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DNREC eliminates cap on surf fishing permits, moves to reservation system for 2023


State officials hope to make surf fishing more accessible next year with a new reservation system for anglers.

2022 Surf fishing permits sold out in a matter of hours, so DNREC is removing its 17,000 cap and turning to a reservation system for managing capacity on summer weekends and holidays.

DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation Director Ray Bivens says that’s when the state’s surf fishing beaches are in highest demand.

“It created a way that people would have equal access, you wouldn't be shut out completely," Bivens says. "Across the country from the National Park Service, other state parks, systems, county parks and even ourselves, we've used a reservation system for managing campground capacity, which our campgrounds have seen a much steeper growth in interest over the last 10 years than surf fishing has. But we don't get the complaints because people feel they have an equal shot.”

Only one reservation is allowed per day per tag holder, and can only be for one of seven specific beach locations. Reservations can be made online and through the division’s call center, but not in-person.

Weekend reservations will be made available weekly for the coming weekend on a first-come first serve basis, and will be available day-of, if capacity allows. Reservations are not needed after 4 p.m.

“We're not going to put reservations available to be reserved until that week, midweek," Bivens says. "That way people have a chance to look at the weather, things like that. And you're not going in and booking your entire summer and not showing up or anything like that. So there is no cap to the number of permits that will be issued.”

Around 79% of permits sold are to Delaware residents, and the rest go to out of state visitors, who pay double for a permit.

Those holding a two-year permit are subject to the new reservation system, but can get a full refund of the second year upon request no later than March 31, 2023.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.