Guide to Commonly Caught Fish Species in Massachusetts

Massachusetts waters are home to a diverse array of fish species, offering anglers a variety of fishing experiences. From the thrill of hooking a fast-moving tuna to the satisfaction of catching a dinner-worthy flounder, here’s an overview of what you might reel in along the Massachusetts coast.

Striped Bass

  • Season: Mid-April to October
  • Location: Throughout coastal areas, including surf, inshore bars, and estuaries.
  • Techniques: Shore casting, boat trolling with light to heavy tackle.
  • Baits and Lures: Seaworms, eels, squid, herring; jigs, plugs, spinners.

Black Sea Bass

  • Season: May to September
  • Location: South side of Cape Cod, Buzzards Bay to the Rhode Island border.
  • Techniques: Bottom fishing from boats.
  • Baits and Lures: Cut squid, clams, green crabs.

Tautog

  • Season: April to November
  • Location: Rocky bottoms, inshore areas, bays, and harbors.
  • Techniques: Still-fishing from boat or shore.
  • Baits and Lures: Crabs, clams, and shellfish.

Bluefish

  • Season: June to mid-October
  • Location: Coastal surf, inshore bars, bays, and estuaries.
  • Techniques: Shore or boat casting, trolling.
  • Baits and Lures: Small baitfish, jigs, spoons, plugs.

Scup (Porgy)

  • Season: May to October
  • Location: South side of Cape Cod to Rhode Island.
  • Techniques: Light to medium tackle, from piers, jetties, and bridges.
  • Baits and Lures: Clams, squid strips, seaworms.

Weakfish (Squeteague)

  • Season: Late June to September
  • Location: Southern Massachusetts, in sandbars, channels, and estuaries.
  • Techniques: Still-fishing, casting, trolling.
  • Baits and Lures: Shrimp, seaworms, eels, squid strips.

Winter Flounder

  • Season: May to February
  • Location: Coastal areas, shallow bays, and estuaries.
  • Techniques: Still-fishing, using chum pots.
  • Baits and Lures: Sandworms, bloodworms, clams.

Mackerel

  • Season: May to September
  • Location: Throughout the coast, from deep water to shallow bays.
  • Techniques: Trolling, jigging, casting.
  • Baits and Lures: Small baitfish, jigs, spoons.

Bonito

  • Season: Late July to October
  • Location: Southern Cape Cod and the Islands.
  • Techniques: Spinning, trolling, fly fishing.
  • Baits and Lures: Strip baits, small jigs, spoons.

Summer Flounder (Fluke)

  • Season: May to September
  • Location: Around Cape Cod, the Islands, and Buzzards Bay.
  • Techniques: Drift-fishing, trolling.
  • Baits and Lures: Minnows, squid strips, jigs.

Tunas (Bluefin and Yellowfin)

  • Season: Late June to October
  • Location: Offshore areas east of North Shore and Cape Cod.
  • Techniques: Trolling, chunk baiting with chum.
  • Baits and Lures: Baitfish, plastic squids, jigs.

False Albacore (Little Tunny)

  • Season: Late July to October
  • Location: Warm waters south of Cape Cod and the Islands.
  • Techniques: Similar to bonito fishing techniques.
  • Baits and Lures: Small jigs, spoons, flies.

Cod

  • Season: Year-round
  • Location: Whole coast, deepwater areas.
  • Techniques: Bait-fishing from shore and boats.
  • Baits and Lures: Sea worms, clams, mackerel strips.

Pollock

  • Season: May to October, peak in May and October
  • Location: North of Plymouth, inshore and offshore.
  • Techniques: Still-fishing, casting, trolling.
  • Baits and Lures: Similar to cod, plus metal lures with squid strips.

Halibut

  • Season: Year-round
  • Location: Deep, cool waters with sandy or gravel bottoms.
  • Techniques: Boat fishing with medium to stiff rods.
  • Baits and Lures: Seaworms, clams, fish strips.

Haddock

  • Season: May to November
  • Location: Cool waters, prefers depths of 140-450 ft.
  • Techniques: Still-fishing from a boat.
  • Baits and Lures: Seaworms, clams.

Cusk

  • Season: Year-round
  • Location: Rocky ledges and hard bottoms in moderately deep waters.
  • Techniques: Similar to cod fishing.
  • Baits and Lures: Same as cod.

Wolffish (Ocean Catfish)

  • Location: Deep water, prefers hard bottom.
  • Note: Possession prohibited.

Rainbow Smelt

  • Season: September to February
  • Location: Estuaries and mouths of coastal rivers.
  • Techniques: Ice fishing, shore fishing with light tackle.
  • Baits and Lures: Bloodworms, sandworms, small baitfish.

Sharks: Shortfin Mako and Blue Shark

Sharks add an element of excitement and challenge to Massachusetts offshore fishing. The Shortfin Mako and Blue Shark are notable for their fighting ability and are targets for adventurous anglers.

  • Location: Commonly found south of the Islands, east of Cape Cod, including Cape Cod Bay.
  • Season: June to October
  • Methods and Tackle: Techniques include trolling and drifting with medium to heavy tackle, often using wire leaders to prevent bite-offs.
  • Baits and Lures: Effective strategies involve chumming the water and using baited hooks with oily fish to attract these predators.

Herring Varieties in Massachusetts

Massachusetts waters host several types of herring, each with unique characteristics and seasonal appearances. These species are crucial for the ecosystem, serving as a food source for larger predatory fish.

  • Atlantic Herring: Found coastwide, these fish are part of the larger offshore biomass and are important for commercial fisheries.
  • River Herring (Alewife and Blueback Herring): These anadromous fish migrate up coastal rivers to spawn in the spring, offering unique fishing opportunities.
  • American Shad: Another anadromous species, known for its challenging fight and delicious taste.
  • Atlantic Menhaden: Often seen in estuaries during summer or early fall, menhaden are vital for their role as a filter feeder and as prey for larger fish.

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