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Maryland Saltwater Fishing

Updated on October 11, 2014

Saltwater Saltwater Fishing - Chesapeake Bay, Inshore and Offshore

This page provides saltwater fishing information, techniques and links related to the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, tidal rivers, inshore and offshore fishing from Ocean City and Maryland's coastal bays.

Maryland has a wide variety of saltwater fishing. From striped bass fishing on the Susquehanna Flats, down to the state line in the Chesapeake Bay, and From Fenwick Island to Virginia along the coast.

Chesapeake Bay fishing varies widely lots of different environments. Anglers in the bay can fish with bait, artificial lures, employ fly fishing or other techniques.

Over on the ocean side there is surf fishing, jetty fishing, inshore fishing for flounder, trout, bluefish and others. The open ocean offers anglers a chance to try wreck fishing, offshore fishing, deep dropping and other activities.

ocean city fishing charter boat
ocean city fishing charter boat

Maryland Offshore Fishing

Ocean City Maryland is world famous for offshore fishing. Private boats and fishing charters target a variety of tuna, dolphin (mahi mahi), wahoo, billfish, and other species.

The city proclaims itself the "white marlin capital of the world" and hosts one of the nation's top marlin fishing tournaments. To serve fishermen, the harbors are home to hundreds of fishing charter boats.

In the summer months, fishing can be excellent. Inshore fishing spots include the Jackspot, Hot Dog, Parking Lot and other hot spots as well as deep sea structure including the Wilmington, Baltimore, Poor Man's, Washington and Norfolk Canyons. These hotspots vary from around 25 to over 100 nautical miles from port.

Anglers may target bluefin tuna and bluefish along the 20 fathom line in the early season. Yellowfin tuna are sought in deeper water for the most part, often being caught in water from 30 to 100 fathoms. In addition to bluefin and yellowfin tuna, anglers catch bigeye, skipjack and longfin albacore tuna, dolphin fish, wahoo, billfish and sharks.

Of interest to many anglers are the trips that reach the offshore canyons. Just before reaching the canyon walls are slopes that are often very productive areas. Near the canyon walls, the bottom becomes steeper and rockier. Fish congregate along the drop offs to catch food that is caught in the hard running current.

Along the edges are lobster traps which are marked by orange buoys or "lobster balls". The buoys attract dolphin fish which in turn attract the larger marlin, swordfish and sharks which feed on them heavily. A trip by a buoy can be uneventful, or one or more lines might be attacked by mahi mahi, tuna, marlin or other fish.

In the canyons and surrounding areas, anglers also bottom fish for species such as tilefish, sea bass, hake and other bottom dwellers. The world record golden tilefish was caught in 2007 off the coast of Maryland. The fish weighed 59 pounds, 3 ounces.

Late August and September often feature the best fishing with anglers seeing larger numbers of tuna as well as an influx of wahoo and bull dolphin. Offshore fishing continues into October, when windy weather and falling water temperatures make fishing less productive.

Maryland Inshore Saltwater Fish

Atlantic Croaker

Atlantic croaker are popular saltwater fish caught in the Chesapeake and along the coast of Maryland. Croaker or "hardhead" are named because of the "croaking" noise they make. Croakers fight hard and prolific feeders. They are caught on baits such as squid, crabs, clams or bloodworms. Croakers are often caught in large numbers.

Spot

Spot occur in the Chesapeake Bay and along estuaries and coastal waters. Spot are fun to catch and a great fish for anglers of all ages. Spot are caught using standard 2 hook rigs, using small hooks and small pieces of bait. Popular baits include bloodworms, shrimp, clam and synthetic bloodworm type baits. Spot may also be caught with small jigs or Sabiki rigs. Anglers seek spot both as a baitfish and because of their excellent value as a seafood delicacy.

Kingfish

The southern kingfish, or whiting, is a member of the croaker family. Kingfish have an elongated body and a characteristic single chin barbel. Coloration varies somewhat with habitat, but it is generally gray to brown above with silver undersides and 6-8 broad lateral bars. Kingfish are an excellent food fish and are sought after by bottom fishermen and surf anglers. These fish are found on sandy bottoms, entering inshore areas in summer.

Sea Bass

Sea Bass are among the most popular fish caught off the Maryland coast. Anglers fish year round for this exceptionally delicious fish, although the fish migrate to deeper water in winter. Peak fishing is usually May and early June and again in the fall. In the spring, wrecks, reefs and rough bottom in depths of 50 - 80 feet usually hold the most fish. Bigger fish can sometimes be enticed by using larger baits. Favorite rigs for bigger fish include single hook rigs with a whole squid for bait, large bucktail jigs with squid strips and large metal jigs. The larger baits often catch fish with a higher average weight. Black sea bass are excellent cooked. The meat is firm, white and delicious and can be fried, grilled, baked or broiled.

Tautog

Tautog live in structure such as rocky bottoms, wrecks and reefs. Their preference for structure makes them an ideal inshore species when fishing in the lower Chesapeake Bay and along the coast. Tackle and techniques are simple and no prior experience is needed to catch these tasty fish. They vary in size from about 12 inches to perhaps 12 lbs or more. They are very tough fighters and excellent table fare.

Red Drum

Red drum can be caught in a number of ways. A popular technique for catching red drum along the Maryland coast is to bottom fish with cut spot, menhaden, peeler crab or other baits. Anglers use a fish finder or other rig and sometimes fish into the evening for large bull red drum. A second fishery along the coast and the Chesapeake Bay exists for "puppy drum" which are smaller red drum. These fish are exciting to catch, usually by casting artificial lures around structure or by fishing baits in shallow water areas.

Bluefish

Bluefish are commonly caught in Maryland. They are sometimes found in large schools off the coast where they are known for their sharp teeth and ability to destroy even the strongest tackle. Anglers troll, jig, cast artificial lures and fly fish for bluefish. The fish have dark, oily meat but are excellent smoked.

Maryland Flounder Fishing

Maryland is well known for excellent flounder fishing opportunities. Many anglers target flounder and some fish exclusively for these delicious fish. Some anglers target flounder only in certain seasons while others choose to fish the entire season. Fishing varies with season, weather, tides, location and water quality.

Flounder fishing is a spring ritual for many anglers. Locals and visitors alike begin the fishing season each year by drifting the bays and creeks for flounder. The first flounder may arrive along the coast in April, but the main spring run usually peaks in May.

Several key factors affect spring flounder fishing. Water temperature seems to play a critical role in the spring. A rule of thumb is to find water temperature above 55 degrees although fish are sometimes caught in cooler water. Tides and currents are also big factors and every serious angler has their preferred state of tide for a given location.

Flounder fishing changes as the water warms. The movements of flounder decrease and anglers settle into a summer pattern, enjoying the warm days on the bay. Visiting local tackle shops are an excellent way to get up to date information on local fishing. Tackle shops have flounder fishing rigs, tackle, bait and up to date reports. In addition, some shops rent boats, book fishing charters, guided trips, nature cruises or other adventures.

In mid-summer, flounder are sometimes caught on the many wrecks, shoals and artificial reefs along the coast. Fishing is sporadic but catches can be good when flounder are located. The Artificial reefs off the coast of Maryland yield some excellent catches of flounder.

In summer, flounder are also caught by anglers fishing the surf. This fishery requires only a rod, rod holder and basic tackle, no boat is needed!

The Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed includes more than 400,000 acres of land and thousands of miles of open bay, rivers and streams, making the Chesapeake Bay the largest estuary in North America.

The Chesapeake Bay begins in Pennsylvania, as a small part of the Susquehanna River. It passes thru Maryland and Virginia, emptying into the Atlantic near The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The estuary is a vital breeding ground and sanctuary for thousands of fish, shellfish, reptiles, birds and mammals.

The Chesapeake Bay is famous for its crabs, oysters, and fish. Known for its importance as a major breeding ground for striped bass or "Rockfish", one of the most important sport and food fish of the USA east coast.

Striped Bass - Rockfish

The striped bass is the state fish of Maryland and the state's most popular inshore saltwater fish.

Also known as rockfish or striper, the striped bass is a very hardy fish, and even takes to life in freshwater. Striped bass are stocked in several Maryland lakes.

Rigs and baits for striped bass vary with location and season. Anglers fish live baits such as spot and eels or troll, jig, cast artificial lures and fly fish for striped bass around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and other spots. The action is nearly year round with populations of local fish as well as migrating schools of rockfish.

Striped bass vary from around 18 inches to over monster fish of 50 inches or more. During the cooler months anglers come to Maryland from all over to enjoy some of the best striped bass fishing in the world.

Maryland Tautog Fishing Tips and Techniques

These are a few tips and techniques for tautog fishing in Maryland:

* Fish directly over structure, including shipwrecks, rocks, rubble, bridge pilings and artificial reefs.

* Use a basic top and bottom fishing rig when snags and hang ups are not a problem.

* Switch to a single hook rig in areas of extremely rough bottom.

* Carry a wide selection of sinkers ranging from 3-8 oz.

* Choose a rod and reel that can handle depths from 15-120 feet, and 3-8 oz. sinkers.

* Fish with braided lines for added sensitivity.

* Use baits such as blue crabs, green crabs, mole crabs, fiddler crabs, shrimp and clams.

* When fishing whole blue crabs or green crabs, some anglers imbed both hooks in a single bait and remove or crack the shell of the crab.

* When using cut crab, leave the legs on and check baits often. Replace baits that have had the meat sucked out of the shell.

* Avoid excessive tension on the line and pay attention for minute signs of nibbling. Give a short tug upward when movement is felt. If the fish appears to be in the line, set the hook, lift the fish away from structure and then reel in gently.

* Tag and release undersize fish.

* Take no more fish than needed. Release female fish when possible.

* Identify sexes - Male tautog have blunter heads and darker, more solid coloring with a faint lighter spot on their flank. Females have a more mottled appearance and sloping forehead.

* Support Artificial Reef programs

* Morningstar, a party boat based in Ocean City Maryland has a reputation for offering excellent tautog fishing trips.

Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative

The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative is a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving, restoring and creating fish habitat in tidewater Maryland. MARI includes dozens of private, state, and federal partners. The organization fosters artificial reef development in Maryland by obtaining funding, manpower, and other resources.

Maryland Artificial Reefs

Pooles Island

Tolchester

Gales Lumps

Memorial

Love Point

Hacket Point

Severn River

Cedarhurst

Hollicut's Noose

Holland Point

Chesapeake Beach

Tilghman Island

Cook Point Airplane Wreck

Todd Point Hole

Plum Point

Sharp's Island

Gooses

Taylor's Island

Little Cove Point

Cedar Point

Point No Point

Point Lookout

Janes Island

Tangier Sound

For more information, visit: dnr.maryland.gov

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    • NatureMaven profile image

      NatureMaven 8 years ago

      Hi Daybreak,

      I have featured your lens on my new lens about Piney Run Park in Maryland. ***** Happy fishing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      we live in gaithersburg,md. can anybody suggest some saltwater fishing spots near this place?

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