Vol 37 | Num 13 | Jul 25, 2012
Licensing Requirements for Coastal Sportfishermen
The opportunities for sportfishermen in and around Ocean City are almost endless. From the great fishing in the back bays for flounder, croaker, blues and sea trout to the offshore canyons and the chance to catch marlin, tuna and wahoo and many other opportunities in between, great fishing is available for all skill levels. Among the frequently asked questions of bait and tackle store employees, and for us here at DNR is….What type of license do I need to go fishing?
By now, most fishermen know that Maryland’s saltwater fishing license was extended to include Maryland’s coast in 2011. But they also know the requirements to fish offshore and inshore can differ. This week’s article will focus on a variety of scenarios and what license you’ll need to fish in each one.
After 5 PM, when the life guards have left the beaches in Ocean City, fishermen are allowed access to the surf. On Assateague Island, fishermen are allowed access to the surf in Maryland’s State Park portion (the northernmost part of the island) anytime, but must stay outside the lifeguarded areas. The policy is the same in the National Park section (from the lower boundary of the Maryland State Park to the Virginia State line), where fishermen are allowed access 24 hours per day, unless there is an area closure for nesting birds.
In all locations, fishermen 16 years of age or older will need a Maryland Chesapeake & Coastal Sportfishing license. An annual or short-term license (7 days) is available. Maryland honors Virginia’s Saltwater Fishing License if the angler registers in Maryland, but does not honor Delaware’s Saltwater Fishing License.
Fishing from Shore in the Back Bays and Inlet Jetties
There are many locations that are publically accessible for sport anglers without a boat., These include: the north jetty of the Ocean City Inlet, Rt. 50 bridge, Convention Center promenade, Chicago Avenue bulkhead, Northside Park and many others. Anglers 16 years of age or older will need a Maryland Chesapeake and Coastal Sportfishing License. Maryland honors Virginia’s Saltwater Fishing License if the angler registers in Maryland, but does not honor Delaware’s Saltwater Fishing License.
Fishing from a Boat in the Coastal Bays and Inlet Jetties
From the Delaware line at the Rt. 54 bridge south to the Virginia line in Chincoteague Bay, there is plenty of room and many possibilities for anglers who are fishing by boat. Again, for anglers 16 years of age or older, a Maryland Chesapeake and Coastal Sportfishing License is required. Maryland offers a $50 Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sportfishing Pleasure Boat decal that satisfies our State’s license requirement for all registered passengers of the vessel on which the decal is placed. It is very popular, and allows individuals to fish for free from your decaled vessel if they have registered with the State. It is a great way to introduce others to the sport of fishing. The boat decal also comes with a complimentary individual license for the purchaser who may use the license to fish elsewhere in Maryland’s tidal waters off the boat. If a boat has a pleasure boat decal, all passengers, 16 years old and older, that are fishing on the boat but do not possess an individual Maryland Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sportfishing license must register with the State of Maryland. Registration is free, and can be done online or over the phone at 1-855-855-3906 or online at:
Registered anglers are e-mailed a registration, which they print out and carry with them aboard vessels with a Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sportfishing Pleasure boat decal.
If a vessel is fishing without a Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sportfishing pleasure boat decal, then all passengers 16 years of age or older will need to have an individual sport fishing license.
Fishing Offshore out to Three Nautical Miles
Maryland has jurisdictional responsibility for the waters from its coastal shoreline out three nautical miles. Within 3 miles of the Maryland shore, boat fishermen can fish Russell’s Reef for black sea bass and tautog, and Great Gull Shoal or Little Gull Shoal for croaker, flounder and sea trout along with other options close to the shore. The same requirements listed above for boat anglers in the coastal bays and inlet apply in these waters.
Fishing Offshore from Three Nautical Miles to 200 Nautical Miles
The waters off Maryland’s and all other state’s coastlines from 3-200 nautical miles (known as the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ) fall under jurisdiction of the Federal Government. A wide array of fishing opportunities exist in these waters. From bottom fishing on the near shore wrecks and reefs which are located anywhere from 6 to 26 miles offshore, to the Canyons and blue water 60 miles out, there are numerous opportunities. Anglers fishing in these waters for species such as sharks, tuna or billfish (marlin, swordfish & sailfish), the vessel will need to obtain a Highly Migratory Species (HMS) permit from NOAA Fisheries*. In addition, each passenger apart from the HMS permit purchaser will need to register with NOAA’s National Saltwater Angler Registry for a fee unless already licensed in an exempt State. That can be done online or over the phone at 1-888-MRIP-411 between the hours of 4 AM and Midnight or online at:
Anglers, 16 years old or older, fishing in the EEZ either need a Highly Migratory Species Permit, be registered with NOAA or have a saltwater fishing license from an exempt State (all except Hawaii, Puerto Rico & the U.S. Virgin Islands).
Anglers are responsible for reporting all Atlantic bluefin tuna (ABT) and billfish on board their vessel when they return to port. All recreationally landed ABT and billfish in Maryland must be tagged prior to landing and must be reported by vessel owners to the State-operated reporting station via catch card. Boats cannot be pulled from the water until the tag is in place. A tag is provided for each completed catch card and the angler is required to place this tag around the tail of the fish before removing it from the vessel.
Nine marinas in the Ocean City area qualify as a Recreational ABT/Billfish Reporting Station. Marinas distribute and collect catch cards, issue tags, and return leftover supplies to the Maryland DNR at the conclusion of the fishing season. In addition to the marinas, an after-hours kiosk is available at the Maryland DNR field office at 12917 Harbor Road in West Ocean City. Anglers that use the kiosk must complete the catch card and deposit it into the locked box at the kiosk. The receipt attached to the catch card replaces the tag.
As of October 17, 2007, anglers who recreationally land swordfish and billfish outside of tournaments can report their catches to the NMFS using the HMS Non-tournament Reporting website. The fish must be reported within one day of being landed. However, if these fish are landed in either Maryland or North Carolina, they must still be reported using a catch card. For a listing of the reporting stations, visit:
Are there places to Fish without Purchasing a Fishing License?
Yes. Passengers aboard party and charter boats are not required to purchase an individual license or register with the State. Passengers aboard a private vessel with a Chesapeake & Coastal Sportfishing license pleasure boat decal are not required to purchase an individual license (but must register – see above). Waterfront property owners and their non-paying guests are not required to purchase an individual fishing license, but must register with Maryland (see registration section above).
There are three privately run fishing piers that have a commercial license which cover those that fish on the piers. An individual license or registration is not needed. All three piers charge admission. The piers are:
• Oceanic Pier at the Ocean City Inlet
• Ocean Pier on the Boardwalk
• Frontier Town pier on the Chincoteague Bay
Do Senior Citizens Get a Discount?
Residents of Maryland who are 65 or older can purchase a Senior Consolidated license that allows them to fish in tidal and non tidal waters of the State of Maryland. Senior citizens that are residents of Virginia are exempt from a license in Virginia, but that exemption is not reciprocal in Maryland. They must buy a Nonresident Chesapeake & Coastal Sportfishing license or purchase a Virginia Resident Saltwater license and register in Maryland in order to fish in the tidal waters of Maryland.
Recreational Crabbing & Clamming in Maryland’s Coastal Bays
There is no license required to recreationally crab or harvest hard clams in Maryland’s coastal bays. Please reference the following link for regulations on minimum sizes, harvest limits and gear restrictions:
If you have any questions regarding fishing or fisheries management in Ocean City and Maryland’s Atlantic coast, please contact Keith Lockwood: email@example.com or call 410-226-0078.