When people say that boredom doesn’t stand a chance in the “Free State,” they mean it. Maryland is so incredibly diverse, especially its water activities and angling opportunities. To conquer these thousands of miles of shoreline, you will need to do two things. First of all, you’ll need to pick which type of fishing you’d like to tackle first – salt or freshwater. Secondly, you’ll need to purchase a valid Maryland fishing license.
From the mighty Chesapeake Bay and its Perch to Dundee Creek at Gunpowder Falls State Park with amazing Chain Pickerel – it does, indeed, never get boring.
In this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know how to legally fish in the “Old Line State,” what type of fishing license you need depending on your age, purpose, residency status, preferred duration, and more.
Looking for info on neighboring states, or around the US in general? Check out our full list of licensing guides here.
Who needs a fishing license in Maryland?
There are two major types of licenses available – the non-Tidal/Freshwater and the Chesapeake Bay & Coastal. So, you’ll need two separate licenses for fresh- and saltwater fishing in Maryland. Every angler aged 16 or older must carry one of those to fish, unless, of course, they qualify for an exemption. More on this in the following sections.
You are considered a Maryland resident if:
- Your domicile is or was in the state.
- You’re a statutory resident who maintained a place of abode in the state for at least 6 months, but your permanent residence is outside of Maryland
*a person’s domicile is their permanent residence/home
Maryland License Types
Whether you want to check one of the bays – the Chesapeake or Chincoteague, cast your line in Deep Creek Lake State Park, or see what’s biting in Maryland’s various lakes and ponds, you’ll need to get an appropriate license. Let’s go through the main types so that you could learn which options you have.
Freshwater licenses in Maryland are known as Non-Tidal licenses. Anglers can choose between three available options. There’s an annual non-tidal license that allows you to fish the waters of Maryland for 365 days from the date you purchase it. The shorter options include 7 days for both residents and visitors and 3-day licenses for visitors only.
Maryland residents aged 65 or older, or those who will turn 65 in the current calendar year, can obtain a Resident Consolidated License. This type of license not only allows them to fish in the state’s freshwater but also in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries along the Atlantic coast and coastal bays for 365 days from the date of purchase.
Both residents and visitors need to purchase the Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sport Fishing license to fish in the Bay and its tributaries, as well as state waters of the Atlantic and coastal bays and tributaries. The duration of those licenses is the same as for the Non-Tidal – the annual, weekly, and 3-day options are available.
Some areas require all saltwater anglers to register with Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration. If you’re not required to get a Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sport Fishing license, you’ll still have to register. The good news is that it’s free!
If you’re planning to fish for Trout, you’ll need to purchase a Trout stamp ahead of time. This rule applies to all special catch and release Trout management areas, as well the non-tidal waters of the state that allows you to posses Trout. This permit is necessary for both resident and non-resident anglers.
Since some of the non-tidal options, such as a 3-day fishing license, are available only to non-residents, the fee will depend on your home state. Here’s the list of fees in each state.
|License Type||Resident Cost||Non-resident Cost|
||home state fee
|Chesapeake Bay & Coastal (Annual)||$15.00||$22.50|
|Chesapeake Bay & Coastal (7-day)||$6.00
|Resident Senior Consolidated||$5.00
Who can fish without a license?
As we’ve mentioned before, there are exemptions for both freshwater and saltwater licenses. Here’s the list of general exemptions:
- All anglers under the age of 16.
- Maryland residents on active duty with the Armed Forces (on leave with official orders) can fish without a license.
- All anglers who decide to fish on the special Free Fishing days during the summer months.
- All anglers who want to fish in the license-free areas. Note that some areas require you to have a Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration. You can learn more here.
- If you are blind, tidal and non-tidal licenses are available free of charge. Although it’s complimentary, you’ll still need to get one.
- If you are a 100% service-connected disabled veteran or former prisoner of war, you get a complimentary lifetime license. This includes both fresh- and saltwater types, as well as Trout stamps.
- A property owner or tenant, their spouse, child, or the child’s spouse residing there don’t need to get a license to catch fish from the property’s shoreline. That is, of course, if they confirm their riparian ownership before fishing.
If you are fishing from a licensed charter boat, they will cover your fishing license, so you won’t need to purchase one in advance. There’s a special Consolidated Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sport Boat License that allows you and everyone on board a vessel to fish for pleasure. This type covers the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, along with the state waters in the Atlantic, its coastal bays, and tributaries.
Maryland has a reciprocity agreement with Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. However, there are a couple of things that you need to consider if you’re a resident of any of these states before you head out to fish in Maryland.
- A Virginia resident who holds a valid non-tidal fishing license can fish in the Potomac River opposite the shore of Virginia.
- With a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license and a Maryland Saltwater Anglers Registration, anglers can fish in Maryland tidal waters regardless of their residency.
- A West Virginia resident with a valid WV license can fish in the non-tidal Potomac River.
- A Pennsylvania resident with a valid PA fishing license can fish within Maryland’s boundaries of the Conowingo and Youghiogheny reservoirs.
- If you hold a Potomac River Fisheries Commission recreational fishing license, you can fish the tidal waters of Maryland.
Where to buy your Maryland fishing license?
Now that you’ve learned about the types of fishing licenses available in Maryland and how much they cost, it’s time to find the best way to buy them. Note that your annual license is valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.
- Online. This is the easiest way to get your license. You can buy it through the Department of Natural Resources website’s COMPASS portal. This portal also allows you to reprint your license and register as a saltwater angler.
- In person. There are over 250 license agents in Maryland, with a lot of them working on weekends or have extended hours.
- By mail. Download a printable application from the Department of Natural Resources Forms website. Note that in order to view and print your application, you’ll need to have Adobe Acrobat software installed on your computer. Once you’ve completed the application, you’ll need to mail it (along with a check for the fees) to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Service Center.
If you are looking to apply for a DAV or POW license, you’ll need to fill in an application form and attach a letter of certification from the Veterans Administration with it. Find more information on that here.