Delaware Sportfishing Tournament
The Delaware Sportfishing Tournament is an annual program sponsored by the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife to promote recreational fishing opportunities in the state and recognizes both young and adult anglers for outstanding catches. The tournament’s origins date back to the late 1930s when the Board of Game and Fish Commissioners arranged a fishing contest. Their goal was to increase interest in fresh and saltwater hook-and-line fishing in the state. Cash rewards were paid to anglers who caught the largest fish in three saltwater and three freshwater categories. Although cash rewards are no longer offered, the Sport Fishing Tournament is still a very popular program, receiving as many as 3,585 entries in a single year (1986). The tournament has grown to include 15 categories in the freshwater division and 30 categories in the saltwater division, as well as a Live Release Award and a youth division. Several other species are typically recognized annually under the general category "Unusual Species." Anglers who submit an application for their trophy catch receive a personalized colorful Sportfishing Tournament citation showing the species of fish caught as well as an award. The citations color fish illustrations are reproductions of original paintings by artist Duane Raver, Jr. and are suitable for framing.
Only one saltwater award and one freshwater award will be issued to any one individual during the tournament year; but anglers may apply for and receive multiple citations within a year. The tournament runs annually from Jan. 1 - Dec. 31.
Delaware Live Release Program
To promote conservation ethics among Delaware’s anglers, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is providing recognition awards to adult and youth anglers who catch and release live eligible species that exceed the minimum lengths specified. To qualify, an angler must make the catch in Delaware waters or off Delaware’s Atlantic coastline. The eligible species must be measured from the tip of the jaw to the tip of the tail (straight line measurement with mouth closed) and this measurement must be verified by a witness who signs the Live Release Award entry form. The fish, once measured, must be released immediately. Only those fish released alive immediately are eligible for a Live Release Award. (Fish kept either alive or dead, and brought to a weigh station, will be weighed for entry in the Sport Fishing Tournament using certified scales and will not be eligible for a Live Release Award.) Billfish released alive are eligible for either the Live Release Award or the Sport Fishing Tournament Award, whichever the angler chooses.
Applications for Live Release Awards are available online or may be picked up at any Sport Fishing Tournament Weigh Station and must be mailed to the Division of Fish & Wildlife within 30 days of the catch. The entry form for live releases must include both the angler’s signature and the signature of a witness to the actual measurement and live release of the fish. No fish entered for a Live Release Award will be eligible for consideration as a state record fish. All potential state record fish must be weighed at a certified weigh station.
Anglers who submit a Live Release application for their trophy catch receive a personalized colorful citation showing the species of fish caught as well as an award. The citations color fish illustrations are reproductions of original paintings by artist Duane Raver, Jr. and are suitable for framing. Recipients of live release awards will be eligible for one freshwater Live Release Award and one saltwater Live Release Award per year, but may receive multiple citations in either category.
Elite Angler Award
Anglers who receive Tournament citations for five different species within one calendar year, no more than two of which can be Live Release Awards, will be recognized as “Delaware Elite Anglers”. Any combination of saltwater and freshwater citations qualifies the angler for this program. Once an angler achieves “Elite” status, he or she will receive a plaque commemorating their accomplishment. Anglers who achieve “Elite” status may continue to participate in the Sport Fishing Tournament, but will not be eligible for additional “Delaware Elite Angler” plaques in future years. "Achieving Elite status is a challenge, but the Division of Fish & Wildlife wants to provide anglers with extra incentive to get out and enjoy the sport we treasure," said Tournament Director Bruce Cole.
Fishing is an exceptional way to enjoy Delaware’s great outdoors and spend quality time with family. To add to the excitement of the Sport Fishing Tournament's newest awards for the Youth Division, the Division of Fish & Wildlife has lowered the big catch minimum qualifying sizes for young anglers age 15 and under. Young anglers who submit an application for their trophy catch also receive a personalized colorful citation showing the species of fish caught, as well as an award.
All current Sport Fishing Tournament and Live Release program rules apply to the youth division, except rule number 18 (see Delaware Fishing Guide). Qualifying youth division entries will not count toward the Elite Angler award, unless the youth’s fish met the adult division minimum size requirements.
Sport Fishing Tournament and Live Release Award Lapel Pins offered in 2017
(each approximately 1⅓ by 1 inch)