Trout Season – A Spring Tradition For Delaware Fishermen
By … Bob Jones
While March 20 marked the official first day of spring, for many local fishermen the real start to the spring fishing season each year is the first Saturday of April – opening day of Delaware’s trout season.
Delaware, unlike its neighbors to the north and west, does not have the clear mountain streams needed to support populations of wild native trout. But, thanks to stocking efforts by the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, fishermen can still enjoy a spring tradition of trout fishing for a mix of rainbows, browns and brook trout in six upstate streams.
The “put and take” program, which is primarily supported through the sale of trout stamps, provides anglers with quality fishing for a mix of rainbow and brown trout, including some trophy-sized fish over two pounds.
That White Clay Creek tops the popularity list each year should come as no surprise, considering the fact that more than half of the trout stocked each spring are released here. The stretch of the river designated for trout fishing extends from the Pennsylvania line through Carpenter State Park to the downstream side of the Paper Mill Road Bridge in the city of Newark. White Clay Creek also is the only stream in the program that has an area restricted exclusively for use by fly fishermen. The section designated for fly fishing runs upstream from a marked point 25 yards above Thompsons Bridge to the state line. While White Clay Creek offer the best chance of catching a limit of trout, it is definitely not the place for fishermen who have a problem with crowds, especially during the first couple weeks of the season.
The Christina Creek’s East Branch, is second on the stocking list. Also located in Newark, the Christina provides good fishing with a little less crowding than White Clay Creek. The designated section of the creek extends from the Maryland line, downstream through Rittenhouse Park. Stocking points on the Christina typically include the bridge on Nottingham Road (Route 273), the Barksdale Road Bridge and Rittenhouse Park.
A good destination for fishermen who rank solitude higher than limits of fish is Pike Creek. While this stream is not stocked with as many fish as the state’s other trout streams, Pike Creek offers the next best thing to native stream fishing. The designated section of Pike Creek runs from Route 72 downstream to the Henderson Road Bridge, with stocking done from the bridges at Route 72, New Linden Hill Road and Henderson Road.
Another stream that provides fishermen to get away from the crowds is Mill Creek. The stretch of the creek designated for trout fishing runs from the Brackenville Road Bridge downstream to the Limestone Road. In past years, most of the trout stocked in Mill Creek were released near the bridges on Brackenville Road, Mill Creek Road and Mermaid-Stoney Batter Road.
Of the two trout streams located north of Wilmington, Wilson Run is the most heavily stocked and the most crowded. The mile-long section of the stream designated for trout fishing is located entirely within the borders of the Brandywine Creek State Park. The concentration of trout in a stream that’s no more than a couple of yards wide, makes Wilson Run the best choice for fishermen who are introducing youthful anglers to the spring trout ritual.
Northernmost of the state’s stocked streams is Beaver Run between the Pennsylvania line and Brandywine Creek. Stocking is done from the two bridges on Beaver Valley Road. While there are plenty of fish released in Beaver Run, finding a place to park a vehicle where it won’t be ticketed or towed is extremely challenging. The best bet is to make arrangements to be dropped off and picked up later, or to consider leaving this stream to locals who live within walking distance.
The spring season runs April 4 through June 30, with fishing allowed from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. The only exception is opening day when starting time is set for 7:30 a.m. The designated sections of the streams are closed to all fishing for two weeks prior to the opening day of the season.
All anglers 16 years and older are required to purchase a state trout stamp ( $4.20 resident, $6.20 non-resident) in addition to their freshwater fishing license to fish “designated” portions of the streams. Youngsters between 12 and 15 are not required to have a fishing license, but must have a Junior Trout Stamp ($2.10 resident, $6.20 non-resident). Resident fishermen over 65 are exempt from both license and stamp requirements. The daily creel limit is six trout on all designated waters except the “fly only” stretch of White Clay Creek, where fishermen are allowed just four fish per day.