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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
BLACK DRUM - Commercial Atlantic Ocean Fishery
BLACK SEA BASS - Commercial Gear 
BLUE CRABS - Clarifications
BLUE CRABS - Poplar Island Crab Pot Line -
BROOK TROUT - OPEN FOR COMMENT
CIRCLE HOOKS - Tidal and Coastal Waters
FISHERY MANAGEMENT AREAS - Cushwa Hatchery - OPEN FOR COMMENT
FISH REFUGES - Chicamuxen Creek
GEAR - Fyke Nets
GEAR - Gill Nets 
LICENSING - Charter Boat Decals
NUISANCE SPECIES - Alabama Bass and Spotted Bass - OPEN FOR COMMENT
OYSTERS - Patent Tong Line -
OYSTERS AND SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE - PSFA Declassification
SHELLFISH (Oysters and Clams) - NSSP Requirements - OPEN FOR COMMENT
SPOT - OPEN FOR COMMENT
STRIPED BASS - Chesapeake Bay Commercial Transfer Cap
STRIPED BASS - Commercial ITQ Fishery
STRIPED BASS - Recreational In-Season Closure - OPEN FOR COMMENT
STRIPED BASS - Recreational Summer and Fall Fishery
STRIPED BASS - Recreational Spring Fishery
ZEBRA MUSSELS - OPEN FOR COMMENT

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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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BLACK DRUM - Commercial Atlantic Ocean Fishery
COMAR 08.02.05.15

The purpose of this action is to correct the minimum size for the commercial black drum fishery in the Atlantic Ocean. The proposed action requires a black drum harvested from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to be a minimum of 16 inches in length.

 
 
 
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BLACK SEA BASS - Commercial Gear
COMAR 08.02.05.21

The purpose of this action is to update requirements for gear used to catch black sea bass. The fishery management plan for black sea bass specifies the threshold that governs trawl mesh size. The threshold is the amount of fish that may be retained before the required mesh size of larger must be used. The proposed action updates the thresholds that require a certain mesh size in a trawl. The plan also states that black sea bass traps or pots must contain two escape vents and one ghost panel affixed to the trap or pot with degradable fasteners and hinges. The opening to be covered by the ghost panel must measure at least 3 inches by 6 inches. The proposed action updates the thresholds that require a certain mesh size in a trawl, adds a requirement for an additional escape vent, and adds the size of the ghost panel to ensure Maryland’s compliance with the fishery management plan.

 
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BLUE CRABS - Clarification

The department would like to make several clarifications to the blue crab regulations. Please see the summary for details.

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Poplar Island Crab Pot Line
COMAR 08.02.03.07

The department has proposed a regulation to relocate the crab pot line at the mouth of Eastern Bay to mitigate the expanded Poplar Island restoration footprint. Currently, the crab pot line at the mouth of Eastern Bay extends from “…Lowe’s Point; thence in a straight line in a northwesterly direction to Bloody Point.” The proposed action relocates the line to a point on the eastern side of Harbor Cove so that crab pots may be used in the area. This action opens approximately 600 acres to crab pots.

The Poplar Island restoration project began in 2001 with the goal of restoring 1,140 acres of habitat lost to erosion throughout the early 1900s. In 2007, Congress authorized an expansion of the acreage to 1,715 acres with a 110 acre open water embayment. Due to the restoration and expansion of the island, commercial crabbers can no longer work roughly 1,825 acres of bottom in this area.

The proposed change to the pot line will not expand use of the gear into the tributary as defined by COMAR 08.02.01.06.

 
 
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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 08.02.05.02, COMAR 08.02.15.08, .09, .10, .11, and .12, and COMAR 08.02.25.03

  1. 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.
    1. a) If you are targeting striped bass and using bait, you must use a non-offset circle hook.
    2. This is a new requirement and would be in effect year round.
  2. Chesapeake Bay and Its Tidal Tributaries
    The department has already implemented circle hook requirements for the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries, however the language of that regulation may need to be modified. Currently, the rules have specific conditions and only apply during certain times of the year.
    If changed, 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.
 
 
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COMMERCIAL LICENSE TARGETS
COMAR 08.02.01.05

The department needs to modify commercial fishing license authorization targets. The proposed action makes modifications to the authorization targets to reflect the number of tidal fish license conversions.

 
 
 
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FISHERY MANAGEMENT AREAS - Cushwa Hatchery
COMAR 08.02.01.13

The purpose of this action is to designate Cushwa Hatchery as a fishery management propagation area. The property that contains Cushwa Hatchery was recently acquired by the department and will be managed by Fishing and Boating Services. All state hatcheries are designated as fishery management propagation areas. The Cushwa Hatchery facility needs to attain the same designation as all other state-owned hatcheries.

 
 
 
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FISHERY MANAGEMENT AREAS - General
COMAR 08.02.01.13

The department would like to make it clear that a person may not add structures or modify land or vegetation in or on the waters of any fishery management area.

 
  • Please Note: This topic was originally included with the information for nontidal waters. The proposals are being developed separately.
  • View the Summary
 
 
 
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FISHING GUIDE (TYPE L) — Housekeeping
COMAR 08.02.18.05

The department needs to update the regulation for a limited fishing guide (Type L) to incorporate the changes made during the 2020 legislative session. Legislation 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. Currently, the regulation only allows the vessels to be propelled by oars or paddles. The regulation will be updated.

 
 
 
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FISH REFUGES — Chicamuxen Creek
COMAR 08.02.17.02

The department needs to correct the regulatory coordinates for the Chicamuxen Creek fish refuge.

 
 
 
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GEAR - Fyke Nets
COMAR 08.02.21.03 and 08.02.25.09

The purpose of this action is to require individuals to remove fyke net poles from the water within 30 days after removing the net. Fyke nets are very similar to pound nets and the department would like to standardize the rules across similar gear types. When using a pound net, which is a similar but larger type of net, poles must be removed from the water within 30 days of removing the net. Rules for fyke nets are located in various locations of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR). The proposed action moves all fyke net regulations into a new regulation in the gear chapter of COMAR so that fyke net rules are in one location.

 
 
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GEAR — Gill Nets
COMAR 08.02.05.02

The purpose of this action is to allow the use of monofilament gill nets in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. This action is based on the passage of Senate Bill 7 (Chapter 80 of the 2019 Laws of Maryland).

Monofilament gill nets will be allowed under the same restrictions currently in place for gill nets made of other materials such as multi-strand or multifilament fibers.

 
 
 
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HORSESHOE CRABS
COMAR 08.02.10.01

The purpose of this action is to remove the requirement to print the trip limits on horseshoe crab permits. Currently, regulation requires the daily catch limit to be printed on the horseshoe crab landing permit. The Department has concluded that this requirement is no longer necessary for management or enforcement. Harvesters will still be required to have their permit in possession, but after this change, they will only receive one permit per season. This change will allow the Department to do in-season changes to manage the quota without reissuing a permit each time. It will also reduce confusion and expenses when managing the fishery to maximize the available quota.

 
 
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LICENSING — Charter Boat Decals
COMAR 08.02.01.07

The purpose of this action is to allow guides fishing in the tidal waters of Maryland who are licensed in accordance with Natural Resources Article, §§4-210 and 4-210.1, Annotated Code of Maryland to buy the charter boat license decal. This is based on 2019 legislation (HB349). Effective October 1, 2019, statute allows the charter boat license to be available to additional licensed fishing guides. The additional guides include a guide who provides fishing guide services in tidal waters of Maryland (Type L - limited fishing guide license) and a guide who provides fishing guide services in designated tidal waters of Maryland (Type NTT – freshwater fishing guide license). Guides that are licensed in accordance with Natural Resources Article, §§4-210, 4-210.1, and 4-701, Annotated Code of Maryland may purchase the license decal. The proposed action amends the wording of the regulation to include the other types of guides so that they may benefit from the legislation (HB349). Also, the duplicative registration requirement is removed, the requirement that decals be serialized is removed, as the decals have not been serialized for several years, and the requirement that decals are issued for a specific vessel and must be attached to that vessel is clarified.

 
 
 
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NUISANCE SPECIES - Alabama and Spotted Bass
COMAR 08.02.19.04

The department would like to add Alabama bass and spotted bass to its list of prohibited species. If added a person may not import, transport, purchase, possess, propagate, sell, or release them into State waters.

Alabama bass (Micropterus hensalli) is an aggressive species that can rapidly become abundant when introduced into an ecosystem, competes with other black bass for food, and can genetically pollute populations of smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu) and largemouth bass (M. salmoides)

Because Alabama bass and the more widespread, spotted bass (M. punctulatus) were once considered the same species, can be indistinguishable to the naked eye, and regularly hybridize in Tennessee and Georgia, the department is including spotted bass in order to prevent introduction of it or hybrids.

 
 
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OUT OF STATE FINFISH SUPPLIERS
COMAR 08.02.01.16

The purpose of this action is to remove the requirement that an individual submit an application for an out-of-state finfish supplier permit at least 45 days in advance of needing the permit. A person will still have to complete an application prior to supplying finfish to someone in Maryland, but the proposed action removes the specific timeframe. Due to the implementation of an electronic application process, the requirement is no longer necessary. Department staff are now able to issue a permit within days after receiving an application, provided that all the required supporting documentation is supplied with the application. This change will simplify the process for out-of-state suppliers and Maryland constituents that have submitted pond stocking permit requests and will provide flexibility for new suppliers to quickly enter the market.

 
 
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OYSTERS – Patent Tong Line
COMAR 08.02.04.01

The department proposed a regulation to revise the patent tong line in the Patuxent River. Specifically, the proposed action adds approximately 8 acres to the existing patent tong area. The Department received a request to change the patent tong line in the lower third of the Patuxent River to include a small area of oyster bottom. The area being added is currently open to harvest by hand tong and by diving. After evaluation, the Department concluded to proceed with the request because other gears are allowed in the area and patent tonging occurs broadly over the entire surrounding area. The boundaries of Neal Addition Sanctuary, surrounded by the patent tong area, are not changing.

 
 
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OYSTERS AND SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE – PSFA Declassification
COMAR 08.02.04.17

The purpose of this action is to incorporate by reference Public Shellfish Fishery Areas of the Chesapeake Bay and Its Tidal Tributaries (November 2019). This document designates each public shellfish fishery area (PSFA) located in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. The proposed action: 1) makes a correction to PSFA 119; and 2) declassifies portions of four PSFAs (PSFA 134, 136, 140, and 156) to allow for shellfish aquaculture. The Department’s resource surveys of the areas indicate that all of the areas meet the minimum criteria for declassification, are therefore no longer viable for the commercial fishery, and may be declassified. Since a lease is not allowed to be located within 150 feet of a PSFA, each declassification includes the proposed lease area and the required 150 foot buffer around the proposed lease. The buffers will remain open to oyster harvest following declassification. Once the areas are declassified, the department will issue shellfish aquaculture leases to the applicants.

 
 
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PENALTIES
COMAR 08.02.13.03, .05, .08, and .10

The purpose of this action is to update the commercial, recreational, charter, and seafood dealer license suspension and revocation schedules. This update will better deter potential violators from committing illegal acts, protect the State’s fisheries resources, and update certain references to statute and regulation. Prior to considering changes or updates to the penalty regulations under COMAR 08.02.13, the department consults with the Joint Penalty Workgroup of the Tidal and Sport Fisheries Advisory Commissions.

 
 
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SCUP
COMAR 08.02.05.22

The purpose of this action is to update requirements for scup. Specifically, the proposed action updates:

  1. The thresholds that require a certain mesh size in a trawl. This change will keep Maryland in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan and consistent with federal waters.
  2. The format for public notices issued to implement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Fishery Management Plan for Scup. This change makes scup consistent with other species managed by a fishery management plan.
 
 
 
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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

The department needs to adopt rules for spot to be in 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 department is considering removing 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

Changes for the ITQ fishery were scoped from June 15 through June 30, 2020. The striped bass industry workgroup requested that additional changes be made for the hook and line fishery.

The department is considering the following for the commercial striped bass Chesapeake Bay Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) hook and line fishery:

  1. Remove the prohibition for fishing on Friday. Currently, permittees are prohibited from fishing with hook and line on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  2. Extend the fishing hours to one hour after sunset. Currently, permittees must quit fishing by sunset.

No additional harvest will be permitted. These changes do not increase a permittee’s harvest, they allow permittees to have additional choices for harvest and will allow them to time their fishing activity to meet market demands. These changes are consistent with the Chesapeake Bay ITQ fishery priorities by providing greater business flexibility without increasing harvest.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS - Recreational In-Season Closure
COMAR 08.02.15.12

The department is considering:

  1. Three options for the recreational in-season closure period.
    1. July 16 through July 31;
    2. July 23 through August 7; or
    3. August 16 through August 31
  2. Creating a definition for target.

The department adopted regulations to implement reductions required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) earlier this year, however the in-season closure period for the recreational fishery was only for the year 2020 and needs to be updated for the future. During a closure period, anglers would not be allowed to target striped bass. Target means to catch or attempt to catch striped bass or striped bass hybrids.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS — Recreational Summer and Fall Fishery
COMAR 08.02.15.09, .10, and .12

The purpose of this action is to implement Addendum VI to Amendment 6 of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. The proposed action amends the catch limit, size limit, and season to reduce total removals of striped bass during the recreational and charter boat summer and fall fishery in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS — Recreational Spring Fishery
COMAR 08.02.05.02; COMAR 08.02.15.01, 03, .08, .09, .10, and .12; COMAR 08.02.25.03

The purpose of this action is to:

  1. Put the rules (hook requirements, sizes, and seasons) for the recreational fishery that were in place only for 2018 and 2019 into place for future years.
  2. Change the start of the recreational and charter boat spring season (trophy season) to May 1.
  3. Prohibit catch and release or targeting striped bass from April 1 through April 30.
 
 
 
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SUBMERGED AQUATIC VEGETATION
COMAR 08.02.01.12

The proposed action makes revisions to the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Protection Zones.  Zones are being revised using data from aerial surveys compiled by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS). This action adds 16,872 acres of protection zones and removes 2,787 acres, for a total increase of 14,085 acres.

 
 
 
 
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SUBMERGED AQUATIC VEGETATION - Housekeeping
COMAR 08.02.01.12

What is being considered?
The department needs to make corrections in certain submerged aquatic vegetation protection zones. Amendments to the zones became effective June 2020. Maps of the areas are being created so that you can 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. Please view the summary for details.

 
 
 
 
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TAUTOG
COMAR 08.02.05.20

The purpose of this action is to implement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Tautog. Specifically the proposed action (1) modifies the season and catch limits for the commercial and recreational fishery; (2) reorganizes the regulation for clarity by creating a commercial section which includes requirements that only apply to commercial harvesters; (3) updates the degradable materials required for pots and traps to better describe the language in the management plan; (4) establishes new regulations to implement a commercial tagging program; and (5) updates the public notice requirements for consistency with other species managed in accordance with Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission guidelines.

 
 
 
 
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ZEBRA MUSSELS
COMAR 08.02.19.04

The department would like to remove the zebra mussel-free bait certification regulation. After a review of regulations, the department has determined that this regulation is not necessary. Zebra mussels are prohibited in Maryland by several other regulations (see below for details).

 
 
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