Find Your Fish! A Guide to the Types of Fish Found in Massachusetts During Fishing Season

Massachusetts is known for its world-class fishing, and early spring is when it truly comes alive. Although most famous for striped bass, halibut, and cod (did you know that a giant cod hangs in the Massachusetts state house?), Massachusetts is home to many types of saltwater fish that make for excellent fishing. One of the best aspects of fishing in Massachusetts is that it can accommodate all levels of ability. Beginner fishermen, those who enjoy a challenge, and those who are looking for full-out trophy fishing can all fish happily in its waters.

If it is light-tackle fishing you are looking for, you may want to try snagging a fluke. The fluke is often referred to as a “doormat,” due to its odd shape, and you will know it because both of its eyes are on its left side, facing upwards, which is indicative of a flat fish. Fluke can be found close to land as well as in deeper waters.

Another familiar large flat fish, halibut, is a hard one to reel in, but halibut is one of New England’s most popular fish. If you happen to be coming to Massachusetts in May, you may also find a Black Sea Bass on your hook, since it migrates into Cape Cod Bay around this time. Black bass are particularly fascinating because they are all born as females and become male! They prefer a bottom structure, like reefs and wrecks.

Cod is perhaps the king of all fish in Massachusetts, but many do not know that it has several “cousin” fish (fish that are part of the cod family) that are just as fishable. The cusk, for example, is very similar to cod in terms of fishing strategy and environment. Haddock, another family member, is discernible by its back spot and lateral line, but is best found May through November, whereas cod can be fished all year round. If you feel comfortable catching cod and finding fluke, perhaps you may try your hand at some more aggressive members of the cod family, like the pollack. Pollack is similar to cod, but many find catching it just as challenging as the mean-spirited bluefish.

What is it about bluefish that makes them considered a mean fish? Their teeth! Bluefish possess razor-sharp chompers that will snap at you any chance they get, which earns the fish (especially the more juvenile varieties found inland) the nickname “snapper.” These guys will give you a run for your money, but are definitely worth fighting for.

If you have mastered the light-tackle fish, and the cod family, or even snappers, perhaps you are ready for some true trophy fishing in Massachusetts. Striped bass (“stripers”) are caught from both shore and sea, are easy identified by their black stripes (hence the name) and are prized if you can muscle them onto your boat or beach.

However, the big kahuna, the fish for anyone hoping for big trophy fishing in Massachusetts is the tuna, more specifically, the bluefin tuna. Although you can get a challenging catch by reeling in a yellow or albacore, it’s the mighty bluefin tuna that is the biggest catch of them all. It is the highest paying, offers up the most bragging rights, and makes for a great photograph.

Massachusetts is wealth of saltwater fishing, regardless of if you are looking for a relaxing day, a bit of a struggle, or a full-out battle. Be it on-shore fishing or at sea, to experience some of the best fishing around, try your luck (or skill) in any of Massachusetts’ plentiful fishing communities. There is truly something for everyone’s fishing ability.