Trout season opens March 7

February 28, 2020

Believe it or not, trout season opens Saturday, March 7. Those of us who live in Kent or Sussex counties will have the opportunity to fish for stocked trout in either Tidbury Pond in Dover or Newton Pond near Greenwood. Actually, I was surprised to meet several folks from New Castle County when I stopped by Tidbury Pond last year.

You will need your 2020 general fishing license and 2020 trout stamp unless you are under 12 or over 65. A youth trout stamp is required for those 12 to 16 and a FIN number is required for everyone over 16. Even though I am well past 65, I always get both my general fishing license and my trout stamp. I was a supporter of these programs when they were going through the General Assembly, and I know the money goes to improve fishing opportunities in Delaware. In the case of the trout stamp, the money supports the next year’s stocking program. I believe $12.70 is a reasonable price to pay to help support access to fresh and saltwater fishing plus the crabbing and clamming we have in Delaware.

When it comes to where to fish on opening day, I believe this year I will try Tidbury Pond in Dover. I have not had much luck at Newton Pond, and last year, when I made a visit to Tidbury Pond, I saw more fish caught than I have ever seen taken out of Newton. I will have to get up early to secure a parking place and a fishing location, but such are the dues one must pay on the opening day of trout season.

Delaware Sportsmen Show

The Delaware Sportsmen Show will be held Saturday, March 7, at the Cheswold Fire Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fire hall is a short drive west up Route 42 from Route 13, just north of Dover. There is plenty of parking across the street from the show. Admission is only $5, with children under 10 free.

This show has something for everyone. There are booths with fresh and saltwater fishing supplies, guns and other hunting stuff, tractors, four-wheelers, pickup trucks and boats. Good old firehouse ladies’ auxiliary food is served all day, and that alone is worth the trip. My plan is to stop by after fishing for trout on opening day.

Time for change

If there is one thing all humans hate, it’s change. We like everything to go along in an orderly manner so we can plan our time and enjoy our lives without interruptions. 

The people responsible for gathering and interpreting fisheries data are no different. For years, they kept using MERFF data to manage our recreational fisheries, knowing full well it was flawed. They just kept saying it was the best available data, which it was. God forbid they should come up with something better until they were forced to do so.

Then they came up with the Marine Recreational Informational Program. It uses dockside interviews and mail surveys to estimate the recreational catch. These estimates are reviewed by scientists before being used to manage our fishery. Apparently, none of these scientists have ever been out or knows anything about marine recreational fishing. Because if they had even the slightest knowledge of the subject, they would know that Delaware recreational fishermen did not catch 77,709 black sea bass from shore in September and October of 2015.

I believe the only way to count the number of fish recreational fishermen catch is to count the number of fish recreational fishermen catch. No more dockside interviews. No more mailed surveys. 

I would propose using the FIN numbers that every saltwater fisherman must have to also provide every saltwater fisherman with a method to report every fish he or she catches. In today’s age of cellphones and computers, most anglers could report their catch electronically. Just the basic information such as where they were fishing and what they caught.

Would there be blowback from recreational fishermen? You better believe it! There was plenty of that when we proposed the saltwater license. A lot of folks said they would quit fishing if they had to buy a license. If they did, I haven’t missed them.

Right now, the fishery managers are using bad data to take fish away from recreational anglers. The only way to stop this is to get them the correct data. It too may show that we are catching too many fish. If so, let the chips fall where they may, but we are already ahead by those 77,709 black sea bass that were never caught from shore in 2015.


  • 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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