As the sun rose April 14, many sleepy-eyed people awoke in the clean, fresh air of Cape Henlopen State Park, but they weren't campers.
They were among the 1,000 people statewide who waited in line in their vehicles – many overnight – at six state parks to get a highly coveted Delaware surf-fishing tag voucher. Delaware State Parks staff handed out 250 vouchers at Cape Henlopen.
The 250 limit was reached between 6 and 7 a.m., and dozens of people were turned away at the park entrance.
Park staff had an orderly system in place with 15 lines of vehicles in the park's bathhouse parking lot.
Frank Simms drove from Baltimore, Md., to get a voucher. “I've always bought a tag in early spring and never had a problem. This year, I received an email that there were only 1,000 tags left. By the time I got online, they were sold out,” he said.
Simms arrived at the park around 2 a.m. and was the 93rd person in line.
He said he will pay more attention to the deadline next year, but he agrees with a limit on tags.
State officials placed a limit of 17,000 surf-fishing tags starting in 2019 but allowed another 1,000 to be issued this April in response to the eighth modification to the COVID-19 emergency order, issued by Gov. John Carney on March 29.
Due to unprecedented winter sales, all 17,000 tags were issued by March 3. Tags go on sale each year in December.
The limit was recommended by the Delaware Parks and Recreation Advisory Council to ease overcrowding on the beaches as the popularity of surf fishing increases.
Vouchers can be redeemed for tags at the park where they were issued until Wednesday, April 28.