Rhode Island fishing regulations for 2021

Posted 3/4/21

Rhode Island's 2021 recreational fishing regulations were discussed and voted on Monday, March 1 at the RI Marine Fisheries Council. The Council recommends both recreational and commercial fishing regulations to Janet Coit, Director of the Department of

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Rhode Island fishing regulations for 2021


Rhode Island’s 2021 recreational fishing regulations were discussed and voted on Monday, March 1 at the RI Marine Fisheries Council. The Council recommends both recreational and commercial fishing regulations to Janet Coit, Director of the Department of Environmental Management. The Director makes the final ruling on all fishing regulations.

Last year data collection on recreation catch was hampered due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Not only did anglers have an irregular fishing pattern, some areas more and some less, surveyors who conducted boat ramp, fishing pier and dock side interviews with anglers were not able to complete needed surveys.

Additionally, anglers received a pass in 2020 on more conservative catch limits as fish managers were figuring out how to implement new research findings that showed recreational fishers had been harvesting more fish than originally thought when allocation shares between the recreational and commercial sectors were set.

According to the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) that provides data for the establishment of recreational harvest estimates and limits, they now have more robust recreational data. Better data has been obtained through a change in methodology… the use of mail surveys to homes and an enhanced number of intercept surveys at docks, boat ramps and on charter and party boats.

As noted above, the new data indicates recreational anglers have been harvesting a lot more than fish mangers thought. In some cases twice as many are being harvested than originally thought. The more robust data will likely lead to more restrictive harvest limits, but last year (and this year due to COVID) NOAA gave the ASMFC a pass until they review and possibly adjust allocations with a series of allocation amendments.

Anglers should enjoy the 2021 fishing season as regulations this year will likely be status quo (the same as last year, pending DEM Director Coit's approval). RIMFC recommendations made March 1.

Summer flounder. Six fish/person/day, 19-inch minimum size, May 3 to Dec. 31, in "special" shore locations two fish of the allowed limit can be 17 inches. Visit for a list of "special" areas.

Black sea bass. Three fish/person/day June 24 through August 31 and seven fish/person/day September 1 through December 31, 15-inch minimum size.

Scup. Thirty fish/person/day, 9-inch minimum in "special" shore areas an 8-inch fish is allowed.

Bluefish. The regulation once again this year is three fish/person/day for private anglers, and five fish/angler/day for party and charter boar customers. No minimum sizes, allows for a snapper blue fishery, however, it is still three fish per angler even for snapper blues.

Tautog. Maximum of 10 fish/vessel/day, charter boats except. Min size 16 inches, April 1 to May 31, three fish/person/day; June 1 to July 31, closed season during spawning; August 1 to October 14, three fish/person/day; October 15 to December 31, five fish/person/day.

Striped bass. The Council voted to recommend a status quo regulation for 2021 that is coastwide, a slot of one fish/person/day between 28 to less than 35 inches. The ASMFC voted to suspend the circle hook provision for tube & worm rigs for the next two years pending further research.

Director Coit is expected to finalize regulations in the next few weeks. Visit for final regulation postings.

Massachusetts regulations

The 2021 Massachusetts marine recreational fishing regulations have been set at status quo seasons and limits for most species. This includes a recreational black sea bass season of May 18–September 8, for which the Division of Marine Fisheries recently accepted public input on two alternatives, neither of which will be adopted after consultation with the state’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission.

Recreational regulations for which final decisions are still pending include the striped bass circle hook requirement, the Gulf of Maine cod and haddock seasons, and blue crab gear restrictions. These rules will likely be announced in late March.

For 2021 regulations visit

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater. Warm weather and rain may weaken ice in many areas, so be safe and check ice thoroughly before you fish or skate. Checking with local authorities is a good idea too. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “We still have ice in western and northern Rhode Island ponds but it is up to each angler to check the ice carefully before going out on it as conditions changed constantly. Ponds in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine are still frozen with anglers fishing them. With trout season ending in RI anglers are successfully targeting perch, crappie and pickerel. Many are catching bass too. One customer caught a 5.9-pound largemouth bass this weekend.”

For fresh water licensing information in Rhode Island visit; and in Massachusetts visit

Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting include) the Frances Fleet at, the Seven B’s at, and the Island Current at

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at or visit

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