January Tautog & Ice Fishing in Maryland – Fish & Hunt

January Tautog & Ice Fishing in Maryland

Posted on: January 4, 2018 By: FHMD

Don’t let your fishing rod hibernate! Winter months bring great fishing experiences to Maryland. Whether it’s on the ice, out on the Chesapeake, or on the open ocean, you’re sure to reel something in.

Tautog Fishing

When to Fish

January offers the best opportunity to catch trophy-sized tautog in Maryland. The current world record of 28.8 lbs. was caught off Ocean City in January of 2015. The Maryland tautog (aka blackfish) season opens January 1st and lasts through November 26, 2018. The creel limit for tautog January through May 15th is four fish per day, with each fish a minimum of 16 inches. Boats typically leave port early in the morning and return in the late afternoon.

Tautog & Ice Fishing

Tautog: Courtesy of Kane Bounds

January is a great time to visit Ocean City and Worcester County, including Berlin, “America’s Coolest Small Town.”  Plan to spend a couple of days – the hotels have fantastic rates this time of year, the restaurants and breweries are not crowded, and there is nothing better than a great walk on the beach in the winter.

Where to Go

There are charter boats ready to take you and your friends out for a great tautog fishing adventure. Fishing parties can range from a small group on a six-passenger boat to several dozen on a party boat. Boats take you and your party offshore to wreck and reef sites to fish for tautog. No license is needed when fishing from a licensed charter boat, but you must register for a free Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration.  By registering with Maryland, you will not need to register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry (NSAR). For those venturing out on their own there are a couple of options to launch your own boat near the inlet.

What You Need

Fishing tackle is offered on most charters and party boats. Conventional reels, stout fishing rods, and braided line is typically used along with bottom rigs and cuts of crab. You need to bring warm clothing and commercial-style rain gear, rubber gloves, and deck boots to be comfortable. Anglers should also bring lunch items, a thermos with hot drinks, and an ice chest to take your catch home.

Ice Fishing

Tautog & Ice Fishing

Walleye: Courtesy of Chris Venker

When to Fish

A benefit of the colder temperatures in winter is ice fishing. January and February typically offer the best ice fishing opportunities and Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County is the state’s most popular ice fishing location. The most popular species of fish targeted by ice fishing are walleye, yellow perch, and bluegill sunfish. A mix of northern pike, chain pickerel, crappie, and bass can also be caught. Ice safety awareness always comes first when ice fishing, and checking ice conditions should always be done before heading out on the ice. A non-tidal fishing license is needed, and several species have creel limits, seasons and minimum sizes. Click HERE for information on licenses.

Where to Go

Deep Creek Lake is the most popular ice fishing destination in Western Maryland; however, Piney Reservoir in Garrett County is another popular spot for a mix of yellow perch, northern pike, chain pickerel, largemouth bass, and bluegill sunfish. Click HERE for travel information for Garrett County.

Tautog & Ice Fishing

Largemouth Bass: Courtesy of Jim Gronaw

How to Ice Fish

Seasoned ice fishermen often carry gear out onto the ice on a sled. Some of the items needed are an ice auger to drill holes in the ice and a skimmer to keep the hole open. Jigging small lures with an ice fishing jigging rod is popular, as are tip-ups that are baited with live minnows. A portable depth finder is very useful to locate schools of fish. A good seat is advised and a portable shelter can be useful when cold winds blow. Warm clothing and footwear are a must.


Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for more information on fishing regulations throughout January, and click here to purchase a license today. If you’re planning a fishing trip to Maryland this month or dreaming of one in the warmer months, be sure to check out our counties page or VisitMaryland.org for locations, amenities, and much more.


Featured Image at the top of the article is courtesy of Garrett County Chamber of Commerce: Timothy Jacobsen