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Fishing Without a License in Massachusetts
Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures

Fishing without a required license in Massachusetts can cost you are boatload of money. In fact, unlicensed fishing could cost you your boat, too.

I'm always astonished when I hear someone say, "Nobody should have to buy a license to catch fish. So I'm  going to keep on fishing without one."
Okey dokey, then. If you're of a mind to violate MA fishing laws,  so be it.
I suppose there's nothing I can say that'll change your mind.

For anyone out there who's inclined to ignore the Massachusetts' fishing license requirements, it might be enlightening to know what you're facing if you're caught.

Penalties for Unlicensed Freshwater Fishing

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131, Section 11, provides, in relevant part:

A person shall not fish in any inland waters of the commonwealth, unless he is a minor under fifteen years of age, nor hunt or trap any bird or mammal except as otherwise provided in sections four, fourteen, fifteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-three and thirty-seven without first having obtained a sporting, hunting, fishing, or trapping license(emphasis added)

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131, Section 90, states that anyone who violates section 11 (the license requirement cited above):

... shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Section 90 of Chapter 131 provides for an additional penalty of $5 for each fish illegally taken, and $2,000 if it's an endangered specie.

Penalties for Unlicensed Saltwater Fishing

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 130, Section 17C, Subsection (b) provides, in relevant part, that:

No person shall engage in the recreational activity of finfishing, or take or land finfish for recreational purposes in or from the coastal waters of the commonwealth without first obtaining a saltwater recreational fishing permit from the director.

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 130, Section 17D, provides the following as a penalty for saltwater fishing without a required license: 

Whoever violates section 17C, or any rule or regulation made under authority thereof, shall be punished by a fine per offense as promulgated by the director.

Note: In a recent conversation with the Mass. Environmental Police, I was told that the fine is $50.

But wait! There's more ...

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 130, Section 12 states:

All fish unlawfully taken, held, possessed or dealt with contrary to any provision of this chapter or of any rule or regulation made under authority thereof, and all boats, vehicles and apparatus used therein, may, in addition to any or all of the penalties contained therein, be seized, libelled and forfeited to the commonwealth. (emphasis added)

Note: I haven't researched the fines and penalties for fishing highly migratory species (such as tuna) without the required permit. 

Since it's the federal government's regulations you'd be violating, I think it's safe to assume that the punishment would be pretty nasty.

If You're Supposed to Have a Fishing License, Get One!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Fishing illegally isn't worth the risk.

Seriously, folks. Just suck it up and buy the darn license!

Related Pages:

Massachusetts Fishing Licenses: Who Needs One, Where to Get It, Etc.

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  The laws, fines, and penalties may change at any time. Nothing on this page is intended to be, nor should it be construed as providing, legal advice. Any and all questions relating to Massachusetts law should be directed to competent legal counsel who is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.