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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.

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

ATLANTIC MENHADEN - Recreational Harvest
ATLANTIC SURFCLAM - Housekeeping
BAIT - Prohibit Use of Certain Species as Bait
BLACK SEA BASS - Commercial Quota
BLUE CRABS - Addition of Juneteenth Holiday and Crab Pot Set Time Clarification
BLUE CRABS - Containers and Limits
BLUE CRABS - Crab Pot Line Clarifications
BLUE CRABS - Hard Crab Tolerance Limits
BLUE CRABS - Lugs (Emergency)
BLUEFISH - Recreational Rules
COMMERCIAL REPORTING - Snakehead and Catfish Licenses
FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Cut Bait and Definitions
FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Saugeye, Walleye in Deep Creek Lake, and Bass in Youghiogheny River Lake
FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Trout Fishing
GEAR - Projectile Gear in Fishery Management Areas
HOUSEKEEPING - Shortline Cleanup
LOBSTER AND JONAH CRAB - Vessel Monitoring Systems
NONTIDAL - Trout
NUISANCE AND PROHIBITED SPECIES - Blue and Flathead Catfish
OYSTERS - Fees for Purchasing, Hauling, and Planting Fresh Oyster Shell
OYSTERS - Amendment 1 to the 2019 Maryland Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan
OYSTERS - Container Rules
OYSTERS - Partial Declassification of Public Shellfish Fishery Area 156
OYSTERS - PSFA Criteria
PENALTIES - Updates to Recreational, Commercial, and Seafood Dealer Penalty Schedules (2021 and 2022 Updates)
PENALTIES - Updates to Recreational Penalty System
SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE - Pilot Programs
SNAPPER GROUPER COMPLEX - Sheepshead Size Limit and Combined Catch Limit
STRIPED BASS - Changes to Seasons
STRIPED BASS - Elimination of Commercial Chesapeake Bay Common Pool Fishery
STRIPED BASS - Emergency Regulation
YELLOW PERCH - Commercial Season






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ATLANTIC MENHADEN - Recreational Harvest
COMAR 08.02.05.07

The Department is proposing clearly allowing the recreational harvest of Atlantic menhaden. This change is necessary because when the Department originally declared Atlantic menhaden as "In Need of Conservation" and adopted regulations for their commercial harvest, it was overlooked that the authority that was used made it so that harvest was only allowed under rules that explicitly allowed the activity.

 
 
 
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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
COMAR 08.02.20.01, and .03

The Department is proposing prohibiting the use of select sportfish species (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, walleye, muskellunge, tiger muskellunge, northern pike, pickerel, and brown and brook trout) as bait (live or cut bait). This restriction would apply in all Maryland waters.

 
 
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BLACK SEA BASS - Commercial Quota
COMAR 08.02.05.21

The Department is proposing to update the commercial quota information to reflect recent changes made by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC). The annual total allowable landings of black sea bass for the commercial fishery is set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and will be published through a public notice.

Please note: the website referenced in the statement of purpose is incorrect. For further information regarding this action, please see: Addendum XXXIII

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Addition of Juneteenth Holiday and Crab Pot Set Time Clarification
COMAR 08.02.03.11 and .12

The Department is modifying and clarifying the commercial harvest times for blue crabs.

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Containers and Limits
COMAR 08.02.03.01, .10, .12, .13, and .14.

The Department is proposing creating definitions for the terms "bushel," "lug," and "barrel," requiring commercially harvested crabs on vessels to be stored in an approved container, allowing mature female hard crabs to be stored in lugs, prohibiting various containers from being mixed on board, adding catch limits in alternative containers in addition to bushels, and modifying the recreational blue crab catch limit.

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Crab Pot Line Clarifications
COMAR 08.02.03.07

The Department is proposing rewriting the crab pot line regulation COMAR 08.02.03.07E—H in a simpler, more effective, and accurate manner.

The Department is proposing clarifying the 300-crab pot limit in Maryland's Coastal Bays COMAR 08.02.03.07D(6).

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Hard Crab Tolerance Limits
COMAR 08.02.03.14

The Department has proposed modifying the tolerance limits for undersized male hard crabs to six crabs per container smaller than a barrel. The current tolerance limit is five crabs per bushel and 13 crabs per barrel. The undersize tolerance limit for hard crabs stored in barrels and the tolerance limits for soft crabs and peeler crabs would remain the same.

 
 
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BLUE CRABS - Lugs (Emergency)
COMAR 08.02.03.01 and .14

The Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) has approved emergency regulations to define a "lug" and allow the use of lugs to hold mature female hard crabs. This emergency regulation will be effective through December 31, 2023.

 
 
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BLUEFIN TUNA, BILLFISH, SWORDFISH, AND SHARK - Recreational Reporting
COMAR 08.02.05.23, .26, and .27, and COMAR 08.02.22.02

The Department is considering making it easier for recreational anglers to comply with the catch card census program’s reporting and tag requirements. The Department is considering the following changes:

  • switching from paper to electronic catch cards;
  • eliminating tags; and
  • requiring all releases, both live and dead, to be reported.
 
 
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BLUEFISH - Recreational Rules
COMAR 08.02.05.10

The Department is considering removing the current recreational bluefish catch limit, size limit, and daily catch limit from the regulation and establishing those rules annually by public notice.

  • The Department would also modify the public notice authority to no longer require publication in a newspaper. Notices will still be published on the Department's website, posted on the Department's social media, and emailed to the Department's email listserv.
 
 
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COMMERCIAL REPORTING - Snakehead and Catfish Licenses
COMAR 08.02.13.06

The Department has modified its reporting regulations to require individuals who have the Northern Snakehead License and the Blue and Flathead Catfish Finfish Trotline License to submit monthly reports, similar to the rest of the commercial licensees who harvest finfish from Maryland’s tidal waters. These are relatively new licenses created by the General Assembly that were not included when the reporting regulations were first written because these licenses did not exist at that time.

 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Cut Bait and Definitions

The Department is proposing to allow 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 also proposing definitions for daily creel limit, possession limit, and bait fish in nontidal waters.

 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Saugeye, Walleye in Deep Creek Lake, and Bass in Youghiogheny River Lake
COMAR 08.02.11.04 and .06

The Department is proposing to establish a minimum size and creel limit for saugeye consistent with existing regulations for walleye, a protected slot limit for walleye in Deep Creek Lake, and modifications for bass seasons in the Youghiogheny River Lake.

 
 
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FISHING IN NONTIDAL WATERS - Trout Fishing
COMAR 08.02.11.01

The Department is proposing changes for brown trout in Beaver Creek, hook rules in Catch-and-Return Trout Fishing Areas and Delayed Harvest Fishing Areas during the catch-and-return season, allowable gear in Fly Fishing-Only trout management areas, and modifications to the Put-and-Take Trout Fishing Areas.

 
 
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GEAR - Projectile Gear in Fishery Management Areas
COMAR 08.02.01.13

The Department is proposing the prohibition of projectile gear in all Fishery Management Areas (FMAs).

 
 
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HOUSEKEEPING - Shortline Cleanup
COMAR 08.02.22.01 and .03 and COMAR 08.02.25.06

The Department is proposing to make minor changes to its shark regulations by removing certain shortline rules duplicated in the Department's gear regulation and moving certain shortline rules from the Shark chapter to the Gear chapter which are better suited there.

 
 
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LOBSTER AND JONAH CRAB - Vessel Monitoring Systems
COMAR 08.02.08.06 and .10

The Department would like to implement the provisions of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Addendum XXIX to Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Lobster and Addendum IV to the Jonah Crab Fishery Management Plan. The Addenda establish electronic tracking requirements for federally permitted vessels in the American lobster and Jonah crab fisheries, with the goal of collecting high-resolution spatial and temporal effort data to support several ongoing efforts. More information is available at the following website: asmfc.org/uploads/file/62473fb1pr10_LobsterAddXXIX_JonahCrabAddIV_TrackingApproval.pdf

 
 
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NONTIDAL - Trout
COMAR 08.02.11.01

The Department is proposing to create a youth-only trout fishing day, change the trout fishing start time on trout season's opening day from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. in all of the Closure 1 and Closure 2 put-and-take trout areas, establish a put-and-take Trout Fishing Area on Little Pipe Creek in Carroll County, MD, modify the Delayed Harvest Area in Catoctin Creek, and remove Jones Falls from the list of Youth, Senior, and Blind special management areas.

 
 
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NUISANCE AND PROHIBITED SPECIES - Blue and Flathead Catfish
COMAR 08.02.19.04 and .08

The Department is considering prohibiting the live possession of invasive blue catfish and flathead catfish. Blue catfish and flathead catfish can potentially cause significant negative impacts on native and naturalized fish species via predation, resource competition, and displacement. It is illegal to move blue and flathead catfish from one “waterbody” to another. “Waterbody” is defined by a HUC-6 designation. Because HUC-6 designations are not easily understood by the general public or law enforcement, allowing for the live possession of these catfishes has made enforcement of this prohibition challenging. In line with the Department’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan, the general prohibition on the possession of live blue and flathead catfish will reduce the possibility of these fish being illegally introduced to water bodies around the State.

The Department has already prohibited the live possession of other invasive fish, such as the northern snakehead. For northern snakeheads, anglers may immediately release a live fish back to the water from which it was caught but may not retain a live snakehead in their possession. Prohibiting the possession of live blue catfish and flathead catfish will standardize the possession rules for the three invasive fishes managed by the Department, making it easier for law enforcement to enforce the rules and the general public to comply with them.

An exception for live possession of blue catfish and flathead catfish would be made for commercial licensees, fish processors, transporters, and facilities exhibiting these species. Many commercial licensees have developed live markets for blue catfish and flathead catfish. These fish are generally sold to wholesale fish processors who transport live catfish to facilities where the fish are processed for food or other beneficial uses. Commercial licensees and licensed seafood dealers would be exempt from the live possession prohibition. Individuals intending to transport live blue catfish or flathead catfish throughout the state to release the fish to fee fishing ponds in their home states would need to have a bill of sale or bill of lading to establish the provenance of the fish in their possession. Facilities which exhibit these species, such as Bass Pro Shops or zoos, may likewise be required to obtain a permit to hold blue catfish or flathead catfish in exhibition tanks.

 
 
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OYSTERS - Amendment 1 to the 2019 Maryland Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan
COMAR 08.02.01.01

The Department is considering incorporating by reference Amendment 1 to the 2019 Maryland Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan into the Code of Maryland Regulations. The amendment was adopted by the Department on December 18, 2023.

Incorporation by reference (IBR) is a legal device by which one document is made a part of another simply by referring to it. The text of the referenced document, once incorporated by reference, becomes fully and legally a part of the document into which it is incorporated. Incorporation by reference must take place within a regulation. A regulation proposing to incorporate a document by reference is no different than any other proposed regulation. All of the standard regulation-making procedures apply.

A Fishery Management Plan (FMP) provides a format for undertaking management measures throughout Maryland state waters. FMPs are amended as needed. The most recent FMP for oysters is the Maryland Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan (May 2019). Shortly after adoption, the Department was directed by the Maryland General Assembly to convene the Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) to develop a package of consensus recommendations for enhancing and implementing the FMP for oysters. The OAC provided the Department with a package of recommendations which were based on options that were rated with an agreement level of 75% or higher. Amendment 1 to the 2019 Maryland Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan incorporates recommendations from the OAC to further define strategies for protecting, rebuilding, and managing the native oyster population.

 
 
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OYSTERS - Container Rules
COMAR 08.02.04.04

The Department is considering modifying the rule for filling certain oyster containers. Specifically, the Department is considering no longer allowing certain oyster containers to be filled past the brim of the container. This would standardize the rule for all containers.

 
 
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OYSTERS - Fees for Purchasing, Hauling, and Planting Fresh Oyster Shell
COMAR 08.02.04.11

The Department is proposing to alter the procedure for establishing the fair market value the Department pays for fresh oyster shells and transportation and placement of fresh oyster shells. The current value is set by regulation; the Department is proposing to modify the regulation to set the value by public notice.

 
 
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OYSTERS - Partial Declassification of Public Shellfish Fishery Area 156
COMAR 08.02.04.17

The Department is considering declassifying a portion of Public Shellfish Fishery Area (PSFA) 156. A lease is not allowed to be located within 150 feet of a public shellfish fishery area, so the declassification includes the leased area and a required 150-foot buffer around the portion of the leased area that falls within the PSFA.

 
 
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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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PENALTIES - Updates to Recreational, Commercial, and Seafood Dealer Penalty Schedules (2021 and 2022 Updates)
COMAR 08.02.13.03, .05 and .10

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 summary to see the changes the Department is considering.

 
 
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PENALTIES - Updates to Recreational Penalty System
COMAR 08.02.13.05

The Department is considering updating its recreational penalty schedule by adding a penalty for failing to immediately release diamondback terrapin, modifying the penalty for recreational crabbers violating catch times, and adding a penalty for using prohibited species as bait. The modifications are recommendations of the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission/Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission Joint Penalty Workgroup.

 
 
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SHELL RECYCLING TAX GRANT PROGRAM
COMAR 08.02.26

The Department is proposing repealing .03, .04, and .05, amending Regulations .01 and .02, and amend and recodify Regulation .06 to .03 under COMAR 08.02.26 Shellfish Recycling Tax Credit. The Department proposes to rename the chapter Shell Recycling Grant Program to reflect the new nature of the program.

 
 
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SHELLFISH (Oysters, Hard-Shell Clams, and Soft-Shell Clams) - NSSP Requirements
COMAR 08.02.02, 08.02.04, 08.02.07, and 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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SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE - Pilot Programs
COMAR 08.02.23.05

The Department is proposing the creation of a pilot program permit structure for future aquaculture pilot programs. The Department will now be able to conduct certain voluntary pilot projects for the practical demonstration and evaluation of alternative aquaculture management methods to increase accountability, efficiency, and value within the industry.

 
 
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SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE AND WILD OYSTERS - Bulk Tagging
COMAR 08.02.04 and 08.02.23

After consultation with the Aquaculture Coordinating Council and Oyster Advisory Commission, the Department proposes allowing bulk tags for oysters under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

 
 
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SNAPPER GROUPER COMPLEX - Sheepshead Size Limit and Combined Catch Limit
COMAR 08.02.05.29

The Department is considering implementing a minimum size for sheepshead and would like feedback on a minimum size of either 12 or 14 inches in all tidal waters of the state. The Department is considering applying this size limit to both the recreational and commercial fisheries. The Department is also considering establishing a limit of no more than 10 fish of any one species listed in Code of Maryland Regulations 08.02.05.29A(3). The overall combined catch limit of 20 total fish of the species listed in that regulation would remain the same.

 
 
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SPECIES IN NEED OF CONSERVATION - Longnose Gar
COMAR 08.02.05.31 and 08.02.12.03

The Department is proposing to declare longnose gar as In Need of Conservation and establishing a creel limit for the species.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS - Changes to Seasons
COMAR 08.02.15.08., .09, and .12

The Department is considering modifying the recreational and charter boat spring (trophy) season and early summer/fall season for striped bass, modifying the "no targeting" period for striped bass to include those times and locations, extending the summer closure through August 7, and closing the commercial hook-and-line season for striped bass during the summer closure. The modifications to the spring and early summer/fall seasons and the associated "no targeting" provisions have previously been requested as an emergency regulation but the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) has not yet taken action on that request.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS - Elimination of Commercial Chesapeake Bay Common Pool Fishery
COMAR 08.02.15.04, .05, and .07

The Department is proposing to eliminate the Chesapeake Bay Common Pool commercial striped bass fishery. Doing this will mean that all individuals participating in the commercial striped bass fishery in the Chesapeake Bay would then participate in the Individual Transferrable Quota fishery.

 
 
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STRIPED BASS - Emergency Regulation
COMAR 08.02.15 Striped Bass

Amend regulations .09 and .12, and repeal Regulation .08 under COMAR 08.02.15 Striped Bass. The regulation has been submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) for review and potential approval.

 
 
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SUBMERGED AQUATIC VEGETATION PROTECTION ZONES
COMAR 08.02.01.12

The Department is proposing revisions to the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Protection Zones. Zones are being revised using data from an annual aerial survey compiled by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS).

 
 
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YELLOW PERCH - Commercial Season
COMAR 08.02.21.03 and .04

The Department is considering modifying the commercial yellow perch season in regulation to start a month earlier than the current regulation establishes.

 
 
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