New Castle County | C&D Canal Conservation Area
The C&D Canal Conservation Area, formerly known as the C&D Canal Wildlife Area, is the northern most wildlife area managed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Located in central New Castle County, the C&D Canal Conservation Area encompasses over 5,200 acres stretching from the Delaware River to the Maryland State line, lining both the north and south banks of the canal property. The land itself is owned by the United States Army Corp of Engineers and is leased to the Division of Fish and Wildlife through a long term lease in order to provide public hunting, fishing, and other wildlife dependent activities.
Recent visitors to the C&D Canal have likely noticed changes with the creation and ongoing construction of the Michael Castle Trail. The trail is a paved blacktop trail that will allow hikers, bikers, and horseback riders to traverse the state uninterrupted from the shores of the Delaware River in Delaware City to the town of Chesapeake City, Maryland, a trip totaling nearly 15 miles. As part of the trail, dedicated parking areas have been constructed at Biddle’s Point and St. Georges, with a future third site to be constructed south of Lums Pond State Park. These parking areas contain public restroom facilities and picnic areas, and are managed on a “Carry-In Carry-Out” basis for trash. Future plans are being developed for the construction of ADA accessible fishing piers that will replace the existing fishing piers and will be located near each of the parking areas. A hike along the trail will provide area users with the opportunity to view the water of the canal and passing vessels, as well as observe various wildlife species that call the conservation area home.
The C&D Canal Conservation Area consistently ranks as one of the most heavily used public hunting areas in the state, with the total annual deer harvest ranking second only to Redden State Forest (which is more than twice as large!). Hunters can also find abundant small game populations including rabbits and squirrels, as well as a rapidly growing turkey population. With the exception of turkey hunting, no special permits or lotteries are required to hunt on this area. Anglers can try their luck along the banks of the C&D Canal where catfish and striped bass are frequently caught, or in one of the numerous ponds on the area which contain sunfish, largemouth bass, and hybrid striped bass. The area also contains two dog training areas, the Summit Retriever Training Area which is dedicated to the training of retrieving dogs, and the Bowl Sporting Dog Area where any hunting dog can be trained. Dog training area maps are available on the Division’s website and provide specific rules and regulations for each area. Hunters and anglers should be aware that they can no longer access the wildlife area by using the lower tier access road since this road is now the Michael Castle Trail, however the other tiered access roads remain open to allow vehicular access to most areas open to hunting and fishing. Trail users should be aware that during hunting seasons the trail will remain open, but hunting activities are permitted on the adjacent wildlife area. Hunters are permitted to walk on the trail to access hunting locations but are not permitted to possess loaded firearms while on the trail itself.
Sussex County | Assawoman Wildlife Area
The Assawoman Wildlife Area is one of the busiest State Wildlife Areas managed by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. Located in Sussex County on Little Assawoman Bay, the southernmost of the three Inland Bays, it is “a stone’s throw” from the ocean at Bethany Beach. The lands of what would become Assawoman Wildlife Area were assembled from 1936 to 1942 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forestry Service under a farm abandonment program designed to help struggling farmers. In 1948, the Delaware Board of Fish and Wildlife Commissioners signed a 99 year lease on 1,460 acres with the USDA for the “purpose of wildlife, recreation and forest management,” purchasing the same lands in 1954 to establish Assawoman Wildlife Area. The original acreage was supplemented in 1989 with the purchase of the Hickman Tract (227 acres) to protect Assawoman Pond, which contains a very rare plant, Hirst’s panicgrass, one of only three known occurrences in the world. In 1984, endangered Delmarva fox squirrels were released onto the area in an effort to restore the species to Delaware. Expansion of the area continued between 1989 and 1997 with an additional 830 acres acquired as six tracts. Today, Assawoman Wildlife Area has become a destination for hunters, crabbers, boaters and birdwatchers.
The property has many interesting features. Two historic pavilions, built from 1935 – 1936 under President Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration’s New Deal program, are located at Strawberry and Mulberry Landings – popular crabbing and boat launching areas. A 50-foot tall observation tower along Mulberry Landing Road provides a view of Mulberry and 65-Acre Ponds, and impoundments built to attract water birds and control mosquitos. Hunters will find 19 duck blinds and 80 deer stands camouflaged and ready for each season. Memorial Pond is stocked with bass and bluegills and open to “catch & release” fishing year-round. The four mile long Self-Guided Auto Tour leads motorists over dirt roads through the wildlife area to numbered posts corresponding to points of interest described in the interpretive guide. Hikers, bikers and birdwatchers can follow the seven miles of roads to enjoy the loblolly pine and American holly forest, abundant bird life and beautiful vistas.
Assawoman is divided into two peninsulas or “necks,” with Muddy Neck to the north of Miller Creek and Miller Neck to the south. Miller Neck holds the three “landings” — Mulberry, Strawberry and Sassafras — that provide access to crabbing, duck hunting and boating and to the pavilions where picnicking is welcome. A portion of Miller Neck is designated as “refuge” to protect nesting wildlife from human disturbance.
Muddy Neck, which is more remote than Miller Neck, contains large fields planted in crops to provide winter food for migrating waterfowl, several fields planted in tall native grasses for nesting birds, two fields with created shallow water wetlands and a 25-acre forested wetland restored by plugging old drainage ditches.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.