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Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater Fishing

Recreational Lobster & Crabbing

Recreational Lobster and Crabbing Permit

What does a recreational lobster and crabbing permit allow me to do?

The permit allows you to fish for, retain and land lobsters in Massachusetts. This may be done with traps or by diving. The permit also allows you to fish for, retain and land edible crabs (excluding blue crabs) by any six-sided trap or other contrivance that is not actively fished. The permit is not needed to fish for, retain or land edible crabs (including blue crabs) by hand, handline, or dipnet, or by any star trap, open collapsible trap, or open top trap that is actively tended.

Who can get a permit?

Any Massachusetts resident can obtain a permit. Non-residents may also obtain a permit, but they must temporarily reside in any coastal Massachusetts municipality and own more than $5,000 in real estate in the Commonwealth as determined by tax records. Non-US citizens, whether resident or non-resident, must provide their alien registration card as issued by the US Dept. of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service.

What does a permit cost and where can I get one?

The permit fees are $55 for residents and $75 for non-residents. Permits are available at most DMF offices. Additionally, residents may purchase/renew their permit online at

What is my permit number?

Each permit has a unique identification number that is located on the upper right hand corner of the permit. You are required to mark your traps and dive gear with this permit number.

May I sell, barter or trade the lobsters and edible crabs that I take under my permit?

No, you may only take lobsters and edible crabs for personal use. You are not allowed to sell, barter, or trade any of your recreational lobster and edible crab catch. In order to engage in these activities, you are required, by law, to have a commercial lobster permit.

Does this permit allow me to take lobsters and crabs with traps and lobsters by diving?

Yes, when applying for or renewing your permit you must specify if you wish to fish with traps, diving or both. There are no additional costs for each endorsement.

Do I have to fish in a certain geographical area?

When you apply for your permit, we do ask that you check off a geographical area where you intend to fish. However, you are not limited by this selection and may fish throughout Massachusetts. Note that you may not set buoyed traps in the Cape Cod Canal and the taking of lobsters is prohibited in New Bedford Harbor north of an imaginary line drawn from Ricketson’s Point (Dartmouth) to Wilbur Point (Fairhaven). Also, different recreational lobster areas may have different recreational lobster management regulations.

Who can use this permit?

This depends on whether you are fishing traps or diving. A permit with a trap endorsement allows the permit holder, as well as members of their immediate family, to fish their traps. Immediate family includes the spouse, parents, children, grandparents, brothers and sisters. No more than one permit endorsed for trap fishing is allowed per household. A permit with dive endorsement is for the permit holder only and does not cover other persons. Additional permits endorsed for diving must be purchased to cover each diver.

Is reporting required?

Yes, annual catch reports are required of all permit holders. These forms are provided by DMF at the time of renewal. License renewals will not be issued until a catch report has been filed.

Do I need the permit for green crabs?

The permit is not needed to take, retain or land green crabs as they are an invasive species. However, state law requires individuals hold an authorization from DMF in order to harvest green crabs. To obtain this free authorization, please contact George Davis for an LOA or more information at (978) 491-6256 or [email protected].

Recreational Regulations

Recreational Lobster Regulations

All Areas

Season Open

May 16 - October 31. DMF may extend closure past May 16 or rescind after May 1 based on presence/absence of whales.
Note: Seasonal restrictions are for traps only. Diving for lobsters is open year round.

Trap Limit

With trap endorsement, may fish 10 traps per household.

Bag Limit

15 lobsters per day. Lobsters may be stored and retrieved in excess of this limit, provided fishing activity is not occurring.

Night Fishing

Hauling trap gear or taking lobsters is prohibited from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.

Egg Bearing Females

It is unlawful to possess or land any lobster that is egg bearing, from which eggs have been forcibly removed, or that has come in contact with any substance capable of removing eggs.


It is unlawful to possess or land any female lobster that bears a v-notch or other indentation in the base of the flipper immediately to the right of the center tail flipper.

Prohibited Gears

It is unlawful to possess or land any lobster taken by spear gun, pole spear, or other device that pierces the shell as means of harvest; by dipping or dipnet; by star trap or any trap that is fished in an open configuration until retrieved; by dragging or the use of any hauled nets or dredges; or snaring and poles with loops.

Buoy Line

Maximum 5/16" diameter

Gulf of Maine Recreational Lobster Area

Minimum Size


Maximum Size


Escape Vent

One rectangular vent 115⁄16" x 53⁄4" or two circular vents of 27⁄16" in diameter

Outer Cape Cod Recreational Lobster Area

Minimum Size


Maximum Size

Escape Vent

One rectangular vent 2" x 53⁄4" or two circular vents of 25⁄8" in diameter

Southern New England Recreational Lobster Area

Minimum Size


Maximum Size


Escape Vent

One rectangular vent 2" x 53⁄4" or two circular vents of 25⁄8" in diameter

Map of Massachusetts Recreational Lobster Areas.

Recreational Crab Regulations


Minimum Size

Possession Limit

Egg Bearing


Blue Crabs

5” shell width

25 crabs


Fishing for blue crabs with trap gear or retaining blue crabs taken by traps is prohibited

Cancer Crabs (Rock and Jonah)

No size requirement

50 cancer crabs combined


No tending or hauling traps ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise. Use of non-trap gears is allowed at night.

Crab Identification

Images showing the identifications of Blue, Rock, Jonah, and Green Crab.

How to Measure a Lobster

The Rules

Lobsters must be measured with a special gauge to make sure that they are keepers. Carapace length is measured from the rear of the eye socket to the rear of the carapace on a line parallel to the center line of the body shell. Make sure the gauge is at the extreme rear of the eye socket below the rostrum or horn. A common error is to measure from the horn located forward of the eye socket, which results in an improper measurement.

All lobsters measuring less than the minimum legal carapace length, or larger than the maximum legal carapace length, must be immediately returned to the waters from which taken.

All lobsters must be measured immediately.


It shall be unlawful to possess any lobster, or part thereof, which is mutilated in a manner which makes accurate measurement impossible.

Images showing where to measure a lobster for its carapace length.

Is it Male or Female?

In order to determine the sex of a lobster, you must look at the first pair of appendages under the tail, called swimmerets. They are positioned near the base of the last pair of walking legs. The first pair of swimmerets are hard in the male, and soft and feathery in the female.

Illustration showing how to identify a lobster as male of female.

All About Lobster

What are they?

Lobsters are ten-legged (decapod) crustaceans. The American lobster is the only species of clawed lobster in the Northwestern Atlantic region.

Where are they?

The American lobster is distributed throughout the Northwest Atlantic from the Straights of Bell Isle, Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

They are most abundant in coastal zones at depths of less than 150 ft. (~50 m). The greatest abundance of lobster occurs within the Gulf of Maine — from mid-coast Maine to southwest Nova Scotia.


American lobster is a long-lived species known to reach more than 40 lb. (18 kg).

Age is unknown because all hard parts are shed and replaced at molting (shedding), leaving no accreting material for age determination. In Massachusetts, shedding typically occurs between June and October.

Lobsters at minimum legal size are generally considered to be between 5 and 7 years of age based on hatchery observations. Maximum age is generally considered to be between 30 and 40 years.


Fertilized eggs are carried on the female abdomen for a 9 to 12 month period of development prior to hatching.

Female lobsters carry between 1,000 and >100,000 eggs depending on the size of the female.

Hatching typically occurs over a 4 month period from May through September. In Massachusetts we typically see peak hatching from late-June through early-July.

Egg-bearing Females

It is unlawful for any fisherman to take or possess any egg-bearing female lobster or female lobster with the egg mass forcibly removed, at any time.

Example image of a
Example image of a

V-Notching Regulations

What is a V-Notch?

A v-notch is a mark on the tail flipper of a female lobster that was put there by a commercial lobsterman as a means to identify and protect a known breeder in the population from harvest.

Commercial lobstermen make a v-notch in the tail flippers of egg-bearing female lobsters they encounter while fishing. The v-notch remains in the female’s flipper after she has hatched her eggs which protects her from harvest through additional molts. If you choose to voluntarily v-notch egg-bearing female lobsters, we strongly encourage you to purchase a v-notching tool; this tool is available at marine supply stores.

V-Notching History

The practice of v-notching as a means of protecting local broodstock originated in Maine and dates back to the early 1900s.

Which Flipper is Notched?

The tail flipper immediately to the right of the middle flipper, when the lobster is examined with the underside of the lobster down and its tail is toward the person making the determination.

V-notch location on a lobsters tail.


It is illegal to possess any female lobster in which the v-notch flipper is mutilated in a manner which could hide, obscure, or obliterate such a mark.

SCUBA Regulations for Recreational Lobster and Edible Crabbing


To recreationally dive for lobsters in Massachusetts, all divers must hold a Recreational Lobster/Crabbing Permit endorsed for diving. A permit endorsed for diving only covers the individual and does not cover the immediate family. Each individual diver must hold their own permit endorsed for diving. This permit must be carried on the vessel at all times when fishing for lobsters. No permit is required for the taking of edible crabs by diving. The taking of edible crabs is subject to recreational crab regulations.

Gear and Marking Requirements

Dive Flag – MA law requires each diver or group of divers, while swimming or below the surface, to display a dive flag. The dive flag must be at least 12" x 15" in area with a red background and white diagonal stripe. The flag must be displayed on the vessel or on a surface float and must extend at least 3 feet from the surface of the water. Divers are required to stay within 100 feet of the displayed flag while at or near the surface. Divers may display their permit numbers on their dive flag.

Dive Marker – If the permit number for all divers is not displayed on the dive flag, a dive marker must be used. The dive marker must be a 12" x 12" floating panel with a white background. The permit number for each diver must be displayed on each side of the marker in numerals measuring 3” in height by ½” in width.

Dive Tank – The permit number must be marked on your dive tank in numerals that measure 3" in height by ½" in width.

Methods of Taking Lobsters

Divers may take lobsters by hand. They may also utilize a tickle stick, which is a straight or slightly bent stick used to agitate a lobster to come out of its hole. The use of spears, snares and dipnets is prohibited.

Catch Limits

There is a limit of 15 lobsters per day per permit, and all lobsters must meet the legal requirements. Divers are required to measure all lobsters in possession prior to surfacing.

Taking of blue crabs and other edible crabs is prohibited from January 1 through April 30.

There is a limit of 25 blue crabs per day, and a limit of 50 Cancer crabs per day.