Ocean City Seeking To Identify Free Fishing Areas

OCEAN CITY – A list of suggested free salt water fishing areas has been sent to Sen. Jim Mathias to present to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

According to Mayor Rick Meehan, there has been some confusion in the last year over salt water fishing licenses and free fishing areas in Ocean City. He said that in 2010 Maryland legislators passed a saltwater fishing license and there are fees associated upon registration.

“They have created some free fishing areas where you still have to register but you can fish for free,” Meehan said during Tuesday afternoon’s Mayor and City Council meeting. “A number of these areas were immediately created by DNR and they actually put a freeze on that for right now.”

In an interview on Thursday, Meehan explained the DNR had a program throughout the state where it designated free salt water fishing areas but the agency became overloaded with requests. DNR is now modifying regulations on how to approve those requests and in the meantime has asked for prioritized lists of free fishing areas.

Meehan said Mathias is in favor of developing free fishing areas along the coast and has asked for Ocean City to form its prioritized list of areas in Ocean City to provide free salt water fishing.

Meehan said that Ocean City’s list was formed through the suggestions of local tackle shops and by reviewing what locations tourists utilize the most.

“We picked some that were spread out through town so that they would be convenient and they would be available,” the mayor said.

The locations recommended to Mathias include 2nd to 4th streets bayside, the convention center, the 9th Street fishing pier and Northside Park.

“All those areas are areas where tourists take kids and their families to go fishing,” Meehan said. “It just opens up an opportunity for them especially those who are here on short stays and saves them from having to purchase a license.”

Councilman Doug Cymek acknowledged the Route 50 Bridge was also considered.

“There was some discussion about the bridge, but it wasn’t really a family setting,” Cymek said on Tuesday and added that the 9th Street fishing pier was considered a replacement.

Councilman Joe Hall and Meehan pointed out that if the State of Maryland had not created a salt water fishing license it would have become a federal license and fishing revenue may not have gone directly into the fishing industry.

“The program itself, licensing in general, will provide the state with information about where people are fishing and will be able through contacts to … get more information on what has been caught so they can better manage the fisheries throughout the state,” Meehan said.

Meehan added that the free fishing areas benefit Ocean City as well because it provides an opportunity for residents and visitors and it’s good for the fishing industry, business of the local tackle shops, and it’s another amenity people can enjoy in Ocean City without unexpected costs.

On Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to have the mayor sends Mathias a letter listing the areas suggested within Ocean City to provide free salt water fishing.

Cymek added that the regulatory process to provide such free fishing areas could stretch from 60-90 days and it is possible the areas will not be created before the summer’s end.

“Were hoping Senator Mathias could help us move it along a little quicker,” Cymek said. “It’s not in place at this point in time; they would be required to have a license.”

Once the free fishing areas have been set up, Joe Hall suggested for those interested in fishing in the free areas to visit local tackle shops for more information.