A lot to be thankful for in Delaware

November 27, 2021

Thanksgiving is the time to reflect on the many things we have to be thankful for. No matter your personal situation, you can be thankful that you live in the greatest nation this planet has ever known. We still elect our government with one person, one vote, and we still have the freedom to achieve the highest level we can using our abilities.

As outdoor enthusiasts, we can pretty much access the woods, fields and waters of the First State as hunters or fishermen, or just hikers who enjoy looking at the wonders of nature. As much as we all like to pick on our government, it is that very government that we have to thank for all this open space. For the most part, it is maintained by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The woods and fields are often maintained by the Department of Agriculture.

While Delaware is a small state, and we can find hunting or fishing activity just a few minutes from our doorstep, such is not always the case in other states. I have a good friend, Ken Moran, who was the outdoor writer for the New York Post. He lived in an apartment in Manhattan and had to drive quite a distance to reach the Catskills to hunt turkeys.

As he was leaving his apartment early one morning, dressed in total camouflage and carrying his bow, his doorman about had a heart attack. Ken said he felt perfectly safe walking the dark streets at 2 a.m. to get to his car.

Some of our open space has become a joke. The drive-on beaches on summer weekends are, to say the least, a bit crowded. I am happy to say I live here and don’t drive on the beach in the summer. I save that for spring and fall. In fact, this year the surf-fishing has been so bad I have only been on the beach once. Unfortunately, when the big red drum were around, I was laid up with two bum knees.

As for hunting, there are many acres of public land. Some state parks, including Cape Henlopen, allow hunting as well.

I agree that hunting on leased land with a group of friends is far superior to hunting public land where you don’t know anybody, but even that still is better than not hunting at all. People who can take the time to work out the lay of the land, scout the area very well and build or carry in a good blind still have a chance to take a deer.

Waterfowl hunters can take part in the lottery held on public land at various sites through out the state. Yes, you have to get up extra early and you may not get a blind, but at least you have a chance.

Freshwater fishermen have many ponds to choose from. All of these are maintained by Fish and Wildlife. There are bass, pickerel, sunfish, crappie and catfish in most ponds, although some ponds are better for some fish than others.

In March, Fish and Wildlife stocks two ponds with trout, one in Sussex County and one in Kent, and the turnout for these events is very good. Many adults with children come to fish and enjoy the usually bitter-cold opening day.

In April, it is New Castle County’s turn. Several streams are stocked with trout, and restocking takes place throughout the month. Opening day here is a sight to behold. Motorcycle jackets standing alongside Orvis-clad corporate executives. Little kids so excited to catch their first fish. Old guys so excited to watch the kids catch these fish.

There is a fly-fishing-only section on White Clay Creek. Opening day is the only day it’s crowded. These guys and gals release more than they keep.

Delaware residents can do all of this for a very small amount of money. A General Fishing License costs $8.50. If you want to trout fish, you will need a trout stamp that will cost $4.20. So, for a grand total of $12.70, you may fish all the public waters in Delaware as well as crab and clam where that is permitted. That is cheaper than a dozen bloodworms!

If you are over 56 years of age, you are exempt from fishing license requirements, but you still must have a Fisheries Information Network number. The FIN number is free and can be obtained online from DNREC.

I still buy my fishing license and trout stamp. I know where the money goes, and I am happy to do my share.

A hunting license is a bit more expensive; it will set you back $39.50. A duck stamp is $15.

We who fish and hunt in Delaware and in the United States of America have much to be thankful for.


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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