Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region
2145 Key Wallace Dr
Cambridge, MD 21613
(410) 228-2677

Fishing and Crabbing at Blackwater

Blue crab. Credit: Mary Hollinger/NOAA

Fishing and crabbing are restricted to boats when these activities are in season (fishing is in season April 1 through September 30 and crabbing is in season April 1 through December 15 -- check with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for details). No fishing or crabbing is permitted from the Refuge shoreline or the Wildlife Drive; however, visitors can fish/crab near the state-owned bridges located nearby.

Maryland state regulations apply while fishing and crabbing on the Refuge. All fishing and crabbing lines must be attended. No special Refuge permits are required; however, a valid state sport fishing license is required to fish in the Blackwater River and the Little Blackwater River. For crabbing, a state recreational crabbing license is required. Recreational crabbing in April, October, November and December is allowed between 1/2-hour after sunrise to sunset in Bay tributaries; and recreational crabbing in May, June, July, August and September is allowed between 1/2-hour before sunrise to sunset in Bay tributaries. Please visit the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources for complete details on fishing and crabbing regulations in Maryland.

At the Refuge, fishing is allowed from canoes and kayaks. Only canoe and kayak launching is permitted at the Refuge; however, there is a public boat ramp nearby at Shorter’s Wharf, which is outside Refuge property. The purple paddling trail is closed from October 1 through March 31, but the orange and green paddling trails are open throughout the year. See the Water Trails page for more details and for information on acquiring a Paddling Map.

Blackwater NWR waters include the Blackwater and Little Blackwater Rivers and the associated expansive shallow water marsh areas. Navigation can be difficult due to submerged mudflats, a meandering unmarked channel, and shallow water tidal changes.

Youth fishing derby. Credit: USFWS

Fishing on the Refuge is poor to fair in the Blackwater River for tidal largemouth bass (black bass), striped bass (rockfish), white and yellow perch, black crappie, and bullhead and channel catfish. The Little Blackwater River is a very popular spot for the spring run of white perch. Other species available in the waters of the Refuge are carp, bluegill and pickerel.

Outside the Refuge, the most popular fishing areas are located near the bridges over the Little Blackwater River on Key Wallace Drive and the Blackwater River on Route 335. Visitors should check with the Maryland Department of Transportation and Dorchester County Highway Administration regulations regarding fishing from bridges since regulations are subject to change.

Key Wallace Drive has no road shoulders on which to park near the bridge. Although there are no parking areas, visitors with small boats or canoes often carry them from their vehicles to the water near the bridges.

See the Blackwater Fishing, Crabbing, and Boating Regulations brochure (387 KB PDF file) for more fish information and for a map of the Refuge. Please note that this brochure was written before the water trails were opened.

Note: In June, Blackwater Refuge has an annual Youth Fishing Derby for youths 15 and under, with prizes, educational programs, photos, and lots of fun. Check the Calendar for an upcoming date.

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Last updated: October 7, 2010