Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has become a valuable tool for the characterization of trace quantities of environmental toxins. Utilizing established wet chemical synthetic protocols, dogbone-shaped colloidal gold nanoparticle substrates with sharp features were prepared with regions that exhibit significant SERS enhancement due to the lightning rod effect. These highly enhancing substrates were utilized for the quantitative determination of two dithiocarbamate fungicides by SERS in several complex matrices such as tap water, apple juice, and vegetable juice. Limits of detection and quantitation are reported and compared with Environmental Protection Agency mandated maximum allowable concentrations in tap water. In the case of tap water, limits of detection of 13.39 ± 3.89 nM for thiram and 1.78 ± 0.20 nM for ferbam was achieved. The sensitivity of the solution-based SERS method decreased with increasing complexity of the matrix in which the limit of detection achieved in apple juice is 47.22 nM for thiram and 11.88 ± 1.38 nM for ferbam and that for vegetable juice is 87.01 ± 2.88 nM for thiram and 36.72 ± 2.90 nM for ferbam. It was found that using the solution-based SERS method results in sensitivities that are greater than that required by Environmental Protection Agency mandated maximum allowable concentrations for complex matrices such as apple and vegetable juice. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.