Fishing License Information
A general fishing license is required for fishing, crabbing, or clamming in tidal and non-tidal waters throughout the State of Delaware (see Fishing License Exemptions below). A fishing license may be obtained at DNREC headquarters (89 Kings Highway, Dover), from over 40 licensing agents located throughout the state, or online by accessing www.fw.delaware.gov and following the licensing link. A fishing license is good through December 31 for the calendar year in which it was issued.
In addition to the general fishing license, all anglers (resident and non-resident) age 16 or older must obtain a free Delaware Fisherman Information Network (FIN) number each year before fishing in tidal or non-tidal waters of Delaware. This includes those anglers exempt from obtaining a general fishing license. See these exemptions below. A FIN number is automatically generated and issued with the purchase of an INDIVIDUAL fishing license. Non-residents who do not have an individual fishing license AND those exempt from the license requirement must obtain a FIN number before fishing.
Beginning on January 1, 2021, there are three ways to obtain a FIN number: 1) Visit Digital DNREC at http://de.gov/erpermitting, create an account and obtain a free FIN number; 2) Use the “Quick FIN” link at the bottom of the Digital DNREC sign-in page. You do not need to create an account to obtain a FIN using Quick FIN; or 3) Visit one of more 40 licensing agents throughout the state to obtain a free FIN number. Toll-free phone numbers are no longer available for obtaining FIN numbers. The FIN number is mandatory and failure to provide a valid FIN number to an enforcement agent will be treated the same as a failure to have a valid fishing license. The number that you are issued will be valid through December 31 for the calendar year in which it was issued. A FIN number is not needed if you only crab or clam.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will use the data obtained from the FIN program to identify anglers for survey purposes. The program allows for better estimates of recreational landings, an important component of fisheries management.
All funds derived from the issuance of fishing licenses are dedicated to a special account for the purpose of matching and securing federal money allotted to Delaware under the provisions of the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act and cannot be diverted to other purposes. Together, these funds support projects having as their purpose the restoration, conservation, management and enhancement of sportfish, and the provision for public use and benefits from these resources (below).
Catch and Release
Many anglers practice catch and release fishing. This behavior, popularized by bass anglers, promotes the release of fish by anglers so the fish can be caught again.
A long-term bass tagging study in Delaware has demonstrated many tagged fish are caught, released, and caught again — a few as many as four times. The Division strongly encourages catch and release fishing to maximize angling success — unless a fish population is known to be overcrowded.
Exempt anglers are required to get a FIN number (above), unless otherwise noted below.
The following are exemptions or exceptions to the license provisions:
- Surf Fishing Permit – Residents and non-residents are exempt from fishing license requirements if they are the operator of a vehicle with a valid Delaware surf fishing vehicle permit when that vehicle is located on a designated Delaware State Park beach. Other occupants of that vehicle are required to have a fishing license if they are fishing.
- Seniors – Residents of the State of Delaware age 65 years and older are exempt from fishing license requirements, but must have proof of age and residency.
- Children – Children under the age of 16 are exempt from the license and FIN requirement.
- Other Exemptions – Anyone qualifying for the following exemptions should contact the Division at (302) 739-9918.
- Any resident who owns or lives on a farm in this state containing 20 or more acres and the members of his or her immediate family who reside on the farm may fish on that farm without a license.
- A member of the armed forces who is a patient in a military hospital and submits a written statement signed by the patient’s commanding officer certifying the nature of the disability and place of station.
- Persons who are patients in any Veterans Administration facility in this State, or in any public hospital or sanitarium for the treatment of tuberculosis, or a patient in a rehabilitation hospital under the State Department of Health, provided such person carries identification which verifies his or her status as such a patient, shall not be required to purchase a fishing license. Forms shall be supplied to such persons when they apply for their licenses to be used for the identification purposes.
- Persons who have been honorably discharged from the armed forces of the United States and certified by the Veterans Administration as having at least a 60% service-connected disability.
- Any Delaware resident that is a patient in a rehabilitation hospital under the Department of Health and Social Services. Any Delaware resident who is legally blind.
- Any person who fishes in a fee-fishing facility, registered as such with the Department of Agriculture.
- Any resident who has served honorably for 90 or more consecutive days on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, including service as a member of the Delaware National Guard, in military actions in Southwest Asia associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom may, for the first 12 months following the date the resident was honorably discharged or removed from active status, be issued a license to fish in this State without charge.
- Any member of the US armed forces, including any reserve component, serving on full time active duty in Delaware while not deployed or on temporary duty, and any member of Delaware’s National Guard, shall be eligible for a resident fishing license. Qualifying persons should contact the Division at (302) 739-9918.
Fishing License Dollars
Your license and trout stamp purchases allow the Division to secure additional federal Sport Fish Restoration funds used for fisheries research, maintenance and construction of fishing areas, and aquatic education. Please note that anglers exempted from purchasing a fishing license may voluntarily purchase a license and/or trout stamp to support these activities. The Division is grateful to anglers that contribute to our mission in this way. For more information, please visit us at www.fw.delaware.gov/fisheries.
Duplicate licenses may be printed two times free of charge by visiting www.fw.delaware.gov. Select Licenses, Permits and Registrations and the Lost Your Recreational License? For more information contact the Recreational Licensing Office at (302) 739-9918.