After record interest in in 2022, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) will be piloting changes to the 2023 surf fishing permit program including the elimination of a cap in effect since 2019 on the number of permits sold annually. The DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation will replace the cap for 2023 with a technology-based reservation system for managing capacity on summer weekends, when the state’s surf fishing beaches are in highest demand.
Last spring, the Division of Parks and Recreation initiated a comprehensive review of the program in response to unprecedented permit sales for the 2022 season – including the opening day for sales, when the online permitting system was temporarily overwhelmed and surf fishing permits sold out in just a few hours. The historic sales volume peaked at 742 permits being issued per minute, with the sales cap of 17,000 permits reached in under four hours. DNREC’s review of the program looked nationally at best practices and other states’ models for viable solutions to improve the sales process, delivery of permits, compliance with surf fishing regulations, enforcement and public safety – all with a goal of providing access to surf fishing on state park multi-use beaches while protecting the natural resource.
“Over the last few years, we have implemented changes such as single-stack parking and increased surf fishing check points at the beach crossings, which have improved public safety and the visitor experience,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, adding “Piloting the changes of dropping the cap requirement, implementing a reservation system for summer weekends, and adding an educational component was the next logical step to better manage the program for the future.”
In addition to removing the existing 17,000-permit sales cap, DNREC will pilot the new surf fishing permit reservation system in 2023, whereby $4 per day reservations will be required Saturdays, Sundays and holidays starting the third weekend in May through Labor Day weekend, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Peak holidays are: Memorial Day, Juneteenth, 4th of July and Labor Day. The online reservations will be for a specific beach location for one of seven different locations and will not be available for Off-Peak surf tag permit holders.
Annual surf fishing permit holders can access the beach without a reservation on weekends and holidays after 4 p.m., but must be off the beach by 8 a.m. the next morning. Anglers who previously purchased a two-year permit (2022-23) will be subject to the new reservation system. A full refund of the second year will be available to permit holders upon request no later than March 31, 2023.
“The reservation system will eliminate delays and access issues when state park day-use lots reach capacity by still allowing surf fishing permit reservation holders to access the drive-on beaches. It also allows someone with a reservation to leave and return later if they choose,” said Joseph Smack, chair of the state’s Park and Recreation Council, while adding “Reservation systems are being utilized by many state and national park systems as a means to manage overcrowding or capacity concerns.”
Anyone purchasing a surf fishing permit will be required to view an instructional surf fishing video with beach driving tips, including requisite understanding of airing down vehicle tires, in-vehicle mandatory equipment, and safety requirements for surf fishing on state park beaches. The surf fishing permit fee remains unchanged for 2023 and sales are anticipated to start this month. For more information go to destateparks.com/SurfTagSales.