Finfish and Fishing Information for Buzzards Bay

Related pages: Nautical Charts  |  Boat Pumpouts  |  Today’s Bay Conditions


General Information


Beginning in 2011, in Massachusetts, a fishing license is now required for anyone over 16 for salt water fishing, including up to the first dam in rivers and streams that flow to the ocean. Saltwater fishermen must now have either a MA Recreational Saltwater Fishing permit, or a recreational saltwater fishing permit from a state that has a reciprocity agreement with Massachusetts. As of February 17, 2011, Massachusetts has reciprocity agreements with, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. For persons over 60, the permit is free. To obtain a license online, or for more information, go to the MA Div of Marine Fisheries Recreational Fishing Permit web page. The license costs $10.

There are also size or catch limits on certain species. In freshwater, anyone over 14 requires a license. A permit is also needed to catch herring in Rivers, even if it is caught as bait, although there has been a complete ban on the catch of herring for a number of years. We recommend visiting the MassWildlife page below for detailed information on fishing laws in Massachusetts.

Since the 1800s, the use of otter trawls and seining has been prohibited in Buzzards Bay. These limits are defined in the Division of Marine Fisheries regulations, 322 CMR 4.00. This prohibition may have originated in a similar ban in other Massachusetts water adopted in Chapter 196 of the Acts of 1881 by the Massachusetts Legislature.

Mass Wildlife Page at MA Fish and Wildlife
Mass Division of Marine Fisheries Recreational Fishing Page

Size and Catch Limits

A $10 Massachusetts saltwater recreation license is now required for saltwater fishing in Massachusetts, and many species have catch limits on size or number. Below are limits of some popular species in Buzzards Bay. This information is from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (click to see if there is an update). DMF also has a very useful recreational fishing regulation chart.

Recreational Finfish Regulations as of September 27, 2012
Species Season
Open – Close
Size Limit Possession Limit
American Eel (1) All Year 6 in 50 fish
Black Sea Bass (2) May 11 – Jun 24/
Jun 25 – Oct 31
14 in 10/20 fish
Bluefish All Year none 10 fish
Dab (Plaice) All Year 14 in none
Fluke May 22 – Sep 30 16.5 in 5 fish
River Herring (5) Emergency Ban Harvest, possession, sale and use are prohibited 0 fish
Scup (3) May 1 – Dec 31 10.5 in 20 fish
Striped Bass (4) All Year 28 in 2 fish
Tautog All Year 16 in 3 fish
(squeteague or sea trout)
All Year 16 in 1 fish
Winter Flounder
Limits for Buzzards Bay and So. of Cape Cod
Apr 28 – May 27 12 in 2 fish
Sep 22 – Oct 21 12 in 2 fish
Yellowtail Flounder All Year 13 in none


1) Subject to regulation by the Division and local community. Consult local 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) Maximum 50 scup per private vessel. Party/charter vessel patrons: 11″ size limit, 45 fish May 15 – Jun 28, 10 fish Jun 29 – Sep 17.
4) Bass must be kept whole, with head, tail and body intact – no mutilation permitted (other than evisceration). The discard of dead, legal size striped bass is prohibited. To prohibit the practice of high-grading, recreational fishermen may not retain legal-sized striped bass and release said fish in favor of another larger legal-sized striped bass captured subsequently. It shall be unlawful to keep striped bass alive in the water by attaching a line or chain to the fish or placing the fish in a live well or holding car. Striped bass are measured from the tip of the snout or jaw (mouth closed) to the farthest extremity of the tail. Note: Permitted party/charter vessel operators may fillet striped bass for their customers. See 322 CMR 6.07 (4)(g) for details.
5) It is unlawful for any person to harvest, possess or sell river herring in the Commonwealth or in the waters under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. These measures will expire on January 1, 2012.

Click this Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Link for the latest information and updates.

Species Profiles from Cornell University Extension Service website

These fact sheets were prepared from “Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine “, 3rd Edition.


Fishes of Buzzards Bay Poster Click for either the:

Fishes of Buzzards Bay Poster 8.5 x 11 inch micro version (111 kb pdf), which is just barely readable when printed, but magnifies well on your computer screen.

or the Fishes of Buzzards Bay Poster 34 x 40 inch poster version (1.5 MB pdf), if you own a large format plotter or printer.

This is the Methods Summary Poster (320 kb pdf).

Fishes of Buzzards Bay poster

The poster in the box at the right prepared by Tony Wilbur, at MCZM and Matt Camisa at DMF for a conference.

Full Poster Title: “INTRAANNUAL VARIATION IN FISH POPULATION CHARACTERISTICS AND SEAFLOOR HABITAT RELATIONSHIPS IN A LARGE ESTUARINE EMBAYMENT: BUZZARDS BAY, MASSACHUSETTS, Anthony R. Wilbur, Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Boston, MA Matthew Camisa, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Pocasset, MA.”

Other Links

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Fishing Publications Page

Fishes of the Gulf of Maine
(A classic reference, now online)

Fish and seafood health advisory information

MA DEM Marine Theft Page

US Coast Guard – First District Web Site

NOAA National Data Buoy Center BUZM3 station data – Buzzards Bay, MA
Near real time wave, current, and other data.

Recreational Boating & Fishing

Mass Wildlife’s sport fishing Awards Program

FishBase online fish encyclopedia

Fishing Clubs

Cape Cod Bass

Hyannis Anglers Club
Hyannis Anglers Club is a saltwater sport fishing club sponsoring Bass and Bluefish tournaments, and the Cape Cod Giant Bluefin Tuna Tournament each October

Massachusetts Striped Bass Association

Town specific information

State Information on state funded boat ramps and fish species