Striped Bass

Known as Rockfish here in Maryland (a name given to the fish for hunting above the Chesapeake Bay’s rocky oyster beds), striped bass are a sought-after trophy fish up and down the Atlantic seaboard. As Maryland’s official State Fish, we love our Rockfish. The Chesapeake Bay is a spawning ground for the Atlantic Ocean’s striped bass, bringing in some of the biggest trophy fish during their yearly run. Schools of world-class striped bass inundate the estuary each spring, bringing with them some of the world’s best fishermen to the spring tournaments. However impressive the spring spawning season may be, rockfish are year-round residents. If you’re looking for a fish that will put up a good fight and please your taste buds at the end of the day, Maryland’s Rockfish are what you’re after.

DSC_0240Striped bass are silvery fish that get their name from the seven or eight dark, continuous stripes along the side of their bodies. The body is compressed, and the dorsal fins are well separated. The caudal fin is forked, olive green, blue, or black dorsally. On the Atlantic coast, striped bass range from the St. Lawrence River in Canada all the way to the St. Johns River in Florida – although they are most prevalent from Maine to North Carolina. Jay Fleming SMI Stock© Jay Fleming04Striped bass tend to move north to near shore waters of the New England coast during the summer and south to the North Carolina/Virginia Capes during the winter. The east coast migratory population is composed of three major stocks – Hudson, Chesapeake, and Roanoke. The striped bass stock within the Chesapeake Bay is composed of pre-migratory fish, primarily ages ten and younger, and coastal migratory striped bass ranging in age from two to more than thirty years old. Mature resident and migratory striped bass move into tidal freshwater in early spring to spawn. After spawning, migratory fish return to the coast. Most spend the summer and early fall months in middle New England near shore waters. During the late fall and early winter, coastal striped bass migrate south to winter off the North Carolina/Virginia Capes.

The recreational record for Chesapeake Bay striped bass is 67 pounds, 8 ounces, though the largest recorded striped bass was a 125 pound female caught on the North Carolina coast in 1891. The current Maryland Chesapeake Bay record striped bass is 67 lbs., 8 oz. Striped bass tagged in the Chesapeake Bay have been recaptured in Canadian waters over 1,000 miles away.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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There is a winter, spring, summer, and fall season for striped bass in Maryland where fish can be harvested (as long as they are of legal size). Though they can be fished year-round, fishermen must abide by the catch-and-release policy if caught out of harvest season. The main seasons – and the biggest bites – come during the spring and fall. The first bite occurs in the spring when spawning females head into the Chesapeake from April through May, when trophy season is at its height and the Bay is teeming with some of the Atlantic’s largest striped bass. The second bite comes in the fall when the fish make their way out of the Bay and return to the ocean.

Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a full list of striped bass seasons and dates.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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From offshore to inland reservoirs, there are plenty of options to choose from when going after striped bass in Maryland. Bring your own boat and spend the weekend fighting Rockfish with family or friends in the Chesapeake Bay; stay on land shore surf-fishing on the beach; or cast off a jetty in Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, MD. Maryland also has landlocked striped bass populations in Liberty, Piney Run, Triadelphia, and Rocky Gorge Reservoirs. Whether you’re a novice or an avid angler, Maryland’s striped bass opportunities offer a little something for everyone.

Don’t have a boat but want to get the real Chesapeake Bay striped bass fishing experience? There are tons of charters to choose from with knowledgeable, experienced captains happy to get you out chasing Rockfish. With all the gear and necessities provided for you – and no license required to fish – climbing aboard a charter boat is the perfect way for fishing buddies, or families, to get out and fish on the Bay.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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Getting a fishing license in Maryland couldn’t be easier. Download DNR’s app on your smartphone (MD DNR), click Apply for License, and enroll. From here, you can register any catches, post photos, and check for regulations updates. Simple, quick, and at the palm of your hand, DNR’s app is the easiest way to get your Maryland fishing license. Or, you can apply for a license through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website.

There are a few instances where registering for a license may not be necessary; visit the Maryland DNR for a full list of these exceptions. For more information on fishing without a license – and locations where licenses are not required – visit http://dnr2.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Free-Fishing.aspx.

Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a complete list of Maryland’s Fishing Regulations.

Money generated from the sale of licenses goes directly to the conservation, protection, and preservation of Maryland’s natural habitat and cherished wildlife. Maryland DNR works tirelessly to maintain a healthy population of striped bass and the regulations needed to sustain fishing in Maryland. Changes in regulations, dates, and requirements vary year-to-year. Please check with DNR frequently for the most up-to-date information.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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