Tidal Fishing Regulations
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.
Anglers are prohibited from landing and keeping protected sharks, including Sand Tiger and Sandbar sharks due to their slow reproductive rate and overfishing. To ensure the maximum likelihood of survival, prohibited sharks, as well as highly migratory shark species that are not retained, must be immediately released without removing the fish from the water by cutting the line near the hook or by using a de-hooking device.
When targeting sharks, non-offset carbon or mild steel circle hooks (not stainless steel) are required. This way, if the shark is lost before it is landed, the hook will rust out within a few weeks. For more information on ethical shark fishing practices, go to http://www.eregulations.com/delaware/fishing/ethical-catch-release-sharks/.
American Shad and Hickory Shad
It shall be unlawful for any person to have in possession more than two (2) American Shad and more than ten (10) 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 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, unless otherwise posted.
Delaware has fourteen 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 online at dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/fish-wildlife/fishing/artificial-reefs/ or contact the Fisheries Little Creek field office for a copy (302) 735-2960.