In the Mid Atlantic region, recreational, for-hire, and commercial fishermen are subject to a complex array of regulations. Depending on location, species, gear, and other factors, anglers may be subject to a number of federal, state, regional, or local regulations.
The majority of regulations pertaining to freshwater, brackish and saltwater fishing in the Mid Atlantic region originate either directly or indirectly from NOAA. In federal waters, anglers are subject to regulations related to Highly Migratory Species (HMS), endangered species, and other issues.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is another federal agency that is involved with fisheries management. Although many of its actions are indirect, they have considerable impacts on recreational fishing in the Mid Atlantic region.
USFWS provides grant funding to regional and state agencies through its Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program (Wallop/Breaux). The agency also provides input regarding the listing of fish species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The Endangered Species Act prohibits the take of listed species. The term take includes harassing, harming, pursuing, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting the listed species. Section 10 of the ESA provides certain exceptions to the rule. For example, incidental take permits allow for takes of endangered species that occur incidentally to an otherwise lawful activity under limitations specified in each permit.
National Saltwater Angler Registry
The National Saltwater Angler Registry is a component of NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). The registry acts as a database of the U.S. saltwater recreational fishing community. NOAA collects information about fishing effort, numbers of fish harvested, and other data from registered anglers, According to NOAA, data gathered through the MRIP is used by fishery managers when drafting future fishing regulations.
The Mid Atlantic states are included in two regional councils. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) oversees fisheries coastwide, while the smaller Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) deliberates on issues that are exclusive to the region.
Recognizing that fish do not adhere to political boundaries, the 15 Atlantic coast states formed the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The Commission serves as a deliberative body, coordinating the conservation and management of shared coastal fishery resources, including fish, shellfish, and other marine life.
The Commission member states include Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) is responsible for management of fisheries in federal waters off the mid-Atlantic coast. Member states include New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. North Carolina is on both the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils.
State and Local Agencies
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) implements and enforces legislative mandates pertaining to public health and safety. DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) are authorized to enforce state laws, with a special emphasis on enforcing laws relating to environmental quality, hunting, fishing, trapping and the protection of natural resources.
In 1970, New Jersey became the third state in the country to consolidate the administration of environmental protection and conservation efforts under a single agency. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection now manages fish and wildlife as part of its responsibilities.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulates freshwater fishing within the Commonwealth.
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Fish and Wildlife manages fish and other resources in the first state.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the management and regulation of freshwater and saltwater fishing within state waters.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission oversees saltwater fishing. The Department of Wildlife Resources oversees freshwater fishing, hunting, trapping, and other activities.
In North Carolina, the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Marine Fisheries manages marine fish and shellfish. Freshwater species are managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Division of Inland Fisheries.
Several river systems in the Mid Atlantic are regulated by specialized management agencies.
Because the river’s regional importance, management of the Potomac is administered by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. The ICPRB’s stated purpose is to enhance, protect, and conserve water and land resources of the Potomac River and its tributaries through regional and interstate cooperation.
In addition to federal and state regulations, a number of county and city owned impoundments are subject to local regulations. These can include size limits, creel limits, gear restrictions, access restrictions, and other regulations.
Federal Fishing Regulations
State Fishing Regulations
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Fish and Wildlife (DNREC)
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC)
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR)
North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Marine Fisheries
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)
Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC)
Other Relevant Government Links
Wallops Flight Center Boater’s Launch Information