permit allows you to fish legally in Massachusetts under all applicable regulations.Your permit also allows you to fish in federal waters from 3 nm out to 200 nm.

If you travel to a state that doesn't have a reciprocity agreement with Massachusetts, you'll need to consult their state agency about fishing their waters. Be aware there may be different species-specific regulations in federal versus state waters.

Do I need this permit to go recreational shellfishing or recreational lobstering?

No. You can recreationally shellfish or lobster in designated areas. Get in touch with your town's Department of Natural Resources to get a permit and learn about local regulations. Recreational lobstering also requires a separate permit, which you can get through MassFishHunt.

Can I harvest green crabs recreationally?

Yes, but you need a letter of authorization from the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to do so. Please contact our Boston office for more information.

Do I need to sign up for the National Saltwater Angler Registry (NSAR) as I did in 2010 (and pay additional fees)?

No, NSAR no longer covers you to fish in Massachusetts waters. Your Massachusetts recreational saltwater permit allows you to fish in state and federal waters. However, if you fish for tuna, billfish, swordfish, and/or sharks, you will need a Highly Migratory Species permit from NOAA Fisheries.

When does the permit expire?

Each year on Dec. 31. You must renew your permit each year. 

How can I get a duplicate of my permit if I lose/damage it?

There are 2 ways to get a duplicate of your permit:

  • Visiting MassFishHunt

  • Calling/Visiting one of our offices.

You can also carry a digital copy on your mobile device.

Is a saltwater/freshwater fishing combination permit available?

No. However, you can buy both types on MassFishHunt.

How do you use permit fee revenues?

Please visit the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund page for more information.

Where can I get a copy of the Massachusetts Saltwater Recreational Fishing Guide?

You can find it on our website. If you would like a hard copy, please contact or stop by one of our offices, or contact your local tackle shop.

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