Known for its striped and largemouth bass, Delaware is heaven to those who seek to try their luck in both salt and freshwater. Delaware Bay and Silver Lake are two of the most frequented areas in the region because of their abundant waters. The links in this section will walk you through the fishing protocols and etiquette in Delaware. It will also redirect you to sites that would better explain how to secure your own license.
Purchasing one can easily be done online through the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife or you may also buy one personally from authorized retail shops and representatives.
In order to avoid overfishing in their waters, Delaware has provided tourists and avid anglers with strict rules and regulations regarding fishing in the region. These protocols are strictly implemented to conserve fish populations and allow marine life to thrive for generations to come.
- Delaware Fishing Guide
- Recreational Fishing Requirements
- Recreational Fishing Size, Seasons and Creel Limits
Aside from following state protocols regarding fishing etiquette, you may also allot a few minutes for biologists and researchers in the area. They are in need of ample information on fish population in order for them to create efficient plans for the region. Answers to questions such as the volume and sizes of a day's catch will help speed up their research.
If you’re an angler who’s currently living or traveling in Delaware, then you’ll be happy to know the fishing here is fantastic. Due to the vast array of waterways and it’s proximity to the ocean and the bay in the northern shores, fishing is an excellent sport to take on year-round.
For visitors, you can travel to the river, to the bay and the ocean, all in one trip. Bait shops and marinas are found all around the waterways, inland bays, and beaches.
Delaware offers over 180 specifies of fish and shellfish that live in the fresh, coastal, offshore and estuarine waters. When it comes to freshwater fish, there is a myriad of black bass, temperate bass, carps, catfishes, crappies, pickerels, muskellunge, shads, herrings, sturgeons, sunfishes, trouts and other underwater species to fish.
In this article, we’ll cover all of the regulations when it comes to fishing in Delaware, so you can be prepared whether you’re a resident or non-resident.
The state of Delaware requires that to go fishing, crabbing or clamming in tidal or non-tidal waters, you’ll need a general fishing license. To obtain a fishing license, you can head to the following spots:
- DNREC headquarters located at 89 Kings Highway, Dove
- Licensing Agents located throughout the state (over 85 agents)
- Division of Fish and Wildlife Website (www.fw.delaware.gov)
Furthermore, every Angler in the state of Delaware will have to acquire a free Delaware Fisherman Information Network (FIN) number annually before being able to fish in tidal or non-tidal waters. FIN numbers are usually issued upon purchase of your general fishing license. If you’re exempt from a fishing license, you’ll still need to obtain a FIN number. There are two ways to acquire a FIN Number.
- Visit the State of Delaware website: www.delaware-fin.com
- Call the toll free/automated number 1-800-432-9228
- Call a live operator/customer service at 1-866-447-4626
The FIN number helps allow for more accurate estimates and figures when it comes to recreational landings, especially with fisheries management. When it comes to spawning fish and allowing anglers to fish during certain seasons and prevent any extinction of species, in the area, the FIN number enables the state to track the necessary data. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) uses the data obtained for survey purposes.
Fishing Licenses Exemptions
When it comes to the types of fishing licenses and the costs associated with each fishing license, there are many factors to consider. These factors will depend on your residency status, type of fish you’re aiming to catch, boat fishing, kind of boat, and age. To make it easy to reference, we’ve created an easy read table for you.
Resident fishing (Age 16-64)
Non-resident fishing (Age 16 and over)
7-Day Non-resident fishing (Age 16 and over)
Resident Trout Stamp (Age 16-64)
Non-resident Trout Stamp (Age 12 and over)
Young Angler Trout Stamp (Age 12-15)
*Resident boat fishing (20' vessel and below)
*Resident boat fishing (Vessel over 20')
*Resident head-boat license
*Resident charter boat license
*Non-resident boat fishing license (20' vessel and below)
*Non-resident boat fishing license (Vessel over 20')
*Non-resident head-boat license
*Non-resident charter boat license
If you’re wondering where the costs of licenses and stamps go to, then you’re not the first. The Fishing and Wildlife division uses the funds for wildlife research, maintenance of water environments, construction of fishing areas, and proper aquatic education.
To renew your fishing license, you’ll have to purchase a new license on an annual basis from one of the three channels mentioned above to obtain a permit.
When it comes to regulations, all anglers must follow the guidelines and rules within the state of Delaware. Fishing laws are to conserve and improve the fish population. The size limits are intended to protect fish of spawning size before they are caught. The rules are typically more strict during the fishing season on heavily fished waters. We’ve laid out the guidelines below for you to reference.
Tidal Waters Regulation in Delaware
American & hickory shad
Closed in Nanticoke, Open all year everywhere else
10 in any combination
Black Sea Bass
May 15-Dec 31
Catfish (all species)
River Herring (alewife and blueback)
Closed, no harvest permitted
All year, Catch and release only on spawning grounds Apr 1-May 31
28-37 inches, 44 inches or greater;
20-25 in only on Jul 1-Aug 31 in Delaware River
2, except catch and release only on spawning grounds Apr 1-May 31
Jan 1-May 15; Jul 1-Dec 31
Tilefish (blueline & golden)
All year, HMS permit required
7 in any combination
Feb 11 - Apr 10
Non-Tidal Species, Sizes and Creel Limits and Regulations
12 inches; except 15 inches in Becks Pond
6 except 2 from Becks Pond
None between and including 12-17 inches
6 (no more than 1 that is greater than 17 inches)
Striped bass hybrid (only occur in Lums Pond)
Panfish (white perch, yellow perch, cappies, bluegill & pumpkinseed
50 (no more than 25 of one species)
Trout (special rules apply, pages 8-10)
Streams open on the first Saturday in April. Ponds open on the first Saturday in March
6 (4 in fly fishing only waters)
Pots; Mar 1 - Nov 30
Peeler - 3 in; Soft Shell - 3.5 in; Hard Shell - 5 in
4 and ¾ inches
100 per resident; 50 per non-resident
3 and ⅜ inches - 5 and ¼ inches
2; V-notched prohibited
Conch (knobbed whelk, channeled whelk)
5 inches per 3 inch whorl; 6 inches per 3.125 inch whorl
These species are prohibited from catching from any tidal waters. With all species in these categories, anglers are mandated by law to be immediately released to ensure the highest chance of survival and prevent further endangerment.
Here are the prohibited species in Delaware:
Sandbar shark, sand tiger, Atlantic angel shark, basking shark, bigeye sand tiger, bigeye sixgill shark, bigeye thresher, bignose shark, Caribbean reef shark, Caribbean sharpnose shark, dusky shark, Galapagos Sharks, longfin mako, narrowtooth shark, night shark, sevengill shark, sixgill shark, smalltail shark, whale shark, white shark
For all Atlantic tunas, swordfish, and billfish, anglers must obtain a regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit (HMS). For further information on securing this specific permit, please visit hmspermits.noaa.gov or call 888-872-8862.
Delaware County is notorious for its famous and incredibly delicious blue claw crabs and peaceful waters fishing spots. If you’re traveling, then consider beach resorts of Delaware to go on excursions for deep seat boats or head boats. This allows anglers like yourself to go big fish hunting such as marlins, tuna, striped bass, and croakers. If you’d like to go surf fishing, then we suggest heading to the shorelines of Fenwick Island, Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore State Parks to catch some of the tastiest bluefish, sea bass, and tilefish.
For diversity and a diverse gamefish population, we recommend heading to the Killens Pond located in the Felton in Kent County. This body of water covers 66 acres, so you’ll never have to worry about overcrowdedness. This spot has shore access, boat launch facilities for boat rentals as well as cabins for anglers to stay. Killens Ponds has the highest catch per angler hour. Some of the common species available are largemouth bass, catfish, carp, perch, cappies, bluegill, and pickerel. For anglers that love big game fishing, we recommend the Indian River Marina located within the Delaware Seashore State Park. This river is notorious for those individuals seeking a challenge in the deep sea fishing grounds. Some of the common species available are yellowfin tuna, white marlin, wahoo, tautog, striped bass, shark, sea bass, flounder, croaker, bluefish, bluefin tuna, blue marlin, and bigeye tuna.