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MA Marine Fisheries Regs 2016 Fishing Season
Massachusetts Marine Recreational Fisheries Regulations for 2016

2016 Recreational Regulations Tables for Massachusetts

Although every attempt has been made to keep this copy of our regulations accurate and up to date, this is an unofficial copy. 

Massachusetts Recreational regulations summary tables for finfish, sharks, shellfish, lobster, and crabs with additional information on how to measure your catch. 
Click here for Printable Version of Recreational Finfish Regulations

Massachusetts Recreational Finfish Regulations

Updated as of February 16, 2016 
*Note: These regulations apply to state-waters only. Please click here for federal-waters recreational fishing regulations.
Species Season Size Limit Possession Limit
American Eel (1) January 01–December 31 9 in. 25 fish
Billfish and swordfish (2) Federal rules apply. Consult NOAA Fisheries for bilflish and swordfish.
Black Sea Bass (3)(9) TBD TBD TBD
Bluefish January 01–December 31 No Limit 10 fish
Cod (4)(5)(8) (North of Cape Cod)  
 Private January 01–December 31 19 in. 1 fish
For-Hire Prohibited
Cod (4)(5) (South of Cape Cod) January 01–December 31 22 in. 10 fish
Dab (Plaice) (4)(5) January 01–December 31 14 in. No Limit
Fluke May 22 - September 23 16 in. 5 fish
Gray Sole (Witch) (4)(5) January 01–December 31 14 in. No Limit
Haddock (4)(5)(8) (North of Cape Cod) January 01–December 31 17 in. 3 fish
Haddock (4)(5)(8) (South of Cape Cod) January 01–December 31 18 in. No Limit
Halibut (4)(5) January 01–December 31 41 in. 1 fish
Monkfish (4)(5) January 01–December 31 No Limit No Limit
Ocean Pout (4)(5) Prohibited
Pollock (4)(5) January 01–December 31 No Limit No Limit
Redfish(4)(5) January 01–December 31 No Limit No Limit
River Herring Prohibited
Scup(9)    
 Private May 01–December 31 10 in. 30 fish or 150 fish/vessel if 5 or more anglers are aboard
For-Hire Bonus May 1–June 30 10 in. 45 fish
 For-Hire Regular July 01–December 31 10 in. 30 fish
Shad      
Merrimack River January 01–December 31 No Limit 3 fish
Connecticut River January 01–December 31 No Limit 3 fish
Other Rivers January 01–December 31 No Limit Catch and Release Only
Sharks** (excludes spiny dogfish)    Refer to Shark Section. Full regulations at 322 CMR 6.37
 Smelt   June 16–March 14 No Limit 50 fish
Spiny Dogfish January 01–December 31 No Limit No Limit
Striped Bass (6) January 01–December 31 28 in. 1 fish
Tautog January 01–December 31 16 in. 3 fish
Tunas (7)    Federal rules apply. Consult NOAA Fisheries
Weakfish  January 01–December 31 16 in. 1 fish
White Perch January 01–December 31 8 in. 25 fish
Windowpane (4)(5)  Prohibited
Winter Flounder (4)(5) (North of Cape Cod pdf format of winter_flounder_rec_map.pdf
 ) All Year  12 in. 8 fish
Winter Flounder (4)(5) (South and East of Cape Cod pdf format of winter_flounder_rec_map.pdf
 ) March 01–December 31 12 in. 2 fish
Wolffish (4)(5)   Prohibited
Yellowtail Flounder (4)(5) January 01–December 31 13 in. No Limit


Notes:

1) Subject to regulation by the Division and the municipality. Please consult municipal regulations.

2) All billfish species and swordfish are measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the tail fork. These species are managed by NOAA's Highly Migratory Species Office. Please consult NOAA Fisheries for permitting requirements and regulations. 

3) Black sea bass are measured from the tip of the snout or jaw (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail, not including the tail filament.

4) Federal rules apply beyond state waters. Consult NOAA Fisheries for permitting requirements and regulations.

5) It is unlawful to fish with hook and line gear in the Winter Cod Conservation Closure from November 15 through January 31. It is unlawful to take cod from the Spring Cod Conservation Closure from April 16 through July 21. 

6) Striped bass are measured from the tip of the snout or jaw (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail. The discard of dead legal sized striped bass is unlawful. The practice of high-grading, whereby legal sized striped bass are released in favor of larger fish caught subsequently is unlawful. Accordingly, it is also unlawful to keep a striped bass alive in water by attaching a line or chain to the fish (stringer), or placing it in a live well or holding car. Striped bass must be kept whole, meaning the head, tail, and body remain intact. Only evisceration is allowed. Permitted for-hire vessels may fillet striped bass for their customers.

7) These species are managed by NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Office. Please consult NOAA Fisheries for permitting requirements and regulations.

8) Cod and haddock rules subject to change in 2016. 

9) Black sea bass and scup may be filleted but not skinned while at-sea. No more than two fillets per allowed fish may be possessed.

Recreational Shark Regulations

Species Minimum Size Possession Limit
All Permitted Sharks (exceptions listed below) 54 in. 1 total per trip
Atlantic Sharpnose Shark No minimum size included in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Bonnethead Shark No minimum size included in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Smooth Dogfish No minimum size included in total shark bag limit + 1 additional
Blacknose Shark No minimum size included in total shark bag limit
Finetooth Shark No minimum size included in total shark bag limit
Hammerhead Shark 78 in. included in total shark bag limit

Permitted Species
The following species are allowed to be harvested:
Smooth Dogfish, Atlantic sharpnose, Bonnethead, Finetooth, Blacknose, Tiger, Blacktip, Spinner, Bull, Lemon, Nurse, Scalloped hammerhead, Great hammerhead, Smooth hammerhead, Shortfin mako, Porbeagle, Common thresher, Oceanic whitetip, Blue

Prohibited Species
The following species are prohibited from harvest:
Silky, Sandbar, Sand tiger, Bigeye sand tiger, Whale, Basking, White, Dusky, Bignose, Galapagos, Night, Caribbean reef, Narrowtooth, Caribbean sharpnose, Smalltail, Atlantic angel, Longfin mako, Bigeye thresher, Sharpnose sevengill, Bluntnose sixgill, Bigeye sixgill

Recreational Shellfish Regulations

Species Minimum Size Other Restrictions
Bay Scallop well defined growth ring Closed April 01–October 01 
consult town regulations
Conch 3 in. shell width consult town regulations
Oyster 3 in. shell diameter consult town regulations
Quahog 1 in. shell thickness consult town regulations
Sea Scallop 3 1/2 in. shell diameter daily limit of 1 bushel in shell, or 4 quarts of shucked meats
Softshell Clam 2 in. shell diameter consult town regulations
Surf Clam 5 in. shell diameter consult town regulations

Recreational Lobster Regulations

Gulf of Maine Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size 3 1/4 in.
Maximum Size 5 in.
V-Notched Females: Definition Illegal to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 in. with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit 10 Traps
Escape Vent One rectangular vent 1 15/16 in. × 5 3/4 in. or two circular vents of 2 7/16 in. in diameter
Bag Limit 15 lobsters per day
   
Outer Cape Cod Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size 3 3/8 in.
Maximum Size None
V-Notched Females: Definition Illegal to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 in. with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit 10 Traps
Escape Vent One rectangular vent 2 in. × 5 3/4 in. or two circular vents of 2 5/8 in. in diameter
Bag Limit 15 lobsters per day
Southern New England Recreational Lobster Area
Minimum Size 3 3/8 in.
Maximum Size 5 1/4 in.
V-Notched Females - Definition Illegal to possess any female lobster that bears a notch or indentation in the base of the flipper that is at least as deep as 1/8 in. with or without setal hairs
Trap Limit 10 Traps
Escape Vent One rectangular vent 2 in.× 5 3/4 in. or two circular vents of 2 5/8 in. in diameter
Bag Limit 15 lobsters per day

Recreational Crab Regulations

Species Blue Crab Other Edible Crabs (excludes Green Crabs)
Minimum Size 5 in. shell width (spine to spine) None
Other Regulations Egg-bearers cannot be taken; 25 crabs/day; no permit required unless using traps or SCUBA; closed season is January 01–April 30, inclusive 50 crabs total per day (including up to 25 blue)—other regulations are the same as for blue crab

*In order to harvest green crabs you must obtain a Letter of Authorization (LOA) from the Division. Please contact Kerry Allard for an LOA or more information at (617) 626-1633 or kerry.allard@state.ma.us).

How to Measure Your Catch

How to measure finfish
For Massachusetts marine waters, the minimum size for fish (exceptions listed below) is the greatest straight line length (not curved over the body) from the anterior tip of the jaw or snout (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail. Fish should be firmly grasped with both hands for proper measuring. Care should be taken so that the head firmly contacts the zero mark on rulers and tapes simultaneously with the tail extremity. For fish with forked tails, the upper and lower fork may be squeezed together to measure the tail extremity.

Black sea bass if the tail filament (tendril) is present, it is not included in the total length measurement.

Billfish (swordfish, sailfish, marlin) are measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the tail fork

Sharks are measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.

Tunas measurement is taken in a line, tracing the contour of the body from the tip of the upper jaw to the fork of the tail, which crosses the dorsal insertion of the pectoral fin and the dorsal side of the caudal keel.

How to Measure Lobster & Crab

Coming Soon

How to Measure Shellfish
Measurement rules vary by species

 

Image of Shell Diameter

Shell Diameter
surf clam, softshell clam, sea scallop, oyster

 

 

 

 

Image of Shell Thickness

Shell Thickness
quahogs

 

 

 

 

Image of Shell Width

Shell Width
whelks

Sportfish Biologists

Matt Ayer - North Shore; Boston to Hull

John Boardman - South Shore and South Coast

Environmental Law Enforcement

Hewitts Cove (Hingham): (781) 740-1163

Radio Room (Boston): (617) 626-1650

North Coastal Bureau (Gloucester): (978) 283 - 7764

Toll Free Number (Boston): (800) 632 - 8075


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