Sharks, Clams, Conchs & Oysters
Sharks are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the regulations are complex. For more detailed information contact the NMFS or visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. State regulations are subject to any changes in federal regulations. Please consult www.fw.delaware.gov for the latest changes in state regulations.
The sand tiger, sandbar, smooth dogfish (or smoothhound) and spiny dogfish are the most commonly caught shark species in Delaware. Sandbar and sand tiger sharks are of special significance to the Delaware Estuary and its anglers. Delaware Bay is an important “pupping area” and nursery for sand tiger sharks, and they are commonly hooked. Due to their low reproductive rate and overfishing, both species are protected and none may be retained. Sandbar sharks, all prohibited sharks and all highly migratory species that are not retained must be released in a manner to ensure their maximum probability of survival, by cutting the line near the hook or by using a de-hooking device, in any case, without removing the fish from the water.
For more information on other common Delaware sharks and handling, please visit www.fw.delaware.gov.
Smooth dogfish (Smoothhound) – no recreational limit – to 5 feet in length; body gray to brown with yellowish to white underside; teeth are pavement like and noncutting; very common in warmer months (Apr. – Oct.).
Spiny dogfish – no recreational limit – to 5 feet in length; easily identified by thorny spine located on leading edge of dorsal fins; teeth small and not prominent; common in the cooler weather months (Oct. – Apr.).
Sandbar – prohibited species – to 7 feet in length; body bluish to brownish gray fading to white underside; front dorsal fin sits high and aligns with rear attachment point of pectoral fin (see red reference line); dorsal fins different size and shape; upper teeth triangular and serrated; lower teeth narrow and finely serrated.
Sand Tiger – prohibited species – to 10.5 feet in length; body gray-brown to tan with dark splotches; front dorsal fin well behind pectoral fin (see red reference line); dorsal fins nearly equal in size; prominent long curved teeth.
RECREATIONAL HARVEST PROHIBITED
It is unlawful to recreationally harvest oysters in Delaware. This prohibition protects vulnerable oyster populations and protects you against contracting a shellfish-borne disease.
Methods of Take and Limits
A fishing license is required to harvest clams in waters of the State of Delaware.
It is unlawful for any person to attempt to take, catch, kill or reduce to possession any hard clams with a device other than a hand-held rake with a head no wider than fourteen (14) inches measured perpendicular to the tines and a straight handle not in excess of seven (7) feet in length.
It is unlawful to harvest hard clams from one-half hour after sunset through one-half hour before sunrise.
It is unlawful for any resident to harvest more than one hundred (100) clams per day unless otherwise permitted to do so by license or permit.
It is unlawful for any non-resident to harvest more than fifty (50) hard clams per day unless otherwise permitted to do so by license or permit.
No shellfish harvesting (excluding crabs) is allowed in the Prohibited Areas marked on the map on any tidal river, stream, or impoundment of the state. This includes all non-tidal and impounded water as well. Shellfish harvesting is allowed from December 1 through April 15 in the Seasonally Approved Areas. This is your protection against contracting shellfish-borne diseases. This is also the law. All boundaries may be marked with signs and or buoys saying “No Shellfish Harvesting” or “Prohibited Shellfish Area.” Questions regarding these closures should be directed to the Watershed Assessment Section Shellfish and Recreational Waters Programs 302-739-9939. Clamming is prohibited in eel grass beds marked with white PVC pipes and signs.
Conch (channeled and knobbed whelk) may only be taken using conch pots with at least one escape vent measuring at least 5 inches x 10 inches in the top or parlor section. The recreational harvest of conch by any other method is prohibited. Recreational conch potters may not use, place, set or tend more than two conch pots. The person claiming to own the pots must be the one to set and tend them. These pots must be marked with all white buoys with the owner’s full name and permanent mailing address inscribed either on the buoy or on a waterproof tag attached to the buoy. All conch pots must be tended at least once every 72 hours. Knobbed conch must measure at least 5 inches along the axis or have a minimum diameter at the whorl of 3.0 inches. Channeled whelk must measure at least 6 inches along the axis or have a minimum diameter at the whorl of 3.125 (3 1⁄8) inches.