December 5, 2023

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Complete Guide to Fishing Baltimore, MD

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Once upon a time, Baltimore was known as the “Wet City.” Okay, that’s because of the town’s resistance to the Prohibition, but we’d say that the name’s as relevant now as ever. Maryland’s largest city is covered in waterways. The glittering Inner Harbor leads out to the Chesapeake Bay to the east, while reservoirs, rivers, and state parks dot the surroundings of this bustling metropolis.

It’s no surprise, then, that fishing in Baltimore, MD can be about as varied as the town’s vibrant neighborhoods. Come and join us on a virtual fishing tour of Baltimore and see what lies in wait. We’ll take you through the top species to target, how to go about it, and much more. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

Baltimore Fish Species

Baltimore sits on on the Upper Chesapeake Bay, making it the perfect habitat for some of the northeast’s favorite saltwater fish. Zoom out from the city and look at the surrounding coastline. Creeks scratch into the landmass, pawing open corners, bays, and shallow estuaries…

This is a fishy paradise, where big adults spawn and youngsters mature. And despite all the industrialization of the last couple of centuries, fish still come here in their thousands. Here are the species to look out for.

Striped Bass (Rockfish)

A group of eight happy male anglers of different ages on a dock in Baltimore after a successful fishing trip, each holding a large Striped Bass on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Patent Pending Charters

Maryland’s state fish are unusual in that they’re just as happy in saltwater as they are in freshwater. These iconic local residents move from the salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay to spawn in freshwater rivers near Baltimore in the early spring. The young stay in the shallow waters of the bay for 3–4 years before migrating into the deeper waters of the Atlantic. Then, they come back to start the cycle all over again. All this makes for year-round fishing fun – regulations permitting.

Striped Bass are called “Rockfish” in these parts, probably because they love to hide around oyster bars and rocky structure close to shore. And there’s plenty of that around Baltimore. Which is lucky for locals, because these fish are highly prized for their taste as well as their strength on the end of a fishing line.

This popularity comes at a cost, however. Rockfish only recently recovered from overfishing in the 1970s. In 2022, their numbers dropped again. While it looks like they’re coming back again, they still need help. Check Maryland’s regulations for any closed seasons and follow safe fish handling guidelines when releasing them. Then, you can play your part in maintaining the fishery for future generations.

White Perch

A man in a pink shirt standing on a fishing charter on a river, holding his fishing rod in one hand and a White Perch on the end of his line in the other on a sunny day with water behind him leading to a distant shoreline

Striped Bass’s cousins are like little Rockfish without the bag limits. White Perch may be small, but their fast reactions keep even the most seasoned angler on their toes. They’re great fun to catch, exceptional on the dinner plate, and aren’t overfished.

Just like Rockfish, White Perch migrate from salt to brackish waters to spawn. You’ll probably catch the largest numbers in spring and fall, but they’re possible out of Baltimore all year round. Whether you’re fishing from a boat or a shore, these plucky Panfish will probably be on the menu – which is partly what makes Baltimore fishing so much fun.


A group of anglers aboard a fishing charter in Baltimore, with trolling rods ready for fishing above their heads, holding up two nets full of Crabs, along with a couple of other fish on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Reel Nauti Charters

You can’t come to Baltimore without sampling some famous Blue Crab. Steamed, covered in Old Bay seasoning, and served with a beer, these striking crustaceans are a local tradition. Catch your own, and they taste even better.

Traditionally, Baltimore Crab fishing involves taking a boat out into the bay and dropping trot lines. These long lines are adorned with baits (chicken necks are a crabby favorite) and come weighted on both ends so they lie flat. Some people swear by dropping traps, though. Others won’t hear a word against handlines and dip nets. Try all the different techniques and see which you prefer!

Crabbing in Baltimore is generally best from mid-June to the beginning of October. And if for some reason you don’t manage to catch a bushel yourself, don’t worry – you can still sample your share of Blue Crab at Lexington Market.

What else?

A woman in winter gear including a wooly hat standing on a river fishing charter near Baltimore on a clear day and holding a large Catfish with the water and a bridge visible behind her
Photo courtesy of Vistaladyfish

Fish the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore, and you’ll probably find a lot more than Rockfish and White Perch. Flounder, Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, and Sea Trout (aka Weakfish) all visit the Upper Bay. Venture inland, and the local rivers and reservoirs hide Largemouth Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Yellow Perch, and Bluegill. You can even find Rainbow, Brown, Brook, and the occasional Tiger Trout in the cooler parts of Gunpowder Falls and the upper Patapsco River.

And there’s one other freshwater surprise. A less-welcome visitor brings a taste of the exotic to the area. Northern Snakehead have taken up residence in a large section of the Potomac River in recent years. These invasive fish from the Yangtze River in China can wreak havoc on North American fisheries. The more you can catch, the better!

How to Go Fishing in Baltimore

There are really only two questions to ask yourself before you go fishing in Baltimore. Fish from a boat, or fish from land? Go it alone, or hire a guide? We’ll walk through each option to help you make the right decision.

Shore-based Fishing in Baltimore

A view from a beach in Sandy Point State Park on a day with sunny intervals, looking towards the Chesapeake Bay and a large bridge in the distance, with a tree visible on the right of the image

Stroll along the Inner Harbor, and you’ll probably see someone casting a line for Rockfish and White Perch. Outside of the city, North Point State Park and Sandy Point State Park take shore-based anglers out into the deeper waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

And you can also explore the freshwaters on foot. Loch Raven is easy to fish from the shore and offers boat rentals if you’re tempted to travel deeper. Or cast into the waters below the Conowingo Dam. This exciting fishing spot attracts huge numbers of fish and presents a serious challenge. The strong current and changing conditions mean no two days here are the same.

A general rule when shore fishing is to look for structure and cast your bait close to it. Bridges are often very successful fishing spots – the Francis Scott Key Bridge is an excellent place to start and is close to other bridges over Curtis Creek.

All this is easy to enjoy with spinning gear, baitcasters, or fly fishing gear. As well as setting you up for the day, the city’s multiple bait and tackle shops will advise you on the best equipment for the area and the time of year you’re fishing.

Baltimore Fishing Charters

A view across the waters towards a flybridge fishing boar speeding along the waters of the Chesapeake Bay at sunset on a day with sunny intervals, with a captain on the lower deck and another man posing for the camera, while the two men on the flybridge are holding fishing rods
Photo courtesy of Backdraft Sportfishing

That said, if you want to give yourself the best chance of catching fish, consider chartering a boat in Baltimore. This will take you deeper into the Chesapeake Bay, where the bigger fish school. As well as giving you ringside seats at the hottest fishing spots, local captains will show you their tried-and-tested fishing techniques. They’ll also provide the gear for you to hone your newly-learnt skills.

Deep sea fishing in Baltimore is focused on the Chesapeake Bay, and Rockfish is the prime target. May is the best time to catch a trophy, while the summer is about the variety of fish. From June to August, you can use a range of techniques to catch Bluefish, Perch, Spanish Mackerel, and Catfish, as well as Rockfish. By September and October, trophy fish start to return to Baltimore’s waters and will stick around through the end of the year.

Baltimore Fishing Spots

Now you’re ready to fish. But where do you start? Well, it depends how long you’re here and how far you’re willing to travel. You might like to fish among the lights in downtown Baltimore, or maybe you’ll travel further afield for cleaner waters and more fish. Either way, here are some areas to check out…

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

A view across the river towards Baltimore's inner harbor on a day with sunny intervals, with the cityscape in the distance beyond some boats

Fishing or not, you can’t visit Baltimore without coming to the Inner Harbor. This 7-mile promenade is a real cultural hub, lined with museums and attractions. Unfortunately, though, this branch of the Patapsco River has a reputation for dirty water and garbage that it’s still trying to shake off.

Several innovative water cleanup programs were born here, like the cheerful Mr Trash Wheel and artificial floating wetlands. These are bringing life back to the Harbor, including good numbers of Rockfish and White Perch. We’d still recommend wearing gloves and releasing anything you catch while fishing Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, though. There’s still a way to go with cleaning it up!

The Chesapeake Bay

A group of three middle-aged couples standing on a fishing charter in the Chesapeake Bay behind their haul of Rockfish on a cloudy day, with a big bridge visible behind them
Photo courtesy of JadeLady Charters

Baltimore has easy access to the Upper Chesapeake Bay, which is famous for its fishing grounds. Check out the deeper waters of the shipping channel in the spring and fall for trophy Rockfish. Otherwise, look for structure.

The bay is full of fish-attracting features, from the White Rocks near Fort Smallwood Park to famous fishing spots like the Tea Kettle Shoals and the Belvedere Shoals. Travel south under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and you can find some great fishing around Kent Island.

Susquehanna Flats

A quick drive to Havre De Grace will take you to one of the most interesting places to fish near Baltimore. The Susquehanna Flats are an enormous underwater grass bed that spreads out below the Conowingo Dam.

This is a vital habitat for a huge number of species. Rockfish, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Blue Catfish are just a few potential targets. These shallow waters are a haven for fly fishers but there’s nothing to stop you fishing them with spinning or baitcasting gear, either.

The Patapsco River

A view towards a small but high bridge crossing the Patapsco River near Baltimore on a clear day, with rocks visible in the foreground and greenery all around

There’s a lot more to the Patapsco River than the pungent waters of the Inner Harbor. Travel upstream, and you’ll find a well-stocked Rainbow Trout fishery in the Patapsco Valley State Park. These waters are also home to a healthy population of Smallmouth Bass. And now that fish ladders have been installed on the river’s dams, migrating Striped Bass, White Perch, and Shad are exploring its upper reaches once again.

Travel downstream past Baltimore City, and you’ll find numerous creeks emptying into the river before reaching the bay. Many of these hold good populations of White Perch, Catfish, and Striped Bass.

Gunpowder Falls State Park

Want to escape city life? Explore the huge State Park that protects the Gunpowder River and its Big and Little Gunpowder Falls. Here, Wild Brown Trout and stocked Rainbow and Brook Trout challenge anglers all year round. Visit the upper tailwaters to sample this fishery at its best. Some parts of this waterway flow through private land, so make sure to check access rights before you fish.

Baltimore Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Maryland followed by text that says "Baltimore, MD Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" along with the FishingBooker logo against a blue background

As a general rule, everyone over the age of 16 needs a license to fish in Baltimore. There are a few exceptions, which we’ll get to soon.

Maryland’s fishing licenses are divided into Nontidal (freshwater) and Chesapeake Bay and Coastal licenses. Most of Baltimore is tidal, so you’re most likely to need a Chesapeake Bay and Coastal license here. But if you’re fishing the upper part of the Patapsco River, Gunpowder Falls, or reservoirs such as Loch Raven, you should get a Nontidal license. If you’re not sure which license to get, check the dividing lines here. You’ll also need an additional Trout Stamp to fish for Trout in nontidal waters.

You don’t need a license but do need a free Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration if:

  • You’re fishing aboard a private vessel that has a Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport Boat License
  • You’re fishing in a designated License Free Fishing Area
  • You have a Virginia saltwater recreational fishing license
  • You’re fishing on your own private property

You can fish without a license or registration if:

  • You’re fishing with a licensed fishing guide
  • You’re under 16
  • You’re fishing on a licensed commercial fishing pier
  • It’s a free fishing day (the first two Saturdays in June and the Fourth of July)

Fish Like a Local in “Charm City”

An arieal view of a bridge leading towards downtown Baltimore, crossing the Chesapeake Bay at sunset on a clear day, with a park visible on the righr of the image and the city's skyline in the distance

Baltimore’s welcoming atmosphere and vibrant culture have earned it the nickname “Charm City.” Come fishing here, and you’ll see why. Local guides will show you the fun side of hunting for Chesapeake Bay’s top targets. Meanwhile, the area’s stunning state parks will dazzle you with quality freshwater sport fish. Come here to learn about the rejuvenation of battered waterways, nature’s ability to overcome man-made obstacles, and the art of eating a Blue Crab. But first and foremost, come here to fish. You won’t regret it!

What’s your favorite Baltimore fishing spot? Do you eat the Blue Crabs you catch near the city? Share your thoughts below!

The post Fishing in Baltimore, MD: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Cat
Title: Fishing in Baltimore, MD: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2023 08:07:59 +0000

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