Types of Delaware Fishing Licenses: Resident, Non-Resident, and Specialty Permits

For anglers looking to explore the diverse fishing opportunities in Delaware, understanding the state’s fishing license requirements is crucial. Delaware offers a variety of fishing licenses tailored to both residents and non-residents, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the state’s abundant waterways while contributing to conservation efforts. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the different types of Delaware fishing licenses, including resident, non-resident, and specialty permits, to help you navigate the regulations and make the most of your fishing experience.

Importance of Fishing Licenses in Delaware

Obtaining a fishing license is not only a legal requirement in Delaware but also an essential way to support the state’s fisheries management and conservation programs. The funds generated from fishing license sales go directly towards projects that restore, conserve, and enhance fish populations and their habitats. By purchasing a license, anglers play a vital role in maintaining the quality of Delaware’s fishing resources for generations to come.

Resident Fishing Licenses

Annual Fishing License

Delaware residents aged 16-64 are required to have an annual fishing license to fish, crab, or clam in both tidal and non-tidal waters throughout the state. This license covers a wide range of fishing activities and is valid for the calendar year in which it is issued. As of 2023, the annual resident fishing license fee is $8.50.

Trout Stamp

In addition to the annual fishing license, residents aged 16-64 who intend to fish for trout must purchase a trout stamp. The resident trout stamp costs $4.20 and is required for anglers targeting trout species in Delaware’s designated trout waters.

Young Angler Trout Stamp

For young anglers aged 12-15, a separate trout stamp is available at a reduced cost of $2.10. This stamp allows young residents to fish for trout while fostering their interest in the sport.

Boat Fishing Licenses

Residents who prefer to fish from a boat can opt for a boat fishing license, which covers all individuals fishing on a privately-owned vessel. The cost of the boat fishing license depends on the size of the boat:

  • Boats 20 feet or less: $40
  • Boats over 20 feet: $50

Non-Resident Fishing Licenses

Annual Fishing License

Non-residents aged 16 and older must obtain an annual fishing license to fish, crab, or clam in Delaware’s tidal and non-tidal waters. The non-resident annual fishing license fee is $20 as of 2023.

7-Day Tourist Fishing License

For non-residents visiting Delaware for a shorter period, a 7-day tourist fishing license is available at a cost of $12.50. This license allows non-residents to enjoy fishing, crabbing, and clamming for a week without purchasing the annual license.

Trout Stamp

Non-resident anglers aged 12 and older who wish to fish for trout in Delaware’s designated trout waters must purchase a non-resident trout stamp in addition to their fishing license. The non-resident trout stamp costs $6.20.

Boat Fishing Licenses

Non-residents can also purchase boat fishing licenses, which cover all individuals fishing on a privately-owned boat. The fees for non-resident boat fishing licenses are the same as for residents:

  • Boats 20 feet or less: $40
  • Boats over 20 feet: $50

Specialty Permits

In addition to the standard fishing licenses, Delaware offers several specialty permits for specific fishing activities and locations.

Surf Fishing Vehicle Permit

The Surf Fishing Vehicle Permit allows anglers to drive onto designated Delaware State Park beaches for surf fishing. This permit is available for both residents and non-residents, with different fees for each:

  • Delaware resident annual permit: $90
  • Non-resident annual permit: $180
  • Senior resident annual permit (62+): $80
  • Senior non-resident annual permit (62+): $160

The Surf Fishing Vehicle Permit is valid for the calendar year and can be used on weekdays during the summer season and seven days a week during the off-season.

Head Boat License

Operators of head boats, which are vessels that carry seven or more passengers for hire, must obtain a Head Boat License. The cost of this license differs for residents and non-residents:

  • Resident Head Boat License: $300
  • Non-resident Head Boat License: $600

Charter Boat License

Charter boats, which carry up to six passengers for hire, require a Charter Boat License. Like the Head Boat License, the cost varies based on residency:

  • Resident Charter Boat License: $150
  • Non-resident Charter Boat License: $300

Fishing Guide License

Individuals who receive compensation for providing guide services to anglers must obtain a Fishing Guide License. The cost of this license also depends on residency:

  • Resident Fishing Guide License: $100
  • Non-resident Fishing Guide License: $300

License Exemptions and Special Cases

While most anglers are required to obtain a fishing license in Delaware, there are some exemptions and special cases to consider.

Age-Based Exemptions

  • Children under the age of 16 are exempt from fishing license requirements.
  • Delaware residents aged 65 and older are also exempt from needing a fishing license but must provide proof of age and residency.

Military Personnel

Active-duty military personnel stationed in Delaware are eligible for a resident fishing license, even if they are not Delaware residents.

Surf Fishing Vehicle Permit Holders

Anglers who possess a valid Delaware Surf Fishing Vehicle Permit, along with the vehicle’s occupants, are exempt from needing a separate fishing license when fishing from the permitted vehicle on designated State Park beaches.

Anglers on Licensed Vessels

Individuals fishing from a licensed charter boat, head boat, or with a licensed guide are covered by the vessel’s license and do not need to purchase a separate fishing license.

Medical Exemptions

Patients in specific rehabilitation hospitals or those with certain disabilities may be exempt from fishing license requirements, provided they carry proper identification verifying their status.

Obtaining a Delaware Fishing License

Anglers can easily obtain a Delaware fishing license through several convenient methods:

  1. Online: The quickest and most convenient option is to purchase a license online through the Digital DNREC ePermitting system. This platform allows anglers to buy licenses, permits, and stamps 24/7 from the comfort of their homes.
  2. In-Person: Licenses can also be purchased in person at the DNREC headquarters in Dover or from authorized license agents located throughout the state, such as sporting goods stores and bait shops.
  3. By Phone: Anglers can call the DNREC Recreational Licensing Office at (302) 739-9918 during regular business hours to purchase a license over the phone.

When applying for a fishing license, anglers will need to provide some basic information, such as their name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license number or state-issued identification. For surf fishing permits, applicants must also provide their vehicle registration information.

Fisherman Information Network (FIN) Number

In addition to obtaining a fishing license, all anglers aged 16 and older must acquire a free Delaware Fisherman Information Network (FIN) number each year before fishing in tidal or non-tidal waters. This requirement applies to both resident and non-resident anglers, including those who are exempt from needing a general fishing license.

The FIN number helps the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife gather valuable data on fishing activities, which is used to make informed decisions about fisheries management and conservation. Anglers can obtain their FIN number through the following methods:

  1. Online: Visit the Digital DNREC ePermitting system and create an account to get a free FIN number.
  2. In-Person: Stop by a participating license agent or the DNREC headquarters to obtain a FIN number in person.
  3. By Phone: Call the DNREC Recreational Licensing Office at (302) 739-9918 to get a FIN number over the phone.

It’s important to note that a FIN number is automatically generated and issued with the purchase of an individual fishing license, so anglers who buy a license do not need to take additional steps to obtain a FIN number.


Delaware’s diverse fishing license options ensure that both residents and non-residents can enjoy the state’s abundant fishing opportunities while contributing to the conservation and management of its aquatic resources. By understanding the various license types, exemptions, and specialty permits, anglers can ensure they have the proper documentation before casting their lines.

Remember, purchasing a fishing license is not only a legal requirement but also an investment in the future of Delaware’s fisheries. The funds generated from license sales support essential projects that maintain and enhance fish populations and their habitats, benefiting anglers and the environment alike.

So, whether you’re a seasoned angler or a newcomer to the sport, be sure to obtain the appropriate Delaware fishing license before embarking on your next fishing adventure. With a valid license in hand, you’ll be ready to explore the state’s stunning waterways and experience the thrill of reeling in your catch while knowing you’re playing a vital role in preserving Delaware’s fishing heritage for generations to come.

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