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. See Tidal Seasons, Size, and Creel Limits for more information on shark seasons, sizes, and daily limits.
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.