Fishing License Exemptions and Exceptions in Delaware

Fishing is a beloved outdoor activity enjoyed by many in the state of Delaware. However, before casting your line, it’s crucial to understand the state’s fishing license requirements and exemptions. Delaware’s Division of Fish & Wildlife is committed to preserving fish populations and ensuring sustainable recreational fishing through a well-regulated licensing system.

In general, anglers aged 16-64, both residents and non-residents, must obtain a valid Delaware fishing license to fish, crab, or clam in the state’s tidal and non-tidal waters. The license is valid for the calendar year, expiring on December 31. But there are several notable exemptions to this rule that cater to different age groups, residency statuses, and special circumstances.

Age-Based Exemptions

Children under the age of 16 are exempt from fishing license requirements in Delaware. This exemption encourages young anglers to explore the joys of fishing without the added cost of a license. Senior residents aged 65 and above are also exempt, provided they carry proof of age and residency.

Residency-Based Exemptions

Delaware residents who own or live on a farm within the state, containing 20 or more acres, along with their immediate family members residing on the farm, can fish on that property without a license. This exemption recognizes the deep connection between farming communities and the land they steward.

Surf Fishing Vehicle Permit Exemption

Anglers who are the operators of vehicles with valid Delaware Surf Fishing Vehicle Permits are exempt from needing a separate fishing license, but only while actively surf fishing from that vehicle. However, other occupants of the vehicle must still obtain individual licenses if they intend to fish.

Military and Veteran Exemptions

Active duty military personnel stationed in Delaware are eligible to purchase recreational fishing licenses at resident prices. Additionally, honorably discharged veterans with a service-connected disability of 60% or more, as certified by the Veterans Administration, are exempt from fishing license requirements altogether.

Institutional Exemptions

Patients in Delaware VA facilities, public hospitals, sanatoriums for tuberculosis treatment, or rehabilitation hospitals under the State Department of Health are exempt from fishing license requirements, provided they carry proper identification verifying their status.

Boat Fishing License Option

For anglers fishing from a boat, Delaware offers a boat fishing license that covers all occupants of the vessel, eliminating the need for individual licenses. This option streamlines the licensing process for families or groups enjoying a day out on the water together.

The Delaware Fisherman Information Network (FIN)

In addition to applicable fishing licenses, all anglers aged 16 and older, including those exempt from license requirements, must obtain a free Delaware Fisherman Information Network (FIN) number each year before fishing, crabbing, or clamming. This unique identifier helps the Division of Fish & Wildlife gather valuable data for fisheries management and conservation efforts.

When purchasing an individual fishing license, the FIN number is automatically generated and appears on the license itself. However, exempt anglers and those opting for boat fishing licenses must obtain their FIN numbers separately through the DNREC ePermitting system or by visiting an authorized license agent.

Obtaining Your Delaware Fishing License

Securing your Delaware fishing license is a straightforward process with several convenient options:

  1. Online: Visit the DNREC ePermitting system to purchase your license online using a credit card. This eco-friendly and efficient method allows you to print your license immediately or save it to your mobile device.
  2. In-Person: Stop by the DNREC licensing desk in Dover or any authorized license agent, such as sporting goods stores, bait and tackle shops, or hardware stores throughout the state. You can pay with cash, check, or credit card and receive your license on the spot.
  3. By Phone: Call the DNREC licensing office during regular business hours to purchase your license over the phone with a credit card. Your license will be mailed to the address you provide.

Delaware Fishing License Fees

Delaware’s fishing license fees vary based on residency, age, and license type. As of 2023, the fees are as follows:

  • Resident Fishing License (Ages 16-64): $8.50
  • Non-Resident Fishing License (Ages 16+): $20.00
  • 7-Day Tourist Fishing License (Non-Resident): $12.50
  • Resident Trout Stamp (Ages 16-64): $4.20
  • Non-Resident Trout Stamp (Ages 12+): $6.20
  • Young Angler Trout Stamp (Ages 12-15): $2.10
  • Boat Fishing License (20 ft or less): $40.00
  • Boat Fishing License (Over 20 ft): $50.00

These fees directly support the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s conservation, management, and public access efforts, ensuring that Delaware’s fisheries remain healthy and accessible for generations to come.

Fishing Regulations and Best Practices

Obtaining your fishing license is just the first step in becoming a responsible angler in Delaware. Familiarizing yourself with the state’s fishing regulations, seasons, size and catch limits, and area restrictions is equally important.

The Delaware Fishing Guide, published annually by the Division of Fish & Wildlife, is an invaluable resource for staying informed about the latest regulations and any changes from the previous year. This comprehensive guide covers everything from tidal and non-tidal fishing rules to species-specific regulations, ensuring that anglers have the knowledge they need to fish legally and sustainably.

As stewards of Delaware’s aquatic resources, anglers should also adopt ethical fishing practices. These include practicing catch-and-release for species not intended for consumption, properly disposing of fishing line and tackle to prevent wildlife entanglements, and respecting private property rights when accessing fishing spots.

By combining your valid fishing license with a solid understanding of regulations and a commitment to responsible angling, you can enjoy the many rewards of fishing in Delaware while playing a vital role in conserving the state’s precious aquatic resources.

Recent Updates to Delaware’s Fishing Regulations

In 2014, Delaware reclassified certain fishing violations from criminal offenses to environmental violations. This change aimed to manage minor infractions more effectively and reduce the burden on the state’s Board of Pardons, which had seen a significant increase in pardon requests for minor environmental offenses.

Under the new law, violations such as fishing without a license, trespassing to fish, and improper marking of crab or lobster pots are no longer reported on criminal history records. Instead, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) maintains violation records and reports repeat offenders.

While these violations are no longer considered criminal offenses, the law did increase fines for certain infractions. The minimum fine for Class C violations rose from $50 to $100 for first offenses, while Class D environmental violations increased from $25 to $50 for first offenses.

These updates to Delaware’s fishing regulations reflect the state’s commitment to striking a balance between enforcing conservation measures and minimizing the long-term impacts of minor violations on individuals’ lives and livelihoods.

The Importance of Staying Informed

As an angler in Delaware, staying informed about the latest fishing license requirements, exemptions, and regulations is crucial for ensuring a legal and enjoyable fishing experience. Regular visits to the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife website, subscribing to email updates, and following the division’s social media channels are excellent ways to stay current on any changes or announcements.

Additionally, engaging with local fishing clubs, bait and tackle shops, and experienced anglers can provide valuable insights into local fishing conditions, best practices, and any new developments in the fishing community.

By remaining proactive in your knowledge of Delaware’s fishing regulations and adapting to any updates or changes, you can continue to enjoy the state’s diverse and thriving fisheries while contributing to their long-term conservation and sustainability.


Delaware’s fishing license system, with its carefully crafted exemptions and exceptions, strikes a balance between promoting recreational fishing and protecting the state’s valuable aquatic resources. By understanding and adhering to these requirements, anglers of all ages and backgrounds can responsibly participate in the time-honored tradition of fishing while supporting conservation efforts that ensure healthy fisheries for future generations.

As you plan your next fishing adventure in Delaware, remember to obtain your appropriate license or FIN number, familiarize yourself with the latest regulations, and practice ethical angling techniques. By doing so, you’ll not only maximize your enjoyment of the sport but also play a vital role in preserving the natural wonders that make fishing in Delaware such a cherished pastime.

So gear up, cast your line, and immerse yourself in the beauty and excitement of fishing in the First State, secure in the knowledge that you’re part of a community dedicated to responsible stewardship and the enduring love of the great outdoors.

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