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Massachusetts Fishing License
Do You Need One & Where to Get Them 

Welcome to your all-in-one source for Massachusetts fishing license information!

If you're looking for info on MA fishing licenses for fresh or saltwater, or for the federal Highly Migratory Species fishing permit, you'll find it below.

What Fishing Licenses are Required in MA?

Back in what I now fondly remember as "the good old days", it was easy.

If you fished in freshwater, you needed a license. If you fished in saltwater, you didn't.

Then came January 1, 2011, and the advent of the MA recreational saltwater fishing permit requirement.

In a nutshell, here's what it means:

If you're planning to fish both fresh and salt water, you'll need two Massachusetts fishing licenses.

Yes - two licenses!

One for freshwater and one for salt.

Is there such a thing as a "combination" freshwater and saltwater license in Massachusetts?

A single, all-in-one license for those of us who fish both the sweet and the briney?

Of course not. That'd be much too simple. It's the government we're talking about here. They never make anything easy, do they?  (But I digress. Sorry!)

So, here's the deal on the various Massachusetts fishing license requirements ...


Freshwater Fishing in Massachusetts

Who Needs a License

If you're 15 years of age or older, you'll need a freshwater license.

Where to Buy One

You can get your fresh water Massachusetts fishing license at most tackle shops, at many City or Town Clerk's offices, and online at MassFishHunt.

How Much They Cost

This is the fee schedule published by MassWildlife:

  • Resident Citizen/Alien - $27.50

  • Resident Citizen Minor Age 15-17 - FREE

  • Resident Citizen Age 65-69 - $16.25

  • Resident Citizen Age 70 or over - FREE

  • Non-Resident Citizen/Alien - $37.50

  • Non-Resident Citizen/Alien (3 day) - $23.50

  • Resident Citizen/Alien (3 day) - $12.50

  • Non-Resident Citizen/Alien Minor Age 15-17 - $11.50

  • Disabled Massachusetts residents (blind, paraplegic, and intellectually disabled) may qualify for a free MA freshwater fishing license.

    To qualify for the free freshwater Massachusetts fishing license on account of a disability: (1) you must be a resident citizen of the US; (2) you must have been a legal resident in Massachusetts for at least 6 consecutive months immediately before applying; and (3) you must submit proper medical proof of disability along with your license application.

    Note: If this is your first time applying for a MA resident disabled fishing license, you'll have to submit your application and a letter from your physician directly to the Boston office of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife.

More About Freshwater MA Fishing Licenses

  • If you buy your license online, you'll also be charged a small service charge and internet handling charge on the total transaction.
  • Also, City and Town Clerks are required to add an additional small processing fee to the base fee of each license they sell. Retail agents are allowed to add the processing fee, but they're not required to. 

  • All MA freshwater fishing licenses expire at the end of December in the year of purchase.

  • Contact Mass. Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife at (617) 626-1500 or go to Mass. Wildlife's website for more information.

Saltwater Fishing in Massachusetts

Who Needs a Permit

If you're age 16 or older, you'll need a Massachusetts saltwater fishing permit to fish in Massachusetts marine waters, including up to the first dam in rivers and streams that flow to the ocean.

With that said, I also have to tell you there are a lot of exceptions and "Yes, but's" to the MA saltwater fishing permit requirements.


If you're fishing on a permitted for-hire vessel (i.e., a licensed charter boat or head boat), the boat's license will cover you. You won't need your own.

If you're a resident of, and have recreational saltwater fishing permit from, a state that has a reciprocity agreement with Massachusetts, that permit will cover you while fishing in Massachusetts marine waters. (Massachusetts has reciprocity agreements with New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.)

If you are fin-fishing exclusively in federal waters and possess a Highly Migratory Species permit, you do not need a Massachusetts saltwater fishing permit as long as you do not land any fish in Massachusetts. If you retain fish and bring them back into Massachusetts state waters, or you fish in Massachusetts state waters, then you must have the Massachusetts saltwater permit.

If you're aged 60 or over, or disabled, you'll still need the permit - but for you, it's free.

Where to Get Your Permit

There are 4 ways to buy a MA saltwater fishing permit:

1. Online (with a credit card) at MassFishHunt.

This is how I do it. And the good thing about the MassFishHunt website is that you can buy both your MA saltwater fishing permit and your fresh water Massachusetts fishing license there. Kinda like one stop shopping.

2. By phone (with a credit card) by calling 1-866-703-1925 anytime from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

For those of you who're squeamish about entering your credit card info online, this is a good way to go.

3. In person at a local bait and tackle shop, retailer, or town hall.

On Cape Cod, saltwater permits are currently sold at:

  • Wal-Mart - 3005 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham

  • North Falmouth Hardware - 91 County Road, North Falmouth

  • Wal-Mart - 137 Teaticket Highway, East Falmouth

  • Sports Port - 149 West Main Street, Hyannis

  • K-Mart - 768 Iyannough Road, Hyannis

  • Riverview Bait & Tackle - 1273 Route 28, South Yarmouth

  • Goose Hummock Shop - 15 Route 6A, Orleans

(Click here to see other places in MA where you get a saltwater fishing license.) 

4. Submit a paper application and your payment to the Division of Marine Fisheries by snail mail, or deliver them in person to the DMF office in Boston, Gloucester, New Bedford or Martha's Vineyard.

Not the quickest or easiest option, in my humble opinion, but if it works for you - go for it!

How Much They Cost

The cost for a saltwater fishing permit is $10 for ages 16-59. For anglers aged 60 and up, it's free.

The permit is valid for a calendar year, expiring on December 31st.

(Note: If you order online, a small "convenience fee" will be added to the cost of the permit.)

More About the Saltwater Massachusetts Fishing License

To learn more about the MA saltwater fishing permit requirements, visit the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries website, or call the DMF at (617) 626-1520.

Fishing for Highly Migratory Species in Massachusetts

To give you a complete picture of all the fishing license requirements that apply in Massachusetts, there's one more that I need to mention.

That's the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Permit (a/k/a the "HMS Permit").

The HMS Permit isn't a Massachusetts fishing license. Instead, it's a US government-issued fishing permit specifically for those who target highly migratory species.

Who Needs An HMS Permit

The HMS Permit is something you must have if you're planning to take advantage of the excellent tuna fishery in our Massachusetts coastal waters. It's also a must-have if you'll be fishing for Atlantic swordfish, shark or billfish while you're here.

However, not every angler will need an HMS Permit.

Unlike the freshwater and saltwater Massachusetts fishing licenses (above), an HMS Permit is issued to a specific boat - not to the individual angler.

For example: Let's say you want to take some of your buddies out on your boat for a day of tuna fishing on Cape Cod Bay.

You'll need an HMS Permit (Angling Category) for your boat. Then all of you onboard will be covered when you land your tuna feast.

NOTE: Remember, however, that if you're on a private vessel (i.e., not a charter or head boat), you should also have your MA saltwater fishing permit in hand for the trip. Cape Cod Bay is salt water ... and that's an entirely different permit!

Where to Get the HMS Permit

HMS Permit applications can be found online at the National Marine Fisheries website, or they can be obtained via fax or mail. Call (888) 872-8862 for more info.

How Much the Permit Costs

The fee for an Atlantic HMS Permit for recreational angling is $20.00.

The permit is valid from the date of issuance through December 31st.

More About the Atlantic HMS Permit

The highly migratory species regulations are quite involved, and it seems like they're constantly changing.

For all the details about the Atlantic HMS Permit requirements, check the latest  NMF Compliance Guide.

Tight Lines to One and All!!

Related Pages:

Light Tackle Sport Fishing

Beach Fishing

Bait & Tackle Shops

Autumn Fishing on the Cape

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