Cape Henlopen fishing pier opens again for anglers

The latest renovation project is expected to extend the life span of the Cape Henlopen pier for two to five years and is the largest repair to date undertaken by Delaware State Parks. (Delaware State News/Eleanor La Prade)

The latest renovation project is expected to extend the life span of the Cape Henlopen pier for two to five years and is the largest repair to date undertaken by Delaware State Parks. (Delaware State News/Eleanor La Prade)

 

LEWES — After a spring and summer under repairs the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier was once again dotted with coolers and folding chairs on Labor Day.

The historic fishing pier reopened Friday afternoon around 4:30 p.m., ahead of schedule and just in time for the holiday weekend.

The pier was closed late last year due to engineering concerns about the structural integrity of the pilings it sits on.

Monday was warm and breezy, and a few families were wading in the water or relaxing on the nearby beach. Sailboats speckled the horizon and sunlight rippled across the Delaware Bay.

For avid fishermen, it was a long-awaited day.

John Smith said he came down for the day from Baltimore after his cousin told him the pier was open and “fishing was great.”

“I’m here because I heard they reopened the pier and I like this pier,” he said.

Mr. Smith said he must have just missed the great run, though.

“I am serious about fishing and I’m seriously not catching anything,” he said.

By around 3 p.m., after nearly eight hours on the pier, he said he’d only caught a few fish.  Normally, he said, it’s a good place to catch spot, and blue fish which feed off of them. When you’re lucky, you can catch triggerfish.

“When the fishing’s good here, it’s great,” he said.

Mr. Smith said he planned to stay put until he’d caught enough spot to make it worth the trip. He had a lantern in his car, he said.

In April, the piling repair project was awarded through competitive bid to Commerce Construction of Bridgeport, N.J.

The contractor completed $400,000 of repairs to approximately 108 pilings, wrapping up the first phase of the pier’s latest renovation project.

The second phase entails decking replacement and various repairs to the pier’s superstructure and fencing. The work is slated for the winter to minimize impact on recreational fishing.

Monday afternoon, with the tide going out, Irene Wanser, visiting from Philadelphia, said the fishing wasn’t great.

In the past, she said, she’s “caught spot like crazy” on the pier.

“It’s a very good fishing spot,” she said.

She said she came down for the holiday to spend time on the pier. August and September are the best times, she said.

“I love fishing, it’s one of my hobbies,” Ms. Wanser said, who was leaving the pier to pick up some food.

Still, she said, she plans to stay “all day and into the evening.”

The Cape Henlopen fishing pier was built during World War II by the U.S. Army as a mining wharf at Fort Miles. A German U-boat surrendered there near the end of the war.

The 1,800-square foot structure is now more than 70 years old and, according to consulting engineers for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, has long outlived it useful life expectancy.

The pier has been repaired in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. In 2008, 18 pilings were repaired and 101 additional pilings were repaired in 2009.

The latest renovation project is expected to extend the life span of the pier for two to five years and is the largest repair to date undertaken by Delaware State Parks.

Delaware State Parks Director Ray Bivens acknowledged that “this is still only a short-term solution for the iconic and very popular pier” and capital funds have been requested for the planning of a replacement structure.

Mr. Bivens also commended state Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, along with state Reps. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, and Timothy Dukes, R-Laurel, and state Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, for helping to expedite the pier’s reopening by contributing Community Transportation Funds to assist Delaware State Parks with the project.

The privately operated park concession Lighthouse View Bait & Tackle Shop will reopen in spring 2016.

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