Enjoying the view and coming up with excuses for a winter day on the beach

By Rich King
Posted 1/31/24

On a clear winter day you can see New Jersey from the beaches in Cape Henlopen State Park. This time of year, the air is crispy frozen and there isn’t a haze to block your view. It also makes …

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Enjoying the view and coming up with excuses for a winter day on the beach


On a clear winter day you can see New Jersey from the beaches in Cape Henlopen State Park. This time of year, the air is crispy frozen and there isn’t a haze to block your view. It also makes for great astrophotography and clearer moon shots. Stargazing is much clearer, too, but it’s cold sitting out overnight to watch meteor showers. An electric blanket and a lawn chair are a great combination for winter stargazing. If they would make a cordless electric blanket, I would be set. Don’t tell anyone, but that giant power inverter in the truck works great for an electric blanket on colder fishing nights. Installing that extra battery was a great idea for “emergencies.” Doesn’t everyone need an extra fully charged emergency deep cycle marine battery in their beach buggy?
There are still trout up north in the creeks. I always say up north since I live down here in the south of Sussex County. It’s not a bad day wading and catching some trout left over from stocking. Maryland is stocking weekly in different areas. Always check their website for a stocking map and schedule. If you are feeling lucky, you can see if any are left in the ponds but that isn’t likely. Typical bass action — it’s cold and they are slow.
The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier is still closed on the end for repairs. It doesn’t look like much has started yet. The best section of the pier to fish is the end, due to the depth, constant water flow and the old pier structure. We always say, “Why don’t ‘they’ fix the pier?” But maybe no one ever suggested ways to get that done. It does seem like a large project, with a lot of hands that have to be involved. At the end of the day, it is just a large pier, and there are at least two companies that I know of that can build that back much better. They are local to Sussex County, so it isn’t like they are hard to find. Yes, I am aware state jobs require bidding. Getting the construction done is easy, so let’s stick with the people that know how to build these structures and do it the right way. Paying for it is always an issue, too.
The money for the project could be earmarked from the Recreational Fishing Funds we receive from fishing licenses. Maybe a constant amount of money for X amount of years since the pier contributes X amount of fishing licenses to the state to begin with. It is an economic source for fishing licenses and just plain old income for a community as a whole. Just get a loan or bond or however we (the state) does that for said project and pay that off with the income from fishing licenses. Then, in turn, when the pier is built back to original size, more people will fish, which means we sell more licenses. Now there is more money to pay off and maintain. Speaking of maintenance, the pharmaceutical company that uses the pier to source sea water and return it once used pays for X amount already and that can be used for maintenance. There are always antiquity funds from national or local sources since this was Fort Miles. Let’s park an old U-boat there and make it more of a historical attraction. I just have one request: that we can fish around the U-boat — think of the structure.
Now granted, the pier is in a Delaware State Park and falls under their financial jurisdiction, if you will. But they always say they are broke so maybe we fix this out of the box? Then parks can still be tasked to maintain the pier. More people using the pier means more use, which means more revenue for the parks from people accessing the pier. It would be a win for everyone and there is money everywhere for this project. It just needs a good manager.
I’d start asking the Sportsman’s Caucus to work on this and make it a bipartisan effort as it is for all citizens of the state of Delaware and our visitors. These folks are the “they” that can get projects like this done for us. For years when you ask one group or state entity to work on one project (the pier) that many have jurisdiction over in one way or another, nothing ever gets done. I mean, have you ever seen how fast the pier in Ocean City, Maryland, is built back when it gets wrecked in a storm? Because it is an economic income source not only in and of itself but it’s an attraction for the area in general. I’m sure they have less red tape to deal with, seeing as the town owns the pier and the shop there is a concession. Honestly the story behind that pier is kind of wild, and is a good read on the interwebs. That is why I am suggesting an out-of-the-box solution to a longstanding problem no one wants to address. The Cape Henlopen pier needs to be rebuilt back to its original footprint, and maybe a tad more to accommodate more anglers who will in turn create more economic impact in our area, which will be paid for in the long run by the fishing license money, which is what that money is intended for. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day which entity makes this happen, just that it gets done. That’s all anyone is asking when they say “they” need to fix this.
There is a fishing show at the Laurel Fire Department this Saturday: Big Mouth Lures Fishing Expo, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a show or shows just about every weekend throughout February into March in Delmarva. Maryland has a lot of shows all over the state. There are fishing shows up and down the East Coast and the Great American Outdoors Show starts this weekend. There is a fishing rod builders show in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I am trying to get down to check out. You could spend an entire year show hopping the East Coast.
The fishing is winter fishing mode with white perch, yellow perch in some areas and will show up in more. Winter flounder season is coming for the five people who actually fish for these. I like to just take the fly rod out and cast for an hour or so and look like an idiot so I can get in some practice. If you want to fine tune your casting game in the surf, grab a three-ounce bank sinker, go down to a beach and just cast for a couple hours. You can feel the bottom on the retrieve, too. The winter bottom is a little different form summer bottom, but you will get the “feel” of it. You can feel the dips and drops, even the rough wavy sand.
People often ask, “Why do you all drive onto the beach in the dead of winter? There aren’t any fish.” Well, there are things around, like skates and the occasional dogfish on a warm day if you’re lucky. But the real reason is to practice casting. Keeping up that casting can be tough and is a workout in and of itself. Try casting with all those winter clothes and gear on as well. Every year when the season starts you can tell who are the I haven’t-done-this-since-August people. Keeping up that casting form helps keep your distance. Also what else are you going to do on a nice day? I like to do this with my set-ups before I change out the line for the coming season, so it gives me an excuse to still use my gear.
Me: Yes, I have to go to the beach and cast. No, I can’t do this in the field next door, it will ruin the line and I could snag a wombat.
Them: But aren’t you changing out the line anyway. Wait, a wombat?
Me: Yes, but I need the proper conditions, sand and surf. No wombats either.
Them: You just want to go to the beach for the day.
Me: The conditions are prime and I am required to practice in these conditions, no substitutes.
I’m just helping you all get a day at the beach in the winter. Use any excuse you see fit to “practice casting” for that summer cast.
If you are looking for a cool addition to your fishing arsenal, Penn has a travel rod combo. I just saw a few at Icehouse Bait and Tackle the other day. These combo kits fit in your trunk or behind the seat for those emergency fishing needs or trips. How many times have you looked at water and thought if I had a rod, I’d fish that?
DNREC’s Annual Beach Grass Planting is March 16, 9 a.m. to noon. Get signed up for your favorite area, this fills up fast.

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