Fishing at Cape Cod National Seashore

Visitor surf casts into the ocean.
A visitor casts out into the ocean during a surf casting program.

NPS/Rosehill

What comes to mind when you think about fishing? Patience, relaxation, challenge, and memories are a few words often associated with fishing. You will find all that and a sense of stewardship, conservation, and preservation on this page. We want you to have an enjoyable time during your visit, and for those who come after you to fish. Take some time to explore, learn what the park has to offer and learn your responsibilities before casting a line or flicking a fly into the water.  

Cape Cod National Seashore allows fishing as a means of providing for public enjoyment, and customary and traditional use, and regulates fishing to ensure that it is managed in a manner that avoids unacceptable impacts to park resources.

Licenses

A valid Massachusetts fishing license is required to fish in the park although exceptions may apply, and fees vary. Children under 16 years of age do not require a saltwater fishing permit, and children under 15 do not require a freshwater fishing license. Visitors fishing within Cape Cod National Seashore must follow the fishing license requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.  

Fishing Regulations

Fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (36CFR2.3(a)) except as provided below. For state fishing regulations go to the Mass.gov website for Massachusetts freshwater and saltwater fishing regulations.

The fishing regulations apply to all “finfish” found in the park. Other taxa, including amphibians, mollusks and crustaceans (e.g. waterdogs, crayfish) are not considered “fish” for the purpose of NPS fishing regulations and addressed by NPS regulations governing “wildlife” (36CFR2.2).

These fishing regulations apply, regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within the park that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States.

The following are prohibited:

  • Fishing in fresh waters in any manner other than by hook and line, with the rod or line being closely attended. 

  • Possessing or using as bait for fishing in freshwaters, live or dead minnows or other bait fish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs or fish roe, except in designated waters. 

  • Chumming or placing preserved or fresh fish eggs, fish roe, food, fish parts, chemicals, or other foreign substances in fresh waters for the purpose of feeding or attracting fish in order that they may be taken. 

  • Commercial fishing, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law.

  • Fishing by the use of drugs, poisons, explosives, or electricity.

  • Digging for bait, except in privately owned lands.

  • Failing to return carefully and immediately to the water from which it was taken a fish that does not meet size or species restrictions or that the person chooses not to keep. Fish so released shall not be included in the catch or possession limit: Provided, that at the time of catching the person did not possess the legal limit of fish.

  • Fishing from motor road bridges, from or within 200 feet of a public raft or float designated for water sports, or within the limits of locations designated as swimming beaches, surfing areas, or public boat docks, except in designated areas.

  • Introducing wildlife, fish or plants, including their reproductive bodies, into a park area ecosystem. This includes the discarding and/or dumping of bait and bait buckets.

  • The use or possession of fish, wildlife or plants for ceremonial or religious purposes, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law, or treaty rights.

Except as otherwise designated, fishing with a net, spear, or weapon in the salt waters of park areas shall be in accordance with State law.

The following regulations apply only within Cape Cod National Seashore:

  • Fishing is authorized from designated swimming beaches throughout the year except from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM from June 15 – Labor Day.

  • Fishing from designated swimming beaches from 6:00 PM – 8:00 AM is allowed due to an absence of safety and visitor conflict concerns.

  • Park parking lots close at midnight. If you wish to park and fish between the hours of 12 AM and 6 AM when lots are closed, you may apply for a night fishing parking permit at a visitor center.

  • Disposal of fish remains on park beaches is prohibited.

  • Shellfishing, by permit from the appropriate town, is permitted in accordance with applicable Federal, State, and local laws.

 

Fish Consumption Advisories in National Park Waters

The Environmental Protection Agency, states, territories, and tribes provide advice on fish and shellfish caught in the waters in their jurisdiction to help people make informed decisions about eating fish. Advisories are recommendations to limit your consumption of, or avoid eating entirely, certain species of fish or shellfish from specific bodies of water due to chemical or biological contamination.

Fish is part of a healthy balanced diet, but eating wild fish and shellfish caught in park waters is not risk free. Parks are “islands”, but the much larger “ocean” that surrounds them affects the natural resources inside a park. Other aquatic toxins are the result of natural biological processes. Also, chemical contaminants that originate outside of park boundaries can come into parks.

Mercury is an example of a toxin originating outside a park that can find its way into a park. Mercury exists naturally in some rocks, including coal. When power plants burn coal, mercury can travel in the air long distances before falling to the ground, usually in low concentrations. Once on the ground, microorganisms can change this elemental mercury to methyl mercury. This type of mercury can build up in animal tissues, and it can increase in concentration to harmful levels. This high concentration can occur in large predatory fish - those often pursued and eaten by anglers. Studies have shown that fish in some National Park System waters have mercury levels that may be a concern to people who regularly eat a lot of fish.

To learn more about this topic, the National Park Service maintains information about Fish Consumption Advisories and Mercury and Toxins in Nature.

 

Aquatic Invasive Species

Imagine your favorite fishing spot and the wonderful memories. Things may look fine but underneath the surface there is a serious threat. Everything you remembered is now cemented together in a sharp, smelly mess. Invaders have wiped out the fish species you used to catch.

Aquatic invasive species are not native to an ecosystem. Their introduction causes, or is likely to cause, harm to the economy, the environment, or to human health. Aquatic invasive species are a growing risk to parks and their values. In the United States alone, there are more than 250 non-native aquatic species.

For many centuries, humans have contributed to spreading non-native species around the globe. You can make a difference. To learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species in the National Park Service, visit the Fish & Fishing website.

Fishing Throughout the National Park Service

We invite you to visit the Fish and Fishing website for more information about fish and fishing in the National Park Service. You will learn about conservation, different fish species, and parks that offer fishing.

Last updated: July 14, 2022

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99 Marconi Site Road
Wellfleet , MA 02667

Phone:

508-255-3421
To speak to a park ranger, call 508-255-3421 for visitor information.

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