Official Maryland Fishing Challenge Rules

The Maryland Fishing Challenge runs annually from 12:01am the day after Labor Day until 12:00am (midnight) Labor Day of the current year. Anyone who catches a fish matching the minimum size requirements and checks it in at a local Award Center will be eligible to enter into the challenge. Registered anglers will receive additional information via regular mail regarding the finale approximately 2 weeks prior to the September event.

Maryland Angler Award Component Rules:

  1. DNR staff and their immediate families are ineligible.
  2. Professional guides, charter boat captains, crew on for-hire fishing boats, or anyone who offers his fish for sale are ineligible.
  3. All fish must be caught on rod and reel. From the time that a fish strikes or takes bait or lure, the angler must hook and fight the fish without the aid of any other person. The reel must be operated manually. Once the leader is brought to the rod tip, more than one person is permitted to help land the fish.
  4. Fish that have been snagged, shot, gaffed, speared, scaled, or mutilated are not eligible.
  5. The catch must be legal. Anglers should be aware of the fishing rules, eligible fish species and sizes.
  6. Award certificates for sharks, marlins, sailfish and red drum will only be issued for fish that are caught and released because of the change in billfishing and shark fishing ethics. When registering online, please select the catch and release option under the Catch Summary heading. *Exceptions for these species will be made in the case of a state record catch, which requires a weight for the fish.
  7. Due to restrictions on the harvest of Red Drum along the Atlantic coast, only catch & release awards are available for this species above the newly certified minimum size.
  8. DNR reserves the right to refuse any Maryland Fishing Challenge application that is not complete or legible.
  9. DNR decisions regarding the Maryland Fishing Challenge will be final.
  10. DNR may approve special Angler Awards in the case of unusual catches or extenuating circumstances.
  11. Submission of photographs authorizes DNR to use them for promotion in all media including the Internet.

*Exceptions will be made for the establishment of a new state record, in which case the fish must be weighed.

Where to Fish

  • Freshwater Division: All freshwater ponds, lakes, impoundments and nontidal waters.
  • Chesapeake Bay Division: The entire Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay and it's tidal tributaries, including the tidal Potomac River and it's Maryland tributaries.
  • Atlantic Coast Division: Atlantic Ocean, Ocean City Inlet, Chincoteague Bay, Sinepuxent Bay, Isle of Wight Bay, and Assawoman Bay (and their tributaries) bounded to the north by the Maryland-Delaware Line and to the south by the Maryland-Virginia Line and Federal waters off the coast of Maryland provided the trip embarked from Maryland.

Entering Your Catch

  1. Fish must be registered at an official Fishing Challenge Recognition Award Center.
  2. All entries with the exception of sharks, marlins and sailfish must now be measured. All measurements should be in total length (tip of the nose to the tip of the longest extended portion of the tail of the fish). Exceptions will be made for the establishment of a new state record, in which case the fish must be weighed.
  3. All sharks, marlins and sailfish must be released alive with a photograph in order to be eligible for an award. Red Drum must be released alive. with a photograph showing length.

Catch and Release Angler Award Rules

The Maryland Catch and Release Program rewards anglers who release alive an Angler Award-sized fish, if the species is in season. An angler who meets or exceeds the minimum size stated in the Size Requirements on the Maryland Fishing Challenge website will receive a Fishing Challenge Award. A photo showing species and length must be submitted to an Awards Center.

  1. Fish must be caught in Maryland waters by rod and reel and released alive.
  2. Fish must be of legal size as measured from tip of jaw to tip of tail.
  3. Fish must meet or exceed the minimum Angler Award length. Lay the fish on a tape measure or ruler to photograph so that the species and size can be verified.
  4. To register the catch the angler must bring a clear photo showing fish and length to an Angler Award center. Digital photos are acceptable.

Invasive Species Component (ISC) Rules

The rules below apply only to this component and those species designated eligible.

  • All fish must be kept to qualify for an award certificate or a state record. There is no catch and release award for invasive species.
  • Fish must be killed by one of the following methods:
    1. The head is severed from the dorsal area in line with the pectoral fins completely through the spinal vertebrae; the head does not have to be detached from the fish.
    2. At least two gill arches are completely removed from the gill area.
    3. The fish has all of its internal organs removed.
  • Fish must be caught using legal recreational fishing methods. All legal recreational fishing methods and gear are allowed.

ISC Angler Award Rules (fish meeting minimum award size are eligible)

  • Minimum sizes for award certificates are established based on recommendations of Fisheries Service biologists familiar with the species. For the three species currently meeting Fisheries Service policy criteria for the Invasive Species Component, minimum award sizes are:
    • Blue Catfish, 40 inches
    • Flathead Catfish, 34 inches
    • Northern Snakehead, 30 inches
  • To enter, anglers follow the established MFC Angler Award Program process. All submissions for award certificates and entry into the ISC must take place: (1) at a designated angler award center where entrants receive a registration ticket to enter their fish online; or (2) by approval of the Angler Award Program manager.
  • Northern Snakehead and Flathead Catfish have been added to the eligibility list for Angler Award recognition, but fish must be kept to be eligible, as stated in the ISC rules above. Blue Catfish was already on the eligibility list; however, the rules now require that they be kept to be eligible.
  • During September, one prize will be awarded by drawing from all ISC Angler Award and State Record entries.

ISC State Record Rules

  • Benchmark weights for state records are established based on recommendations of Fisheries Service biologists familiar with the species.
  • To enter, anglers follow established state record procedures. These include: positive identification by a Fisheries Service biologist, determination of weight on a state certified scale, and a dated and signed witness statement by a person other than the angler that has witnessed weighing the fish.
  • Northern Snakehead and Flathead Catfish have been added to the list for state record recognition, but fish must be kept to be eligible, as stated in the ISC rules above. Blue Catfish was already recognized for state records; however, previously it was not required that the fish be kept to be recognized.
  • During September, one prize will be awarded by drawing from all ISC Angler Award and State Record entries.

ISC Angler's Log Rules (fish harvested at any size are eligible)

  • To enter, anglers share their experiences on the Department's Anglers Log, where a log specific to the Invasive Species Component will be maintained. Anglers will report how they caught the invasive fish, where they found them, and submit a photo of their harvest.
  • In 2013, the Department added Northern Snakehead to the list of species in the Volunteer Angler Survey. However, Northern Snakehead must be reported on the Angler's Log to enter the ISC prize drawing.
  • During September, one prize will be awarded via random drawing from all entries to the Invasive Species Component Anglers Log.

Diamond Jim Component Rules and Cash Payouts


  • On or Before June 1, 2014, tagged striped bass will be released into the Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay. One of the tagged striped bass will be designated the "Diamond Jim" worth $10,000 if caught between the release date of the tagged fish, through midnight June 30, 2014. If the June "Diamond Jim" striped bass is not caught during this timeframe, that striped bass becomes an imposter fish, worth at least $500, and the July "Diamond Jim" becomes valid and worth either $10,000 (if June Diamond Jim is caught) or $20,000 (if June Diamond Jim is not caught). If the July Diamond Jim is not caught before midnight July 31, 2014 that striped bass becomes an imposter fish and the August "Diamond Jim" becomes valid and worth either $10,000 (if June or July Diamond Jim is caught) or $25,000 (if June or July Diamond Jim is not caught). The August Diamond Jim is eligible August 1, 2014 through September 1, 2014.
  • The remaining tagged striped bass are known as imposters, worth a minimum of $500 if caught between the release date and September 1, 2014.
  • If no authentic "Diamond Jim" striped bass are caught during the contest. Any imposter striped bass which have been caught between the initial release date and September 1, 2014 and are certified by MD DNR officials to have been caught consistent with the rules of the contest will divide $25,000 equally among the anglers qualifying.
  • Anyone (recreationally) fishing legally is eligible except a professional guide, a charter boat captain, crewman of a for-hire boat, or anyone who is licensed to offer fish for sale. All fish registered must be caught on rod and reel. No other person may touch the rod or line until the leader is within grasp or the end of the leader has reached the rod tip. Fish that have been snagged, shot, gaffed, speared, scaled, or mutilated are not eligible. The catch must be lawful. Anglers should be aware of the rules pertaining to fishing and eligible sizes of fish at all time.
  • If the MD DNR official(s) inspects and certifies your fish as eligible, the angler who caught the tagged striped bass will be required to sign a certificate of recapture which contains an under penalty of perjury statement. If the angler is under the age of 18, a legal guardian/witness will also be required to sign the certificate of recapture form. Upon signing this certification form, MD DNR officials will conduct an investigation. The investigation may include, but not limited to, the winner and/or a witness to the catch being asked to complete a polygraph examination before the prize is awarded.
Entering Your Diamond Jim Catch:

A chartreuse tag will be placed on a select number of striped bass that are part of the "Diamond Jim" promotion. If this fish is caught, DO NOT REMOVE THE TAG FROM THE STRIPED BASS. IF THE TAG IS REMOVED, THE FISH WILL NO LONGER BE ELIGIBLE FOR A PRIZES. Call the phone number printed on the tag, and leave a message (the voicemails are retrieved daily). Place the fish on ice or freeze the fish. A DNR Fisheries biologist MUST physically examine the striped bass with the tag still attached for the fish to be eligible. If the tag is removed prior to the exam, the catch will be disqualified. The chartreuse fish tag will have the words "MD 2014 DIAMOND JIM FISHING CHALLENGE INELIGIBLE IF TAG IS REMOVED - Phone Number- Tag number". It may take several days for an inspection to be conducted, so PLEASE FREEZE OR ICE YOUR FISH WITHOUT REMOVING THE TAG.


By participating in the Maryland Fishing Challenge, you agree to be mentioned by name in the media (i.e. newspaper, television, radio, internet, etc.) and photographed for use during Fishing Challenge promotions. Each winner is responsible for paying any and all taxes on any prize(s) won. You must provide your contact information (and those of your parent or guardian, if you are under 18 years of age) and your fishing license (if applicable) at the time of the inspection. DNR must certify that you are qualified before your name will be entered into the final prize drawing.

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