Mask = Welcome, No Mask = No Service”,
“Only 8 people at one time”,
“Mask required to enter store”.
Some of the new signs posted by bait shops across the area as people make their way back to the beaches and waters of Delaware, as the state prepares to enter Phase II of reopening the state on June 15.
In addition, this weekend (June 6-7) is “free fishing weekend” in the state. The national effort encourages people to grab a rod and go fishing with no need to buy a license, and those with licenses to take someone fishing.
Amanda Morris, owner of Lewes Harbor Marina, says her business was able to stay open during the pandemic because they sell gas and diesel. While her regular customers kept business going, there has been an influx at her store of people wanting to get out of the house.
“We’ve gained new anglers,” Morris says. “New faces walking in all the time”.
DNREC confirms an influx of outdoor interest, announcing on Tuesday that 15,500 of its 17,000 allotted surf fishing permits have been sold, forcing a halt to online sales. Surf fishing permits must be bought in person at one of four locations across the state; including Cape Henlopen State Park, Indian River Life Saving Station in Rehoboth Beach, and Killens Pond State Park in Felton.
Morris says their biggest challenge has been keeping products on the shelf because most of it is produced in the United States. Most manufacturing was stalled due to the spread of COVID-19, which medical experts predict is here to stay.
Still, there is optimism from those who go out and enjoy the outdoors.
Frank, from Pennsylvania, and his two grandsons were fishing on the Cape Henlopen fishing pier on Thursday. While the fishing was slow at low tide for them, they all say it was good to get out.
“We’ve been sticking to the [quarantine] protocol the state required. It was ridiculous but I understood the reason for it. [Government] just wants us to be safe,” Frank says.
That was the general consensus from most of the anglers on the pier. A new normal of face masks being on or hanging off someone’s face as they reel in a small croaker or pulling up a crab trap.
Delaware Fish and Wildlife, which hosts an annual kid’s fishing tournament, has also had to make adjustments during the pandemic. This weekend’s tournament became “semi-virtual”, and goodie bags were mailed to participants.
The agency is hopeful more people enjoy the resources Delaware has to offer. Officials launched the “Responsible Recreation” campaign, asking the public to enjoy the outdoors safely and responsibly while adhering to social distancing. Some of those policies include maintaining a six-foot distance between one another, mandatory facemasks at state parks, packing out trash, and following state and federal guidelines. Licenses are also available online from the safety of home and digitally available via email and the state’s licensing website at https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/.
WHAT’S BEING CAUGHT?
Drums are making their usual early summer run along the coast, with high success on clam and sand fleas. During a visit at the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier, several nice-sized crabs were caught in traps on chicken necks, and a few croakers caught on bloodworm and fish bites during the low tide at the end of the dock. An 18-inch bluefish was caught in the morning, but no reports of the big gator blues many anglers love to catch. Reports of smaller bluefish and striper being caught out of the Indian River Inlet, while flounder seem to be trickling in.
Captain’s Lady Charter out of Bowers Beach, one of several charters who began taking reservations this week due to the coronavirus pandemic, has had great success to kick the season off with three nice sized drums on two separate trips to start the season. Another trip on Thursday night yielded 12 drums with the biggest being 90 pounds.
Offshore boats reporting success with the water getting warmed up. Lots of sea bass and tuna being brought back to the docks. Bill Slayer Sportfishing out of Rehoboth Beach took a group out and brought back two yellowfin tuna. They also hooked into a large mako shark but lost it just 20 feet from the boat.
Inland fishing has yielded some nice large-mouth bass reports, along with crappie and white perch in brackish waters.