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Delaware River Creel Survey Results

Full Final Report available at
Recently the Delaware River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, an organization comprised of all Delaware River Basin States (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware) and federal partners (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service) performed a creel survey that extended from Downsville, NY to Wilmington, DE in 2002. The survey, conducted by Versar, Inc., encompassed nearly 280 river miles, including 64 miles of tidal river (estuary). In addition to interviewing fishermen departing access areas at scheduled dates and times, Delaware River anglers were also counted during scheduled aerial flights to complete the catch estimation process.

One goal of the survey was to fulfill requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Shad and River Herring Plan, as well as document catch and harvest of river resident fishes within the basin. Although survey results are preliminary, the following details are provided to pique the interest of New Jersey anglers, especially since runs of anadromous shad, striped bass and river herring have begun for 2003. Once preliminary estimates have been finalized, details of the final report will be published on this web site.

Day & Night Angler Effort:

Based on aerial surveys, daytime angler effort was estimated to be 410,613 angler hours (122,790 trips). This amounts to nearly 1,500 angler hours of effort per river mile per season. Nighttime angler effort was 25,689 hours (approximately 7,682 angler trips).

Survey Catch and Angler Harvest of American Shad, Striped Bass, River Herring, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish and Trout:

A total of 35,281 American Shad were caught with only 6,627 shad harvested (kept) by anglers (19%). Most of the shad (99%) were caught in April and May. The low harvest is attributed to a greater level of catch-and-release fishing for many species, including shad.

About as many striped bass were caught (36,328) as American shad. Only 538 striped bass were harvested (~1%). Highest catches for striped bass occurred in June with 80% of the total caught between April and July.

About 7,553 river herring (alewife and blueback herring) were caught with 4,916 harvested (65%). Most of the river herring (97%) were caught in April and May. The increased harvest of river herring is attributed to their demand as bait for the popular coastal striped bass fishery. Anglers should note that Pennsylvania and New Jersey have decreased the recreational creel limit for river herring to 35 per day to reduce the harvest. No person shall have in their possession more than 35 alewife or blueback herring in aggregate per day.

Smallmouth bass were the most frequently caught fish in the survey. A total of 99,540 bass were caught with 1,428 harvested (~1%). Distribution was largely confined to the non-tidal river where most of them were caught (95%).

Only 10,601 largemouth bass were caught with 981 harvested (9%). Most were caught in the tidal river (96%).

Approximately 66,545 channel catfish where caught with 11,616 harvested (17%). Most cats were taken in the tidal reach by boat anglers.

Trout catch, as expected, was confined to the uppermost river reaches. A total of 2,711 trout were caught with 216 harvested (8%).

Catch of a variety of other species was also documented, including 1,813 walleye (74% harvested).

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