Skip to main content

May is a welcome time for bay lovers in Maryland as many boats hit the water for Rockfish trophy season, which began on May 1st. This marks a busy time at our three Atlantic Marina properties, and we love catching a glimpse of our members’ catch of the day. So, we thought this would be a good time to learn more about the rockfish.

History lesson

Maryland designated the striped bass, also known as rockfish, as the state fish in 1965. The fish is native to the Atlantic coast and has been an important food source for the Chesapeake Bay region for thousands of years. Overfishing and pollution caused a decline in the rockfish population, leading to a ban on commercial fishing in the Chesapeake Bay in the 1980s. The ban was lifted in the 1990s, but strict regulations were put in place to ensure the sustainability of the fishery. Today, recreational fishing for rockfish is a popular activity in the Upper Chesapeake Bay region. The fish is prized for its firm, white flesh and mild flavor, and is often served as a fresh catch in local Maryland restaurants.

Know your state fish!

Rockfish have a distinctive appearance that makes them easy to identify. Known for its size and fighting ability, the rockfish has a long, cylindrical body with an olive green back, fading to light silver on its sides, with a white underside. Seven or eight dark, continuous stripes run from head to tail.

The size of rockfish can vary depending on their age and location. Adult rockfish can range from 20 to 40 inches in length and the common mature weight is 20 to 40 pounds. The current Maryland record for rockfish caught in the Chesapeake Bay weighed in at 67 pounds, 8 ounces in 1995.

Adult rockfish swim in the ocean but lay their eggs (spawn) in fresh water. Between April and June, rivers and streams feeding the Chesapeake Bay provide spawning grounds for most Atlantic Coast rockfish. Those born in the Bay spend their first 3 to 5 years there before migrating out to the Atlantic, where their life span may be as long as 30 years.

Trophy rockfish season

Trophy rockfish, which are typically larger than 36 inches, are highly sought after by recreational anglers in the Upper Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) runs an annual “Trophy Rockfish Season”, that just kicked off on May 1 (runs through May 15th), during which anglers can keep one rockfish per day that is over 35 inches long.

According to the Maryland DNR, the number of trophy rockfish caught in the Upper Chesapeake Bay region varies from year to year depending on a variety of factors. However, the Maryland DNR reports that the number of trophy rockfish caught in recent years has been relatively stable, with anglers catching between 500 and 800 fish per year during the Trophy Rockfish Season.

Catching a trophy rockfish

Rockfish can be caught using a variety of methods, depending on the season, weather conditions, and the location of the fish. The most popular ways to catch rockfish are trolling, live-lining and chumming. According to Maryland DNR, one of the most pressing problems facing Chesapeake Bay’s striped bass population is the significant volume of “dead discards,” where rockfish are caught and released, but do not survive when they are returned to the water. Because of this, there are regulations on the type of hooks allowed. Anglers must use non-offset circle hooks when live-lining or chumming; or when using fish, crabs or worms as bait and targeting striped bass, or when using processed baits and targeting striped bass. There are also dates during the year when all areas are closed to striped bass fishing so it’s important to be aware of your local regulations (see links below).

To catch the prized trophy rockfish, Fish Talk Magazine says ” It was a warm spring and many of the breeder sized rockfish have already spawned and headed south of our area but there should still be a few big fish cruising around the shipping channel ledges. The most popular way to target these fish is trolling large parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads spread out with planer boards. It’s a good idea to fish baits at various depths because the fish are scattered throughout the water column. Popular areas to troll include the mouth of the Chester River, areas off Podickory Point, Bloody Point, the Stone Rock, and the western edge of the shipping channel near Chesapeake Beach.”

Rockfish cooking tips

If you are lucky enough to bring home a fresh catch of rockfish or have sharing friends, we’ve pulled together a few popular cooking methods for this versatile fish:

·  Grilled: The grill imparts a smoky flavor and crispy texture to the fish. Brush the fish with oil and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite spices, then grill over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, or until the fish is cooked through.

·  Pan-seared: A quick and easy way to cook rockfish. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, season the fish with salt and pepper, then sear for 2-3 minutes per side, or until the fish is cooked through.

·  Baked: A simple and healthy way to cook rockfish. Preheat your oven to 375°F, place the fish in a baking dish, brush with oil and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs or spices. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

·  Broiled: Another quick and easy way to cook rockfish that gives it a crispy crust. Brush the fish with oil and season with salt and pepper, then place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the fish is cooked through.

·  Poached: A gentle cooking method that keeps the fish moist and flavorful. Heat a mixture of water, white wine, and herbs in a shallow pan, add the fish, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

No matter which cooking method you choose, it’s important not to overcook rockfish, as it can become dry and tough. Cook the fish until it’s just opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Serve with your favorite sides, such as roasted vegetables or a salad, and enjoy!

We love celebrating with our Atlantic Marinas members. Share your most memorable catch, biggest catch or pics of your most recent catch with us on Facebook. And be sure to follow all local fishing regulations!


*Pictured above: Atlantic Marinas Patapsco members Craig, Ken and Joe caught a 50 inch rockfish on Monday, May 1, 2023.



Leave a Reply