Maryland Rec. Boating Ban Lifted

Beginning Thursday morning, May 7, Maryland boaters can legally go out for a cruise or a sail once again. And anglers can fish for sport, not just for sustenance.

On Wednesday afternoon Maryland Governor Larry Hogan lifted the ban on recreational boating that has been in effect for more than a month. As part of the state’s stay-at-home order, recreational boating was forbidden except for paddlesports (considered essential exercise) and those fishing for their supper.

Over the weeks, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) clarified specific exceptions to the ban, including permission to transport a boat home from a marina. But boating and fishing for pleasure remained banned. As of this week, Maryland was the only state in the country still restricting recreational boating.

The governor’s new directive, which takes effect at 7 a.m., expands outdoor recreational activities to include boating, fishing, golf, tennis and camping, in addition to outdoor exercise (like walking, hiking running and biking) defined as an essential activity throughout the stay-at-home order.

People who do go out boating and fishing should still follow social distancing guidelines, according to DNR’s updated Frequently Asked Questions page. DNR spells out these specific rules for boating during the stay-at-home order:

  • Boaters must be with immediate family members or people with which they reside. 
    • No more than 10 people can be on a boat at one time, including captain and crew.
  • Boats must be distanced from each other by at least 10 feet and are prohibited from rafting up, beaching, or having rendezvous events.
    • Boats are prohibited from docking at restaurants or bars.
  • Vessel and boat races remain prohibited.
  • Marinas can reopen to recreational boaters, but must adhere to the Maryland Departments of Commerce and Health guidelines.
  • Pump-out stations and boats may resume operations under the Departments of Commerce and Health guidelines.
  • Local jurisdictions may choose to open public boat ramps, but must ensure social distancing guidelines.
  • All normal boating rules and regulations are in effect and must be followed.

Under the new directive, state parks and state beaches are also reopening for exercise. The Town of Ocean City previously made the local decision to reopen its beach and boardwalk beginning this Saturday, May 9.

The governor said he made the decision to reopen outdoor activities based on the state’s significant progress in achieving the “building blocks” outlined on his Roadmap to Recovery, which include expanding testing capacity, increasing hospital surge capacity, increasing the supply of PPE, and instituting robust tracing operations.

Bay Bulletin will continue to cover the stay-at-home order as it relates to Chesapeake Bay activity.

Meg Walburn Viviano