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General Tidal Fishing Regulations

These are some of the regulations that all anglers should be familiar with. For a complete listing refer to the Division’s website or request a copy from the Director’s Office. See Fishing License Requirements and FIN Number section for license requirements.

Striped Bass Spawning Season

The spawning season for striped bass in Delaware is considered to begin at 12:01 a.m. on April 1 and continue through midnight on May 31 of each calendar year. It is unlawful for any person to take and retain any striped bass during the spawning season from the Nanticoke River or its tributaries, the Delaware River and its tributaries to the north of a line extending due east beginning at and including the south jetty at the mouth of the C & D Canal, or the C & D Canal or its tributaries (see Fishing Map). Catch and release only during this season; no harvest is allowed.


It is unlawful for any person to fish during the striped bass spawning season on any striped bass spawning ground with natural bait using any hook other than a non-offset circle-hook when said hook measures greater than 3/8 inches as measured from the point of the hook to the shank of the hook.

The Division recommends that circle-hooks always be used when fishing natural baits because of their proven ability to reduce hook and release mortality for striped bass and other fish species. The circle-hook’s design usually results in fish being hooked in the mouth, simplifying hook removal and reducing injury to the released fish.

Possession Limit

A recreational angler may take no more than 2 striped bass per day (a period of 24 hours) from the tidal waters of this State at a minimum 28 inches unless otherwise authorized (e.g. spawning season or slot limit).

Slot Limit Season

In 2009, the Division adopted a new slot-limit during July and August for striped bass anglers in Delaware waters of the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and their tributaries. The existing 28-inch minimum size remains in effect in coastal areas.


Delaware waters only of the Delaware River and Bay and their tributaries. It does not apply to adjacent waters of Pennsylvania or New Jersey, nor does it apply to coastal waters, Indian River Inlet or the Inland Bays.

Season July 1 – August 31

Size Limit 20 inches to 26 inches (total length)

  • Any striped bass less than or greater than the slot size must be released during this special season within the specified area. The 28-inch minimum size is in effect during all other months.

Limit two (2) per angler

  • Recreational hook-and-line fishermen only.

American Shad and Hickory Shad

It shall be unlawful for any person to have in possession more than an aggregate of ten (10) American shad and hickory shad. Additionally, it shall be unlawful for any person to take and reduce to possession any American shad or hickory shad from the Nanticoke River or its tributaries.

River Herring

Both commercial and recreational river herring (blueback herring and alewife) fisheries are closed to harvest.

No person shall fish with any type of net, within 300 feet of any constructed dam or spillway on a tidal water river, stream, canal, ditch, or tributary located in this state.

Summer Flounder

It is unlawful for any person to have in possession any part of a summer flounder that measures less than the current minimum size limit between said part’s two most distant points unless said person also has in possession the head, backbone, and tail intact from which said part was removed.

Electric Lights

It is legal for any person to fish in the tidal waters of this State with the aid of “lights used for illumination for visual purposes”.

“Lights used for illumination for visual purposes” shall mean any light that is fixed in position anywhere directly above the hull or deck of a vessel, dock or shore area, or any electric flood light less than 500 watts and fixed in position no less than ten (10) feet directly above the surface of the water. An electric flood light is any electric light that does not have a focused beam.

Courtesy Docks

Crabbing, fishing or swimming from floating courtesy docks at any Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife boat ramp is prohibited.

Artificial Reef Program

Delaware has eleven permitted artificial reef sites in Delaware Bay and along the Atlantic Coast. Development of these sites began in 1995 and will continue. The Delaware Reef Program is one part of a comprehensive fisheries management effort and is designed to enhance fisheries habitat, benefit structure-oriented fish, and provide fishing opportunities for anglers.

The site charts in the free reef guide show where reef materials have been deployed since 1995. The reef program uses DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System) to accurately place materials on site. Locations (latitude – longitude) noted for each site indicate the position of deployments of reef material from an anchored barge. In the case of large, concentrated reef deployments, a latitude or longitude range, may be given such as: N 39 15.377’-402’. This indicates material occurs between 39 degrees, 15.377 to 15.402 minutes north latitude. Due to variability between DGPS receivers, slight variations in readings may occur. It is suggested you use your GPS and a good fathometer to locate reef structure, then note the coordinates on your own GPS. You can view the reef guide on-line or contact the Fisheries Little Creek field office for a copy (302) 735-2960.


The “Gregory Poole” a 175-foot minesweeper, later used in the Atlantic menhaden fishery, was sunk in 2007 on the DEL-JERSEY-LAND inshore reef site. This site hosts a community of fish including sea bass, ocean pout, hake, flounder, bluefish and tuna.


Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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