Striped Bass Fishing Regulations in Maryland
Understanding the Legalities
In Maryland's tidal waters, specific regulations govern the handling and fishing of striped bass to ensure the species' sustainability and health. Here's a comprehensive overview:
Whole Landing Requirement: It's mandatory that striped bass be kept whole while on any boat within Maryland's tidal waters. Filleting or cutting up striped bass before landing is strictly prohibited, ensuring accurate size monitoring and species protection.
Hook Limitations: Anglers are limited to using no more than two hooks or two sets of hooks per rod or line. This includes artificial lures or plugs with multiple hooks, which count as one set of hooks, aiming to minimize harm to the fish.
Bait Restrictions: Using eels as bait is banned when hook-and-line fishing for striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries from December 11 through May 15. This measure is to protect the striped bass during vulnerable periods.
Culling Ban: The practice of culling, which involves catching and then releasing striped bass in favor of retaining larger fish, is not allowed. This rule helps to reduce stress and mortality among the striped bass population.
Time Restrictions: Possessing striped bass while fishing in the Chesapeake Bay or its tidal tributaries is forbidden between midnight and 5 a.m. This regulation is in place to protect the species during critical hours.
Gaff and Net Prohibition: Using a gaff or a cast net to remove striped bass from the water is illegal. These methods can cause significant harm to the fish, affecting their survival rates.
Spearfishing Ban: Capturing or attempting to capture striped bass with a spear gun and spear in tidal waters is prohibited, as this method is highly lethal and not conducive to catch-and-release practices.
Spawning Area Restrictions: Fishing for or practicing catch-and-release of striped bass in designated spawning areas is banned from March 1 to May 31. This critical period is when striped bass reproduce, and the regulation aims to protect them from disturbance and ensure successful spawning.
Snagging Ban: Intentionally snagging striped bass is illegal. Snagging, the act of hooking the fish in a part of the body other than the mouth, is considered unethical and harmful.
Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass Fishing Guide
Seasonal Fishing Regulations and Restrictions
Navigating the rules for striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries (excluding Susquehanna Flats, Lower Susquehanna River, and Northeast River) requires an understanding of specific seasonal regulations, creel and size limits, and restrictions. Here's a detailed breakdown to ensure compliance and conservation of the species:
January 1 - February 29
- Allowed Locations: Catch and release fishing is permitted in all Maryland Chesapeake Bay waters and the Potomac River.
- Regulations: Harvesting is not allowed; it's a catch and release only period.
- Restrictions: Use of barbless hooks is mandatory in the Potomac for striped bass, and eels cannot be used as bait.
March 1 - March 31
- Fishing Zone: Fishing is allowed from the Brewerton Channel to the Virginia line, including Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds.
- Regulations: No harvesting. Stinger (trailing) hooks are banned, and barbless hooks are required for trolling. When using natural bait, anglers must use non-offset circle hooks or J hooks with a gap of less than ½ inch.
- Additional Restrictions: A maximum of six lines may be used while trolling, regardless of the number of anglers on board. Fishing in spawning rivers and the Upper Bay spawning area is prohibited until June 1. Eels cannot be used as bait. Reference maps for specific areas are available on the Maryland DNR website.
April 1 - April 30
- Status: All areas are closed to striped bass fishing.
- Regulations: There's a strict prohibition on catch and release fishing for striped bass, making it illegal to attempt to catch them during this period.
May 1 - May 15
- Advisory: Check the Maryland DNR website for any regulatory updates regarding this period.
May 16 - December 31
- Future Dates: Information for dates beyond May 15th will be updated according to state regulations, ensuring anglers have the latest guidance for responsible fishing practices.
Striped Bass Fishing Framework for Susquehanna Flats and Surrounding Waters
Seasonal Overview and Regulatory Insight
The Susquehanna Flats, along with the Lower Susquehanna River and the Northeast River, have distinct seasonal fishing regulations designed to conserve the striped bass population and ensure sustainable fishing practices. These guidelines are vital for anglers fishing in these areas, highlighting permissible activities, creel and size limits, along with specific restrictions:
January 1 - February 29
- Fishing Status: Open exclusively for catch and release fishing across all waters.
- Creel and Size Limits: No harvest is permitted.
- Key Regulations: Fishing is strictly catch and release. The use of eels as bait is prohibited to protect the striped bass during this vulnerable period.
March 1 - March 31
- Designated Areas: Fishing is allowed in Susquehanna Flats, upstream from Sandy Point to Turkey Point, and in the Susquehanna River downstream from a line connecting the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp at Lapidum to Twin Rocks to Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit, including the Northeast River.
- Fishing Approach: Catch and release only.
- Regulations: The use of stinger (trailing) hooks is banned, and barbless hooks are required for trolling. When bait is used, anglers must employ non-offset circle hooks or J hooks with a gap of less than ½ inch. Trolling is limited to no more than six lines per boat, and the use of eels as bait is forbidden.
April 1 - May 15
- Fishing Closure: The Susquehanna Flats area is entirely closed to striped bass fishing.
- Activity Restrictions: No catch and release fishing is allowed, and it is illegal to attempt to catch striped bass during this closure period to protect the species during spawning.
May 16 - December 31
- Regulatory Updates: Anglers should consult the state's official resources for any changes or updates in regulations affecting fishing from May 16th onwards. This ensures adherence to the most current management measures for striped bass conservation.
Striped Bass Fishing in Maryland's Atlantic and Nontidal Waters
Atlantic Ocean, Coastal Bays, and Their Tributaries
- Location: Fishing for striped bass is permitted in all state waters of the Atlantic Ocean, coastal bays, and their tributaries without any area restrictions.
- Creel and Size Limits: Anglers are allowed to keep one fish per person per day, provided it measures between 28 and 31 inches.
- The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), extending from 3 to 200 miles off the coast, is off-limits for catching, harassing, or possessing striped bass.
- The use of non-offset circle hooks is mandated when employing fish, crabs, worms as bait, or processed baits to target striped bass, aiming to reduce unintended harm and increase survival rates upon release. Treble hooks are strictly prohibited to ensure the health and sustainability of the striped bass population.
Reservoirs, Lakes, and Ponds
- Open Season: Fishing is available year-round in all nontidal reservoirs, lakes, and ponds across the state.
- Creel and Size Limits: The daily limit is two fish per person, with an 18-inch minimum size requirement. Of these two fish, only one may exceed 30 inches, a regulation designed to protect larger breeding individuals within the population.
Nontidal Rivers and Streams
- Fishing Status: These areas are closed to striped bass fishing at all times to protect vulnerable habitats and ensure the species' long-term viability.
- General Restriction: Similar to coastal waters, the EEZ rules apply here, prohibiting the catch, harassment, or possession of striped bass in waters extending from 3 to 200 miles off the coast.