Questions and Answers: Delaware Fishing Licenses

The following are many of the questions that have come in about fishing licenses in Delaware. If you have a question, and don’t find the answer here, please send us an email at

When was it required to have a fishing license to fish, crab, or clam in Delaware’s tidal waters?

The license requirement went into effect January 1, 2008.  A license is required in all waters to fish, clam or crab.

In addition to the license requirements, do I need anything else to recreationally fish (or shellfish) in Delaware?

Yes, you will need a Delaware-issued Fisherman Information Network (FIN) number. If you purchased your fishing license (with the exception of the Non-Resident Boat Fishing License), your FIN number was automatically generated and appears on your license with no further FIN registration necessary. In some cases, such as when you are exempt from licensing requirements, you may need to apply separately for a FIN number though the ePermitting system.

What are my options when purchasing licenses?

There are a number of options available to anglers, including annual resident and non-resident licenses, temporary licenses for non-residents, boat fishing licenses, head boat licenses, and fishing guide licenses.

At what age do I need a license?

Residents age 16 to 64 inclusive, and non-residents 16 and older, need a license.

Will I need both a boat fishing license and a general fishing license?

No, you will need one or the other not both, depending on individual circumstances. During public hearings and workshops on fishing licenses, anglers asked for the option for a boat fishing license. Residents will receive a complimentary general fishing license when they purchase a boat fishing license (only for the owner of the boat). Non-residents will receive only the boat fishing license.

If someone owns a boat, and only uses it one week a year to fish, must they buy the special boat fishing license?

No one must buy a boat fishing license. This is one of two options. You may buy a boat fishing license or you may buy an individual license. It is up to each angler to make the determination that is best for him/her depending on how they fish. The boat license covers everyone on the licensed vessel while they are fishing on that vessel.

Can the owner of a boat license and his guests walk out to clam or crab from a shoreline access site without the boat?

Only if they have purchased an individual Delaware fishing license. Individuals who purchased a Delaware boat fishing license were issued a complimentary Delaware fishing license.

If I have a boat license and I anchor my boat out in the Bay, may I wade and clam without further licensing as long as the boat is nearby? Can the rest of my party from the boat do the same?

Yes to both questions.

If I have a boat license and my boat is docked, can I crab from the pier?

Yes, residents that purchased a Delaware boat fishing license were issued a complimentary Delaware fishing license. Other individuals would had to have purchased an individual Delaware fishing license.

If two people have a surf fishing permit/vehicle license for their vehicles, can the two people go in one vehicle to fish without a special fishing permit? Also, if they take friends along to surf fish, do the friends need a special permit?

Only the operator of the vehicle that is permitted may fish without a license on the beach. Any other anglers will need to have a resident non-resident license regardless of whether or not they have another vehicle permit. The exemption in the code is only for the vehicle operator who has the surf tag.

I am a resident and 65 years or older. What are my exemptions from licensing?

You are exempt from licensing whether you are on your boat or fishing from shore. However, if you are on your boat and there are people who are not exempt from licensing, they must have licenses. Your options are to have each individual obtain a license or you may purchase a boat fishing license. You would need to purchase a boat fishing license because your age exemption does not allow you to transfer that exemption to other people. Anglers that are exempt from purchasing a license are still required to obtain an annual free FIN number.

Is my boat registration the same or does it take the place of the boat fishing license?

There is no relationship between a boat registration and a boat fishing license. The boat registration would still need to be renewed when due.

I am a non-resident who enjoys fishing in both tidal and non-tidal areas. If I have a Delaware boat license for my big boat, will it cover me when I fish in the freshwater pond from shore?

No. A non-resident would be required to purchase a general fishing license or 7-day license.

I own more than one boat. Do I need a boat license for both, or can I transfer it from one to the other?

A boat license cannot be transferred from one boat to another. Therefore, it does not cover you if you were on someone else’s boat, and it does not cover both boats.

What determines if a boat fishing license is a resident or a non-resident license?

The residency of the owner determines if a person can buy a resident or a non-resident boat fishing license – not the state in which the boat is registered.

I have a boat fishing license that I use on a boat in tidal water. Can I use the boat in non-tidal waters with the same boat fishing license?


How many crabs and clams can I take with my recreational fishing license?

A resident may take a bushel of crabs and 100 clams. A non-resident may take a bushel of crabs and 50 clams. If a person wishes to take more than 100 clams up to and including 500 clams per day, he or she needs to purchase a Non-Commercial Clamming Permit for an additional $5.75; the Non-Commercial Clamming Permit costs $57.50 for non-residents.

If I fish exclusively in federal ocean waters outside of Delaware’s 3-mile limit, do I need a Delaware fishing license?

No, unless you drop a line inside of the 3-mile limit.

If I launch from Delaware and fish in Delaware Bay only on the New Jersey side of the Bay, do I need a Delaware fishing license?

No. However, if you return to Delaware waters by boat, any catches you made in NJ waters must still conform to Delaware possession limits (minimum size, daily harvest limits).

If I launch my boat from New Jersey and fish in the Delaware River between the upstream tip of Artificial Island and the Delaware/Pennsylvania line, do I need a Delaware fishing license?

Yes, because Delaware’s jurisdiction extends to the New Jersey low tide line between the upstream tip of Artificial Island and the DE/PA line. If you fish from shore in New Jersey, you do not need a Delaware fishing license.

Do I need a fishing license if I fish on a private pond?

The only exemption is for residents who own or live upon farms in Delaware containing 20 or more acres, and the members of their immediate families who reside on the farm. They may hunt, fish and trap on the farm without being licensed. Exempt anglers are required to obtain an annual free FIN number or exempt hunters and trappers an annual free LEN number.

Do I need a fishing license to fish for bait?

A general fishing license is required for the taking of bait fish (finfish) with the following gear types: dredge, tool, net, line, instrument, device, gear, harpoon, spear, hook or hook and line.

I have a boat registered in Delaware and I have a Maryland Boat Fishing License. Do I need a Delaware Boat Fishing License?

You need a Delaware Boat Fishing License to fish in any of Delaware’s waters. Delaware does not have reciprocity agreement with any other state at this time.

May I launch my boat in Delaware without a Delaware boat fishing license to travel to Maryland or another state to fish where I have a legal license to fish in that state?

Yes, but you cannot fish in Delaware waters and your catch must conform to Delaware possession limits (minimum size and harvest limits).

What are the licensing requirements and exemptions for residents and non-residents for hunting and fishing?

See 7 Delaware Code, Chapter 5