Uncover Maryland’s Fishing License Rules: Catch and Release Explained

Can You Catch and Release Without a Fishing License in Maryland?

If you’re an avid angler or simply enjoy spending time by the water, you may wonder whether it’s legal to catch and release fish without obtaining a fishing license. In the state of Maryland, there are specific regulations governing fishing activities that aim to protect wildlife populations while ensuring sustainable practices. Let’s delve into the details regarding whether you can catch and release fish without a fishing license in Maryland.

The Importance of Fishing Licenses

Fishing licenses play a crucial role in promoting conservation efforts while supporting recreational activities. Revenue generated from fishing licenses is often allocated towards maintaining fisheries, improving habitats, conducting research, and enforcing regulations. These funds aid in preserving aquatic ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.

Maryland’s Regulations on Catch and Release

In Maryland, catch and release activities fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR mandates that all individuals aged 16 years or older must possess a valid fishing license when engaging in any form of recreational fishing – including catch-and-release practices.


While most anglers are required to obtain a fishing license for any type of fishing activity, some exceptions do apply:

  • Youth Exemption: If an individual is younger than 16 years old, they are not required to hold a fishing license but must still adhere to size limits, bag limits, seasons restrictions set forth by DNR regulations.
  • Nontidal Waters: Residents who solely plan on catching fish within nontidal waters (such as freshwater lakes) need not acquire an additional Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sport Fishing License but should consult local regulations regarding their specific fishing area.
  • Free Fishing Days: Occasionally, Maryland offers designated free fishing days where residents and non-residents alike can fish without a license. These dates are announced annually by the DNR, providing opportunities for individuals to experience the joy of angling without financial barriers.

The Benefits of Obtaining a Fishing License

While certain exceptions exist regarding fishing licenses in Maryland, it’s generally recommended for anglers to obtain one even if they plan on practicing catch and release. Here are some benefits that come with obtaining a fishing license:

  • Sustainability: The funds from licensing fees contribute towards various conservation programs aimed at maintaining healthy fish populations and their habitats.
  • Educational Resources: By purchasing a fishing license, you gain access to valuable educational resources provided by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. This information covers topics such as best practices for catch and release techniques, species identification guides, size limits, bag limits, seasonal restrictions, and more.
  • Fishing Excursions: Holding a valid fishing license allows you to explore different bodies of water throughout Maryland while enjoying your favorite pastime legally and responsibly.
  • Bonding Opportunities: Sharing recreational activities like fishing often strengthens relationships with family members or friends. Engaging in these shared experiences fosters unity while creating lasting memories in nature’s tranquil settings.

In Conclusion

If you plan on engaging in any form of recreational angling – including catch and release – within Maryland waters aged 16 years or older should acquire a valid fishing license from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). While there are exceptions such as youth exemptions or fishing solely within nontidal waters, obtaining a fishing license ensures your compliance with local regulations and supports conservation efforts that preserve Maryland’s rich aquatic ecosystems for generations to come.