Fishing in Maryland: A Beginner's Guide
Nov 24, 2021 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Nicknamed “America in Miniature,” Maryland features an incredible diversity of landscapes. From forests and rolling hills to marshlands and dunes sprinkled with seagrass, this stretch of the Mid-Atlantic has it all. But more than anything else, Maryland is defined by the extensive Chesapeake Bay system nearly splitting the state in half. With such abundant waterways, it’s no wonder that fishing in Maryland is world-class.

A view of the city dock in Annapolis, Maryland with a boat in the water and colorful buildings in the background.

Maryland is home to numerous rivers and streams, most of which eventually flow into the bay. These serve as habitats for some of the most exciting freshwater fish out there, including the fly fishing favorite – Trout. Saltwater anglers, on the other hand, visit the state in the hope of catching Striped Bass or one of the many other species that swim in the bay and ocean. 

In this article, we’ll provide a rundown of the fishing this part of America offers. You’ll be able to read a little about saltwater and freshwater angling, as well as where, when, and how to do it. So if you’re planning an outdoor vacation in this beautiful state, read on and get to know this exciting fishery with us.

What fish can you catch in Maryland?

The Chesapeake Bay, its extensive watershed, and the Atlantic Ocean are rich with countless species of fish. Once you start exploring these waters and wrestle your first Rockfish, you’ll be itching to come back for more. To give you an idea of what you can expect to bite, we’ll cover a few of our favorite fish to target.

Striped Bass (Rockfish)

Three anglers posing with a big Striped Bass they caught fishing in Maryland.

Around these parts, there’s no species more beloved than Maryland’s state fish, the Striped Bass. Referred to as Rockfish by the locals – likely because they like to hide along the reefs and rocky edges – Striped Bass are the most sought-after fish in Maryland. They’re fantastic fighters, capable of growing to sizes of over 50 pounds. Rockfish are also delicious to eat, as long as you’re allowed to keep them. 

Chesapeake Bay is one of the best Striped Bass fisheries in the world. The Rockfish season usually starts around mid-spring and lasts all the way until winter. Spring is the best time to catch trophy Stripers, although you’ll have to release them then. October, also called “Rocktober,” is when Striped Bass fall into a feeding frenzy, coming near the surface in large numbers.

Of course, the bay is not the only place where you can fish for Striped Bass in Maryland. The Potomac River is another body of water renowned for its Striped Bass fishery. You can also find these feisty fish in several landlocked reservoirs, including Liberty, Piney Run, Rocky Gorge, and Triadelphia.

Tautog

A fisherman standing on a boat, posing with a Tautog he caught with some fishing gear and the ocean in the background.

Tautog are among the best eating fish you can catch in Maryland. They’re fun to target no matter your skill level. However, they can be tricky to catch, often blitzing into nearby wrecks in an attempt to cut you off. You’ll also need to be patient when setting the hook and wait for that “thump” before you start pulling them in.

In this part of the Mid-Atlantic, it’s possible to catch Tautog year-round, although the season is closed for a portion of spring and early summer. You’ll find Tautog lurking around wrecks and similar underwater structure. Captains in Ocean City frequently fish for them, so your best bet is to hop on a charter there. Tautog like the cold, so the best seasons to catch them are autumn and spring.

Flounder

A family posing for a photo on a dock in Maryland, holding two Flounders that they caught.

If you’re planning a summer vacation along the Chesapeake Bay, don’t miss out on Flounder fishing. These fish are as delicious as they are weird-looking, making them a fun target for families, as well as anglers looking for something to eat. On top of that, they’re a beginner-friendly fish and a great target species if you’re looking to get your kid their first catch. 

In Maryland, Flounder fishing mostly takes place south of Annapolis, in the middle part of the bay. These flatfish usually start showing up in spring, with the heat of the summer being the best time to reel them in. You’ll find Flounder hiding on the bottom around wrecks, reefs, and under bridges.

Trout

A closeup of a person's hands holding a big Brook Trout.

Trout fishing in Maryland is nothing short of оutstanding. And it’s no wonder, considering there are over a hundred bodies of water throughout the state where you can find these beautiful fish. Native Brook Trout, dazzling Rainbow Trout, as well as fickle Brown Trout all swim through these waters. They are famously difficult to trick, making it so rewarding once you finally get them to bite. 

The Trout season is open year-round in Maryland, except when the fish are being stocked. If you’re planning a trip, check the DNR website to make sure the fishing is open. We’ll also mention a couple of popular Trout fishing spots later on in the article, so you’ll have somewhere to start.

And More!

An angler standing on the deck of a boat, holding a big Mahi Mahi with the ocean in the background.

The species we covered above are just a few of the many you’ll encounter on your day on the water! Of course, what you’ll hook will vary depending on when you visit and the general conditions. We named a few fish you can find in the bay, but don’t be surprised to see the likes of Bluefish, Spotted Seatrout, Catfish, and Cobia biting the end of your line.

Deep sea fishing in Maryland is equally amazing, with various pelagic species making their way along the Gulf Stream. You’ll find beautiful Mahi Mahi, giant Tuna, and an assortment of Billfish migrating offshore along the coast. You just have to get ready for a few hours of travel. The prime fishing grounds lie anywhere between 55 and 75 miles offshore.

When it comes to freshwater fishing, we mentioned Trout, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maryland offers some of the finest waterways for anglers looking to fish for Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, elusive Snakehead, and more.

Types of Fishing in Maryland

Charter Fishing

A photo of an offshore fishing boat speeding through the ocean.

Charter fishing is a fantastic way to get to know Maryland’s waters. With a seasoned professional on your side, you’ll have a much easier time getting to all the sweet spots. Charter captains will also provide you with the right type of equipment for your trip, saving you the trouble of bringing your own.

If you’ve set your sights on fishing the Gulf Stream, an appropriate vessel and an experienced guide are a must. In Ocean City, you’ll find captains that have dedicated their lives to offshore fishing. With their know-how, you’ll have the best chance to reel in a trophy.

Shore Fishing

A father and son standing on the beach, surf fishing at sunset.

Just picture yourself casting from the scenic shores of Gunpowder Falls, fly fishing for Trout. Or imagine standing on the Ocean City pier, enjoying the salty breeze as you drop your line to the bottom for some Flounder. Maybe you’re wrestling a Catfish along a riverbank? Let your imagination run wild because it’s all in the cards when you’re shore fishing in Maryland.

All you need to do is figure out what you want to fish for. For those eager to catch some saltwater fish, we’ve compiled a list of top fishing piers in Maryland. If you’re more interested in freshwater fishing, why not give the mighty Potomac a try? No matter where you go, remember to get the appropriate license before you set out.

Crabbing in Maryland

A photo of a Blue Crab on a wooden dock with its claws raised in the air.

If you’re visiting Maryland, make sure to take part in one of the local favorite leisure activities – crabbing. It’s an activity for all ages – natives and newcomers alike. Maryland Blue Crab is considered to be one of the most delicious crustaceans out there. With a delicate, sweet taste, it’s a treat you don’t want to miss out on.

Crabbing is also super fun, and if you’re only doing it with a handline and a dip net, you won’t even need a license. You can catch Blue Crab either from a dock or aboard a boat. Besides handlining, you may get to see charter captains running a trotline or simply setting out traps. 

Best Fishing Spots in Maryland

Once you’ve decided which species you want to cross off the bucket list, it’s time to pick where you want to fish. The fishing in Maryland is diverse and absolutely amazing, so it’s hard to make a mistake. We’ll list a few solid places to start from but keep in mind that there are probably a hundred other destinations to choose from.

Saltwater Fishing Spots

Wild horses strolling along the beach on Assateague Island, Maryland.
  • Deale: If you’re looking to explore the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll find plenty of experienced captains running trips out of Deale. It’s a popular village for boaters that will give you easy access to the bay waters. Rockfish, Flounder, Croaker, and many other species can be caught here.
  • Ocean City: Located on the coast of the Atlantic, Ocean City features incredible fishing. Whether you’re fishing from a boat or the city’s pier, you’re in for an exciting day of angling. Hit the nearshore wrecks for some Tautog, fight some Striped Bass, or look for Redfish and Bluefish.
  • Assateague Island: For nature lovers, paying a visit to Assateague Island’s stunning beaches is a must. With herds of wild horses, as well as amazing surf fishing opportunities, it’s an outdoor paradise. In the surf, you can fish for Striped Bass, Redfish, as well as many other inshore species.
  • Offshore Canyons: The canyons located around 55 to 70 miles offshore feature some of the best deep sea fishing in Maryland. As long as you can brave the seas, you’ll get a chance to catch your next trophy. From monster Sharks, to mighty Tuna, Marlin, and Mahi Mahi, there’s always something to reel in.

Freshwater Fishing Spots

A photo of Deep Creek Lake in fall, with some boats in the water near the shore and colorful trees in the foreground and the background.
  • Gunpowder Falls: Lauded for its Trout fishing, Gunpowder Falls is the ideal place to spend a relaxing day enjoying nature at its fullest. You can catch Brown, Brook, and Rainbow Trout here, with Brown Trout being the most common species you’ll run into. 
  • Savage River: Surrounded by lush forests, the Savage River is a hidden fly fishing heaven, perfect for anglers looking to catch some Trout. You can cast for Maryland’s native Brook Trout here, as well as the other two species – Brown and Rainbow Trout. For anyone looking to escape the city life, it’s the perfect destination. 
  • Youghiogheny River Reservoir: Situated on the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, this lake is known for its naturally reproducing Walleye population. In addition to these, you’ll also be able to hook into Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, and more.
  • Deep Creek Lake: As Maryland’s largest inland lake, Deep Creek Lake is a fantastic choice for anyone looking to fish for Bass, Walleye, Pike, and numerous other species. It’s also a popular ice fishing lake during wintertime, especially during January and February.

Maryland Fishing Regulations

An infographic that says "Maryland Fishing Regulations" with "What you need to know" written right below it.

Depending on where and how you decide to fish in Maryland, the regulations vary. Saltwater anglers fishing aboard a licensed charter won’t need to get a license, whether they’re fishing the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean. However, everyone above the age of 16 will have to buy a Maryland fishing license if they’re fishing solo. 

Freshwater fishing regulations are similar, but if you’re fishing with a guide, you’ll still have to purchase a license. Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll also have to get a Trout stamp if you plan on fishing for those. This applies to most anglers aged 16 and older, with some exemptions. We’ve covered all of these in our Maryland Fishing License guide, so you have everything in one spot.

Catch regulations are another thing you should keep in mind when planning a trip to Maryland. In order to preserve their numbers, many fish species have strict seasons, as well as size limits. These vary from season to season so it’s a good idea to check the current regulations before you hit the waters.

Maryland: The Fishing Melting Pot

A photo of a fishing dock in Chesapeake Bay at sunrise.

From the shin-deep rapids to the dark blue Gulf Stream, the variety of fishing you’ll find in Maryland knows no bounds. Beginner anglers, offshore specialists, as well as fly fishing addicts can all find their own slice of sportfishing heaven here. Families will also enjoy vacationing in the “Free State,” as there’s plenty of breathtaking scenery to take in and introduce your children to. Oh, and make sure you try the crab cakes!

What do you enjoy most about fishing in Maryland? What’s your favorite species to target? Let us know in the comments below!

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