Official FishMaryland Rules

FishMaryland runs annually from 12:01am the day after Labor Day until 12:00am (midnight) Labor Day of the current year. Anyone who catches a fish matching the minimum size requirements and checks it in at a local Award Center will be eligible to enter into the challenge for an Angler Award.

Maryland Angler Award Component Rules:

  1. Maryland Department of Natural Resources staff and their immediate families are ineligible.
  2. Professional guides, charter boat captains, crew on for-hire fishing boats, or anyone who offers his fish for sale are ineligible.
  3. All fish must be caught on rod and reel. From the time that a fish strikes or takes bait or lure, the angler must hook and fight the fish without the aid of any other person. The reel must be operated manually. Once the leader is brought to the rod tip, more than one person is permitted to help land the fish.
  4. Fish that have been snagged, shot, gaffed, speared, scaled, or mutilated are not eligible.
  5. The catch must be legal. Anglers should be aware of the fishing rules, eligible fish species and sizes.
  6. Award certificates for sharks, marlins, sailfish and red drum will only be issued for fish that are caught and released because of the change in billfishing and shark fishing ethics. When registering online, please select the catch and release option under the Catch Summary heading. *Exceptions for these species will be made in the case of a state record catch, which requires a weight for the fish.
  7. Due to restrictions on the harvest of red drum along the Atlantic coast, only catch & release awards are available for this species above the newly certified minimum size.
  8. Department of Natural Resources reserves the right to refuse any FishMaryland application that is not complete or legible.
  9. Department of Natural Resources decisions regarding FishMaryland will be final.
  10. Department of Natural Resources may approve special Angler Awards in the case of unusual catches or extenuating circumstances.
  11. Submission of photographs authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to use them for promotion in all media including the Internet.

*Exceptions will be made for the establishment of a new state record, in which case the fish must be weighed.

Where to Fish

  • Nontidal Division: All freshwater ponds, lakes, impoundments and nontidal waters.
  • Chesapeake Bay Division: The entire Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay and it's tidal tributaries, including the tidal Potomac River and it's Maryland tributaries.
  • Atlantic Coast Division: Atlantic Ocean, Ocean City Inlet, Chincoteague Bay, Sinepuxent Bay, Isle of Wight Bay, and Assawoman Bay (and their tributaries) bounded to the north by the Maryland-Delaware Line and to the south by the Maryland-Virginia Line and Federal waters off the coast of Maryland provided the trip embarked from Maryland.

Entering Your Catch

  1. Fish must be registered at an official Fishing Challenge Recognition Award Center.
  2. All entries with the exception of sharks, marlins and sailfish must now be measured. All measurements should be in total length (tip of the nose to the tip of the longest extended portion of the tail of the fish). Exceptions will be made for the establishment of a new state record, in which case the fish must be weighed.
  3. All sharks, marlins and sailfish must be released alive with a photograph in order to be eligible for an award. Red Drum must be released alive. with a photograph showing length.

Catch and Release Angler Award Rules

The Maryland Catch and Release Program rewards anglers who release alive an Angler Award-sized fish, if the species is in season. An angler who meets or exceeds the minimum size stated in the Size Requirements on the Maryland Fishing Challenge website will receive a Fishing Challenge Award. 

  1. Fish must be caught in Maryland waters by rod and reel and released alive.
  2. Fish must be of legal size as measured from tip of jaw to tip of tail.
  3. Fish must meet or exceed the minimum Angler Award length. Lay the fish on a tape measure or ruler to photograph so that the species and size can be verified.
  4. To register the catch the angler must bring a clear photo showing fish and length to an Angler Award center. Digital photos are acceptable.

Governor’s Striped Bass Conservation Award Rules

The Governor’s Striped Bass Conservation Award recognizes any recreational angler who releases alive a striped bass catch of 40” or more while fishing Maryland waters during the open season.

  • You must follow the FishMaryland catch and release angler award rules (see above) and register your fish via the contest registration process.
  • Once your registration is submitted and verified, you will receive your Maryland Fishing Challenge Award catch and release certificate within 45 days.
  • Governor’s Striped Bass Conservation Awards will be issued following the completion of the current year’s Maryland Fishing Challenge.
  • Only one Governor’s Striped Bass Conservation Award will be issued per angler per year. If you register more than one verified fish for this award in a year, your certificate will reflect the total number of fish you released that year.

Invasive Species Component Rules

The rules below apply only to this component and those species designated eligible.

  • All fish must be kept to qualify for an award certificate or a state record. There is no catch and release award for invasive species.
  • Fish must be killed by one of the following methods:
    1. The head is severed from the dorsal area in line with the pectoral fins completely through the spinal vertebrae; the head does not have to be detached from the fish.
    2. At least two gill arches are completely removed from the gill area.
    3. The fish has all of its internal organs removed.
  • Fish must be caught using legal recreational fishing methods. All legal recreational fishing methods and gear are allowed.

Invasive Species Component Angler Award Rules
(fish meeting minimum award size are eligible)

  • Minimum sizes for award certificates are established based on recommendations of Fisheries Service biologists familiar with the species. For the three species currently meeting Fisheries Service policy criteria for the Invasive Species Component, minimum award sizes are:
    • Blue Catfish, 40 inches
    • Flathead Catfish, 34 inches
    • Northern Snakehead, 30 inches
  • To enter, anglers follow the established FishMaryland, Angler Award Program process. All submissions for award certificates and entry into the Invasive Species Component (ISC) must take place: (1) at a designated angler award center where entrants receive a registration ticket to enter their fish online; or (2) by approval of the Angler Award Program manager.
  • Northern Snakehead and Flathead Catfish have been added to the eligibility list for Angler Award recognition, but fish must be kept to be eligible, as stated in the Invasive Species Component (ISC) rules above. Blue Catfish was already on the eligibility list; however, the rules now require that they be kept to be eligible.

ISC State Record Rules

  • Benchmark weights for state records are established based on recommendations of Fisheries biologists familiar with the species.
  • To enter, anglers follow established state record procedures. These include: positive identification by a Fisheries biologist, determination of weight on a state certified scale, and a dated and signed witness statement by a person other than the angler that has witnessed weighing the fish.
  • Northern Snakehead and Flathead Catfish have been added to the list for state record recognition, but fish must be kept to be eligible, as stated in the ISC rules above. Blue Catfish was already recognized for state records; however, previously it was not required that the fish be kept to be recognized.

By participating in FishMaryland, you agree to be mentioned by name in the media (i.e. newspaper, television, radio, internet, etc.) and photographed for use during FishMaryland promotions. You must provide your contact information (and those of your parent or guardian, if you are under 18 years of age) and your fishing license (if applicable) at the time of the inspection. ​​