Blue Crab Fishing in Delaware

Licensing and Habitat

A fishing license is required for crabbing in all Delaware waters. Blue crabs, a significant part of Delaware's aquatic ecosystem, are found in all tidal waters and are a vital economic and recreational resource.

Growth and Maturity

Blue crabs grow rapidly, reaching maturity between 12 to 18 months and rarely living beyond two years under current exploitation levels. They undergo up to 18 moltings, shedding their shell each time to grow a new, larger one.

Legal Harvesting Sizes and Stages

Delaware Blue Crabs, Clams, Conchs & Oysters Regulations
  • Hard-shell Blue Crab: The minimum size for harvesting is 5 inches from point to point of the top shell, except for mature females.
  • Mature Females (Sooks): Identified by the rounded apron, they may be retained at any size once they reach maturity.
  • Sponge Crabs: Females bearing eggs must not be harvested and returned to the water immediately.

Recreational Crabbing Regulations

  • Crab Pots: Limited to two pots per person, which must be marked with all white buoys bearing the owner's full name and permanent address. Pots must be tended every 72 hours and removed from water between December 1 and February 28.
  • Other Gear: Trot lines (no length limit), hand lines, and traps are allowed.
  • Catch Limit: One bushel per person per day.

Jonah Crab Fishing Regulations

Possession and Size

  • Limit: 50 crabs per person.
  • Size: Minimum 4¾ inches at widest part of carapace.

Harvesting Rules

  • Claws: Must remain attached to the body.
  • Egg-bearing Females: No possession allowed.

Clamming Regulations in Delaware

Licensing and Methods

  • Fishing License: Required for clamming.
  • Method: Only hand-held rakes with a head no wider than 14 inches and a handle no longer than 7 feet are allowed.

Harvesting Rules

  • Time: No clamming from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.
  • Resident Daily Limit: 100 clams unless specified by license or permit.
  • Non-Resident Daily Limit: 50 clams unless specified by license or permit.

Area Restrictions

  • Prohibited Areas: No harvesting in areas marked "No Shellfish Harvesting" or "Prohibited Shellfish Area". See Fishing & Clamming Maps.
  • Seasonally Approved Areas: Harvesting allowed December 1 - April 15.
  • Eel Grass Beds: Clamming prohibited in marked areas.

For any additional information or clarifications, contact Watershed Assessment Section Shellfish and Recreational Waters Programs at 302-739-9939.

Oyster Harvesting Regulations in Delaware

  • Prohibition: Recreational harvesting of oysters is illegal in Delaware to conserve populations and prevent shellfish-borne diseases.

Conch Harvesting Regulations in Delaware

Harvest Method

  • Allowed Method: Only conch pots with a minimum escape vent size of 5 inches x 10 inches in the top or parlor section.
  • Prohibition: Harvesting conch by any method other than conch pots is prohibited for recreational harvesters.

Pot Limit and Identification

  • Pot Limit: A maximum of two conch pots per recreational harvester.
  • Identification: Pots must be marked with all-white buoys displaying the owner's full name and permanent mailing address.

Pot Maintenance and Size Requirements

  • Maintenance: All conch pots must be tended at least once every 72 hours.
  • Knobbed Conch Size: Minimum 5 inches along the axis or a minimum diameter at the whorl of 3.0 inches.
  • Channeled Whelk Size: Minimum 6 inches along the axis or a minimum diameter at the whorl of 3.125 inches.

Turtle By-catch Reduction

Delaware Blue Crabs, Clams, Conchs & Oysters Regulations
  • Requirement: A turtle by-catch reduction device must be attached in each funnel entrance of a recreational crab pot to reduce the chance of trapping diamondback terrapins.
  • Device Specifications: A rigid rectangular frame measuring 1.75 inches x 4.75 inches, available at tackle shops or can be handmade from heavy (>11 gauge) wire or other suitable materials.

Delaware Blue Crabs, Clams, Conchs & Oysters Regulations

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.