State of Massachusetts Fishing Regulations

by John Lindell

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries regulates the saltwater fishing in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has this same responsibility for the fishing done in inland waters throughout the state. The regulations in place concern such facets of fishing as the size of the fish an angler can keep, when they can fish for them and how they must act regarding certain species.

Saltwater Regulations

In saltwater, an angler must observe the regulations in regard to when to fish for certain types of fish, how many they may keep and what their minimum lengths may be. Many species, such as American eel, bluefish, blue marlin, haddock, halibut, pollock and shad have no closed season. Others, like fluke, have a season set by the division each year that lasts a certain length of time. Abundant fish like the white perch have a high possession limit, with an angler able to keep as many as 25 white perch. Some fish have no limits on the number you may keep, such as the spiny dogfish and monkfish; anglers though can only keep one halibut, sailfish, weakfish, white marlin or blue marlin caught in Massachusetts waters.

Striped bass Regulations

One of the most popular fish with saltwater anglers in Massachusetts is the striped bass. Anyone targeting these "stripers" should familiarize themselves with the regulations covering the species. Once you catch a striped bass, you may cut it open and remove its gut, but you cannot remove the tail or head. This allows inspection of the fish upon request by game wardens to see if the fish conforms to its minimum length standards (28 inches in Massachusetts). If you catch and hold a legal striper, you cannot later release it after catching a larger more desirable striped bass. The regulations make it illegal to keep striped bass alive in a boat's live well or by running a chain or line through the fish and keeping it in the water.

Freshwater Minimum Lengths

Massachusetts regulations make it unlawful to possess certain fish that do not meet the state's minimum length requirements. The minimum length for smallmouth and largemouth bass is one foot, while the smallest a chain pickerel can be if you want to take it home is 15 inches. A walleye, part of the perch family, cannot be smaller than 14 inches to be a legal fish. The two largest minimum lengths for freshwater species are the 28-inch lengths of both the tiger muskellunge and the northern pike.

Trout Regulations

The open seasons on trout depend upon where you fish for them as well as the species. For example, in lakes and ponds that Massachusetts regulations designate as Special Management, you can angle for brown trout year round. There is no closed season on trout such as tiger, brook, rainbow and brown trout in the major rivers that flow through the state, including the Deerfield, Farmington and Mashpee Rivers. There are two separate seasons for the other samller streams and rivers in Massachusetts for trout fishing. One begins in April and ends in mid-September, while the other picks up where the first leaves off and continues through the end of March. The major differences between these two seasons is that an angler may keep as many as eight trout during the warm weather one, but no more than three in the season that runs during the colder months.

About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.