Home to three different types of catfish - white catfish, channel catfish, and blue catfish - Maryland offers a range of opportunities. Novice and avid sportsmen alike can meet their catfish expectations here in Maryland. From reeling in a world-class, 100-plus pound blue catfish, to hooking the small, energetic white catfish, Maryland offers a little something for every skill set.
The largest of the North American catfish, blue catfish can easily exceed 100 pounds. They are generally slate blue on the back to silvery/white on the underside and have a deeply forked tail. The native range of blue catfish extends from Minnesota and Ohio southward into Mexico. However, due to extensive introductions, their current range incorporates several Atlantic drainage systems as well. As an introduced species, blue catfish have become very successful in the Potomac River and in several Virginia tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.
Blue catfish live mainly in fresh water and are found in the tidal Potomac River. Blue catfish prefer large rivers having deep channels with a swift current and a sandy bottom. They seek cool water in the summer and warmer waters in the winter. Fresh baits such as cut fish, shrimp, chicken liver, and processed catfish bait are best for catching blue catfish, and bait casting and bottom fishing are popular techniques.
Channel catfish are one of the largest species found in North America, weighing up to sixty pounds. They are long slender fish with barbels on the chin that look like long black whiskers. Generally gray to greenish-gray on the upper part of its slender body, silver to white on the lower half and belly with deeply forked tail, small adults and juveniles have black or dusky spots on their body. As a non-native species, channel catfish have become very successful in tidal and non-tidal waters across the state and they are known to be delicious.
Channel catfish live mainly in fresh water and can be found in the freshwater portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. They prefer deep pools around logs, rocks and other structures where they can hide. Popular methods for fishing include bait casting and bottom fishing.
An invasive species, flathead catfish are brown, olive, or yellow and mottled with white bellies. As their name indicates, they have a wide, flat head with a protruding lower jaw and four pairs of barbels on the chin. Their square tail fin is slightly notched and there is a white patch on the upper lobe. They can grow up to 61 inches in length. They eat insects, fish, and crustaceans.
Flathead Catfish live in freshwater, such as Maryland’s many lakes and rivers, and usually in areas with slower currents. Flathead are an introduced species and are currently found in only a few places in the Chesapeake Bay; the Potomac River, Upper Bay, Elk and Sassafras Rivers.
The white catfish is the only species native to the Chesapeake Bay, and it's the smallest of the large North American catfish species. They lack scales but possess an adipose fin, as well as a single, often serrated spine in the dorsal and pectoral fins. Bluish-gray on their back and sides and white underneath, with a moderately forked tail, they have a noticeably broad head, large mouth and stout body and are smaller in size than channel catfish.
While they are primarily a tidal water species that inhabit waters having a salinity of 5 parts per thousand. They can also be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, living in mud-bottom pools, open channels, and the backwaters of small and large rivers.
Fresh baits such as worms, shrimp, chicken liver, processed bait and cut fish are popular for catching white catfish. Methods for fishing include bait casting and bottom fishing.
License and Regulations
Simple, quick, and at the palm of your hand, DNR’s app is the easiest way to get your Maryland fishing license. Download the app on your smartphone (MD DNR), click Apply for License, and enroll. From the app, you can also register any catches, post photos, and check for regulations updates. Or, you can apply for a license through Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website.
There are a few instances where registering for a license may not be necessary; visit 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://dnr.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 fish and game, and the regulations needed to sustain fishing and hunting in Maryland. Changes in regulations, dates, and requirements vary year-to-year. Please check with DNR frequently for the most up-to-date information.