Whether you plan to fish from the shore or hop on a boat, you’ll need a state recreational saltwater fishing permit if you’re 16 years old or over. Permits are just $10 for anglers between the ages of 16-59 and free for anglers 60 and older. Also, make sure to follow all recreational finfish regulations for season, size, and possession limits.
It’s no surprise striped bass are one of Buzzards Bay’s most popular recreational species. These big, powerful fish are challenging to lure in and put up a good fight when hooked. They’re also as delicious as they are fun to catch. Striped bass meat has a texture that’s flaky but firm, with a rich, mineral flavor. It takes well to an array of cooking methods, from frying to smoking to grilling.
Striped bass recipes to try: Whole striped bass with lemon and mint (Bon Appetit), Striped bass with clams, black olives, and chorizo (New England Today), Striped bass poached in spicy soy sauce (New York Times)
Black Sea Bass
Strikingly beautiful black sea bass migrate into Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound from May through June to spawn. During the spring spawning season, these bottom-dwellers become particularly aggressive and fun to catch. Black sea bass has a delicate flavor and a firmer, less oily texture than their striped cousins – meaning they hold up particularly well to grilling or baking whole.
Black sea bass recipes to try: Lime and cilantro stuffed black sea bass (Bon Appetit), Braised black sea bass (Fine Cooking), Crispy-skin black sea bass with avocado, tomatillo, and fennel relish (Food Network)
Anglers have a healthy measure of respect for bluefish, which form exciting feeding frenzies near the water’s surface in late summer and put up quite a fight when hooked. But when it comes to eating, bluefish’s strong marine flavor is polarizing. When cleaned and stored properly and eaten very fresh, bluefish can be delicious. Its flavor lends itself particularly well to the smokiness of grilling and smoking.
Bluefish recipes to try: Grilled bluefish with summer green goddess dressing (New England Today), Smoked bluefish pâté (Food and Wine), Bacon-wrapped baked bluefish (Saveur)
Salt Water Sportsman calls the tautog “one of the most cerebral fish in the ocean.” Also known as blackfish, these wreck-dwelling wrasses are so tricky to catch that skilled tautog fishermen keep their technique a guarded secret. If you do manage to land one of these fascinating fish during their fall runs through Buzzards Bay, you’re in for a culinary treat: tautog’s off-white flesh is firm and creamy, with a distinctive earthy flavor.
White Fish (Scup, Fluke, Flounder)
“White fish” is a term that you may often come across in seafood recipes. While each of these fish is wildly different in the eyes of anglers and scientists, they’re much the same to a chef: all are tender, delicate, and flaky, with a mild and buttery flavor. These “white fish” are largely interchangeable for the recipes below, though we encourage you to test your palate and give them all a try!
White fish recipes to try: Roasted scup with briny herb sauce (Edible Boston), Crispy summer flounder with scallion-corn ragout (New England Today), Flounder with lemon butter sauce (Leite’s Culinaria), Baked flounder with parmesan crumbs (Food & Wine)
Like fishing, recreational shellfishing requires a permit – but shellfishing licenses come from your local town rather than the state. Every town has different license fees, regulations, and open shellfishing areas and seasons, so check with your town’s shellfish warden or town clerk for more information. (Here’s a handy list of links to shellfishing information in every Buzzards Bay town, and this map shows the waterways where you might find different species.) There are also state-wide recreational shellfish regulations for clams, bay scallops, oysters, and other popular species.
Abundant, delicious, and easy to harvest, quahogs are by far the most popular shellfish species on Buzzards Bay. Whether you’re digging your own or buying from a local supplier, you’ll need to pick the size of clam you bring home based on what you’re going to cook: smaller littlenecks, cherrystones, and steamers are good to eat whole, while large, robust “chowder clams” are great for – you guessed it – chowder, as well as stuffies.
Purists will say that the only way to eat an oyster is raw, or “on the half shell,” swimming in the salty liquid that these bivalves retain after harvesting. If you’re new to the idea of slurping oysters raw, try them first with a dash of lemon juice, cocktail sauce, horseradish, or a classic mignonette, a flavorful sauce that compliments oysters’ sweet, mineral flavor. But if you can’t quite stomach these shellfish raw, don’t fret: there are many delicious ways to enjoy oysters cooked instead!
Bay scallops are one of Buzzards Bay’s signature species. Although cloudy, nitrogen-polluted waters have caused bay scallops to suffer a stunning collapse over the last 40 years, you can still harvest them recreationally from the Bay during their fall/winter season. If these delicious shellfish end up in your kitchen, you’re in luck: bay scallops are so sweet and delicate that you could easily sear them unseasoned in a frying pan and call it dinner. Just be sure not to overcook them, as they have a very tender texture and only need a few minutes before they’re done.
Blue mussels are among the easiest shellfish to harvest yourself. Since they grow directly on hard surfaces along the shoreline, gathering mussels is as simple as measuring their size and plucking them off a rock. Once you’ve cleaned their shells and removed their “beards” (the thread that attaches mussels to rocks), you can cook them up in just minutes. Mussels have a rich, savory flavor that pairs particularly well with garlic.
Mussel recipes to try: Portuguese-style mussels in garlic cream sauce (A Family Feast), Strawberry tomato rosé mussels (The Coastal Table), Mussels with Thai red curry broth and rice noodles (Serious Eats)
You’ve certainly seen these abundant snails latched to rocks around the Bay’s shores, but did you know that you can eat them? Periwinkles are a popular food in Portugal, Spain, and the UK (where gathering them is called “winkling”). Use a pin or toothpick to pull them from their shell, and you’ll see the periwinkles have a surprisingly long (and curly!) body, with a soft texture and a flavor similar to a quahog.
Periwinkle recipes to try: “Shoreline stew”: Portuguese-style pork and clams with periwinkles (Three Tastes), Scituate periwinkles with hard cider and seaweed (Eat the Invaders), Cantonese-style periwinkles in black bean sauce (The Woks of Life)
Although blue crabs might be known as the signature shellfish of mid-Atlantic states, they can also be found around Buzzards Bay’s shallow, marshy areas, like rivers, estuaries, and tidal creeks. These feisty crabs are fun to catch with kids, and you don’t need a permit in Massachusetts if you’re catching them by hand. You can take home as many as 25 five-inch-wide crabs per day, and from there start experimenting with the many ways to cook and eat these “beautiful swimmers.”
Yes…seaweed! Hailed as the “next kale,” this superfood goes beyond sushi wrappers. Try seaweed raw in a salad, dried and sprinkled on popcorn, layered in a sandwich, wrapped around fish on the grill, or to add thickness and flavor to soups. Down East Magazine has a good guide to edible seaweeds, many of which can be found in Buzzards Bay. Use scissors to snip off the top parts of healthy plants still growing on rocks. (Don’t pick seaweed up off the beach, where it’s already begun to decompose.)