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Species Guide

Hunting Regulations Icon Massachusetts Hunting & Fishing


Angler’s Guide to Massachusetts Fishes

More than 80 kinds of fish live in the inland waters of the Commonwealth. Pictured is a small sample of some of the most popular species commonly taken by anglers. For a more complete list, pick up a copy of our brochure Freshwater Fishes of Massachusetts at any MassWildlife office.


Largemouth Bass

A warm-water gamefish found in lakes, ponds and slow moving rivers associated with weeds and structure. Typically 1–3 lbs, but can reach up to 15 lbs. Dark line along each side is a good identification mark.


Smallmouth Bass

Less common than largemouths, these cool-water gamefish are found in clear, rocky habitats. Average size is 1–2 lbs, but can reach up to 8 lbs. This species often jumps spectacularly when hooked.


Brown Bullhead

Our native “horned pout” catfish thrives in warm-water habitats associated with muddy bottoms and aquatic vegetation. Average size is 8–12 inches, but larger ones are not uncommon. Handle this fish (and all catfish) with care, as spines in the dorsal and pectoral fins can inflict painful wounds.


Brown Trout

This trout thrives in heavy cover and deep pools of cold, well-oxygenated water. Typically stocked at 10–14 inches with larger specimens to 20+ inches. Many wild populations exist in small to medium-size streams.


Brook Trout

This beautiful native char thrives in clean, cold, well-oxygenated waters. It is found in high gradient streams and coldwater beaver flowages. Wild brookies average 6–8 inches, but stocked specimens are typically 10–12 inches or larger. Considered by many to be the most beautiful fish in North America.


Rainbow Trout

These trout thrive in cold, well-oxygenated, fast moving water. Typical hatchery fish are 12–16 inches, with larger specimens to 20+ inches. Profusely speckled and usually has a pink line along each side.


Atlantic/Landlocked Salmon

The anadromous form of this species lives in the open ocean but ascends freshwater rivers to spawn. The landlocked form lives in deep, cold, freshwater habitats and spawns in tributaries. The Anadromous form, considered extirpated from Massachusetts waters, grows to 20 lbs; landlocks average 2–4 lbs. Landlocked populations occur in the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs.



A sunfish that prefers shallow, weedy, warm-water habitats. Typically 4–7 inches in length with larger specimens to 10 inches. Identified by the solid black flap on gill cover and a dark patch near the back, bottom edge of the dorsal fin.



A native sunfish, this pretty little “kivver” is found in weedy, warm-water habitats. Most are 4–7 inches, but can get up to 8–9 inches. Look for blue “warpaint” on the face and a red/orange-tipped gill flap.


Black Crappie

This “calico bass” is found in weedy, warm-water habitats. It often forms schools in submerged structure, especially brush piles and fallen trees. Typically 5–12 inches, but larger specimens not uncommon.


Yellow Perch

A native cool-water panfish found in the vegetated areas of lakes, ponds, slow streams, and almost any open water with moderate vegetation. Typically 8–10 inches but larger fish are not uncommon. A schooling fish, it is safe to assume that if you find one, there are others in the vicinity.



Bowfin are currently limited to the major river drainages in Massachusetts. Body is tubular with a bullet-shaped head and a long, spineless dorsal fin. Most specimens are olive to brownish gray, often with a mottled pattern; males display a black spot near the upper base of the tail. Typically 2–4 pounds, but some may reach 10 pounds or more. Usually associated with shallow, muddy, fertile water, and occasionally taken through the ice.


Chain Pickerel

A native cool-water gamefish found in shallow, vegetated areas of fairly clear lakes, ponds, and rivers. Typically 15–20 inches but larger specimens are not uncommon. Respected for its sharp teeth which can easily cut most fishing lines and inflict minor wounds.


Illustrations by Duane Raver / USFWS; Atlantic Salmon illustration by Ellen Edmondson.