Welcome to 2023-24 Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing
Nature vs. Nurture: Stock Sustainability Requires Both
It’s a great time to be a Massachusetts saltwater angler. You can enjoy catching a multitude of abundant species in our amazing variety of habitats. The peninsula of Cape Cod separates three distinct ecosystems: the cool waters of the Gulf of Maine, the colder waters east of Cape Cod, and the relatively balmy southern waters of Nantucket & Vineyard Sounds and Buzzards Bay. And the fish species we find in each area are so different!
Fish populations are constantly changing with some on the rise and others falling. Year to year environmental variation is the biggest driver of these changes. At the beginning of my career, the conventional wisdom held that we could manipulate fish populations primarily by fine-tuning regulations to control how many fish we remove from the sea. But today we recognize that changes in the environment, both year to year variability and longer-term trends, are major drivers.
DMF’s biologists work diligently with their interstate and federal partners to assess the status of fish stocks and to fine tune our management approaches to ensure you as anglers have access to these fish and the sport of saltwater fishing. Sometimes this means we must reduce our catch in a given year to provide sufficient spawners for the future. Other times we can capitalize on high abundances. It’s always changing.
In recent years, we have enjoyed super abundant haddock, scup, and black sea bass. And we’ve cut back on the harvests of striped bass, cod, and bluefish. We have seen more false albacore, the ultimate light tackle and flyfishers’ target species, in our waters late in the summer and fall. Menhaden (aka “pogy”) abundance is very high and we’ve seen whales and stripers gorging themselves on this important forage species. Fish populations are in a constant state of change, but anglers need to know we at DMF are dedicated to ensuring the populations are sustained and the fisheries sustainable. Through population monitoring, survey sampling, and directed research, DMF is well-poised to meet the challenges of a changing environment and fluctuating fish stocks.
To all our anglers, we wish you calm seas, tight lines, and great days on the water with friends and family. Cheers!
Your Permit Dollars at Work
Recreational saltwater permit fees are dedicated to improving your angling experience. Here are a few of the ways:
- Develops and maintains large fishing piers
- Funds small projects improving or repairing existing access sites
- Funds the deployment of dedicated recreational artificial reefs
- Provides free clinics for young anglers
- Develops online resources for classroom educators
Improved Recreational Catch Data
- Increases the sample size for the Marine Recreational Information Program's Access Point Angler Intercept Survey
Research and Conservation
- River herring population management and restoration work
- Striped bass migratory patterns and genetics