Conservation Wildlife Passes take effect July 1

Pier fishing is easy and relaxing
June 10, 2017

Beginning July 1, folks who wish to access any of the state wildlife areas will be required to purchase a Conservation Wildlife Pass. This pass will cover all activities including bird watching and horseback riding. The cost for Delaware residents is $32.50 for a full year and $65 for nonresidents. A three-day pass will cost residents $10 and $20 for out-of-state passes. The passes cover parking for one car at the wildlife areas.

There are some wildlife areas that are exempt from this requirement, such as the Michael N. Castle Trail on the C&D Conservation Area, and designated boating and fishing sites as listed in the Delaware Fishing Guide. Educational and shooting range facilities are also exempt. Delaware hunters will receive one free annual pass with the purchase of their hunting license.

These passes may be purchased online at Delaware Licenses or at authorized license agents. More information is available at or by calling 302-739-9912.

The reason for this new pass is a lack of funding to maintain the wildlife areas. With the state’s need to reduce spending to balance the budget, there will be less money available to the Fish and Wildlife Section, so either the wildlife areas will have to be closed or those who use these areas will have to pick up the bill. Hunters have been paying for wildlife areas for many years; now it is the other users’ time to pay.

Pier fishing

As we all know, this spring has seen some pretty nasty weather that has made fishing on any open body of water all but impossible. While the past weekend was beautiful, the week up to Thursday was right back in the wet and windy column.

Many anglers visited the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park during this time mainly because the area experienced an epic run of big blues. During the nastiest of weather, the blues were there and biting on everything from cut bait to poppers. Unfortunately, the big blues are gone, but the pier will continue to be the most popular fishing site in Delaware.

The pier at Massey’s Ditch is another local fishing hot spot. While not exactly an everyday occurrence, a seven-pound flounder was caught there last week on nothing more than a minnow. Small blues, croaker, spot and tog are the mainstays of this location.

On the freshwater side, there is a pier at the spillway in Milton where any freshwater species may be encountered during the year. The bridge over the raceway leading to the parking area at the Milton boat ramp is also a fishing pier.

In Lewes, the small gazebo at the old boat ramp is a fishing pier, although not too many people use it as such. The docks at the old boat ramp are also popular fishing spots, although I don’t believe they are meant to be fishing piers.

I have been fishing the spillway in Laurel where Records Pond meets Broad Creek since I was a kid. In those days you had to walk out on the bottom of the dam or perch on the narrow shoreline to access the water. Now there is a fishing pier, parking lot and porta potties there. Oh, how we spoil today’s youth.

The tackle required to fish from a pier is pretty basic. Freshwater piers can be fished effectively with a six- or seven-foot spinning rod, a selection of bottom rigs and a supply of bait. Worms are the most popular and will catch just about anything that swims, but some anglers will take live minnows for crappie or perch, hanging their bait bucket over the rail.

Piers such as the one at Cape Henlopen require heavier tackle. It’s not like you can expect to catch heavier fish, unless you hit the big bluefish run; it’s the distance from the water to the pier when you have to bring up your catch and the need for a heavier sinker to secure your rig to the bottom.

My Uncle Arthur bequeathed me a rod and reel that is perfect for pier fishing. It is a Mitchel 406 reel, and the rod is so old it has a wood handle. No chance of anyone stealing this outfit, and should I drop it, another chip on the rod would never be noticed.

My tackle goes into a five-gallon bucket, and I carry a folding chair because I don’t do standing for long periods of time very well.

Pier fishing can be as relaxing as you want. I can soak bait for hours while others will walk the saltwater piers jigging for flounder or casting the spillways for bass. The point is, piers are easy to access and provide reasonably good fishing for a very slight cost.

  • 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