Virtual fishing tournaments are measured by photograph, avoiding a weigh-in gathering. 2019 Photo courtesy of Boatyard Bar & Grill Opening Day Tournament

Md. Boating Update: Races, Fishing Tournaments are Allowed

When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced he was lifting the state’s stay-at-home order and relaxing some restrictions, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also made relaxed some of the restrictions in place for Bay recreation.

In Maryland, boaters are now allowed to go out with people outside of their immediate family for the first time since the boating ban went into effect–as long as the number of people on board stays under 10. “That said, social distancing guidelines are the same on the water as they are on land, including that you should stay six feet away from someone with whom you don’t reside,” DNR spokesman Gregg Bortz tells Bay Bulletin.

When we sought clarification, Bortz confirmed that raft-ups are “no longer expressly prohibited,”, so long as there are no more than ten people total, according to state law.

Boat races and fishing tournaments are also allowed “so long as no more than 10 people are in a gathering at one time, or may be held virtually.” Some tournaments are already held virtually, like the Boatyard Bar & Grill Opening Day Tournament, where you measure by photographs, thus avoiding the weigh-in interaction.

Marinas can reopen and pumpout services can resume, but both must follow “best management practices from the Departments of Commerce and Health.” At marinas, for example, common areas like pools, gyms, and inside restaurants are still not allowed to open. There’s no congregating on piers or in parking lots, and employees must maintain six feet while hauling or launching boats.

State boat ramps and fishing piers are open as long as people follow social distancing.

The changes are posted in DNR’s most recent update to the agency’s guidelines for outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://news.maryland.gov/dnr/2020/05/06/frequently-asked-questions-about-governor-hogans-stay-at-home-order/

In Virginia, boating was never banned and recreational fishing is up and running normally. The state-run Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, known as the “Citation program” already runs individually year-round and isn’t affected by COVID-19, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) says any private or non-profit fishing tournaments would have to comply with Governor Ralph Northam’s directives. Virginia charter boats were banned on March 16, but that ban was lifted last Friday as long as boat captains met the governor’s Charter Fishing Reopen Rules.

-Meg Walburn Viviano