Delaware’s invasive finfish regulations and harvest opportunities

DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds anglers
of invasive finfish regulations and harvest opportunities

Regulations designate a number of species as invasive,
including snakeheads, and authorize bowfishing


DOVER (May 23, 2014) – DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds anglers and sporting enthusiasts that several species of finfish in Delaware are now designated as invasive, with use of bowfishing equipment authorized for taking them in the state’s tidal and non-tidal waters under regulations adopted last year. These regulations expand fishing opportunities for anglers while also enabling them to help DNREC control invasive fish species, including snakeheads, that have recently shown up in Delaware tidal waters. Anglers also should be aware that there is no closed season, nor size or creel limits for invasive finfish, among which are listed three separate species of catfish.

In tidal waters, snakeheads, along with blue catfish, flathead catfish, walking catfish and grass carp, are designated as invasive finfish. Snakeheads have been found in tidal waters including Sussex County’s Nanticoke River and its tributaries Broad Creek and Deep Creek, as well as New Castle County’s Nonesuch Creek. Grass carp also have been documented in the Nanticoke River and its tributaries. Flathead catfish have been caught in the Brandywine River and the C&D Canal. For more information about invasive aquatic species in Delaware, and where you might encounter (and help remove) them, please visit the Fish & Wildlife website.

“Snakeheads and other non-native invasive fish species have the potential to cause ecological harm and damage native fish populations, and anglers who catch them should never release them back into the water,” Freshwater Fisheries Program Manager Michael Stangl said. “Bowfishing is an effective harvesting technique that may help reduce invasive fish numbers and slow or prevent their spread.” A similar regulation allows bowfishing for snakehead and other designated invasive fish in non-tidal waters, he added.

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In tidal waters, invasive fish species, including snakehead, may be legally harvested with a bow and arrow, unless otherwise prohibited by area rules or local ordinance. In non-tidal waters, bowfishing is allowed for snakeheads and grass carp. Common carp can continue to be taken by bowfishing. Anglers and anyone wanting to help curtail invasive species in Delaware should note that bowfishing is not presently authorized in Delaware State Parks and New Castle County Parks.

“Anglers are our conservation partners, and we encourage them to join us in helping to control invasive fish species such as the snakehead, which can harm the fisheries we are working to conserve,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Saveikis. “As an added attraction, our invasive finfish regulations also give anglers the new option of expanding their fishing methods to include the exciting sport of bowfishing.”

The snakehead is similar in appearance to the bowfin, a non-invasive species native to Delaware waters. Anglers are encouraged to view the differences between the two species at Bowfin have been caught by anglers in Becks Pond, Nonesuch Creek and Dragon Run.

Anglers who catch a snakehead or other invasive species in tidal or non-tidal waters should dispatch the fish rather than returning it to the water, document the catch either by freezing it or taking a clear photo, and then contact the Division at 302-735-8652 to report the catch.

For more information on Delaware Fisheries regulations, licensing, or invasive fish species, visit or call the Fisheries Section at 302-739-9914. To view the revised regulations, click Fisheries Regulations.

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