If you can’t make it, cancel your surf-fishing reservation

Picture of state parks returns to sticker for annual vehicle passes
June 9, 2023

Story Location:
Gordons Pond State Park
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Over the last handful of years, few decisions made by Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials have brought out the naysayers like the decision to cap the number of surf-fishing permits sold in a year.

In 2019, the state capped the number at 17,000. In 2021, the cap was reached by March and 1,000 more were added. In 2022, tags sold out within four hours.

In response to the outcry, DNREC changed its permitting system again this year by removing the cap and setting up a reservation system for weekends and holidays, from May 20 through Monday, Sept. 4.

“After what we went through last year, we knew we had to change something,” said Delaware State Parks Director Ray Bivens in an interview June 1.

A few weeks into the new reservation system, Bivens recognized use had been limited because weather has not been great, but, he said, so far there haven’t been too many complaints, and the technology running the system has functioned properly. In advance of Memorial Day weekend, there were about 760 reservation permits sold in 11 minutes and there were no reported slowdowns, he said.

The system had been load tested and it worked, said Bivens.

Another change made this year is requiring permit buyers to watch a video on requirements and safety measures. This will help with enforcement because it doesn’t allow someone to say they didn’t know what was required, said Bivens.

As the summer turns to warmer weather and more people are using their permits, Bivens said they’ll continue to monitor usage on specific beaches, but it’s still too early in the season for any major tweaks. Father’s Day weekend is usually pretty busy, so that will be a good gauge, he said.

Complaints may have been limited, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any gripes. Bivens said one category of complaint had to do with not allowing a person with multiple surf-fishing tags make a reservation under each tag. For example, he said, there were issues related to parents buying their child a pass, but all of those individuals with multiple tags have been contacted and walked through the process of setting up multiple accounts.

For the immediate future, the one thing Bivens would like to see more of is the cancellation of a reservation if a person knows they aren’t going to be able to make it. Those reservations are good for all day, so it just sits there if that person doesn’t cancel, he said.

“We are trying to listen to folks. We need to do a better job at getting that message out,” said Bivens.

Pictures return to state park passes

Surf-fishing regulations are a work in progress, and proposals like a restaurant at Cape Henlopen State Park have gone over like a lead balloon, but I will say that one thing DNREC has gotten right this year is a return to pictures for the state passes that go on vehicles. It’s been a couple years since the park passes featured a picture. This year, the photo is of Fort Delaware, which is located on Pea Patch Island in the middle of the Delaware River, near Delaware City.

Bivens said a change in vendor and material issues related to the pandemic were the reasons the state went away from the pictures the last couple of years. Getting a photo on the pass was not a possibility, he said.

It was always the goal to return to that style, he said.

Joke of the Week:

This joke was submitted by John, and he made a convincing argument about why it should be considered. “With summer coming and impending thunderstorms on the horizon, good time for a rainbow joke,” he said. I agree. As always, send jokes to

Q: Where do bad rainbows go?

A: Prism – they get a light sentence tho. 


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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