DNREC announces additions to the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament

DOVER – The Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife is pleased to announce the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament and the Live Release program will this year begin offering collectable award lapel pins to anglers for their trophy catches. The Tournament also will offer a new “Delaware Elite Angler” award and has added two new species to the list of catches eligible for recognition.

“The Tournament’s origins date back to the late 1930s, when the Board of Game and Fish Commissioners arranged a fishing contest. The goal was to increase interest in freshwater and saltwater angling,” said DNREC Fisheries Biologist and Tournament Director Bruce Cole, who spearheaded the changes. “Eighty years later, the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament is still a very popular program, with anglers previously entering as many as 3,583 trophy fish in a single year. The Tournament has grown to include 15 species in the freshwater division and 30 species in the saltwater division.”

Collectible lapel pins to be awarded for trophy catches

During the 1970s, lucky anglers participating in the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament were awarded lapel pins for trophy catches. In the early 1980s, the award lapel pins were replaced by award patches, which were popular during that era. This year, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is bringing back newly-designed lapel pins to replace the award patches.

Four award pin types are available. For anglers who choose to retain their trophy fish, both a freshwater and a saltwater pin are available. Anglers who choose to immediately release their trophy catch alive will be eligible for a freshwater or saltwater live release pin. Successful Tournament entrants will be awarded one pin per year per category. If the angler catches additional qualifying fish within a category, they will receive certificates depicting the species caught and its measurements.

Each year’s pins will depict a different species of freshwater and saltwater fish, and also will include the year, so the pins are expected to be highly sought-after and collected by anglers.

Tournament to recognize ‘Elite Anglers’ with special award

The Division of Fish & Wildlife also is pleased to announce the creation of the Elite Angler award. Anglers who earn Tournament recognition for five different species within one calendar year – no more than two of which can be Live Release Awards – will receive a Delaware Elite Angler award plaque commemorating their accomplishment. Any combination of saltwater and freshwater citations qualifies the angler for this program.

“We want to provide anglers with a little extra incentive to get out there and enjoy the sport we treasure most,” Cole said. “Delaware Elite Angler status is a lifetime award, making those who earn it ineligible for additional plaques in future years. However, ‘Elite’ anglers will remain eligible to participate in the tournament and receive additional award lapel pins and citations for qualifying catches.”

Cobia and snakehead added to list of Tournament-eligible species

In recent years, Delaware anglers have been reporting frequent catches of cobia, a large fish with an elongated body and flattened head found in nearshore and offshore waters along Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean coast. In response, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is adding cobia as a species to be recognized by the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament and the Live Release Awards program starting immediately. The minimum Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament qualifying weight is 45 pounds and the Live Release Awards program minimum length is 48 inches.

The Division of Fish & Wildlife also is adding the snakehead this year as a species for recognition in the Sport Fishing Tournament. Although snakeheads of any size may be submitted, the minimum qualifying weight required to establish Delaware’s first state record for a snakehead is eight pounds. With state regulations prohibiting possession, transport and sale of live snakeheads, specimens submitted for a citation must be dead at the time of weigh-in, and no live release awards will be given for this species. Weight and length are required on the Tournament entry form to aid DNREC Fisheries biologists in monitoring this highly invasive species.

“The Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament not only allows the Division of Fish & Wildlife to recognize an angler’s trophy catch, but also provides the Division with information that is valuable to biologists for the management of these important species,” said Division of Fish & Wildlife Director and avid angler David Saveikis. “With these changes, especially the collectable lapel pins, I anticipate many more anglers will participate in the program.”

New Tournament rules for cobia and snakeheads, as well as other changes and additions, will be included in the upcoming 2017 Delaware Fishing Guide, scheduled for release in print and online in February.

For more information on the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament, including information on how to enter your big catch in the Tournament, click Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament and Live Release Awards, or call Fisheries at 302-739-9914.