Where to Fish in Massachusetts: Ipswich Island, Plymouth Harbor & More

The state of Massachusetts is in New England, near several other states that were once colonies. And most people know it’s famous for its significant Colonial history and dramatic Atlantic coastline. Visitors come to see the stunning, changing fall colors in the heavily forested mountains of the state.

But Massachusetts also offers reservoirs, pristine freshwater lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds. To narrow things down for anglers, here are the top 10 best fishing locations in Massachusetts.

The stunning Atlantic coastline is where you can have an exhilarating day’s fishing, perhaps landing a cod, Massachusetts’ official state fish. And the capital of Massachusetts is Boston where you’ll find plenty to do. Check out the lively downtown area with its hotels, shops and restaurants. Or walk the Freedom Trail, a walking tour route that features sites related to the American Revolution.

No matter when you visit the state, you’ll find a place to fish. And if you plan on vacationing in Massachusetts during the winter months, many locations are open for ice fishing. So, some fish species you can expect to catch in Massachusetts include bass, trout, sunfish, perch, different types of crappie, channel or brown catfish, bluegill, pike, atlantic cod, rainbow smelt and tuna.  Striped bass is also another top pick.

Fishing Licenses

For legal freshwater fishing in Massachusetts, if you’re 15 years of age or older, you’ll need a fishing license. Also, anglers over 16 years of age must have a saltwater fishing permit when heading for the coast. But licenses and more information are available online at the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game website.

Remember, when you head out for a fishing trip in Massachusetts, you must have your license with you. Or, you can show a legible, complete image of the license on your smartphone if an official asks you to do so. Just be sure to follow the law when you enjoy these 10 best fishing locations in Massachusetts.

Top Locations

Whether you enjoy freshwater fishing, surf fishing from the beach or heading out to the deep blue ocean in search of those monster, hard-fighting game fish, Massachusetts has what you’re looking for. So here are 10 of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts, no matter what form of fishing floats your boat.


1. The Ipswich River

Ipswich River

The Ipswich River is located here, and boasts a reputation as the premier trout fishing spot in northeastern Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game stocks this river annually with trout, so you should be able to catch at least one. And the fishing for smallmouth bass at Stiles Pond is good. Also, largemouth bass is abundant in the mainstem of the River and at Hood Pond, too.

However, one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts is near the numerous bridges that span the waterway. In fact, fishing from a canoe will give you access to the secluded areas where fish numbers are even more abundant. But be aware that the river does tend to suffer from low-flow problems during the summer and early fall. This severely affecting habitats, especially in the upper river.

Therefore, the best time to come fishing here is in the spring. But it’s advisable to check the river flow information before you visit. Note that there’s a mercury advisory for fish from some locations in the watershed, so they advise to catch-and-release. Also, you’re asked to use barbless hooks and to remove the lead from sinkers.


2. Castle Island

Castle Island

Castle Island is in South Boston on the shores of Boston Harbor with stunning views of Fort Independence. This 22-acre site makes for a great family day out, as well as providing a pleasurable fishing experience for fishermen. But the most popular fishing spot at Castle Island is Pleasure Bay. That’s where two islets act as a funnel, guiding fish into the bay where anglers await them.

Also, pier fishing is popular here. Just use a bait and sinker because of height from which you’re fishing. And the pier is busy during the summer months. But you can find a quieter spot by following the path alongside the harbor where there are rocks to fish from closer to the water. Do not that one side of Pleasure Bay is a beach that’s popular with families. So that makes it an unsuitable location to fish during the summer.

However, the other side is where you’ll find the action. This is where the water washes in and out of the harbor as the tides change. Fish along the outer edges of the faster water with flies or lures to catch larger fish that are hunting baitfish in the current. And there’s plenty of nice accommodations close to Castle Island with a variety of price points to suit every budget. So, ask anyone, and they will tell you this is one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts.


3. Norton Reservoir

Norton Reservoir

Norton Reservoir is a beautiful, picturesque fishing spot located right here, close to the small towns of Mansfield and Norton. The fish species you can expect to find here include:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Bullhead catfish
  • White perch
  • Yellow perch
  • Chain pickerel
  • Black crappie
  • White crappie
  • Northern pike
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Bluegill

Importantly, this reservoir has an average depth of just four feet. Also, it drops to 10 feet in some areas of the 529-acre body of water. However, access from the shoreline here is good. And there’s a gravel boat ramp, too.

There are lots of well-equipped campgrounds close by for those who wish to extend their stay. And finally, during the winter months, anglers are drawn here to fish for white perch hiding beneath the ice. So, even in the dead of winter, this is one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts.


4. Plymouth Harbor

Plymouth Harbor

The Pilgrims first visited Plymouth Harbor (located here) aboard the Mayflower. However, aside from the historical attractions the town offers, there are nine public beaches. And they provide visitors with a spectacular opportunity to explore the natural wonders that this harbor boasts, including a beautiful sunset view.

But the fishing here makes it one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts. And there are lots of different species around, including plenty of feisty bluefish and striped bass. So, you can fish productively from the shore or the jetty at the low and outgoing tides. But the yacht club and the mouth of the Town Brook make for good fishing at incoming and high tides, especially during the summer months.

Best of all, these locations are within walking distance of Plymouth town and its many hotels, restaurants, and bars. Although baitfish are extremely plentiful around the harbor, that doesn’t stop the fish from biting, especially if you use clams as your bait of choice. But for those who fancy a more adventurous day’s fishing, check out one of the fishing charters that operate from the harbor.

Depending on the season, you can go in search of the following deep-sea species:

  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Conger eel
  • Flounder
  • Wolf-fish
  • Striped bass
  • Bluefish
  • Sea bass
  • Shark

Plymouth Harbor is one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts and well worth a visit.


5. Wachusett Reservoir

Wachusett Reservoir

Wachusett Reservoir (located here) is just a 10-minute drive from Worcester. Because the lake is eight miles long, it is is the second-largest body of water in Massachusetts. So, this huge reservoir offers many different species of fish, including:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Lake trout
  • White perch
  • Rainbow trout
  • Landlocked salmon

The best time of year to fish for bass is during May and June. So fish along the well-protected, easily accessible shoreline where you’ll find some decent-size panfish, too. And Wachusett Reservoir is famous for producing some huge lake trout and holds six state records for lakers. In fact, in the mid-1990s, one fish they tagged weighed in at over 30 pounds.

And in 2004, an anger landed a 24-pounder. So there is no doubt it is one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts. Importantly, they don’t allow boating, wading, or ice fishing at the reservoir. However, there’s plenty of good camping nearby for those who want to extend their stay in the hope of breaking a record or two.


6. Martha’s Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard (located here) is famous for hosting the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. And Martha’s Vineyard is an 87-square-mile, triangle-shaped patch of rock and sand that’s one of Massachusetts’ best fishing locations. There are several harbor towns and nearly 100 miles of fishable shoreline. Also, many areas are accessible by boat, all offering spectacular fishing.

Keen surf casters will love the beautiful sandy beaches, massive boulders, and miles of rocky shoreline. This is where you can wait for the big fish that pass through these waters on their migration. So just pick your spot and fish the whitewater, a magnet for striped bass. But be sure to time your casts so your eel or plug follows just behind the wash for the best success.

But a visit to this location would not be complete without a charter trip out to deeper waters. And that is where you can try your luck fishing for the following species:

  • Striped bass
  • Sea bass
  • Bluefin tuna
  • White marlin
  • Fluke
  • False albacore

Fishing around Martha’s Vineyard is best from May through November. Also, the island has plenty of quality accommodations for visitors. It’s such a lovely place and one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts, so you will want to extend your stay.


7. Scargo Lake

Scargo Lake

Scargo Lake is a freshwater kettle pond in Dennis County and a popular trout fishery. And this 60-acre lake has an average depth of 25 feet and a maximum of 48 feet. Best yet, the lake waters are clear and aquatic vegetation is scarce, allowing for excellent visibility. Also, the shoreline extends to 1.3 miles and is lined with beaches and permanent residences.

And that is why it is on this list of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts. The fish species that abound here include:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Brook trout
  • Brown trout
  • Banded killifish
  • White perch
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Alewife
  • American eel

Notably, they stock the lake in spring and fall with rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Although they allow outboard motors, they impose a 7.5 horsepower limit. So, try trolling or casting colorful streamers close to the surface during the early spring or late fall to bag a holdover trout. Also, you can catch more recently stocked fish with spinners, small spoons, doughbaits and worms.

And if you’re equipped with chest waders, check out the wide shelf of shallow water and spend a day fly-fishing. Even though camping is not permitted at the lake, there are lots of well-equipped and comfortable accommodations nearby.


8. Spectacle Pond

Spectacle Pond

Spectacle Pond is close to Sandwich, just 2.3 miles from Forestdale. The pond is a 91-acre natural kettlehole pond that has an average depth of 19 feet, dropping to a maximum of 43 feet. In fact, the pond is two conjoined kettleholes separated by a shallow area of sandbars and an island. The fish species you’ll find here include:

  • Banded killifish
  • Brook trout
  • Brown trout
  • Bullhead
  • Largemouth bass
  • Pumpkinseed sunfish
  • Rainbow trout
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Yellow perch

They stock the pond every spring and fall with rainbow, brook, and brown trout. But most of the best fly-fishing action happens in the northern basin, during the late spring and summer. The broad shoreline makes for easy access to the water. Also, there’s a gravel ramp that’s suitable for launching canoes and car-top boats. And all this makes Spectacle Pond one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts.


9. Spy Pond

Spy Pond

Spy Pond in Arlington County (located here) is a popular location for ice skating during the winter months. But the variety of fish species is what makes it one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts. The 103-acre pond is home to the following types of fish:

  • Tiger muskellunge
  • White perch
  • Yellow perch
  • Chain pickerel
  • American eel
  • Carp
  • Bullhead
  • Bluegill
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Alewife
  • Golden shiner

Better yet, they regularly stock the pond with tiger muskie fingerlings. and largemouth bass are especially numerous and are typically above average size. Also, during the spring and summer months, you can catch carp with corn or bread crusts And they often reward anglers with fast initial runs and long, challenging battles.

Also, you can wade most of the shoreline. And if you don’t mind exploring, you can find access to a few small patches of open beach scattered around the pond. Ice fishing is popular here too. But those yellow perch and muskies provide some lively jigging action for those who brave the cold.

Although there’s no public ramp, it’s possible to launch canoes and car-top boats from the shore close to the parking lot. And finally, you can find accommodations at a number of close by locations.


10. Myles Standish State Forest

Myles Standish State Park

Myles Standish State Forest is close to Plymouth (located here). And it is the most expansive publicly-owned recreation area in southeastern Massachusetts. But it’s also an important natural habitat. The forest extends across Carver and Plymouth in the center of Cranberry County, just 45 miles south of Boston.

In the forest, you’ll find several fishing ponds, including Barrett, Federal, Charge and College Pond. With so many game fish up for grabs and ground to cover, you could make this a weekend trip or even spend a whole week exploring. And this is what makes this area one of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts.

Interestingly, Charge Pond is a great pond to start your Myles Standish State Forest fishing adventure. Charge is a 23-acre natural kettlehole pond that has an average depth of six feet and a maximum depth of 17 feet. And the water is clear up to about 14 feet because the pond is fed by an underground spring.

The shoreline is easily accessible with sandy beach areas and is surrounded by a well-equipped campground. However, you can also fish from a boat with an electric motor or from a canoe. The fish species you’ll find in Charge Pond include:

  • Yellow perch
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Pumpkinseeds
  • Largemouth bass
  • Banded killifish
  • American eel

And the pond has a decent population of largemouth bass, which is the primary gamefish here, reaching a good size. And finally, Myles Standish State Forest has five camping areas set around the edges of the park’s 16 ponds and tucked into the forest.


Reeling in Some Fish

Did you find your favorite in this list of the best fishing locations in Massachusetts? After all, Massachusetts is a brilliant place to visit if you’re a keen angler who enjoys freshwater or saltwater fishing, or a combination of both.

And the countryside scenery is beautiful, especially if you visit the state during the fall when the leaves are turning color. Also, the beaches and scenery along the Atlantic coast are an angler’s dream.

So whether you enjoy fly-fishing in pristine mountain trout streams or feeling the bracing sea air as you cast a line into the surf in search of monster striped bass, Massachusetts is a must-visit fishing location. There’s so much to see and do here. So it’s well worth extending your trip to visit the coast and take in a deep-sea fishing charter, too.

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