Baltimore Fishing Guide

From Bluegill to summer flounder, getting a recreational fishing license can allow you to legally catch an abundance of fish. The Chesapeake Bay is filled with sea life, including 3,600 different species of aquatic wildlife and plants. While the bluefish is a very popular game of fish, other common fish that populate the Bay include striped bass, Atlantic croaker, bluegill and American shad. Additionally, species like rock bass and rainbow trout can be caught in many freshwater hotspots in Baltimore.

In order to legally fish in Baltimore, there are a few things you will need to know and take care of prior to getting out on the water. This includes obtaining a fishing license, if needed, following open and closed seasons and adhering to gear regulations. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources establishes and enforces all of these laws and regulations. Whether you are fishing in the Inner Harbor or Gunpowder Falls, here is the ultimate guide to fishing in Baltimore.

Who needs a fishing license in Baltimore?

In order to recreationally fish in Baltimore, you must obtain a fishing license. However, there are certain instances where you will not need a license. You will not need a license, for example, if you:

  • Are younger than 16 years of age.
  • Have a valid commercial tidal fish license.
  • Have a Potomac River Fisheries Commission recreational license.
  • Are a registered angler with the State of Maryland and hold a Virginia saltwater recreational fishing license.
  • Are a registered angler with the State of Maryland and are fishing from a boat that holds a valid tidal or salt water license issued by the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia or the Potomac River Fisheries Commission.

Additionally, there are certain areas where you do not need a fishing license to take fish. This includes fishing from a licensed commercial fishing pier or a licensed charter boat. To fish on a free fishing pier, you do not need to hold a license. However, you must be a registered angler with the State of Maryland.

If you are fishing from private real property or an attached pier in the Potomac River, then you must be the owner of that property or a guest of the owner’s property. You may also choose to fish without a license on any free fishing day. These days fall on the first two Saturdays in June and on the fourth of July.

If you want to see what Maryland’s world-famous crab is all about, you may or may not need a license depending on where and how you crab. You can crab recreationally without a license at any time from any dock, pier, bridge, boat and shoreline as long as you only use dip nets or hand lines. You are only permitted to catch up to two dozen male hard crabs and one dozen soft crabs and male peelers.

The Department does allow that you catch a combination of male peeler and soft crab within the dozen. However, you will need a crabbing license to use crab traps, net rings, seines or trotlines while crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.

Types of Fishing Licenses in Baltimore

There are several types of fishing licenses in Baltimore to choose from. These vary depending on whether you are a resident or non-resident or meet special eligibility requirements. Additionally, there are short-term licenses available. This option is ideal if you would like to try fishing out for the first time or are visiting for a weekend fishing trip.

There are also distinct licenses for fishing in freshwater and saltwater. All of these licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase, except for short-term licenses. Knowing the type of licenses available can help you choose which license is best fitted for your next trip. The most common types of fishing licenses include:

  • Non-tidal fishing licenses available for three days up to a year. This license allows you to fish in all fresh waters, including lakes and streams.
  • Chesapeake Bay and Coastal sport fishing licenses available for three days up to a year. This license permits you to fish in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, as well as the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlantic coastal bays and tributaries.
  • Annual recreational crabbing licenses for you to crab with specific gear, such as a trotline or net rings.
  • Trout stamps, which allow you to fish any special catch and to possess trout taken from non-tidal waters.

Additionally, there are fishing licenses available for seniors and complimentary licenses available for residents and nonresidents who are blind, disabled veterans or prisoners of war. Boat licenses permit the purchasers of the license and any individual on board the vessel to fish or catch crabs for recreational purposes. Therefore, those fishing on a licensed boat do not need a fishing license. Those who wish to fish on board a licensed sport boat must be registered with the Department.

How to Get a Fishing License in Baltimore

The process of getting a fishing license in Baltimore is quite simple. Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides four ways for you to purchase a license. However, the most convenient option is using the Department’s online COMPASS portal. You can purchase a variety of recreational licenses, permits and stamps at any time.

The portal offers self-service access seven days a week and 24 hours a day. Simply create an account and complete the portal’s six-step customer enrollment process. Once you have enrolled, you will be able to log in and purchase your license.

If you do not have access to a computer or printer, then you can still purchase a license in person through a local license agent or a DNR Regional service center. There are over 20 license agents in Baltimore, including Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and local bait and tackle shops. These are also great locations for buying necessary fishing gear.

You can also order your fishing license by mailing an application along with the applicable fees to your nearest DNR service center.

Fishing Laws in Baltimore

In order to maintain fishing privileges in Baltimore, you must follow all fishing laws and regulations. These are intended to conserve and improve the fish populations and allow for fishing for many generations to come. Fishing seasons, in particular, protect fish species during spawning or reproduction to allow them to revive their populations. They also prevent overfishing from occurring. Fishing licenses help monitor and manage fishing in the state.

Before heading out on your next fishing trip, make sure that you are aware of all of the fishing regulations regarding the body of water you are fishing from and the type of species you plan to take. This includes knowing what recreational gear is permitted in fresh and salt bodies of water, as well as the rules and exceptions to these gears. You will also need to know the seasons, minimum size limits and daily bag limits for the species you are taking.