Let’s stop surf-fishing vehicle charade

September 3, 2021

A constant controversy is the question of how much of our state park beaches should be open to vehicle traffic versus how much should be reserved for pedestrian-only usage.

Driving the controversy is the fact that while the size of our state park beaches is a constant, the numbers of so-called surf-fishing vehicles and pedestrians using those beaches is growing. We say ‘so-called’ surf-fishing vehicles because the worst-kept secret in Delaware is that probably 90 percent of people driving onto the beaches under the guise of surf fishing really have no interest in the sport at all. They satisfy the simple requirements to qualify as surf-fishing vehicles just to gain the privilege of driving onto the beaches and spending a day there with all the gear they’re able to carry because they are driving on.

It’s perfectly understandable why people like doing this: It’s fun, and it gives even more people the opportunity to get outside and use the beaches. But let’s get rid of this charade. Continue to allow people to buy beach-vehicle permits, but get rid of the surf-fishing requirement and manage accordingly. That would create a more honest situation, and get rid of the hazards of needless hooks in the surf and tough-to-see fishing lines creating obstructions for people walking and playing in the surf zone, especially in the more popular areas. Allow those truly interested in fishing to do so, but don’t require those not really interested in fishing to fake it. That would make a big improvement, and also relieve an unnecessary enforcement headache.

State officials estimate that in the summertime daylight hours, of the 14.3 miles of state park ocean beaches, 63.6 percent (9.1 miles) are multi-use beaches open to pedestrians and drive-on users; 29.2 percent (4.2 miles) are open to pedestrians only and 7.3 percent (1 mile) are closed to the public. Is that a good allocation? Some say yes; others say it favors beach-vehicle users too heavily.

State managers need to gather stakeholder representatives together for a thorough review and make recommendations for improvement.




  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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