The Free State is a truly special place for anglers. From the humming rivers of the mainland to the fish-filled waters of Chesapeake Bay, all the way to the bluewater expanse of the Atlantic, Maryland has everything an angler could hope for. A fishery this impressive deserves an equally exciting fish to represent it. Thankfully, the Maryland state fish lives up to the task.
Striped Bass, or Rockfish, as they’re known in these parts, are one of the most iconic game fish on the East Coast. Instantly recognizable by their dark stripes and silvery shiny flanks, these guys are a joy to behold.
Dashing looks aside, a big part of Stripers’ charm is that they’re a notoriously aggressive fish. Known for taking pretty much any lure or bait thrown their way, they’ll make any angler’s heart jump. Pair up that fighting spirit with their sheer size, and you’ll see why Stripers have made their way into countless anglers’ hearts.
Stripers have a devout following in the sportfishing world. While most of these anglers practice catch and release, there are many who fish for Stripers because of their delicious taste.
The reason why they’re so popular in Maryland is that you can find them virtually all over the state. Considering that nearly a quarter of the Free State is made up of water, you’re never too far from a good Rockfish bite.
Striped Bass are an anadromous fish, spending part of their lives in saltwater, and part in freshwater. These creatures live for a long time, and some can make it up to 30 years old! As a result, Stripers can get very big.
Depending on where you’re wetting your line, you’ll find Stripers anywhere between 10 to 40 pounds. If you’re lucky, you might encounter a 50 lb behemoth! Given the Stripers’ worrisome conservation status, however, we recommend you release these breeders.
The largest recorded Rockfish caught in Maryland weighed in at a whopping 67 pounds 8 ounces. What’s even more impressive is who caught it. Devin Nolan, a 12-year-old student from Hampstead, landed the 52″ monster on May 13, 1995, just off Bloody Point on Kent Island.
When and Where
Between the Atlantic, the Chesapeake Bay, and all its tributaries, Striper anglers have a lot to choose from. Up north, the Susquehanna and Elk rivers attract anglers year after year. A short drive south, and the Severn River and the lower reaches of the Potomac are two hotspots you don’t want to miss.
And while river fishing for Stripers is awesome, it’s the Chesapeake Bay that gave Stripers their legendary status. This place sees more Striper landings than any other, and is a big reason why they were named Maryland’s state fish. To get your taste of the action, check out some of the hotspots near Hoopers, Taylor’s, and Kent Island.
Last but not least, you can catch Rockfish in the ocean. Striper fishing in the Atlantic is a completely different experience from what you’ll find in the Bay. As such, it requires an experienced fishing guide. Thankfully, Ocean City has plenty of those.
While it is possible to encounter a Striper pretty much all over Maryland, chances are you won’t be able to land one whenever you want. Rockfish populations have been in decline over the last several years. As a result, you can now only catch them in designated areas, and only when the season is open.
The wait is more than worth it, though. Catching a Striper is one of the most rewarding experiences an angler can have. Snag a keeper, and you’ll have a tasty dinner to round the day off with, too.
So there you have it. What’s your favorite thing about the state fish of Maryland? When’s the last time you caught a Striper? Let us know in the comments below.