Living in Maryland, you may wonder if you can bowfish here, and in fact, it offers you a unique opportunity compared to other states for bowfishing. For example, you can go bowfishing for for invasive Asian snakeheads. Snakeheads can be found in up to 60 of the rivers and tidewaters in Maryland. Beyond that, let’s take a look at the overall picture when it comes to bowfishing in Maryland.
Is Bowfishing Legal in Maryland?
You can bowfish for all non-game and invasive fish species in the state of Maryland. The state prohibits the taking of gamefish with a bow and arrow. However, you can bowfish year-round in the state of Maryland.
Bowfishing for the invasive snakeheads has become incredibly popular in the state, but remember how you cannot return snakeheads taken by bow back to the water. It is illegal to return invasive species back to the water.
On top of that, the arrow that pierced the fish will eventually kill it anyhow. The one exception to that rule would be stingrays, which can recover even after being hit with an arrow, but they often hunt the stingrays in this region to preserve the crab and oyster industries.
When you go bowfishing, keep in mind that Maryland bowfishing regulations dictate that you must remain at a minimum of 100 yards away from human beings and private and public swimming areas.
To get started bowfishing here, you just need a Maryland fishing license since it covers bowfishing as well.
Bowfishing for Snakehead in Maryland
Bowfishing for snakehead in the state of Maryland has become a popular choice because of how the fish spooks less easily than carp. Most of the time when you go bowfishing for snakeheads, you do it at night, but if you did decide to do it during the day, you would want to wear polarized bowfishing sunglasses so that you can see the fish under the water.
If you plan to go bowfishing for snakehead, keep in mind that they prefer shallow and warm water areas with submerged or fallen objects for cover. You can also find them in mud flats, deep channels and aquatic cover.
Like tilapia, snakehead don’t have the fishy flavor, and the meat is even firmer than tilapia. Most think it tastes even better than tilapia, but some people mistake the snakehead for the bowfin. The biggest difference between the snakehead and the bowfin is that bowfin have a shorter anal fin whereas the snakehead has one long fin.
Bowfishing for Stingray in Maryland
The other most popular fish to bowfish for in Maryland is the stingray. One of the great things about going after the stingray is that they also taste good. In bowfishing, you often go after a lot of fish that you don’t want to eat too much of like carp (see what to do with dead carp here), but stingray is one fish that tastes great. A lot of the time when you target stingray in Maryland, you will bowfish for them off the eastern shores of the state.
Bowfishermen in Maryland tend to target two types of stingray: Cownose Stingray and Southern Stingray. The Cownose Stingray will reach a weight of up to 40 pounds and the Southern Stingray can reach over 100 pounds.
The best time to go after the stingray in Maryland would be from March to October. This is a great season because the water temperature will start to warm up, and the fish will spread out. You can get some great action here straight through to September.
Related article: Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in North Carolina
Where to Bowfish in Maryland
Let’s take a look at where you might take your bowfishing adventures in Maryland. You can hire a knowledgeable guide for a first trip to get an idea of how to do it. Here are some of the most popular places for bowfishing in the state:
- Patuxent River
- Susquehanna Flats
- Patapsco River
- Lake Roland
- Bush River
You can bowfish for stingray on the Patuxent River. In general, the Patuxent is full of bowfishing opportunities that will keep you busy. Cownose stingrays have become a popular target on this river.
You could also hit some snakehead lurking in this river. If you want the snakehead, look closer toward the upper Patuxent River. With only a few hours of bowfishing, you can collect up to 20 snakeheads, and since this is an invasive species, they don’t limit how many you can take. In this area, many of them will reach up to 8 pounds.
Many bowfishermen drive to the Susquehanna Flats for the snakeheads in this waterway. You can take home a 30-inch snakehead from here, which is close to the state record at 33 inches. If you want the snakeheads here, check out the lower Susquehanna. To give you an idea of how bad the issue with snakeheads on the Susquehanna is, they harvested over 1,000 pounds of them in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.
This area is rife with bowfishing opportunities if you know where to look, and you could hire a guide to help you with bowfishing here. Just remember that they prohibit bowfishing on the section of the Hudson River where they practice catch and release. Part of the reason for this is that bowfishing will always kill the fish.
Related article: Bowfishing Setup: 6 Things to Get Started
This small river averages about 50 feet in length making it one of the smaller rivers on this list. Like with many of the other choices on this list, you will find snakeheads on the Patapsco. One bowfishermen reported killing up to 50 snakeheads in a single session.
Bowfishing offers you a better alternative to catching them because sometimes they won’t go after lures. The mud flat up near the middle branch of the Patapsco holds carp.
You would take a trip to Lake Roland especially if you wanted to target the carp since this lake has plenty of carp on it.
Known for its snakeheads, the Bush River has carp on it as well, but since snakeheads taste better to the American palette, you may choose the snakehead instead or a combination of the two. Snakeheads aren’t the most caught species here, but you can still catch them on the Bush River.
How to Find Bowfishing Tournaments: Maryland Bowfishing Association
You can participate in a few great tournaments around Maryland, but one of the easiest ways to find them is by checking with the Maryland Bowfishing Association. They host tournaments throughout the season. As a side note, most states have a state bowfishing association with the exception of Minnesota where they call it the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association. If you want to participate in a tournament there, just look for the association to see when they host the tournaments.
Hopefully, this highlights the best of the bowfishing opportunities that Maryland has to offer. This is a unique state in terms of bowfishing, and you can take advantage of either the freshwater opportunities, or you can go after the saltwater species like stingrays. Maryland’s main attraction here would be the snakeheads. In case you don’t have bowfishing equipment, I wrote an article here about the best bowfishing bows.