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Recreational Fishing Size, Seasons, and Creel Limits for 2016* 

 

* Regulations as of April 11, 2016

ADVISORY: A license is required for fishing, crabbing, or clamming in tidal and non-tidal waters throughout the State of Delaware. (see Fishing Guide page 6 for Fishing License Exemptions)

Also note: 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.

2016 Recreational Fishing Size, Seasons, and Creel Limits

Non-tidal Waters

Species
 Minimum Size Limit
Season
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

Panfish
(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)

Trout
(Freshwater)

No Size Limit Opens first Saturday in April

6 (All Trout species combined)

4 in fly-fishing only waters

 Tidal Waters

Species
Minimum Size Limit
Season
Creel Limit per Angler

American Eel

9 inches

Open Year Round 25

Shad
(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 Dum

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

15

Oct. 22 to Dec. 31

15

Bluefish

No Size Limit Open Year Round 10

Catfish
(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

Scup

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) 

2, in any combination except catch & release only on spawning grounds April 1 to May 31 (see Fishing Guide page 18)

Summer Flounder

16 inches Open Year Round 4

Tautog

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

Tilefish
(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

 

Shellfish

Species
Minimum Size Limit
Season
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

Whelks
(Conchs)

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

 

Sharks
*Special Permit May Be Required For Federal Waters*

Species
Minimum Size Limit
Season
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.

 

 

ShoreAnglers

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

 PROHIBITED SHARK SPECIES

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. 

  (Images courtesy of, or purchased from, artist Duane Raver, Jr.)

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