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Worth Its Salt: Maryland’s Free Saltwater Angler Registration

Photo of ocean sunrise

Ocean Sunrise by Dennis Garcia

More than a decade ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began requiring anglers to pay a fee and register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry before fishing for anadromous species–those that move between saltwater and freshwater habitats. The registry is a tool that helps NOAA survey anglers to estimate recreational fishing effort and impacts.

Maryland anglers do not have to register with NOAA because our recreational fishing license structure was modified to provide a free saltwater registration to comply with NOAA requirements.

As the years have passed, anglers may have forgotten when the Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration is needed and why it is critical to the management of the state’s fisheries. Anglers with the Maryland Saltwater registration or a Chesapeake Bay and Coastal License are part of a list that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and NOAA can use to survey who has gone fishing in Maryland’s tidal waters. The survey is used to estimate effort (the amount of people or time spent fishing), total catch, and type of fish caught. This information is a critical piece to the formula that is used to establish fishing rules such as catch limits, seasons, and size limits to ensure sustainable fish populations.

Confusion as to who needs the registration may affect compliance with the registry requirement. The table below explains when the registration is required.

Table telling anglers whether they need a saltwater angler registration

The department is working to make compliance with the Maryland Saltwater Angler Registry even easier. In order to buy a license product from the department you need to create or have a DNR account in the license COMPASS system. Changes to the system will be made this winter so an angler will not need to create a login account in order to register. If you already have an account and a DNRid that will still work, but new anglers will find it easier to get the Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration online.

An important part of DNR’s mission is to conserve natural resources for future generations to enjoy. Licensing and registering ensures DNR has the best information possible to make decisions about the future of our fisheries. Without that information, the effort estimates may be less accurate and rules may be more conservative. So whether anglers care about the long-term viability of fisheries, how many fish they can bring home in the cooler, or they just want to make sure they’re following the law–anglers should make sure when they go fishing in tidal waters they and their fishing buddies are either licensed or registered.
Anglers may register at

Gina Hunt is the Administrator of the department’s Fishing and Boating Services. Article appears in Vol. 25, No. 3 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine.