General Tidal Fishing Regulations
Delaware Freshwater Fishing
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 Information for license requirements.
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. 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.
New regulations for tilefish were adopted. Tilefish (blueline and golden) are slow-growing sedentary fish that live in deepwater. Both species are generally confined to deep (240’+) water within a relatively narrow temperature range. Based on a request from the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), input from Delaware’s Advisory Council on Tidal Fin Fisheries, public comment, and available data pertaining to the tilefish fishery, the Department adopted a new recreational tilefish possession limit that applies to anglers while aboard a vessel. Each angler, while aboard a vessel, may possess up to seven (7) tilefish in any combination. These measures compliment measures already in place in Maryland and Virginia. The MAFMC is contemplating action specific to blueline tilefish that will provide formal federal management north of North Carolina.
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.
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.
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 may now be used in tidal waters for recreational fishing. Electric lights are often used in bowfishing, which is an effective method for taking invasive fish such as the northern snakehead.
Crabbing, fishing or swimming from floating courtesy docks at any Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife boat ramp is prohibited.
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.