MA Fishing Regulations

Recreational saltwater fishing regulations -

* Regulatory limits for scup, black sea bass, cod, and haddock are expected to change for May 1, 2023. Anticipated changes are described in the table below. For scup and black sea bass, at its March business meeting, the MFAC reviewed and consented to DMF moving forward with its preferred options. See DMF’s March 24, 2023 advisory for more details. For cod and haddock, DMF intends to match federal rules. The NEFMC has approved a suite of amendments for NOAA’s review and approval. For more details on cod and haddock, see the February 7 NEFMC press release.

Gulf of Maine refers to all waters north of Cape Cod, including Cape Cod Bay, and those waters east of Cape Cod that are north of 42°00’N latitude.

Southern New England refers to all waters south and west of Cape Cod, including Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound, Buzzards Bay and Mount Hope Bay, and all waters east of Cape Cod that are south of 42°00’N latitude including Nauset Harbor and Pleasant Bay.

Tunas, billfish, and swordfish are managed by NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Office. Please consult NOAA Fisheries for permitting requirements and regulations.

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

2) 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.

3) Federal rules apply beyond state waters. Consult NOAA Fisheries for regulations.

4) 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 Summer Cod Conservation Closure from April 16 through July 21. See maps in 322 CMR 8.07 for more details.

5) The mackerel limit applies as a daily per angler harvest limit and a per angler possession limit while fishing. It does not apply to holding mackerel in a freezer, fish car, holding car, or shore-based bait well.

6) 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.

7) 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. All recreational anglers are required to use inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits, except when fishing with a natural bait attached to an artificial lure (e.g., tube and worm).The use non-lethal devices to remove striped bass from the water is required; gaffing striped bass is prohibited.

8) When the tautog fishery is open, private anglers are subject to 10-fish maximum tautog limit for the vessel. The most restrictive limit of the per angler bag limit or per vessel maximum limit applies. During any open season an angler may retain, possess, and land one trophy fish exceeding the 21″ maximum size per calendar day.