DNREC officers are a valuable resource for state

November 12, 2011
Local striper sharpie Evan Falgowski scored this 42.6-pound lunkerbass while trolling Stretch plugs on structure at the mouth of Delaware Bay. Weighed at Lewes Harbour Marina. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Big rockfish are currently staged at the mouth of Delaware Bay. I have not heard of any blitz situations, but a steady pick on fish over 40 pounds is possible on trolled Stretch 25s or drifted eels. Chunking with fresh bunker has been effective at the 60-Slough. To our north, there are reports of big rockfish chasing bunker to the surface. This is always a possibility off of Delaware, but you have to be there when the action occurs.

The bay is also producing excellent numbers of tog. The Outer Wall, Ice Breakers and reef sites all had good fishing when the weather allowed boats to sail.

At last report, Indian River and the surf were less than stellar. This is written on Tuesday so it is possible both locations could turn on by the weekend.

Speaking of the weekend, this is the opening day of the Delaware shotgun deer season and it just happens to coincide with Veteran’s Day. That should give hunters a day off for deer hunting without having to use vacation time.

DNREC enforcement officers
I receive reports from DNREC on what type of cases their enforcement officers are involved with. I must say it runs the gambit from fishing without a license, to possessing a firearm by someone prohibited, to sexual activity on state property, to drug busts at boat ramps. I suspect the general population considers these law officers as nothing more than fish cops, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Beginning in September, DNREC officers become even busier than they are the rest of the year as hunting season opens and fishing seasons now extends into December. Back in the 1980s the enforcement division became a combined operation with marine police and game wardens joining forces. Today there are not nearly enough officers and those men and women have the lowest pay scale in all but of few of the other 50 states.

DNREC officers must complete the same training as state police officers and this makes them valuable to other jurisdictions such as counties and towns. As a result, DNREC trains officers who, due to the low pay there, end up moving on to higher paying positions. As much as I would like to see them get a much deserved raise, in this economy, I don’t hold out much hope.

I consider DNREC officers in as much danger on the job as any other law enforcement officer. They often confront armed individuals who have a criminal record. This falls under the category of possession of a firearm by one prohibited. Convicted felons are not allowed to possess any firearm.

The use of boat ramps and state parks for drug deals is another bad situation. Drug dealers are known to shoot first and never ask questions putting a DNREC officer in great danger when he encounters these criminals.

In following these cases over the years, I have noticed offenders are often involved in other illegal activities. They will be arrested for a game violation and discovered to have outstanding warrants for anything from theft to assault and battery. Poaching is just another in a long list of their criminal activities.

There is also a family tradition of stealing public resources. A law enforcement officer in Maryland told me he was retiring after 20 years on the job because he was tired of arresting the same family. He said he had arrested the grandfather, the father and now the son.

While apprehending criminals is an important part of the job, keeping the fishing and hunting public safe, usually from themselves, is the top priority. When an officer checks the safety equipment on your boat and finds it lacking he is protecting you and your passengers. The same is true when you are found without the correct amount of hunter orange displayed or when given a ticket for speeding on public lands.

Every year people are injured or end up dead because they did not take the proper safety precautions. DNREC officers hate when this happens. They are the ones who will be out there looking for you often putting their lives at risk in terrible weather. When the search ends with tragic results they are the ones who have to inform wives, children mothers and fathers that their loved ones won’t be coming home.

Next time an enforcement officer interrupts your fishing, hunting or boating trip instead of acting like you are being terribly inconvenienced, take time to thank him or her for protecting you and the public resource.

  • 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 Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He 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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