Anglers 16 years and older must have a valid saltwater license to fish the Chesapeake Bay. People who do not live in Virginia or Maryland can expect to pay more, although 5-day fishing permits are available for nonresidents at a fraction of the cost of an annual license. A separate license is required for boating on the Chesapeake Bay.
Maryland and Virginia maintain reciprocal licensing agreements, meaning an angler with a valid license from Virginia can fish the waters of the Chesapeake that fall within the Maryland boundary, and vice versa.
Fish Species Regulations
The Chesapeake Bay is a protected watershed with regulations on fish that can be kept, as well as their size and possession limits. These regulations vary among species, seasonally and even monthly, so consult the government sites linked below before you throw any fish caught from the bay in your cooler. Striped bass, in particular, are heavily regulated by possession limits and the times of year that anglers may keep them.
Virginia and Maryland marine management officials state that new regulations are posted to the websites linked below within a week of adoption.
Special Regulations Affecting Shellfish, Crabs, Fish Altering
Separate regulations and specialized requirements affect crab traps and harvesting shellfish such as oysters on the Chesapeake Bay. Crab pots are subject to size and configuration measurements, with separate regulations affecting the softshell crab season.
Oysters are also heavily regulated due to a history of over-harvesting on the bay. While these popular bivalves were once harvested in the millions of bushels, the harvest in recent years has dwindled to thousands of bushels. The Maryland and Virginia governments work with landowners rimming the bay to repopulate the waters and replenish oyster stocks.
Be aware that it is illegal to possess cut up or filleted fish on a boat on the Chesapeake Bay if the fish is unrecognizable or no longer possible to measure its original length, which is legally defined as the distance between the tip of the nose and tip of the tail.