More than 80 fish species inhabit the inland waters of the Commonwealth. This 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 Freshwater Fishes of Massachusetts at any DFW office.
Temperature Preferences of Fish
Temperature preferences are different for many fish. Though fish cannot always find their exact preference, they are usually found in water closest to their preferred temperature.
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.
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 streams.
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. Anadromous form grows to 20 lbs; landlocks average 2–4 lbs. Landlocked populations occur in the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs; attempts to restore sea-run populations to the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers continue.
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.
This beautiful native char thrives in clean, cold, well-oxygenated waters. It is found in high gradient streams and slow moving 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.
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.
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.
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 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 same vicinity.
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.
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.
This “calico” sunfish 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.
Illustrations by Duane Raver / USFWS; Atlantic Salmon illustration by Ellen Edmondson.
Freshwater Sportfishing Awards
Awards for freshwater fish are offered in 22 categories. Each qualified entry receives a bronze pin. Largest fish in each category each year receives a “gold” pin and plaque. There is also an annual “Angler of the Year” award for the person who has taken the greatest variety of “pinfish” during the year. Fish must meet minimum weight requirements as listed below, and must be weighed on a scale certified by the Massachusetts Division of Standards or a town official. Please check our website for a list of weigh stations and/or to download an affidavit. This information is also available at DFW offices.