Water Fowling Tips – Fish & Hunt

Water Fowling Tips

Maryland’s history and tradition of waterfowl hunting is as rich as any in the world. Presidents and kings have been drawn to hunting ducks on the Chesapeake Bay for centuries. When English Captain John Smith first discovered the Chesapeake Bay, he remarked that “heaven and earth have never framed a better habitat for mankind.” These immortal words will resonate with any sportsman who sees the Chesapeake Bay for the first time.

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Non-resident hunters are encouraged  to take advantage of Maryland’s abundant public land waterfowl hunting opportunities They may also hunt the open waters of the Offshore Waterfowl Hunting and Special Sea Duck Zones if they are accompanied by a Maryland resident.  Alternatively enlisting a guide can really help you make the most of some of the best duck hunting opportunities on the East Coast.

Dabbling Ducks


Dabbling ducks or puddle ducks are geared for shallow water feeding, so they flock to marshes, swamps, lake shorelines, river backwaters, temporary wetlands and similar areas. Puddlers especially mallards, pintails and black ducks may feed in harvested agricultural fields across the Eastern Shore however they are typically hunted over ponds, impoundments, or in brackish tidal waterways. Habitat preferences change with availability, too. Ducks that belong in this family are often found with geese or in the same habitat. 

Diving Ducks


Unlike dabbling ducks, diving ducks cannot leap into the air. They need almost a “runway” to take flight. During migrations, they congregate in large flocks on lakes, rivers, and most importantly the Chesapeake bay.  Unlike dabbling ducks who’s preferred foods include  marsh seeds and grain,  divers like submerged aquatic vegetation clams, oysters, and small fish. They are often found in waters deeper than 10’.


To attract diving ducks, hunters set two or more longlines, each strung with scaup and canvasback decoys, sometimes redheads and even sea ducks. Running these lines fairly close to each other so the decoys look like a solid raft of ducks. You can also try and leave a little slack in the lines so they sag downwind slightly in the middle, giving a more natural presentation.

Layout boats give hunters the ability to maintain a close position to the water in order to conceal them in open water. This is a sport with a long history going back to market hunters and boat-mounted punt guns. The main focus of the layout boat is to put the hunter very close to the decoys, or even among them, for additional concealment. This can make for dramatic hunting scenarios where a decoying bird comes extremely close to the hunter and boat.

Licensed guides have access to a range of the best duck hunting opportunities in Maryland. Without their accompaniment, non-resident and novice hunters can have a difficult time getting the most out of a duck hunt. With the help of a guide, you can go body booting in the famed Susquehanna Flats for canvasbacks, hunt in offshore blinds, call in flocks of mallard and black duck while bunkered down in flooded impoundments, or organize a specialized hunt that won’t soon be forgotten.

A NEW Wildlife Management Area

The former Ben-Lee property was acquired by the Department of Natural Resources in March 2019. The 1,172 acre tract is dedicated to wildlife conservation. Browns Branch WMA is managed by the Wildlife and Heritage Service. The mission of the Wildlife and Heritage Service is to conserve and enhance diverse wildlife populations and associated habitats while providing for public enjoyment of the State’s wildlife resources through hunting and other wildlife-dependent recreation. Browns Branch WMA consists of 1,172 acres which includes 682 acres of agricultural fields, several ponds and a wooded stream. Click here for more information on this new area

Plan your trip

Be sure to visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website for information on rules/regulations and licenses before heading out to hunt. For information on lodging options, hunting guides and outfitters, outdoor retailers and shooting ranges, visit the Plan Your Trip section on our website. And if you’re up for a quick getaway, be sure to check out Visit Maryland’s deals page featuring Winter Adventure packages.