2017 Delaware Fishing Regulations & Creel limits

Delaware Fishing License

If you are going to go fishing, crabbing, or clamming in Delaware you must obtain a fishing license. Since 2008 the State of Delaware has required all people engaged in recreational fishing activities (in fresh and salt water) to purchase a Delaware fishing license. A license can be obtained from your local bait shop, most public marinas, and most major retailers that have a sporting counter.  The Head boat and charter boat fishing licenses are only available through DNREC.

Click here to get a Delaware fishing license online

Click here to get your Delaware boat registration online

Click here to get your Boat fishing license online 

   It is illegal to fish for any species of game fish in Delaware with more than two hooks and lines, and each hook and line shall have no more than three separate lures with hooks.

Delaware fishing license costs (effective Jan. 1, 2017)

License Type License Fee Agent Fee Maximum Cost
Resident fishing (Age 16-64) $8.50 $2.50 $11
Non-resident fishing (Age 16 and over) $20 $2.50 $22.50
7-Day Non-resident fishing (Age 16 and over) $12.50 $2.50 $15
Resident Trout Stamp (Age 16-64) $4.20 $1 $5.20
Non-resident Trout Stamp (Age 12 and over) $6.20 $1 $7.20
Young Angler Trout Stamp (Age 12-15) $2.10 $1 $3.10
*Resident boat fishing (20′ vessel and below) $40 $2.50 $42.50
*Resident boat fishing (Vessel over 20′) $50 $2.50 $52.50
*Resident head-boat license $300
*Resident charterboat license $150
*Non-resident boat fishing license (20′ vessel and below) $40 $2.50 $42.50
*Non-resident boat fishing license (Vessel over 20′) $50 $2.50 $52.50
*Non-resident head-boat license $600
*Non-resident charter boat license $300

Delaware State Park's Surf Fishing Access Tag, ORV access
Delaware State Park’s Surf Fishing Access Tag

Delaware Surf Fishing Vehicle Permits  

In Delaware, you may drive your 4×4 or all wheel drive vehicle  onto four Delaware State Park beaches to fish.  Beach Plum Island State Park, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore state park, and Fenwick Island State park.   You must be actively engaged in fishing at all times.  You have to have a surf fishing vehicle permit (beach tag)on your vehicle.  The vehicle must be licensed, and registered to legally operate on the roadways and it must have at least seven inches of ground clearance. No low riding vehicles.  Delaware beach sand is soft and even looser in the summer time.  You also have to have certain gear with you at all times to drive onto the beach and actively fish.  It does not matter which direction you park your vehicle.  Many prefer the front towards the sand so they can use their fishing racks.  Rangers would prefer you park front forward, so they can see your surf fishing vehicle permit.

You are required to have ….
a tire gauge
a board for a jack
a shovel
a tow strap
Fishing gear and bait
sand spikes for your rods

We recommend a few other items that the parks don’t require.  A fire extinguisher is a good addition to your surf vehicle.  Lot of people grilling on the beach and vehicles have caught on fire before.  An old bed sheet or blanket and heavy gloves, this is good to have if you get a bird tangled up in your line.  A first aid kit is a must have addition.

Surf fishing vehicle permits are available through the Delaware State Park Service offices.

Options Resident Non-Resident
Registered Vehicle $80 per year $160 per year
Seniors age 62 and over $55 per year $110 per year
Replacement Permit
(restrictions apply)
$10 $10

Visit our Popular Fishing locations page


2016 Recreational Fishing Size, Seasons, and Creel Limits

Non-tidal Waters

 Minimum Size Limit
Creel Limit per Angler

Largemouth Bass 

12 inches
15 inches (from Beck’s Pond)
Open Year Round 6; 2 from Beck’s Pond

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass between 12 inches and 17 inches must be immediately released.
Open Year Round 6  (No more than 1 greater than  17 inches)

Striped Bass Hybrid
(found only in Lums Pond)

15 inches Open Year Round 2

(Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Redear, Black Crappie, White Crappie,  Yellow and White Perch)

No Size Limit Open Year Round 50 (no more than 25 of one species)


No Size Limit Opens first Saturday in April 6 (All Trout species combined)
4 in fly-fishing only waters

 Tidal Waters

Minimum Size Limit
Creel Limit per Angler

American Eel

9 inches

Open Year Round 25

(American and Hickory)

No Size Limit Closed:Nanticoke River/tributaries

Open Year Round: Ocean, Del Bay/ tribs, Del River/tribs, and Inland Bays/ tribs

10 in any combination

Atlantic Croaker

8 inches Open Year Round No Limit

Atlantic Sturgeon

 Closed Closed  Closed

Black Drum

16 inches Open Year Round 3

Black Sea Bass

12½ inches
(tip of snout/jaw (mouth shut) to farthest extremity of tail, not including tail filament)

May 15 to Sep. 21


Oct. 22 to Dec. 31



No Size Limit Open Year Round 10

(any species)

No Size Limit Open Year Round No Limit

Red Drum

20 to 27 inches (slot) Open Year Round 5

River Herring
(Alewife and Blueback)

Closed Closed Closed


8 inches Open Year Round 50

Spanish Mackerel

14 inches Open Year Round 15

Spotted Seatrout

12 inches Open Year Round No Limit

Striped Bass

28 to 37 inches or 44 inches and greater, except only 20 to 25 inch fish may be retained from July 1 to Aug. 31 in the Delaware River, Delaware Bay and their tributaries. Open Year Round in State of Delaware waters (coast to 3 miles off shore).

Closed in Federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore)  EEZ

2, in any combination except catch & release only on spawning grounds April 1 to May 31 

Summer Flounder

16 inches Open Year Round 4


15 inches Jan. 1 to March 31 5
April 1 to May 11 3
July 17 to Aug. 31 5
Sept. 29 to Dec. 31 5

(Blueline and Golden)

No Size Limit Open Year Round 7 in any combination

Weakfish (Sea Trout)

13 inches Open Year Round 1

White Perch

8 inches Open Year Round Non-Tidal Waters: 25

Tidal Waters: No Limit

Winter Flounder

12 inches Feb. 11 to April 10 2



Minimum Size Limit
Creel Limit per Angler

Blue Crabs

Hard shell: 5 inches Pots: March 1 to Nov. 30


Other Gear: Open Year Round

1 Bushel
Soft shell: 3½ inches
Peeler: 3 inches


Knobbed Whelk:
6 inch length/ 3½ inch whorl

Knobbed Whelk: Open Year Round   

Knobbed Whelk: 5 bushels

(see Fishing Guide page 22 for more information)

Channeled Whelk:

6 inch length/ 3 inch whorl

Channeled Whelk: Open Year Round Channeled Whelk: 5 bushels

(see Fishing Guide page 22 for more information)

Hard Clams

1½ inches Open Year Round Resident: 100

Non-Resident: 50

Atlantic Lobster

3⅜ to 5¼ inches (slot)

The measurement is made between the extreme rear of the eye socket to the end of the carapace


Open Year Round 2 per diver

V-notched (Females) are Prohibited


*Special Permit May Be Required For Federal Waters*

Minimum Size Limit
Creel Limit per Angler

Spiny Dogfish and
Smoothhound (Smooth  Dogfish)

No Size Limit Open Year Round No Limit

Small Coastal Sharks

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark, Blacknose Shark, Bonnethead Shark, Finetooth Shark


No Size Limit Open Year Round Boat Anglers

Only 1 shark  of any species per vessel, except 1 additional Bonnethead Shark and 1 additional Atlantic Sharpnose Shark per angler onboard vessel.




Only 1 shark of any species per angler, except 1 additional Bonnethead Shark and 1 additional Atlantic Sharpnose Shark per angler.


  Hammerhead Sharks

Great Hammerhead Shark, Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Smooth Hammerhead Shark 

78 inch (fork length) Jan. 1 to May 14

July 16 to Dec. 31

Large Coastal Sharks

Blacktip Shark, Bull Shark, Lemon Shark, Nurse Shark, Silky Shark, Spinner Shark, Tiger Shark

54 inch (fork length) Jan. 1 to May 14

July 16 to Dec. 31

Pelagic Sharks

Blue Shark, Oceanic White-Tip Shark, Porbeagle, Shortfin Mako, Thresher Shark

54 inch (fork length) Open Year Round


Sandbar Shark, Sand Tiger Shark, Atlantic Angel Shark, Basking Shark, Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark, Bigeye Sixgill Shark, Bigeye Thresher, Bignose Shark, Caribbean Reef Shark, Caribbean Sharpnose Shark, Dusky Shark, Galapagos Shark, Longfin mako Shark, Narrowtooth Shark, Night Shark, Sevengill Shark, Sixgill Shark, Smalltail Shark, Whale Shark, White Shark



PROHIBITED SHARKS must be immediately released to ensure the maximum probability of survival (e.g., no gaffs, no clubbing, careful hook removal, etc.).


It is unlawful for any hook and line angler to remove a PROHIBITED SHARK SPECIES from the water.



The Sandbar & Sand Tiger are toothed sharks commonly taken in the nearshore waters of the State and are PROHIBITED


Special Restrictions for Sharks
It is unlawful to fillet a shark prior to landing. A shark may be eviscerated prior to landing, but head, tail and fins must remain attached to the carcass. It is unlawful to release a shark in a manner that will not ensure the sharks maximum probaility of survival. It is unlawful to possess the fins from any shark prior to landing unless they are naturally attached to the body of the shark.


Highly Migratory Species
*Special Permit Required*

 Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, Billfish and Sharks

*Special Permit Required*

All private vessel owners/operators recreationally fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish and billfish) for personal use in the Atlantic Ocean must obtain an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling Permit. Further limits and restrictions apply.

Consult https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/ or call toll free (888) 872-8862 for specific up to date information and permits.

There is annual U.S. landings limit for Atlanticc Blue Marlin, White Marlin, and Roundscale Spearfish (combined) as well as annual U.S. landings limits for some Tuna species. Landings updates and seasonal closures are posted under “What’s New…” at: https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species are Regulated Federally, subject to frequent changes. 

Striped bass

2 striped bass per day (in any combination) from 28 to 37 inches or 44 inches or greater,
season open year-round for all state waters except those covered by the summer slot season or spawning closures. The popular striped bass summer slot season (July 1-Aug. 31 in Delaware Bay, Delaware River and their tidal tributaries) remains in place, but with a reduced slot size of 20 to 25 inches. The summer slot season daily possession limit is two fish.  The tributaries include the Lewes Canal from the train bridge to the Roosevelt inlet.

Striped bass Spawning season

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.