Federal Highly Migratory Species Fishing Regulations
Obtaining Permits for Atlantic Tuna, Billfish, Swordfish, and Sharks
Vessel Permit Requirements
- Mandatory Federal Permits: Owners of vessels intending to fish recreationally in federal waters for Atlantic tunas, billfishes, swordfish, and sharks (excluding spiny dogfish) need a valid federal fishing permit.
- Shark Endorsement: Specifically for shark fishing in federal waters, a shark endorsement is required on the federal permit.
- Permit Acquisition: To obtain the necessary permits and endorsements, visit hmspermits.noaa.gov or call 888-872-8862.
- NOAA’s National Saltwater Angler Registry: Passengers on vessels without a highly migratory species permit or without a state saltwater fishing license must register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry. Registration is available at st.nmfs.noaa.gov/nnri/.
Reporting and Landing Requirements
- Catch Reporting: Catches of bluefin tuna, billfishes, swordfish, and sharks must be reported through the Maryland Catch Card Census.
- Tagging Requirements: A completed catch card must be exchanged for a tag, which is then placed around the tail of the catch before moving it from the vessel. Shore-caught sharks must be tagged before being moved from the landing point. Vessels cannot be removed from the water until the tag is secured.
Reporting Stations and Catch Cards
- Tag and Catch Card Locations: Available at specific reporting stations throughout Ocean City and surrounding areas, including Alltackle, Assateague Island National Seashore, Atlantic Tackle, and more.
- Online Access: Catch cards can also be downloaded from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/pages/coastal/tagging.aspx.
Legal and Illegal Practices
- Commercial Activities: Selling, bartering, or trading of sharks or shark parts is illegal.
- Shark Finning: Engaging in shark finning, the act of removing fins from sharks and discarding the rest of the shark at sea, is prohibited.
- At-Sea Processing: Sharks must be landed with heads, tails, and fins naturally attached to the carcass.
For further details on restrictions and compliance, anglers are encouraged to visit the NOAA Fisheries website dedicated to Atlantic highly migratory species at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-fishery-compliance-guides.
Gear Restrictions for Sustainable Fishing
- Permitted Gear: Only handlines or rod and reel are allowed for fishing highly migratory species.
- Hook Requirements: Use of corrodible, non-stainless circle hooks is mandatory, except when fishing with artificial flies/lures.
- Safety Equipment: Anglers must possess a device capable of quickly cutting either the leader or the hook to facilitate safe and quick releases.
Private Recreational Tilefish Fishing: Permit and Reporting Guidelines
Permit Requirements for Tilefish Fishing
Federal Private Recreational Tilefish Vessel Permit
- Applicability: This requirement is for all private recreational vessels aiming to fish for blueline or golden tilefish from Virginia to Maine, north of the North Carolina/Virginia border.
- Permit Acquisition: Before embarking on a fishing trip targeting or retaining these species, the vessel must secure a Federal private recreational tilefish vessel permit.
- How to Apply: Permits can be obtained through the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Fish Online portal. Visit the website at Fish Online to apply.
Mandatory Trip Reporting
- Obligation: Operators of recreational vessels must report all fishing trips that targeted or retained golden or blueline tilefish within 24 hours of returning to port.
- Reporting Method: Reports must be submitted using an approved electronic vessel trip reporting (eVTR) system.
- eVTR Information: To explore eVTR options and learn how to comply with these reporting requirements, visit the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's webpage dedicated to recreational tilefish electronic reporting at MAFMC Recreational Tilefish eVTR.
Roundscale Spearfish Look Very Similar to White Marlin
For accurate identification of swordfish, billfish, and to differentiate roundscale spearfish from white marlin, resources are available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Visit the Atlantic Swordfish and Billfish Identification Guide at NOAA Fisheries Educational Materials.
HMS Catch Card Reporting
Mandatory Reporting for Specific Catches
All landings of bluefin tuna, billfishes, swordfish, and sharks in Maryland waters must be documented using the Maryland Catch Card Census. This process is crucial for managing and sustaining fish populations.
Catch Card Procedure
- Catch Card Completion: Anglers are required to fill out a catch card for each catch of the specified species.
- Tagging Requirement: Upon completion, the catch card must be exchanged for a tag. This tag is then secured around the tail of the landed fish before it is moved from the vessel. For sharks caught from shore, tagging must occur before moving the catch from the landing point.
- Vessel Regulation: It is mandatory to keep the vessel in the water until the tag is properly affixed to the catch.
Obtaining Catch Cards
Catch cards are readily available at designated locations throughout Maryland. Additionally, for convenience and ease of access, anglers have the option to print their own catch cards from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website. To print a catch card or for more information, visit DNR Coastal Fish Tagging.