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Maryland’s Striped Bass Emergency Closure Continues into May

Photo of boat on the water

Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that Maryland’s striped bass fishing closure began on April 1 and runs until May 15, 2024 in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. 

Emergency regulations, enacted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and approved by Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review, were put in place to try to better protect large migratory striped bass after several years of below average spawning success.

The regulations effectively close Maryland’s “trophy” season during which striped bass longer than 35 inches have been harvested in Chesapeake Bay waters.

As in past years, targeting striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries has been prohibited throughout April. Catch and release is prohibited and anyone who accidentally catches a striped bass must release it into the water immediately. Emergency regulations have extended the closure – which prohibits all targeting – an additional two weeks, to May 15. This violation is punishable by fines up to $1,000 for the first offense, and up to one year in jail and/or a $2,000 maximum fine for second offenses.

Given the changes,  Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) encourages the public to familiarize themselves with the new regulations. NRP plans on regular enforcement patrols to identify striped bass targeting and out-of-season takes.

“Our conservation laws are put in place to protect the natural resources that Maryland is fortunate to have,” said NRP Acting Deputy Superintendent/Lt. Col. Brian Rathgeb. “The sustainability of our state’s striped bass population is in jeopardy. It’s reliant on the compliance of law-abiding anglers of the Chesapeake and it’s imperative that NRP enforcement aligns with the guidance of state legislators and department scientists.” 

Similar to the annual striped bass closure in the last two weeks of July, where temperatures are at their peak in Maryland, these two weeks in May are closed for the benefit of the species. There is always some degree of fish mortality associated with catch and release fishing, and mortality increases with higher temperatures in the air and water. 

The closure in April and May is meant to encourage a healthy spawn as large striped bass make their way from the Atlantic Ocean and up the Chesapeake Bay to spawn in the same Maryland tributaries where they were spawned.

The closure is extended through May 31 in the Susquehanna Flats, Lower Susquehanna River, and North East River. This area is an important striped bass nursery in the upper Bay that in recent years has remained closed to targeting later than the rest of the Bay. 

Violation of this closure is punishable by fines up to $1,000 for the first offense, and up to one year in jail and/or a $2,000 maximum fine for second offenses.

Anglers are encouraged to target other fish during this emergency closure. Blue catfish and snakeheads are invasive species that have a sportfishing following and harvesting them contributes to a healthier ecosystem in the Bay. Both fish are appetizing table fare – and as an invasive species – have no bag limits or size limits in the state of Maryland. Tips and methods for fishing blue catfish can be found on the DNR website. 

In the Chesapeake Bay, early summer regulations return on May 16 for certain areas, and June 1 for the entirety of the Bay and its tributaries. 

More information on Maryland’s state fish can be found on DNR’s striped bass webpage. The department also shares guidance on responsible catch and release, as well as an advisory forecast for fishing striped bass in the summer.