Where does our fishing license money go?

October 9, 2021

When you fork over that $8.50 for the annual fishing license, where does that money go? When we were pushing for a general fishing license that would cover fishing, crabbing and clamming in all Delaware waters, the one thing we wanted above all else was a dedicated fund that would put the license money aside to be used for projects that benefited recreational fishing, clamming and crabbing. The federal government made this an easy sell because they passed a law that placed a 5 percent excise tax on all fishing equipment, and that money goes back to the states as a match for fishing license money used for approved projects. The match is 75 percent federal money and 25 percent state money.

The fishing license bill also included a Council on Recreational Fishing Funding to look over and approve projects that the license money should be spent on. I have been on this council since it began and was the chairman for several years. The council meets twice a year to go over projects that meet the federal requirements for matching funds and vote on which ones to select.

The projects proposed for 2021 and 2022 include Massey’s Landing bulkhead repair at a cost of $90,000, the Seventh Street boat ramp in Wilmington at a cost of $700,000, a new boat ramp at Records Pond in Laurel that will cost $500,00, and a replacement ramp at Scotton Landing at a cost of $700,000.

There are reoccurring expenses such as material for our artificial reefs, the porta-potties at the boat ramps and fishing piers, various surveys to comply with federal regulations, and the administrative staff required to service the recreational fishing funds. I can assure you every penny you spend on that fishing license is accounted for.

The trout stamp is a separate fund that is used to purchase trout for the following season. That is another good thing that keeps Delaware trout streams and ponds well stocked from one season to the next.

I realize many people like to get down on our government and say all the politicians do is take our money and waste it. I believe if you put in the time and effort, like we did when the government wanted to put a license on saltwater fishermen, you can construct a law that helps the fishermen as well as the government.

Fishing report

The weather just will not give us a break. We get one or two good days followed by a solid week of east wind and 4- to 6-foot seas in the ocean. The saving grace has been the Delaware Bay, where boats have been able to operate and find some sheepshead, black drum, tog and triggerfish.

The run of big red drum may be over. Several were caught during the Fall Surf Fishing Classic, but only one or two stragglers have been seen since. Not good news for the Delaware Mobile Surf-Fishermen’s Fall Tournament this weekend. The mullet run has drawn in blues to the surf, so while not 40-plus inches, at least there should be some action for the contestants.

I have also seen some photos of nice kings caught on cut mullet from the beach. Trout and spot should also be around. Bloodworms or Fishbites for the spot with mullet for the trout.

One of the most exciting fish to catch from the beach is the false albacore. They are strong and fast, and will give you all you want in a sport fish. You can spot them by watching the birds hovering over a spot in the waves, just beyond the breakers. Cast a metal lure, such as a Hopkins, and crank it back as fast as possible.  These fish will pop up here one second and over there in a flash. There was a time when I would run up and down the beach after them. That time has passed. Now I keep a rod rigged with a Hopkins and wait for them to swim past me.

Black sea bass and flounder continue to be found in the ocean. Both will be on the move east as the days get shorter and the water temperature drops. As of my most recent reports, the flounder were still at the Old Grounds, and B and A buoys, while the sea bass were still around the Del-Jersey-Land Reef.

If you can get to the canyons, tuna fishing is off the charts. Yellowfins and bigeyes are filling up boxes and covering up decks on boats that make the long runs. The last good report I had came from the Washington Canyon. Make sure of the weather, especially this time of year, when cold fronts can really spoil your day.


  • 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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