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Recreational Licenses in Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts allows for the hunting of game as well as the harvesting of fish from both salt and fresh water sources. Additionally, the harvesting of lobster is permitted on coastal areas. However, each of these recreational activities requires individual licenses issued by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. Each license has different requirements and fees depending on a vast number of criteria. Additionally, the hunting or harvesting of particular animals requires specialized permits in addition to the license associated with it. There are three main recreational licenses in the state of Massachusetts: hunting, freshwater/saltwater fishing and trapping. There are also various permits required for similar activities and for certain species. All of these licenses and permits can be acquired through the official Department of Fish and Game agency offices, online or through approved vendors. Licenses obtained online necessitate the use of a printer. A brief overview of licenses in Massachusetts necessary to enjoy recreational fishing and hunting are offered below.

Hunting Licenses

Hunters 15 years of age or older are required to have a hunting license. Hunters aged 12 to 14 do not need a hunting license, but must be accompanied by a licensed hunter aged 18 years or older. A licensed hunter may only accompany one minor at a time.

To be eligible for a hunting license, an applicant must first complete a basic hunter education course and obtain a certificate. If an applicant has a license from any previous year, graduation from the course is not required.

Licensed hunters may not hunt with a crossbow unless a special permit is obtained from a medical professional which proves the hunter is physically incapable of operating a standard longbow. All archers must purchase an Archery Stamp for their hunting license if they wish to hunt with bows during deer season. Similarly, a primitive weapons stamp is required for hunters who want to use muzzle loading weapons.

Certain animals require a stamp that allows hunters to harvest the animal. Stamps vary in price and eligibility. The state calls for a hunter to purchase a special stamp if ducks or other waterfowl are hunted. A Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp is acceptable, as is a Federal Duck Stamp. Antlerless deer, black bear and wild turkey all require unique permits, which a license holder must purchase separately. The state of Massachusetts does not allow the hunting of moose.

Freshwater Fishing Licenses

Anglers hoping to fish in freshwater bodies of water in Massachusetts must first acquire a freshwater fishing license if they are over the age of 15. However, for fishers aged 15 to 17, or 60 and over, there is no fee for the license. Most major bodies of fresh water are open year-round to licensed fishers unless otherwise posted. Certain major bodies of fresh water, and all other small bodies of fresh water have seasons that vary. Anglers should first research any intended fishing destinations beforehand to avoid fines.

There are no restrictions as to what type of fish anglers are allowed to catch. However, some fish may only be harvested when in season, regardless of license. There are also size limits in place. These limits and restrictions vary by species and possibly from year to year. Therefore, any fisherman planning to keep fish for food or trophies should first consult a current Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing, and Trapping.


A license is required for any trapper over the age of 12. Those trapping for the first time are required to take a Trapper Education Class in order to be issued a trap registration number. This trap registration number is required for a license. 

Similar to a hunting license, a trapping license fee varies depending on the age of the applicant. The trapping license is valid throughout the year, but trappers can only trap animals in season. Even with a license, a trapper can face severe fines if caught trapping out of season.

Other Recreational Permits

Anglers over the age of 16 are required to have a recreational saltwater fishing permit if they wish to fish in the ocean. This permit allows an angler to fish in marine waters including up to the first upstream bridge on rivers and streams that flow into the ocean. The angler is also permitted to fish in federal waters 3 to 200 nautical miles from shore.

Visitors from New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut may use their saltwater fishing permits in Massachusetts and vice versa through reciprocity agreements. Additionally, certain for-hire vessels may acquire a special permit that allows passengers to fish in salt water regardless of if they have a saltwater fishing permit.

Catching lobster and crab in Massachusetts requires a Recreational Lobster and Crabbing Permit. This permit allows the bearer to fish, retain and land lobsters and edible crabs for personal use. However, this permit is only required for non-active fishing contrivances such as six-sided traps. Fishing lobsters and edible crabs by hand, dip net or by an actively attended trap does not require a permit.

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