Baltimore is known for its outstanding seafood, especially its famous Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. There are hundreds of restaurants and fish markets offering fresh seafood to Baltimore’s residents and visitors. However, anglers usually prefer to catch their own fish. From freshwater to saltwater fishing, the greater Baltimore area abounds with places for anglers to easily score their own catch.
Most anglers age 16 and older must have a license to enjoy fishing in the Baltimore area. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers free fishing at several license-free fishing areas throughout the tidal portions of the Chesapeake Bay. The state also offers free fishing days each summer. Here are 10 of the top spots to catch fish near Baltimore.
1. Chesapeake Bay
Naturally, the best saltwater fishing in Maryland happens in the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the individual fishing sites listed below are good places to access Chesapeake waters from the shore, dock or pier. There are also dozens of sites where you can launch your own boat into the bay, or sign up for a fishing charter. Choose from family-friendly charter boats, deep sea charters or vessels that specialize in bowfishing or angling.
Anglers enjoy catching a wide variety of fish from the Chesapeake Bay and the availability of certain fish will vary by season. Deep-sea anglers and bow-fishers can expect to find cobia, red drum, black drum, shark, spadefish, striped bass and flounder. Closer to the shore, fishermen often catch speckled trout, croaker and bluefish. Depending on the location and season, the bay can also be a good place to go crabbing and clamming. Anglers must check with the Maryland Department of the Environment for current oyster, clam and other shellfish restrictions.
2. Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel is basically an artificial reef over 20 miles long that attracts dozens of inshore fish species. It also provides a prime structure for anglers to follow while targeting certain types of fish. The tunnel has four “islands” that each claim their own ecosystem. Anglers report some of their best catches happening near the bridge’s pilings or tubes.
Fishing along the bridge and tunnel provides access to a mixed bag of fish that varies seasonally. In the summer and into the fall, expect to find healthy schools of red and black drum. Throughout the year, you may have luck with cobia, sheepshead, spadefish, flounder, blues, rockfish and croaker.
3. Loch Raven Reservoir Watershed
Just north of the Baltimore Beltway, locals flock to the Loch Raven Reservoir to fish in one of the watersheds that supplies the city with water. They can rent a boat at the Loch Raven Fishing Center or use its ramp to launch their own craft into the reservoir. Sourced by Gunpowder Falls and adjacent to Gunpowder Falls State Park, this body of water is greater Baltimore’s favorite spot for bass fishing. It boasts a healthy, self-sustaining population of brown trout. It is also a good place to catch bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, chain pickerel and largemouth/smallmouth bass.
4. Gunpowder Falls State Park
Covering 18,000 acres in Harford and Baltimore Counties, Gunpowder State Park offers excellent freshwater and tidal fishing areas. It is also a great place to catch trout, as its waters are loaded with brown, rainbow and brook trout. The park includes boat launches, rowboat rentals, a marina store, a swimming beach and more. Many locals enjoy walking on the miles of hiking trails, visiting the falls and going tubing in addition to fishing.
5. Patapsco River
This tidal river extends through Carroll, Howard and Baltimore Counties and averages 50 feet in width. It is stocked with rainbow trout and smallmouth bass and its large pools are teeming with sunfish. Below the Inner Harbor, the river joins with four creeks: Bodkin, Main, Rock and Stony. The Patapsco River offers a range of fishing experiences, including wading and fly fishing.
Bass species in the Potomac include striped and rock bass. Anglers can also expect to catch American eel, river herring, gizzard shad, hickory shad, river chubs and white perch. The Daniels area of the river is especially popular with fly anglers.
6. Baltimore City Parks Fishing Piers
Managed by the City of Baltimore, these fishing piers and waterfront parks offer free fishing opportunities for Maryland residents, providing access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers:
- Canton Recreational Pier
- Hull Street Recreational Pier
- Middle Branch Park
- Fort Armistead Park
Anglers may take striped bass, white perch, croaker, flounder, spot, bluefish, channel catfish and other fish from these waters. Species availability will vary by season, and crabbers can visit these areas during summer and early fall to catch blue crab.
7. Conowingo Dam – Susquehanna Flats
Not far from Baltimore, the city of Havre De Grace is home to the Conowingo Dam and Susquehanna Flats. These areas are famous among locals for providing excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers target the same areas below the dam where multiple species of fish congregate. Striped bass, catfish and shad are some of the most popular fish available in these waters.
8. Fort Smallwood Park
This 90-acre park sits at the tip of a peninsula where Rock Creek and Patapsco River meet in northeastern Anne Arundel County. The 380-foot Bill Burton Fishing Pier is a huge attraction for local anglers. Those who prefer to fish by boat can use the park’s boat ramp year-round to launch private pleasure craft 28’ or less in length and up to 8’6” in width. There is also a docking area for loading and unloading your boat.
9. Cox’s Point
One of Maryland’s designated license-free fishing areas, Cox’s Point is located on the Back River in Baltimore County. It is open from sunrise to sunset year-round and includes shoreline fishing, two boat ramps, a picnic area and playground. Fish types available at Cox’s Point include largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, yellow perch, striped bass and catfish. Other Baltimore County parks with boat ramps include:
- Inverness Park.
- Merritt Point Park.
- Rocky Point Park.
- Southwest Area Park.
- Turner Station Park.
- Wilson Point Park.
10. Natural Structures and Artificial Reefs
Although not one specific fishing location, there are natural and artificial bottom features near Baltimore that provide some great fishing opportunities. The naturally-occurring bottom structures attract crabs, fish and other types of marine life. They include shoals, lumps and ancient shellfish beds. These natural fishing areas include:
- Tea Kettle Shoals.
- Man O’ War Shoals.
- Six-Foot Knoll.
- Belvidere Shoal.
- Snake Reef.
- Swan Point Bar.
The Chesapeake Bay area consists of multiple artificial reefs that sustain a variety of fish species through oyster restoration. These man-made oyster reefs have large populations of shrimp, crabs, baitfish and other organisms that attract larger fish. Examples of artificial reefs include Cedar Point, Gales Lumps, Hollicuts Noose, Pooles Island and Tolchester.