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Changes to Fishing Regulations

The information provided on this webpage is a summary of regulatory ideas and proposals that are being considered by the department. The purpose of posting this text is to make the public aware of the issues and to elicit public feedback on these ideas. Comments on the ideas presented provide the department with invaluable information and perspectives that may be incorporated into content or editorial changes. We appreciate your time and your commitment to Maryland's natural resources. The graphic within each topic will help you follow the change through the regulatory process. Learn our terminology…Scoping, Development, Comment Period, Final Decision, Effective.

Learn How to Get Involved with Fisheries Rulemaking.


Click on a title below to be taken to a regulation change.

ATLANTIC SURFCLAM - Housekeeping
BAIT - Prohibit Use of Certain Species as Bait - UPDATED 7/26/2021
BLUE CRABS - Commercial Trotline Time Restrictions and Other Clarifications
BLUE CRABS - General Clarifications and Crab Pot Lines
CIRCLE HOOKS - Tidal and Coastal Waters
FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Catoctin Creek Delayed Harvest Area
FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Removal of Special Regulations
NUISANCE SPECIES - Alabama Bass, Spotted Bass, and Zebra Mussels
OYSTERS - PSFA Criteria
PENALTY SYSTEM - Commercial and Recreational
SHELLFISH (Oysters and Clams) - NSSP Requirements
STRIPED BASS - Chesapeake Bay Commercial Transfer Cap
STRIPED BASS - Commercial ITQ Fishery
STRIPED BASS - Recreational In-Season Closure



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ATLANTIC SURFCLAM - Housekeeping
COMAR 08.02.08.07

The department would like to make the rules for Atlantic surfclams consistent with federal waters. Atlantic surfclams are harvested from federal waters and landed in Maryland. The rules should be consistent with federal waters.

This requires:

  1. Updating the name — surfclam is one word, not two; and
  2. Requiring individuals to follow the federal rules.
 
 
 
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BAIT — Prohibit Use of Certain Species as Bait — UPDATED 7/26/2021
COMAR 08.02.11.04

The department is considering originally considered prohibiting the use of select sportfish species (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, and all species of trout) as bait (live or cut bait). This restriction would apply in all Maryland waters.
After feedback from the public and further internal review of the original concept, the department is now also considering prohibiting northern pike, pickerel, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, and tiger muskellunge as bait, in addition to the original list of species.

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Commercial Trotline Time Restrictions and Other Clarifications
COMAR 08.02.03.01, .07, .09, and .11

The department is considering changes to the commercial trotline time restrictions in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries as well as clarifying rules pertaining to handlines, eel pots, and commercial licensing.

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - General Clarifications and Crab Pot Lines
COMAR 08.02.03.03, .07, .10, .13, and .14

The purpose of this action is to clarify portions of the chapter and relocate the crab pot line at the mouths of the Sassafras and Elk rivers. Please see the Summary and Compliance Guide for detailed information about the proposal.

 
 
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BLUEFIN TUNA, BILLFISH, SWORDFISH, AND SHARK — Recreational Reporting
COMAR 08.02.05 and COMAR 08.02.22

The National Marine Fisheries Service requires all recreational anglers to report bluefin tuna, billfishes, and swordfish. Additionally, all landed sharks (except spiny dogfish) are required to be reported in Maryland. The catch card census program is used to meet this requirement.

The department would like to make it easier for recreational anglers to comply with the catch card census program’s reporting and tag requirements and is considering the following changes:

  1. Allow a shark caught from shore to be moved from the point of landing to the nearest catch card census reporting station where a catch card must be returned and exchanged for a tag.
  2. When a catch card census reporting station is closed, allow an angler to retain the receipt from the completed catch card instead of obtaining a tag.
 
 
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BROOK TROUT
COMAR 08.02.11.01, .03, and .04

The department proposed the following changes.

  1. Require catch-and-release only in all put-and-take
    waters statewide (Note: Maryland does not stock brook trout); and
  2. Require catch-and-release only in all waters east
    of Interstate 81 (I-81).

The goal is to eliminate harvest of brook trout adults in Maryland's most pressured waters (i.e., put-and-take areas) and stressed populations (east of I-81).

 
 
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CIRCLE HOOKS - Tidal and Coastal Waters
COMAR 08.02.25.03

Atlantic Ocean, Its Coastal Bays and Their Tributaries
The department needs to implement a requirement to use circle hooks in the Atlantic Ocean, its coastal bays and their tidal tributaries while recreationally fishing for striped bass using bait. If you are targeting striped bass and using bait, you must use a non-offset circle hook year-round.

Chesapeake Bay and Its Tidal Tributaries
You must use a non-offset circle hook year-round if you are:

  1. Live-lining;
  2. Chumming; or
  3. Using bait while targeting striped bass.

The proposed action also modifies the time period during May and December that an angler is required to use a circle hook or “J” hook when using bait. This action expands the time period to May 1 through December 31.

 
 
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FISHING GUIDE (TYPE L) — Housekeeping
COMAR 08.02.18.05

The purpose of this action is to incorporate changes made during the 2020 legislative session. Chapters 430 and 431, Acts of 2020, changed the method of propulsion for a boat or vessel under the guidance of a limited fishing guide (Type L) from oars and paddles to human power. The proposed action makes the method of propulsion consistent with statute by changing oars or paddles to human power. The proposed action also updates references to the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) to make them consistent with the requirements of the fishing guide statutes.

 
 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Catoctin Creek Delayed Harvest Area
COMAR 08.02.011.01

The department is considering moving the boundary of the Delayed Harvest Area on Catoctin Creek in Frederick County from the boundary of Catoctin Creek Park at the Sumantown Road Bridge upstream 200 feet.

 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS — Cut Bait

The department is considering allowing the possession and use of cut bait in nontidal waters. Although cut bait is widely used and accepted as a method of catching catfish, current regulations prohibit its use in nontidal waters. The department is considering allowing it with the following restrictions:

  1. Only fish with no minimum size restrictions can be used as cut bait.
  2. An angler may possess no more than two pounds of cut bait at any time.

 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Definitions

The department would like to create definitions for daily creel limit, possession limit, and bait fish in nontidal waters.

 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS — Removal of Special Regulations

The department is considering removing certain special regulations for 24 impoundments across the State. The regulations for those impoundments will transition from the special regulations to the statewide general regulations. Current special regulations have not met statewide management objectives for black bass. Reverting to statewide regulations in several areas will simplify regulations and remove unnecessary angling restrictions.

 
 
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NUISANCE SPECIES - Alabama Bass, Spotted Bass, and Zebra Mussels
COMAR 08.02.19.04 and .08

The purpose of this action is to remove the zebra mussel-free bait certification regulation and add Alabama bass and spotted bass to the list of fish species that a person may not import, transport, purchase, possess, propagate, sell, or release into State waters.

 
 
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OYSTERS – PSFA Criteria
COMAR 08.02.04.17

The department would like to establish regulatory criteria that can be used to create new Public Shellfish Fishery Areas (PSFA) and expand existing PSFAs when physical, biological and economic conditions warrant maintaining these areas for public access to shellfish resources.

Criteria being considered are described in the Summary and Compliance Guide.

 
 
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PENALTY SYSTEM — Commercial and Recreational

The department regularly updates its penalty schedule under the advice of the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission/Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission Joint Penalty Workgroup. The workgroup recommended changes to the commercial and recreational penalty systems. Please view the proposal to see the changes the department has proposed.

 
 
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SHELLFISH (Oysters, Hard-Shell Clams, and Soft-Shell Clams) - NSSP Requirements
COMAR 08.02.02, COMAR 08.02.07, and COMAR 08.02.08

The department is considering changes for the oyster and clam (soft-shell and hard-shell) regulations that will ensure compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program’s Model Ordinance.

Natural Resources Article, §4-1027, Annotated Code of Maryland, authorizes the department, in consultation with the Maryland Department of Health, to adopt regulations to carry out the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP). Under federal law, the state is required to comply with the NSSP for shellfish harvest and sale in order to participate in interstate commerce of shellfish.

 
 
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SPOT
COMAR 08.02.05.03

The department is proposing rules for spot to maintain compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

Spot are currently managed under the Omnibus Amendment to the Spot, Spotted Seatrout, and Spanish Mackerel FMPs, Addendum II, and Addendum III. According to Addendum III management action has been triggered and states are required to implement coastwide regulations for the entire fishery (recreational, charter/head boats, and commercial).

 
 
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STRIPED BASS — Chesapeake Bay Commercial Transfer Cap
COMAR 08.02.15.04

The purpose of this action is to remove the cap on the amount of striped bass shares that can be permanently transferred within a single year by a permittee registered in a Chesapeake Bay commercial striped bass fishery. Removing the annual transfer cap would allow a permit holder to sell or buy up to that maximum amount in one transaction, rather than having to break it up in multiple transactions over multiple years.

The cap on how much of the total fishery can be owned still exists so that no one person can own more than 1% of the Chesapeake Bay fishery.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS — Commercial ITQ Fishery
COMAR 08.02.15.07

The purpose of this action is to extend the commercial striped bass Chesapeake Bay Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) fishery seasons for hook and line, haul seines, and drift gill nets. The proposed action does not allow additional harvest. It provides fishery participants with greater flexibility in their business model by allowing fishermen to time their fishing activity with meeting market demands. The changes are consistent with the Chesapeake Bay ITQ fishery priorities developed jointly by the department and the industry when the ITQ program was first implemented. The proposed action also reorganizes certain sections to clarify which provisions apply to each fishery.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS - Recreational In-Season Closure
COMAR 08.02.15.12

The purpose of this action is to establish an in-season closure period for the striped bass recreational and charter boat fishery and create a definition for target. The proposed action establishes a closure period that begins July 16 and ends July 31. The proposed action also establishes a definition of the term target. Target means to catch or attempt to catch.

This action will ensure Maryland’s compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.

 
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SUBMERGED AQUATIC VEGETATION - Housekeeping
COMAR 08.02.01.12

The purpose of this action is to make corrections in submerged aquatic vegetation protection zones. Amendments to the zones became effective June 2020 and maps of each area were created so that users have a visual description of each area rather than just the coordinates. During the mapping process, errors or points needing clarification were found within the text. This is a housekeeping action that is necessary to make the regulation clear for all users. There is no change in the amount of protected area.

  • Somerset County — modifies a direction between points, corrects the name of an island, removes duplicate text, and corrects a coordinate.
  • Dorchester County — corrects coordinates.
  • Talbot County — modifies directions between points, corrects coordinates, adds missing text needed to describe an area properly, and corrects the name of a creek.
  • St. Mary’s County — corrects the coordinates of a point.
  • Kent County — corrects descriptions of defined points and better describes the water bodies included in the zones.

 
 
 
 
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