Massachusetts Hunting & Fishing
This Guide, in addition to being a summary of fish and wildlife laws and regulations, is also a catalogue of outdoor recreational opportunities in the Commonwealth that reflect on the health of our fisheries and wildlife populations. We are the beneficiaries of decades of environmental laws directed at cleaning our rivers and streams and the air we breathe. In addition to the recreational benefits, these laws have generated thousands of jobs in the outdoor recreation industry. We should not take these benefits for granted, and should be vigilant and vocal to oppose those that want to undermine these protections. In many ways, the “good old days” weren’t that good.
MassWildlife has both created new or expanded projects and programs to benefit hunters, anglers, and others who enjoy the Commonwealth’s natural resources. Lake and pond maps are one of our most popular products and serve as an excellent mechanism to lure anglers to unfamiliar waters or help them catch more fish at their favorite fishing hole. Some of our lake and pond maps were first hand-drawn in the early 1900s and remain unchanged; others were revised in the 1980s. Because of their popularity, we have recently invested a considerable and coordinated effort to bring the maps into the 21st century. Using new technological tools, the revised maps are designed to address the needs of anglers, boaters, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts who may not know where and how to access lakes and ponds. The maps provide up-to-date information on boat ramp and fishing area locations and display the bathymetry, or bottom contours, of the pond. Anglers and boaters will appreciate the accurate and detailed mapping of contours and depths, drop-offs, shallows, and structure. Available on our website, anyone on the water with a mobile device can easily access the maps. Our plan is to revise as many maps as possible each year, focusing on the most popular and publicly accessible lakes and ponds. If your favorite lake or pond hasn’t been updated yet, stay tuned!
Annually, MassWildlife stocks more than 560,000 rainbow, brook, brown, and tiger trout providing an excellent recreational opportunity on lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers statewide. However, few people know about the rich variety of wild trout waters with which the Commonwealth is blessed. MassWildlife has identified more than 1,200 streams supporting coldwater loving fish and other aquatic species. These important coldwater resources are located and mapped; giving our staff a better understanding of the quality of the fisheries that exist. The work started in the western part of the state and will move east over the next few years. So far, our biologists working in these streams have been astounded at the high quality of some of these fisheries. The information we gather will be used to advocate for habitat protection and to better inform the angling public about the wealth of resources available to them.
Providing access for public wildlife related recreation has always been an agency priority. The case of the Piping Plover is an excellent example of MassWildlife’s continuing efforts to increase recreation opportunities while maintaining our public trust responsibilities to fish and wildlife. A state and federally threatened shorebird in Massachusetts, approximately 10,000 adult Piping Plovers exist worldwide. Biologists have determined that around 40% of the breeding Piping Plovers on the Atlantic Coast of North America nest on coastal beaches in Massachusetts. Due to sound management by municipalities, beach managers, and property owners, the Massachusetts Piping Plover population increased significantly during the past 30 years—a conservation success that has also led to increased challenges in managing recreational beach use by the public. After extensive consultation with recreational beach user-groups, conservation organizations, coastal anglers, municipal representatives, landowners, and others, MassWildlife obtained a permit from the USFWS that enables beach managers to participate in the Piping Plover Statewide Conservation Plan (HCP).
Designed to maintain a robust population of Piping Plovers the HCP allows for increased recreational access options. In 2017, seven beaches participated in the HCP, leading to tangible, recognizable increases in recreational access for anglers, sunbathers, oversand vehicle users, and others. The HCP exemplifies MassWildlife’s approach to endangered species regulation; streamlining the permitting process, maximizing flexibility for landowners, avoiding unnecessary conflict, and focusing on conservation outcomes. MassWildlife looks forward to continuing to work with more beach operators to implement the HCP.
MassWildlife protects over 210,000 acres for wildlife and wildlife-related recreation. While we will continue to add to this land base, protection through acquisition represents only one of many elements of fish and wildlife management. Active land management activities such as mowing, tree-cutting, invasive plant control and prescribed fire is essential if we are to continue to maintain and enhance wildlife populations. In fiscal year 2017, MassWildlife habitat biologists “treated” about 2,385 acres of wildlife habitat across the state. Toward that end, MassWildlife’s goal is to expand its habitat management activities on Wildlife Management Areas. The results of these activities also enhance wildlife-related recreation whether you are a grouse hunter, a naturalist or a birder. Visit some of our actively managed lands to experience the benefits of active habitat management.
During the coming year, we will continue to expand the MassWildlife family and, as always, we recognize that what we do would not be possible without the strong support of you, the sporting community. Although we manage wildlife for the benefit and enjoyment of all citizens of the Commonwealth, you are the financial backbone of the agency through your purchase of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. Your willingness to step up to support land acquisition and the Heritage Program demonstrated the broad view of the interconnectedness and importance of all wildlife… thank you!