Maryland Fishing Locations: Potomac, Chesapeake Bay & More
The mid-Atlantic State of Maryland has a long seafaring history. The state’s largest city, Baltimore is a major seaport. And Fort McHenry, where the U.S. National Anthem was born, is at the mouth of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Also, that is where you’ll find the National Aquarium. So, it is no surprise there’s a need to create a list of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland.
Although Maryland makes a great destination for a family holiday, it is famous as a prime fishing hotspot for leisure anglers. The cities are vibrant and cosmopolitan with lots of great restaurants, hotels, and shopping. If you visit during the summer months, take in a music festival, spend a day at the beach, or check out the annual White Marlin Open fishing tournament.
And the countryside in this small state is stunning. As well as the dramatic Atlantic coastline with its beautiful sandy beaches, Maryland extends to the Appalachian Mountains. Those heavily-forested slopes descend to sparkling rivers, trout streams, and lakes.
Maryland offers plenty of bay, ocean, and freshwater fishing opportunities. The mountain streams in western Maryland have different species of trout and bass. And the Chesapeake Bay boasts over 350 species of fish, as well as oysters. And its famous blue crabs. Ice fishing in Maryland is popular during the winter months at many of the mountain fishing spots.
So, among the many fish species you can expect to land in Maryland, you’ll find eel, sturgeon, drum, striped, smallmouth & largemouth bass, common carp of all sizes, channel and blue catfish, gar, larger walleye, flounder, rainbow and brown trout, perch and many more.
Anyone who’s over the age of 16 must have a valid Maryland fishing license. Te license is valid 365 days from the date of the purchase, unless stated otherwise. However, there are several different licenses, depending on where you plan on fishing, including:
- Non-Tidal License: Permits you to fish in lakes and streams. But if you want to fish for trout, you’ll need to purchase a trout stamp, too. It costs $20.50/ per year for residents and a minimum of $30.50 for non-residents (the maximum for non-residents depends on the reciprocal for state of residence)
- Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Sports License: Allows you to fish the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Atlantic coastal bays and tributaries. The current annual fee is $15 for residents and $22.50 for non-residents. There’s also a 7-day permit, which costs $6 if you’re a resident and $12 for non-residents.
- A Recreational Crabbing License: Required if you want to catch crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Also, you can use a trotline, collapsible traps or rings, or eel pots for catching bait. If you want to use crab pots from your private property you must register every 365 days. The registration is free.
So for the full details about regulations and licenses, go to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website. Also, if you want to fish one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland, contact one of the many official licensed agents around the state.
First, it is important to note that you must clean your boat and gear between fishing tips to stop the spread of invasive species. But many of Maryland’s parks provide wader wash stations, as well as suitable facilities for cleaning your gear.
Also, be sure to drain any water from your boat’s bilges and linewells. For more information on fishing regulations that apply in Maryland, visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
Our Favorite Locations
Because there are so many excellent fishing spots in Maryland, it’s difficult to know where to start. But fear no more. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of amazing places to cast your line in Maryland.
Below you’ll find 10 of our favorite locations, along with a map location for each. You’ll find plenty of places to catch both freshwater and saltwater fish. Maryland is both known for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Keep reading on to find our favorite spots.
1. Youghiogheny River
The Youghiogheny River Reservoir (located here) is a 2,800-acre man-made body of water that straddles the Mason-Dixon Line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Interestingly, they created it in 1944 by damming the Youghiogheny River. But today, the Reservoir is one of the premier fisheries in both states. Fish habitat in the reservoir is superb, with submerged timber, boat docks, rocky shorelines, and shallow weed beds.
However, the water levels tend to fluctuate there. And this is especially during the fall when the reservoir is almost drawn down. The fish species that flourish in this 16-mile lake include:
- Smallmouth bass
- Northern pike (AKA Sawtooths)
- Hybrid stripers
- Chain pickerel
And when the water levels are high, a marina and boat ramps serve the reservoir. The lake is one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland because it’s popular with kayak anglers, too.
But there’s so much space here, powerboat and canoeing activity doesn’t impact the fishing. Also, there are several campgrounds close to the reservoir, including RV hook-ups. And lastly, nearby you’ll find bait and tackle shops and convenience stores.
2. Lake Centennial
Lake Centennial is a small, 50-acre body of water in Howard County – which is located here. They stocked the lake for the first time in 1985. And now, it is a largemouth bass fishery managed under the Big Bass Program. So you can land some seriously big fish because 12 to 14-inch fish are the norm.
However, as well as bass, they stock the lake with rainbow trout. And you’ll want the right equipment to find some decent size panfish and channel catfish, too. Tiger muskellunge also live in these waters, providing a challenge requiring strong tackle to land.
Also, there’s a 2.6-mile path around the lake. But anglers should note that the shoreline vegetation grows rapidly during the summer months.
And in many areas, the lily pads extend up to 15 feet from the bank, posing a problem for those who like to fish from the shore. However, rowboats and canoes are welcome on the lake. Also, you can use an electric-powered motorboat under 16 feet if you want.
But you should hire a boat from the concession area. Be aware that, if you decide to bring your own craft, you’ll need to buy a daily permit at the boathouse.
Also, there’s a fishing pier close to the boat launch that provides a perfectly stable platform from which to fish. But the average depth of Centennial is only around 10 feet. The lake is at its deepest close to the dam and shallowest near the intake to the west end of the lake.
But be aware that there is a wildlife sanctuary to the extreme west end where fishing is not permitted. And they’ve marked the boundary by buoys. And finally, Centennial Park and the lake have clean picnic areas and pavilions high on the hills overlooking the water.
The park and lake both belong on this list of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland.
3. Johnson’s Pond
Located in Salisbury, Johnson’s Pond is eastern Maryland’s largest reservoir as well as the oldest (located here). They created this 104-acre site as a mill pond during colonial times. And it is now one of Maryland’s Special Bass Management Areas.
The pond is fed by several tributaries, but the main ones form the east and north forks, which together create a “main pool.” The main pool contains Christmas tree fish attractors. And there are many stumps, docks and aquatic vegetation to create an excellent fish habitat. The fish species that thrive there include:
- Largemouth Bass
- Black Crappie
- Pumpkinseed Sunfish
- Yellow Perch
- White Perch
- Chain Pickerel
- Brown Bullhead Catfish
Also, golden shiners, gizzard shad and chub suckers also live in the pond, providing a vital source of food for predatory fish. But for some excellent shore fishing for bass and some extremely large white crappie, try fishing off the old swimmers’ beach to the north fork using plastic bait. And along the eastern shore of the main part of the pond, you’ll see steep banks and lots of fallen trees.
In addition, this habitat provides bass fishermen with some good early-morning surface action. Move to the western side of the lake where brush, private docks, and fallen trees also create the perfect habitat for predators. And early in the season, spinnerbaits when used in conjunction with the right reels, and swimming plugs will serve you well in the shallows.
But when the summer heat sets in, enjoy some excellent topwater fishing with buzzbaits and jitterbugs, especially after dark. Importantly, there are no horsepower limitation for boats on the pond. However, camping and swimming are prohibited.
But with all the species there, it is one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland.
4. Deer Creek
Deer Creek flows through the Rocks State Park, Eden Mill, and the Hidden Valley Natural Area (located here). And the creek is a 52.9-mile-long river that flows through scenic Harford County before emptying into the Susquehanna River.
Deer Creek is stocked with rainbow trout, so you’ll find some decent 20-inch fish here. Also, there are brown trout, which the local private hatcheries occasionally stock. This makes it one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland.
And in the deeper pools along the creek, you’ll find a small population of fair-sized smallmouth bass. That means fly-fishing among the rocks and boulders can yield good results, as do the pools around undercut banks and wood cover. And lastly, there’s plenty of camping opportunities close to Deer Creek if you want to stay and fill your creel.
5. Tuckahoe Lake
In the 1970s, they dammed the Tuckahoe Creek to create 50-acre Tuckahoe Lake (located here) to power a grist mill. But the mill is long gone, so the lake is now exclusively used for recreation. And close to the dam, the lake reaches its maximum depth of seven feet. Also, the remainder of the water averages a depth of five to six feet.
The Freshwater Fisheries Division of the DNR manages the sports fish population to create an angling resource for the public. And for that reason, it is one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland. So the most prevalent fish species are bass and bluegill.
However, fishing around the roots and stumps can land you some chain pickerel. Other fish species that are caught there include:
- White crappie
- Black crappie
- Pumpkinseed sunfish
- Yellow perch
- Brown bullhead
Also present in numbers are chub suckers and shiners that provide food for predatory fish. And although they don’t permit gas motors, electric trolling motors are fine to use. In Tuckahoe Park, you’ll find 20 miles of trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding. And flat-water canoeing is a popular pastime.
But if you don’t have one, canoes are available for hire. The park is home to abundant wildlife, including ospreys, bald eagles, great blue herons, muskrats, and beavers. The park offers a well-equipped family camping area with electric hookups.
No water hook-ups are available, but potable water links are provided. And dogs are welcome, but they must be leashed at all times.
6. Potomac River
The Potomac river (popular fishing spots located here) flows for 405 miles from its source in the Appalachian Mountains until it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. And this tidal river offers some of the best crabbing, shellfish gathering, and fishing on the Atlantic Coast.
There’s a dazzling array of different fish species there, including:
- Largemouth bass
- Striped bass
- Yellow perch
- White perch
- Chain pickerel
- Channel catfish
- Blue catfish
You can find a full list of fish species that live in the Potomac can be seen here. Also, the Potomac has hosted numerous Bassmaster tournaments. And the largemouth bass can reach six pounds or more, thanks to the variety of forage base that lives there.
So local anglers looking for largemouth focus on the beds of heart-shaped spatterdock leaves or aquatic grass. But fishing the upper Potomac increases your chances of catching smallmouth bass attracted by the abundant crayfish. Also, natural colored jigs are popular lure choices, too. And spinnerbait is also useful for locating actively feeding fish.
Interestingly, a relative newcomer to the Potomac is the snakehead. So check out the slower backwater areas of dominant aquatic grass early and late in the day. And be sure to use spinnerbaits to land this rare Potomac resident.
7. Chesapeake Bay
Southern Maryland borders the Chesapeake Bay (located here). So if you base yourself in the large city of Annapolis, you’ll find plenty of good hotel accommodations. And in Annapolis, you’ll also be close to the fishing action, too. There are plenty of fishing piers along the Choptank River on the bay’s eastern shore.
Also, the piers are illuminated at night from April through December and are open 24//7. And shore fishing is available on the 244-acre Hart-Miller Island, north of Baltimore.
However, it is only accessible by boat. So if you want to venture out into the Bay, check out charter boat hires from Annapolis. So the Chesapeake Bay deserves to be on this list of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland.
The fish species that you’ll find there include:
- Speckled trout
And there are some informative books on fishing Chesapeake Bay that are worth a read before your trip. So check out Rudow’s Guide to Fishing the Chesapeake, and the essential paperback, Field Guide to Fishes of the Chesapeake Bay.
8. The Atlantic Ocean
A fishing trip to Maryland would not be complete without a trip to the coast (popular fishing locations can be seen here). In fact, saltwater fishermen will not want to miss this experience.
Note that you don’t need a license to fish, crab, or harvest clams in the state’s ocean or coastal bays. And Assateague Island is a 37-mile barrier island off the eastern coast of the Delmarva Peninsula looking out into the Atlantic Ocean.
So you’ll find some excellent marina and surf fishing, especially for stripers in the spring and fall when they are migrating. Also, the island also offers wildlife and birding tours, as well as some spectacular beaches.
And if you fancy going in search of deep sea monsters in the open ocean, there are lots of charter operators along the Atlantic shoreline. The fish species you’ll find further out in the deep blue include marlin, shark, stripers and bluefish.
There’s so much to see and do along Maryland’s Atlantic coast, and that’s why it’s one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland.
9. Deep Creek Lake
Deep Creek Lake in Garret County is a 3,900-acre body of water with 69 miles of shoreline (located here). In addition, it is Maryland’s largest impoundment.
The lake is roughly 75 feet deep near the dam, ranging to an average depth of about 25 feet. And you can access it via Deep Creek Lake State Park. Bass fishing tournaments take place there.
But the reason it’s one of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland is that there are many state records for other species, including bluegill. The fish species you can find there include:
- Chain pickerel
- Northern pike
- Yellow perch
- Largemouth bass
- Pumpkinseed sunfish
And you can choose to fish from fishing piers, the shoreline or from a boat. The lake supports various fish habitats including steep rocky shorelines close to the dam and shallow, silt-bottomed coves in the southerly end.
But the deeper, cooler parts yield trout. Also, the submerged stumps and floating docks along the shoreline provide cover for smallmouth and largemouth bass as well as sunfish.
And Ice fishing after you drill the proper hole size for yellow perch is a popular pastime here during the winter months. Additionally, the park has campgrounds, a swimming area, picnic areas, and a pavilion.
10. Big Gunpowder Falls
The final entry on this list of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland is Big Gunpowder Falls (located here). And it is a fantastic fishing location, especially if you enjoy the challenge of catching wild trout.
The trout species you’ll find here in numbers include rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Also, this productive trout stream has stunning scenery among the wetlands, tidal marshes, and rugged slopes.
And access to the shoreline and for stream wading is via hiking trails. You’ll find other species here too, including:
- Largemouth bass
- Smallmouth bass
- White perch
- Yellow perch
But the predominant trout species is the brown trout. And the best fishing is in the catch-and-release section for the initial seven miles below the dam. In addition, below this section is a “trophy trout” area where you can only take two fish over 16 inches. And finally, camping is available within the Big Gunpowder Falls State Park.
Catching Big Fish
This is the list of the top 10 fishing locations in Maryland. Have you chosen your favorite? So, If you’re undecided about where to spend your next fishing vacation, you can’t go wrong if you choose the Old Line State.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer to cast your line as a saltwater angler, or as a freshwater fisherman, there’s all sorts of different types of fish for just about any angler. Crab fishing enthusiasts have plenty of spots to cast a net too.
This small state offers plenty of variety for the leisure angler. Whether you’re a keen fly-fisherman, a dedicated bass fan, or you crave the salty sea air of surf fishing, Maryland has something for you.
This post was originally published on May 26th, 2017 and was last updated in July 2020.
Daniel C. Warren gradually morphed from a weekend warrior into a full-time outdoorsman and outdoor blogger. From picking up trash in the woods or sleeping under an open sky to hiking until his plantar fasciitis says no more or having a field day fishing with like minded fellow countrymen, there’s little he doesn’t wholeheartedly enjoy while out in the wild. While some might call him a true-born nature freak, he likes to see himself as a “born-again” outdoor enthusiast. Daniel just can’t get enough of nature, and we’re grateful whenever he decides to share his latest experiences with us.